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What does the Catholic Church actually teach?

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    What does the Catholic Church actually teach?

    What does the Catholic Church actually teach?

    Catholics get frustrated by Protestants quoting from anecdotal sources; “a nun at school told me…”; “a catholic I know told me….”, etc. Or quoting from some newspaper or other – all non-authoritative.

    I guess Protestants get frustrated by Catholics constantly telling them – but that not what the Catholic Church actually teaches!

    So where can you find out what the Catholic Church actually teaches?

    First a few things to note:

    All official Church documents are in Latin. Unless you are a Latin scholar all we have are translations. Hopefully these will reflect accurately the original but there is always the possibility that some of the nuances may be lost in translation.

    English words change their meanings over time. As a result older translations may use words in a different sense to modern usage.

    Any Church statement should be understood in the sense that the writer intended it to be meant. The Catholic Church uses some words in a different way to Protestants. Neither is right or wrong. But a text must be understood in the way the Church uses a word.

    Authoritative Sources:
    It should be obvious that there is a difference in authoritativeness between an article in a local church bulletin and a statement issued by a General Council (like the Council of Trent or Vatican II). But SDAs particularly seem to see no difference.

    There is also a difference in authoritativeness between something the Pope might say in a chat to a journalist on a plane and something he writes in an Apostolic Constitution or an Encyclical.

    The source and the audience are important for understanding anything.[SIZE=12px] [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=12px]There are no official newspapers of the Catholic Church. The closest is L'Osservatore Romano, which is descibed as “semi-official”.[/SIZE]

    The most authoritative statements are those of a General (or Ecumenical) Council (21 of them), and some Papal statements where the Pope intends to make an infallible statement (very few).

    But probably the best place to start looking for Catholic teaching is the Catechism of The Catholic Church (1992 and revised since then).
    Catechism of the Catholic Church

    This is a distillation of Catholic teaching and is the (I think) the first universal catechism. There have been many local catechisms before that. The main catechism before this one was the Roman Catechism (also known as the Catechism of the Council of Trent).

    In his letter promulgating the current Catechism Pope John Paul II writes:
    “The Catechism of the Catholic Church … is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine attested to or illuminated by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for for teaching the faith…..

    ….The Catechism of the Catholic Church is offered to every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us (cf, 1Pet 3:15) and who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes.”
    (Note: it is not in itself an infallible document).

    As the Catechism is complicated a “Compendium” was issued in 2005 which simplified the Catechism into a question and answer format. It follows the same structure as the main catechism and has paragraph numbers in the margin which link to the main catechism for detail. Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

    The Vatican web site is a useful source – The Holy See – though sometimes difficult to navigate unless you know where to look (& IMO worse than it used to be!).

    I hope that helps. Please feel free to ask questions for clarification.

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