Statements of Faith vs “I’m Catholic”

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I noticed a staple amongst non-Catholic Christian blogs, group websites and church websites that is completely missing from their Catholic counterparts – a Statement of Faith.

Visit any non-Catholic Christian site, and look around, usually in the About section, and you’ll find a Statement of Faith.  These statements vary in length and detail, and no two are exactly alike.  In a few short, well worded paragraphs, R.C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries’ Statement of Faith covers the Blessed Trinity, Sacred Scripture, and some Calvinist doctrine.  By contrast, CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) has a twenty nine point statement of faith getting into good details like the rapture and heresy.

Now, visit Catholic blogs and websites.  In the About section you will see nothing like this.  No list of personalized beliefs, no definitions of religious terms for clarification of exactly what the authors believe.  Instead, there will be a quick reference to the Magisterium, the Holy See, or maybe just the mention of the word “Catholic” (with no ifs, ands or buts).

Not long ago, Catholic Sistas received an email from a well meaning man enlightening us to his new “Catholic” church.  Yet, he wasn’t simply establishing a new parish down the street with the permission of his bishop.  Instead, he was revamping Catholic teaching, sending us a list of eleven items in which his “Catholic” church would be different than the Roman Catholic Church.  One of the first items listed was that his church was not submissive to Vatican teaching… naturally resulting in a faith that was no longer Catholic.  This “Catholic” man spent many more words and much more effort explaining his faith than say, us at Catholic Sistas, where our about section sums up our faith in, “We strive to always be mindful of Mother Church and our adherence to Her.

Catechism of the Catholic Church Table of Contents. Photo: Adrienne Taylor 2012

Devout Catholics have no need for a unique confessional statement.  A devout Catholic (and their websites), need only mention adherence to the Church in one simple sentence and everything is said.  This highlights the single biggest difference between Catholic Christianity and other traditions.  In Catholicism, our statement of faith does not begin with us, and it is not about what we have determined to be true.  In Catholicism, truth is not discerned by the individual, it is instead taught to the individual.  Even the Pope submits wholly to the faith he was taught.  He has no power to change or deny what was handed down to him.  Believing as a Catholic is about agreeing in what we say (St. Paul 1 Cor 1:10) by remaining faithful to what we have learned and believed because we know from whom we learned it (St. Paul 2 Tim 3:14), as the Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth (St. Paul 1 Tim 3:15).

When a Catholic reads the Early Church Fathers, or the writings of any saint over the last 2,000 years, he finds what that early Christian wrote is the same faith that has been handed down to him.  By contrast, a child of Christ nurtured by the traditions of the Reformation would read the same writings, and identify some of his own faith, yet will not be able to agree with everything confessed by the early Christian.  For instance, the Protestant might identify with St. Augustine’s writings on grace, yet might find him quite wayward in his teachings on the Eucharist or submission to the Catholic Church.  And this brings us back to the need for Statements of Faith.

With no visible head to point to for a unity in faith, the non-Catholic is left with penning his unique confessional statement in order to identify his beliefs amongst the choices floating out there.  Perhaps some really could point to a particular source, say R.C.Sproul, because they do agree with everything he teaches, yet, I’ve almost never seen anyone express their faith so succinctly (exceptions mentioned below).

Catechism of the Catholic Church. Photo: Adrienne Taylor 2012

Meanwhile, when a Catholic confesses to adhering to the Magisterium, what that Catholic admits submitting to is best expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  This statement of faith is far more than a few well-worded paragraphs.  It is 900 pages of explicit teaching on all things of faith and morals covered in a lovely shade of hunter green.  The Catechism is divided into four parts:

  1. The Profession of Faith
  2. The Sacraments of Faith
  3. The Life of Faith
  4. Prayer in the Life of Faith.

The Profession of Faith explains the Catholic faith within the lines of the Apostles’ Creed in great detail over the course of 270 pages.  Next, the Catechism explains the Sacramental life of the Church, fully detailing each of the seven Sacraments and their application in the Christian life.  The third part of the Catechism expounds upon vocations, social justice, grace and justification and fully dives into each of the Ten Commandments.  Lastly, the Catechism speaks thoroughly for 70 pages of a Christian’s best spiritual weapon, prayer.

You can find the entire Catholic Catechism online through the Vatican’s website:

When a Christian admits to being subordinate to Holy Mother Church, the simple word “Catholic” packs a very powerful punch.  The word “Catholic” expresses more in that single word than a uniquely drafted confessional statement.  The word “Catholic” unites more Christians (1.2 billion!), and more quickly (no ifs ands or buts!) than carefully filtered bullet points.  The word “Catholic” is known throughout the world.

I would like to note there are other ecclesiastical bodies whom take a similar approach to the transmission of faith.  For instance, I’ve seen Anglican churches and dioceses wrap up their statements of faith in a simple mention of being subject to the See of Canterbury, and I imagine orthodox communities might also specify being subject to a particular regional bishop.  A Christian’s statement of faith, whether it is unique or whether it points to a particular teacher, speaks volumes to how that Christian believes God’s Truth is revealed, is it individually discerned, or is it universally taught?

Jesus to his Apostles after His Resurrection in 33 A.D.

“The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.  Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’” (Matt 28:16-20)

St. Paul to the Thessalonians in 50 A.D.

“Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.”  (2 Thess 2:15)

St. Paul to Timothy in 65 A.D.

“But you, remain faithful to what you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it, and that from infancy you have known [the] sacred scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  (2 Tim 3:14-15)

St. Augustine on the Catholic Church:

“We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church, which is catholic and which is called Catholic not only by her own members but even by all her enemies.  For when heretics or the adherents of schisms talk about her, not among themselves but with strangers, willy-nilly they call her nothing else but Catholic.  For they will not be understood unless they distinguish her by this name that whole world employs in her regard.” The True Religion, A.D. 390

(about why he is Catholic) “The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after his Resurrection, gave it in charge to feed his sheep, down to the present episcopate.  And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.  … no one shall move me from the faith that binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.”  Against the Letter of Mani “The Foundation”, A.D. 397


17 Replies to “Statements of Faith vs “I’m Catholic””

  1. Great post! Did you happen to mention to that poor guy with his “new catholic church”, that he was really just starting Protestant denomination # 8, 435,743, and wasn’t Catholic at all?

  2. Great post!!! I love that we have such a rich history and tradition in Holy Mother Church. This also reminds me of a time when I had a graduate student working for me and she was applying for jobs. One job she was applying for was at a Christian (Baptist, I believe) college that asked for a Statement of Faith as part of the application process. She had a difficult time writing it because although she was a Christian I don’t think she was a regular Church-goer. But it got me thinking about how I would approach something like that as a Catholic and I couldn’t fathom how to write a statement of faith that could really say everything that needed to be said from my perspective. Reading this brought that back to mind and you stated well what I couldn’t quite put my finger on at that time. Thank you for putting into words what I couldn’t. And I love the quotes at the end!!

  3. Elizabeth, LOL, that was exactly our reaction. It was curious why he was holding on to the name “Catholic”, we weren’t sure what of Catholicism remained in his church. There are two most unique things about Catholicism, the divine teaching office of the Magisterium (and thus, compulsory adherence to it by the faithful) and secondly, the Eucharist. He tossed one out the window and failed to mention the other. What makes Catholic unity so strong is the faithful’s submission to a specific head, and that head’s ability to say whether or not that individual is in communion with the Church.

    Kerri, years ago that too would have puzzled me! My similar situation to the request for a Statement of Faith happened while in ecumenical discussions. I would phrase my responses as, “The Church teaches this…” and “The Church teaches that…”. And one day a person I was in conversation with pressed me about Sunday Obligation under pain of mortal sin with, “I don’t care what the Church teaches, I want to know what YOU, Adrienne, believe!!” I was stumped by the demand! It took some ruminating to realize that discussion was hampered by our different approaches to the transmission of faith. They are very different approaches, indeed!

  4. Great post.
    I’ll be adding the CCC link to our RCIA webpage. I dunno why I never did before. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

    John 3
    1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
    2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.

    3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

    4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?

    5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

    6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

    7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

    8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
    9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
    10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
    11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
    12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
    13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
    14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
    15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
    16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
    17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
    18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
    19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
    20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
    21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

    John 3:12 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?

    2 Timothy 1:12 …nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

  6. Living, not just words, is what being Catholic means to me.
    Thank you for your insightful post.

  7. Great post! I was Catholic and then became a Christian. But I have decided to come back to Catholicism because after much praying I realize this is where God intends me to be. I have been studying the Catechism as if I was a new Catholic because I want to make sure I follow the precepts of the Mother Church. I found in Christianity without denomination, I felt drifting without the structure and traditions I so love of the Catholic church. So I will definitely be reading, as I re-learn all over again.

  8. Hi. I know I came into the conversation late. Love the blog and there are some great posts here. However,tho it’s great that Angie rejoined the Catholic Church,I don’t get why she said “I was a Catholic,then became a Christian,then converted back to Catholicism.” What is about us that precludes us from being Christian? Catholics ARE Christians! We believe in a triune God,we believe in the Bible,we believe in the resurrection,and we believe that the way to salvation is thru Jesus Christ. Those 4 points are the very definition of a Christian. So I guess my question is,why do people distinguish between Catholic and Christian asthough Catholics aren’t?

  9. As a Protestant Christian, this has to be the single thing that I envy the most about the Catholic church. While I do think that the average lay-Catholic submits to quite a bit of material they aren’t familiar with, it does unify believers tremendously. Interestingly enough, the Reformers original goal was to reform the Catholic church, not start a new one. When that task was a bit too much to take on, Protestantism grew much more divided looking from the outside with “thousands” of denominations when many are quite similar.

  10. As a Protestant Christian, this has to be the single thing that I envy the most about the Catholic church. While I do think that the average lay-Catholic submits to quite a bit of material they aren’t familiar with, it does unify believers tremendously. Interestingly enough, the Reformers original goal was to reform the Catholic church, not start a new one. When that task was a bit too much to take on, Protestantism grew much more divided looking from the outside with “thousands” of denominations when many are quite similar.

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