Tough but True

Sacramental Topics

Infant baptism

Catholics believe that baptism was instituted by Christ not only for adults but also for children, so that they can receive the gift of supernatural life in the ordinary, sacramental way. Parents and godparents profess the faith on behalf of their children until their children can make their own profession.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Scriptural basis for this teaching may be found in this Faith Fact

Confessing to a priest

Christ instituted the sacrament of Confession as the ordinary way of having sins, especially serious sins, forgiven.  When the Lord Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon His apostles in the Upper Room and conferred on them the power to forgive sins in His name - "Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; whose sins you retain, they are retained" - He bestowed one of the most sublime gifts upon His Church.  Through the grace of ordination, the priest is able to act in the person of Christ, not in his own name, when he absolves sin.  As bodily creatures, the sacrament of Confession confirms our forgiveness by God and assures us of His love.  Moreover, Confession reconciles us not only to God but also to His Church, the communion of which is diminished by every sin that we commit.  For an integral and valid Confession, Catholics must have sorrow for their sins and a genuine desire to repent and amend their lives.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Faith Fact
Catholic Answers
Catholic Faith and Reason

Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence

Catholics believe that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is the source of all grace and occurred in time only once. By instituting the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist during the Last Supper, however, Christ commissioned His Apostles and their successors to re-present the one sacrifice in a sacramental way. As a result, we believe that Christ’s sacrifice is truly made present at every Mass, and hence Christ Himself is truly present under the appearances of bread and wine.
Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Eucharist in the Economy of Salvation
Catechism of the Catholic Church on the Eucharist as Thanksgiving, Memorial, Presence
Faith Fact on the Real Presence
Catholic Answers on the Sacrificial Nature of Mass

Reservation of Communion to Catholics

From the very beginning the Church has taken a strong view of the Holy Eucharist.  Jesus was not speaking metaphorically when he repeatedly emphasized that "my Body is true food and my Blood is true drink", and hence the Church has reserved the reception of Holy Communion to Christians who believe in the Real Presence. This is an act of charity, since in his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul cautions his followers that "anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgement on himself." Moreover, since "Communion" implies not only union with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament but also union with His Mystical Body the Church, it is reserved to Christians who are in union with the Church that Jesus founded, and with all of the Church's teachings. Not even all Catholics can necessarily receive Holy Communion, however, but only those who have gone to Confession if they are conscious of any serious sin.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catholic Answers

Women and the priesthood

Catholics believe that Christ was not bound to the limitations of His surrounding culture, and that therefore His appointment of the twelve Apostles - all men - was a free and deliberate choice. The Church has therefore taught through the centuries that she has no right to ordain women as priests. Bishops, successors of the Apostles, and the priests who are their cooperators, stand in the place of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church and share in His fatherhood in the order of grace. In no way, however, is this exclusion of the priesthood to men to be understood as a sign of masculine superiority, especially since the greatest human creature, the masterpiece of divine grace, is the Blessed Virgin Mary - who was never a priest. In fact, Jesus at the Last Supper washed the feet of His disciples - the first priests - and explicitly instructed them to do the same, indicating that the authority they would exercise would not be one of domination but of humility and service.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Document by Pope John Paul II on the exclusion of ordination to men
Faith Facts
Catholic Answers

Celibate priesthood

The Latin-Rite Church has chosen to continue to ancient practice of ordaining to the priesthood only unmarried men, a practice that many scholars believe has its origins (in the form of clerical continence) in apostolic times. Celibacy is a powerful witness of undivided love for Christ and a singular way to exercise paternity in the order of grace. While Eastern-Rite Churches have elected to ordain married men to the priesthood (though not to the episcopate), the Latin Church has continued to treasure priestly celibacy as a particular gift of the Lord and an impetus to pastoral charity.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Faith Facts
Catholic Answers

Doctrinal Topics

Scripture and Tradition

Christ promised to send His Spirit upon His Church, which He did at the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, and Catholics believe that the Spirit continues to guide the Church into a deeper awareness of the full truth of the Gospel. As a result, the deposit of faith left to the Church by Christ can be found in the Sacred Scriptures and in the unbroken oral teaching from the time of the Apostles, also called Apostolic tradition.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Faith Facts
Catholic Answers
Catholic Answers

Primacy of the Pope

Christ willed that His Church would be ordered hierarchically, with the duty of unifying the Church falling on St. Peter after his profession of faith in the divinity of Christ. Since that first commission by Christ, Catholics believe that the successors of St. Peter as the bishop of Rome have also received the ministry of unity as the shepherd of the universal Church and the Vicar of Christ on earth.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catholic Answers
Catholic Faith and Reason

Faith and works

Faith is the foundation of our spiritual life and the necessary condition for salvation. However, Catholics believe that good works, performed through the power of grace informing our free choices, are an integral element of the Christian life. It is in this context - through the gift of gratuitous grace - that our good works can be called meritorious.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Faith Facts
Catholic Answers

Faith and science

The Catholic Church teaches that there is no conflict between true faith and true science, since truth is one and legitimate claims of truth cannot be in conflict. When there seems to be a conflict between faith and science, either our understanding of the faith is inaccurate, or our understanding of science is inaccurate, or both. In fact, in an age that is increasingly cynical about our capacity to know any truth through human reason, the Church vigorously defends the proper autonomy of reason and its capacity to discover truth.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Fides et Ratio (Document by Pope John Paul II on the relationship of faith and reason)

Praying to the saints

Catholics believe that the family of God resides not only on earth but also in heaven in the communion of saints. As we can ask another person to pray for us to God, we can also ask the saints in heaven to pray for us. It is not idolatry since a Catholic never adores the saints but simply venerates them and asks for their intercession before the throne of God.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Faith Facts
Catholic Answers

Purgatory

Purgatory is the stage of purification which occurs after death in the soul of someone who had not turned away from God in life, and yet who is still encumbered with unrepented venial sin or the temporal punishment of past mortal sins. Purgatory is the merciful doctrine that the final stage of cleansing can occur even after death, since nothing less than perfect can endure the all-holy presence of God.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Faith facts
Catholic Answers

Existence of Hell

In making men and women free, God has demonstrated His respect for our freedom, including the freedom to turn away from Him. Sin, in order to be sin, must be freely chosen, and mortal sin reflects the capacity on the part of human beings to reject their Maker. Hell is the consequence of mortal sin when it is not repented before death; it is a state of eternal separation from God, chosen by human beings in life. As a result, it does not reflect an injustice or cruelty on the part of God but the proof of His respect for our own free choices.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Faith Facts
Catholic Answers

Other religions

Catholics believe that there is one God and Jesus is the Son of God. Other religions may contain seeds of truth, but they do not reflect the supernatural revelation that culminated in the coming of Jesus Christ. Only God is able to judge souls, however, and to know if someone has truly followed Him in good conscience according to his or her lights. As a result, while all grace is from Christ and hence all salvation is mediated through Christ and His Mystical Body the Church, no one is excluded from the possibility of salvation. In fact, since we believe that every person is made in the image and likeness of God, everyone is endowed with an intrinsic human dignity that must be honored, whatever his or her beliefs.
Catechism of the Catholic Church

Moral Topics

Abortion

Catholics believe that every human life has an intrinsic and inviolable dignity, and that taking innocent life is never justified. For this reason, we believe that abortion is immoral in all circumstances.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catholic Answers

Contraception

Catholics believe that the beautiful gift of sexuality is given by God to unite a husband and wife as a physical expression of their union of souls, as well as to cooperate with His plan of creation in the generation of children. Children are a great blessing and a gift to the couple and to the world. Since contraception is the deliberate exclusion of the possibility of generating new life, and thereby does not respect the nature of a married couple’s love as cooperating with God’s creative will, we believe that it is always immoral. Some forms of contraception, such as the contraceptive pill, may also cause an abortion of a fertilized ovum, further exacerbating the seriousness of the act. For couples who wish to refrain from having children for a serious reason, and in a way that is harmonious with God’s plan, the Church exhorts Christians to use Natural Family Planning, an effective way of achieving responsible parenthood using the very means given to us by God, the natural fertility cycles of the human body.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Faith Facts
Catholic Answers
Couple to Couple League

Pre-marital sexual relations

Catholics believe that sexual relations are intended by God to express the permanent and faithful union of a man and a woman in marriage. Moreover, marriage is the proper environment in which to welcome and raise a child. For these reasons, the gift of sexuality is to be used only in the context of matrimony. Outside marriage, sexual activity is a serious sin and harmful to the individuals and to their relationship with each other and with God.
Catechism of the Catholic Church

Cohabitation

Cohabitation, a man and a woman living together before marriage or as a “trial marriage”, is a serious moral issue. It puts both individuals in the near occasion of committing sin, it may scandalize others if one or both are known to be practicing Catholics, and increases their chance of divorce. While living apart before marriage may entail financial and other sacrifices, those sacrifices are abundantly repaid in spiritual, emotional, and marital growth.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Living Together
Cohabitation studies

Divorce

Marriage is the permanent union of a man and a woman, and the sacrament of matrimony is a bond forged by God which can therefore only be dissolved by God. Only the death of a spouse would free someone to remarry. As a result, remarriage after a civil divorce is always inadmissible unless a process of annulment has concluded that a valid bond was not formed previously.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catholic Answers
Faith Facts

In-Vitro Fertilization

Just as contraception is the deliberate exclusion from the sexual act of its procreative end, so in-vitro fertilization is the deliberate exclusion of the unitive dimension of spousal love from the conception of a human being. That is, the sexual act is intended by God both to nurture the love of a husband and wife, as well as open them to His creative act in the generation of human life. When these dual ends of sexual relations are fractured - when the sexual act blocks its procreative meaning through contraception, or when procreation is severed from the spousal union of love, as in in-vitro fertilization and artificial insemination - it constitutes a grave violation of the moral law. The act is rendered even more serious when, as is often the case, "surplus" embryos must be aborted to make way for the embryo that is chosen for survival. The gravity of the act is exacerbated still further when persons other than spouses donate the sperm or the ovum (surrogate uterus) since such actions violate a child's right to a father and mother, known to him or her and bound to each other in marriage.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Homosexual behavior

Catholics believe that the beautiful gift of sexuality is given by God to unite a husband and wife as a physical expression of their union of souls, as well as to cooperate with His plan of creation in the generation of children. Since homosexual activity cannot express this dual intention of sexual intimacy, it is always immoral. Individuals with same-sex attraction are children of God with the same dignity as every other person, and their personhood, like that of all people, is not defined simply by their sexual attractions. They are exhorted to strive, with God’s grace, to live the virtue of chastity and to pursue healthy and wholesome relationships with others.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catholic Answers

Gay “marriage”

Marriage is an institution created not by man but by God, revealed in the very make-up of the human body and in the witness of thousands of years of human history. Only a man and a woman have the capacity to bring children into the world, a fact that society has historically reinforced with laws that protect marriage and its benefits to children. The family is therefore the basic building block of society and protects the rights of children to know their parents and to be loved by them. Since the ideal is for a child to be raised by his own mother and father, such laws protect the good of society and the future of our culture. Those who are engaged in same-sex sexual relationships certainly have the right to live as they choose, but they do not have the right to redefine marriage for the society as a whole. As a result, the Church is opposed to any attempts to redefine that which has already been defined by God and by our human nature.
Catholic Answers
Faith Facts

Immigration

The political question of immigration is complex, and of its nature subject to different policy conclusi ons, even by faithful Catholics. The Catholic Church recognizes the importance of every nations' sovereignty and its right, within the demands of justice, to regulate the passage of people into its borders. Nevertheless, the Gospel demands that every person, whether or not they are legally documented, be treated with the dignity which is theirs, and with compassion for their well-being. As they examine their political views and their personal behavior, then, Catholics will strive to ensure that immigrants, and particularly political and economic refugees, are treated with justice and respect, and are welcomed to their country to the maximum extent possible.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Catechism of the Catholic Church

Capital Punishment

The Church has always taught that lawful state authority has the right to use capital punishment when circumstances warrant. That is, in order to redress a wrong and to protect the common good, a state may legitimately invoke its ultimate recourse to the death penalty. As a result, capital punishment is not per se immoral and as a political question is subject to the prudential judgment of faithful Catholics. Nevertheless, the conditions of modern society have rendered it more and more difficult to envision circumstances in which it would be justified. Apart from the very serious questions of identifying offenders accurately and the disproportionate number of racial minorities who receive the death penalty, in order to endorse capital punishment one would need to demonstrate that bloodless means, such as lifetime prison sentences, are insufficient to protect society against even the most aggressive offenders. Moreover, the "culture of death" that characterizes our society today warrants an even more cautious approach to capital punishment, since it may further contribute to a culture that already fails to appreciate the profound dignity of every human life.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Blessed John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae (para. 56)
Colin B. Donovan, STL

Social justice

The Church has always understood that part of her mission is to advance the welfare of humanity in her teachings on social justice. Seven themes of social justice have been articulated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that provide a glimpse of the richness and depth of this crucial dimension of the Church's ministry and teaching.