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You Are Here: Home > Essay Topics > Religion Essays and Research Papers > Catholic Church Research Paper Topics  > Essay on Roman Catholicism

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Essay on Roman Catholicism

Roman Catholicism is two things. It is a form of faith and worship; and it is a form of government. It is a system of beliefs about God and man and the means of salvation, and a system of worship expressing and nourishing those beliefs; and it is a corporate control over the minds, consciences and moral conduct of its adherents--of all the world, if its hopes could be realized--by a very small self-perpetuating group, in the last analysis by one man. "Moral" is an elastic term and may be made to cover much; but even so, it may seem to limit too closely the fields of conduct which the church attempts to control. Nevertheless, I put it in to avoid giving the impression that the church explicitly claims the right to dominate every phase of conduct. It does not do that. But it does claim the right to determine for itself what phases of conduct it has a right to control; which means that it claims the right to control whatever it has any interest in controlling.

Catholicism as faith and Catholicism as government are distinct but closely related. Its faith furnishes the theory upon which the authority of its government rests, and authority is the key-word of the whole system.

The entire program of dogmas to be believed, acts of worship to be performed, and authorities to be obeyed, rests explicitly upon a world-view in which supernaturalism is the first and most notable factor. Belief in the supernatural is of course no monopoly of Catholicism. Many other world-views and nearly all religions have it, but few carry it so far or lean upon it so heavily. The more conservative Protestants have a theory of the supernatural that is just as definite, so far as it goes, but they make less use of it. Compared with the teachings of Catholicism, the Protestant fundamentalists might be accused of being almost rationalistic. They believe that the Bible is infallible, but they do not believe that anybody is infallibly guided to tell the world what it means. They believe that miracles were wrought long ago, but not now. Catholic supernaturalism is more thoroughgoing. It furnishes not only the foundation but the entire structure of religion. It fills the whole channel of the church's official life, and overflows in miracles and portents in quite unexpected places.

The one idea more essential than any other to the Catholic system of religion is that there are two streams of events running through history: the natural and the supernatural. The universe is inhabited by two kinds of intelligences: human and superhuman. The supernatural--that is, the whole range of personalities, forces and events lying outside of the reach of man's ordinary means of knowledge and control and entirely free from the kind of causation that science knows anything about--is not only a perfectly real world; it is a system of reality which is sharply distinguished from the natural world. Its existence may be known by reason and proved logically by the visible effects which it produces in the natural world, but its processes cannot be traced or accounted for by any methods which are available to science. That is the first thing. Not simply a category of spiritual realities but a world of supernatural facts which cannot be blended with the world which science knows by any sort of naturalistic or humanistic interpretation.

This system of supernatural powers and persons, though absolutely different in kind from the forces and creatures of the natural world, is not remote from it. The supernatural has its physical and human agencies through which it is constantly producing supernatural effects in the natural world. Some of these effects are invisible and spiritual, having to do with the salvation of souls, the conferring of special graces and blessings, the guarding of the minds of chosen persons from the possibility of error in religious teaching, and the granting of authority to exercise discipline. Others are visible and physical, miracles performed either to confirm faith or to reward it. . .

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