A Study of Catholic Practice and Doctrine

Mary Ann Collins (A Former Catholic Nun)


INTRODUCTION

Jesus said that the truth will set us free. (John 8:32) However, He did not say that the truth would necessarily be easy to accept. It was painful for me to learn the information that I am about to share with you, but it was also liberating and it led to a closer relationship with God.

As a faithful Catholic, and later as a nun, I practiced Mary worship for many years without realizing it. The prayers and practices were so familiar. They were taught to me by good people, sincere people that I trusted. I prayed rosaries and wore a scapular and engaged in other “devotions” which I honestly thought were good and pleasing to God. Because of my lack of knowledge of the Bible and of Church history, I honestly had no idea that I was actually worshipping Mary.

If modern Catholic teachings and doctrines about Mary are true, then they will not be contrary to Scripture, the writings of the Early Fathers, or the decrees of past popes. For a devout Catholic to question these issues and put them to the test can be painful. It certainly was for me. However, it would be far more painful to have God correct us when we face Him on Judgment Day.

LETTING THE CATHOLIC CHURCH SPEAK FOR ITSELF

I believe in letting people speak for themselves. Therefore my primary sources about Catholic doctrines and history come from the Catholic Church.

First and foremost is the official Catechism of the Catholic Church which was written for the purpose of summarizing the essential and basic teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It was approved by Pope John Paul II in 1992 and the English translation was released in 1994. The latest English edition was printed in 2000. Most of my other sources are either practicing Catholics or else former Catholics whose approach is loving and respectful and who have thoroughly documented their work.

When I cite the Catechism I will give paragraph numbers rather than page numbers. I will summarize what it says. If you want to see the paragraphs for yourself, there are two web sites with search engines for the Catechism. (Their addresses are given in the Notes.) You can search by topic or by paragraph number. [1]

Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible.

If you really want to understand Catholic teaching in the light of Scripture and the history of the Catholic church, then I strongly recommend reading the following two books. The authors are former Catholics who love and respect Catholics. They are gentle and respectful in their approach. (See the Bibliography for information about these books.)

The Gospel According to Rome: Comparing Catholic Tradition and the Word of God, by James G. McCarthy. This book is easy to read, well documented, objective, and gentle. It is a comprehensive guide to Catholic beliefs, based on Catholic sources. It examines Catholic teachings in the light of Scripture.

The Church of Rome at the Bar of History by William Webster. This book compares modern Catholic doctrines with the teachings of the early Church.

For a good overview of Catholicism, I recommend the video Catholicism: Crisis of Faith. A friend of mine said that in one hour, this video gave him a better understanding of Catholicism than he had received from a college course on the subject. This video is gentle and respectful. An annotated transcript is available on‑line. (Information about videos follows the Bibliography.)

WILL THE REAL CATHOLIC CHURCH PLEASE STAND UP?

When I was in the convent, our mother superior told us about Catholics in Mexico who, in their devotion to Mary, were doing things that we would only do when worshipping God. We were concerned about this. We considered this practice to be unusual and unbalanced. We thought that the American practice of Catholicism was the true thing. However, many years later I realized that if you want to know what something really is, then look at how it behaves when it is in a position of power. In America, Catholics are in the minority. To see the true spirit behind Catholicism, watch what the Catholic Church does in countries where it is in power.

One place where the Catholic Church is strong is Spain, which is known for the Spanish Inquisition. I always thought that the Inquisition was ancient history. However, the last official Spanish execution for heresy occurred in 1826. A schoolmaster was hanged because he substituted the phrase “Praise be to God” in place of “Ave Maria” (“Hail Mary”) during school prayers. [2]

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