Baltimore Catechism: On The Catholic Church
LESSON ELEVENTH: On the ChurchQ. 484. How was the true religion preserved from Adam till the coming of Christ?
A. The true religion was preserved from Adam till the coming of Christ by the patriarchs, prophets and other holy men whom God appointed and inspired to teach His Will and Revelations to the people, and to remind them of the promised Redeemer.
Q. 485. Who were the prophets, and what was their chief duty?
A. The prophets were men to whom God gave a knowledge of future events connected with religion, that they might foretell them to His people and thus give proof that the message came from God. Their chief duty was to foretell the time, place and circumstances of Our Savior's coming into the world, that men might know when and where to look for Him, and might recognize Him when He came.
Q. 486. How could they be saved who lived before Christ became man?
A. They who lived before Christ became man could be saved by belief in the Redeemer to come and by keeping the Commandments of God.
Q. 487. Was the true religion universal before the coming of Christ?
A. The true religion was not universal before the coming of Christ. It was confined to one people -- the descendants of Abraham. All other nations worshipped false gods.
Q. 488. Which are the means instituted by Our Lord to enable men at all times to share in the fruits of the Redemption?
A. The means instituted by Our Lord to enable men at all times to share in the fruits of His Redemption are the Church and the Sacraments.
Q. 489. What is the Church?
A. The Church is the congregation of all those who profess the faith of Christ, partake of the same Sacraments, and are governed by their lawful pastors under one visible Head.
Q. 490. How may the members of the Church on earth be divided?
A. The members of the Church on earth may be divided into those who teach and those who are taught. Those who teach, namely, the Pope, bishops and priests, are called the Teaching Church, or simply the Church. Those who are taught are called the Believing Church, or simply the faithful.
Q. 491. What is the duty of the Teaching Church?
A. The duty of the Teaching Church is to continue the work Our Lord began upon earth, namely, to teach revealed truth, to administer the Sacraments and to labor for the salvation of souls.
Q. 492. What is the duty of the faithful?
A. The duty of the faithful is to learn the revealed truths taught; to receive the Sacraments, and to aid in saving souls by their prayers, good works and alms.
Q. 493. What do you mean by "profess the faith of Christ"?
A. By "profess the faith of Christ" we mean, believe all the truths and practice the religion He has taught.
Q. 494. What do we mean by "lawful pastors"?
A. By "lawful pastors" we mean those in the Church who have been appointed by lawful authority and who have, therefore, a right to rule us. The lawful pastors in the Church are: Every priest in his own parish; every bishop in his own diocese, and the Pope in the whole Church.
Q. 495. Who is the invisible Head of the Church?
A. Jesus Christ is the invisible Head of the Church.
Q. 496. Who is the visible Head of the Church?
A. Our Holy Father the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the visible Head of the Church.
Q. 497. What does "vicar" mean?
A. Vicar is a name used in the Church to designate a person who acts in the name and authority of another. Thus a Vicar Apostolic is one who acts in the name of the Pope, and a Vicar General is one who acts in the name of the bishop.
Q. 498. Could any one be Pope without being Bishop of Rome?
A. One could not be Pope without being Bishop of Rome, and whoever is elected Pope must give up his title to any other diocese and take the title of Bishop of Rome.
Q. 499. Why is the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, the visible Head of the Church?
A. The Pope, the Bishop of Rome, is the visible Head of the Church because he is the successor of St. Peter, whom Christ made the chief of the Apostles and the visible Head of the Church.
Q. 500. Why are Catholics called "Roman"?
A. Catholics are called Roman to show that they are in union with the true Church founded by Christ and governed by the Apostles under the direction of St. Peter, by divine appointment the Chief of the Apostles, who founded the Church of Rome and was its first bishop.
Q. 501. By what name is a bishop's diocese sometimes called?
A. A bishop's diocese is sometimes called his see. The diocese of Rome, on account of its authority and dignity, is called the Holy See, and its bishop is called the Holy Father or Pope. Pope means father.
Q. 502. What do we call the right by which St. Peter or his successor has always been the head of the Church and of all its bishops?
A. We call the right by which St. Peter or his successor has always been the head of the Church, and of all its bishops, the Primacy of St. Peter or of the Pope. Primacy means holding first place.
Q. 503. How is it shown that St. Peter or his successor has always been the head of the Church?
A. It is shown that St. Peter or his successor has always been the head of the Church: 1.(1) From the words of Holy Scripture, which tell how Christ appointed Peter Chief of the Apostles and head of the Church. 2.(2) From the history of the Church, which shows that Peter and his successors have always acted and have always been recognized as the head of the Church.
Q. 504. How do we know that the rights and privileges bestowed on St. Peter were given also to his successors -- the Popes?
A. We know that the rights and privileges bestowed on St. Peter were given also to his successors, the Popes, because the promises made to St. Peter by Our Lord were to be fulfilled in the Church till the end of time, and as Peter was not to live till the end of time, they are fulfilled in his successors.
Q. 505. Did St. Peter establish any Church before he came to Rome?
A. Before he came to Rome, St. Peter established a Church at Antioch and ruled over it for several years.
Q. 506. Who are the successors of the other Apostles?
A. The successors of the other Apostles are the Bishops of the Holy Catholic Church.
Q. 507. How do we know that the bishops of the Church are the successors of the Apostles?
A. We know that the bishops of the Church are the successors of the Apostles because they continue the work of the Apostles and give proof of the same authority. They have always exercised the rights and powers that belonged to the Apostles in making laws for the Church, in consecrating bishops and ordaining priests.
Q. 508. Why did Christ found the Church?
A. Christ founded the Church to teach, govern, sanctify, and save all men.
Q. 509. Are all bound to belong to the Church?
A. All are bound to belong to the Church, and he who knows the Church to be the true Church and remains out of it cannot be saved.
Q. 510. Is it ever possible for one to be saved who does not know the Catholic Church to be the true Church?
A. It is possible for one to be saved who does not know the Catholic Church to be the true Church, provided that person:
Q. 511. Why do we say it is only possible for a person to be saved who does not know the Catholic Church to be the true Church?
- Has been validly baptized;
- Firmly believes the religion he professes and practices to be the true religion, and
- Dies without the guilt of mortal sin on his soul.
A. We say it is only possible for a person to be saved who does not know the Catholic Church to be the true Church, because the necessary conditions are not often found, especially that of dying in a state of grace without making use of the Sacrament of Penance.
Q. 512. How are such persons said to belong to the Church?
A. Such persons are said to belong to the "soul of the church"; that is, they are really members of the Church without knowing it. Those who share in its Sacraments and worship are said to belong to the body or visible part of the Church.
Q. 513. Why must the true Church be visible?
A. The true Church must be visible because its founder, Jesus Christ, commanded us under pain of condemnation to hear the Church; and He could not in justice command us to hear a Church that could not be seen and known.
Q. 514. What excuses do some give for not becoming members of the true Church?
A. The excuses some give for not becoming members of the true church are:
Q. 515. How do you answer such excuses?
- They do not wish to leave the religion in which they were born.
- There are too many poor and ignorant people in the Catholic Church.
- One religion is as good as another if we try to serve God in it, and be upright and honest in our lives.
Q. 516. Why can there be only one true religion?
- To say that we should remain in a false religion because we were born in it is as untrue as to say we should not heal our bodily diseases because we were born with them.
- To say there are too many poor and ignorant in the Catholic Church is to declare that it is Christ's Church; for He always taught the poor and ignorant and instructed His Church to continue the work.
- To say that one religion is as good as another is to assert that Christ labored uselessly and taught falsely; for He came to abolish the old religion and found the new in which alone we can be saved as He Himself declared.
A. There can be only one true religion, because a thing cannot be false and true at the same time, and, therefore, all religions that contradict the teaching of the true Church must teach falsehood. If all religions in which men seek to serve God are equally good and true, why did Christ disturb the Jewish religion and the Apostles condemn heretics?