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Other Churches: 5     The Roman Catholic Church

Yes. Now then. Catholics. They pray to Mary with beads, confess their sins to their priest [and then go and do it all again], obey the Pope, think contraception is evil, call communion “mass” – and have to go every week!!

If you think that’s a reasonable summary, perhaps you’d better talk to a member of the Roman Catholic church some time. Myths gather where ignorance is permitted.

For a start “Catholic” isn’t quite the right description, because the Anglican church claims to be part of the “catholic” church too1, so do the United Reformed Church and others. So, though a member of the RC church would use the term “catholic”, because from their point of view it is the one catholic church from which the others splintered, from our point of view it is, properly, the “Roman” catholic church, as distinct from the rest of us.

And that popular idea of a RC member hypocritically confessing sins and then just doing it all again the next week… how very naïve that is! Sacramental confession, though it may, like anything else, have been abused at times, is, properly used, a means of grappling with the sin which besets each of us. And which Anglican, confessing sin [just the same!] at the beginning of each Communion service, could really cast the first stone?

Yes, the RC church attracts quite a few caricatures, most of which are merely exaggerated facets of a much greater – and very human - whole.

What we can say is that the monolithic style of the RC church is probably the most structured and traditional representation of Christianity we have. It claims precedence in the world of churches, deriving its life from a continuity of leadership2 coming from Christ, seeing the rest of us as churches which splintered away from the main body – which is actually true.

There are strong similarities with the Anglican church. Both are episcopally organised3, both are eucharistically centred4. Ritually and doctrinally the High Church Anglicans seem very similar to the Romans5, but within the Anglican church there is a far wider diversity of views for us to cope with.