3 Catholic Myths You Probably Believe. There are so many myths people believe about the Catholic faith. And writing about all of them will be nearly impossible. However, I have picked these few based on my recent conversations with people here and on Facebook, to answer their questions and share with others.
The Pope is Always Right:
This is one of the most popular ones, some people believe Papal Infallibility means the Pope never makes mistakes. If the Pope takes a question or expresses opinions about world politics, they aren’t always right. They are as prone to error as anything you and i would say.
Pope John Paul II explained in the General Audience of 24 March 1993:
“Infallibility is not given to the Roman Pontiff as a private person, but inasmuch as he fulfills the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians. He also does not exercise it as having authority in himself and by himself but ‘by his supreme apostolic authority’ and ‘by the divine assistance promised to him in Blessed Peter.’ Finally, he does not possess it as if he could dispose of it or count on it in every circumstance, but only ‘when he speaks from the chair,’ and only in a doctrinal field limited to the truths of faith and morals and those closely connected with them (…) the Pope must act as ‘pastor and doctor of all Christians,’ pronouncing on truths concerning ‘faith and morals,’ in terms which clearly express his intention to define a certain truth and to demand the definitive adherence to it by all Christians.
“This is what happened, for example, in the definition of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, about which Pius IX affirmed: ‘It is a doctrine revealed by God and must, for this reason, be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful’; or also in the definition of the Assumption of Mary Most Holy, when Pius XII said: ‘By the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our authority, we declare and define as divinely revealed dogma… etc.’ Under these conditions, one can speak of extraordinary papal magisterium, whose definitions are irreformable ‘of themselves, not by the consent of the Church’ (…) The Supreme Pontiffs can exercise this form of magisterium. And this has in fact happened. Many Popes, however, have not exercised it.”
Mary is Equal to God:
We have heard many people say “Catholics worship Mary”, meaning we consider Mary to be equal to God. When we try to explain anything they say “No”. Five Facts People Ignore Before Accusing Catholics of Worshipping Mary answers this in better detail but suffice it to say: Mary is a creature and is not even close to God. God is infinite, Mary is finite. Mary is exalted higher than any creature, but no matter how high she is raised, she can never not be finite. Insofar as she is a creature, she is permanently limited and vastly unequal to God.
Numbers: a silly analogy
Let us assume that Glory is countable, i.e. can be represented by numbers. Assume also that on earth humans achieve not higher than 100, and in heaven not higher than 10,000. If Mary has been given north of 10^11 (100 Billion); higher than humans and Angels (and she is higher than all creatures). While this might look like infinity, it actually is not; her glory is finite.
God, on the other hand, having no beginning and no end is ∞ (infinity). He is not simply the source of her glory but He himself IS her glory. I am sorry I am using such a terribly reductionist representation for something so sublime. All I am saying is: God can choose to shower a creature with as much glory as he wants without losing anything.
Catholics believe Mary is high above all creatures, but she is much closer to us than she is to God. No one, nothing is close to God; nothing is like God.
Prayer and worship are the same thing
Another myth is the belief that any form of prayer is the same as worship. For the protestant, saying “We bless you God”, means worship. This is the reason they believe Catholics worship Mary and the saints because we ‘pray’ to them. However, Catholics have a very different understanding of worship.
In Catholic thought, to worship God means to offer a sacrifice. It is not about uttering a few words, it is performing very specific rituals in a way prescribed by God.
One thing God is known for in this regard is specificity. God knows how he wants to be worshipped, we do not call the shots. So when Jesus said “Do this in memory of me”, he established a new form of worship for us all: the Sacrifice of the Mass. When Catholics speak to the Saints, we do this because we believe we are all one and the same organism: we are the Body of Christ. We are connected and are actually one, I mean this in the most literal sense. So, those in heaven, those in purgatory, and those on earth are all united and are members of Christ’s body.
So, when we call on Mary, there is little “otherness” involved since we are all functioning through the life of the Head: Jesus.
3 Catholic Myths You Probably Believe. Add more below in a comment.