AskDefine | Define catholicism

Dictionary Definition

Catholicism n : the beliefs and practices of a Catholic Church [syn: Catholicity]

Extensive Definition

As a Christian ecclesiastical term, Catholic—from the Greek adjective , meaning "general" or "universal"—is described in the Oxford English Dictionary as follows:
~Church, (originally) whole body of Christians; ~, belonging to or in accord with (a) this, (b) the church before separation into Greek or Eastern and Latin or Western, (c) the Latin Church after that separation, (d) the part of the Latin Church that remained under the Roman obedience after the Reformation, (e) any church (as the Anglican) claiming continuity with (b)."
Leaving aside the historical meanings indicated under (b) and (c) above, the Oxford English Dictionary thus associates present-day Catholicism with:
(a) "the whole body of Christians". The actual extension of Catholicism in this sense varies with the different understandings of what it means to be a Christian.
(d) "the part of the Latin Church that remained under the Roman obedience after the Reformation", i.e. the Roman Catholic Church. This definition of Catholicism should be expanded to cover the Eastern particular Churches that are in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, and that the Church in question sees as no less part of Catholicism than the Latin particular Church.
(e) "any church (as the Anglican) claiming continuity with the church before separation into Greek or Eastern and Latin or Western". Churches that make this claim of continuity include not only those of the Anglican Communion, but, among others, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Assyrian Church of the East. The claim of continuity may be based on Apostolic Succession, especially in conjunction with adherence to the Nicene Creed. Some interpret Catholicism as adherence to the traditional beliefs that Protestant Reformers denied (see, for example, the Oxford Movement).

History of use of the term

The earliest recorded evidence of the use of the term "Catholic Church" is a letter that Ignatius of Antioch wrote in about 107 to Christians in Smyrna (Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 8). Saint Ignatius used the term to designate the Christian Church possessing true traditions, excluding heretics, such as those who "confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again" (Smyrnaeans, 7). Exhorting Christians to remain closely united with their bishop, he wrote: "Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church" (Smyrnaeans 8).
Yet more explicit was the manner in which Cyril of Jerusalem (circa 315–386) used the term "Catholic Church" precisely to distinguish it from other groups that also claimed the title of "Church": "If ever you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy Church, the Mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God."
Only slightly later, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430) wrote:
"In the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep (Jn 21:15–19), down to the present episcopate.
"And so, lastly, does the very name of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house.
"Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should ... With you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me... No one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion... For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church."
—St. Augustine (354–430): Against the Epistle of Manichaeus called Fundamental, chapter 4: Proofs of the Catholic Faith.
On 27 February, 380, by an edict issued in Thessalonica and published in Constantinople, Emperor Theodosius declared Catholic Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, and defined the term "Catholic" in Roman Imperial law as follows:
Theodosian Code XVI.i.2:
It is our desire that all the various nations which are subject to our clemency and moderation, should continue the profession of that religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter, as it has been preserved by faithful tradition and which is now professed by the Pontiff Damasus and by Peter, Bishop of Alexandria, a man of apostolic holiness. According to the apostolic teaching and the doctrine of the Gospel, let us believe in the one Deity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity. We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title Catholic Christians; but as for the others, since in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics, and shall not presume to give their conventicles the name of churches. They will suffer in the first place the chastisement of divine condemnation and the second the punishment of our authority, in accordance with the will of heaven will decide to inflict.
A contemporary of Augustine, St. Vincent of Lerins, wrote in 434 under the pseudonym Peregrinus a work known as the Commonitoria ("Memoranda"). While insisting that, like the human body, Church doctrine develops while truly keeping its identity (sections 54–59, chapter XXIII), he stated: "[I]n the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense 'Catholic,' which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors" (section 6, end of chapter II).

Divergent interpretations of the term "Catholic"

Many individual Christians and Christian denominations consider themselves "catholic" on the basis, in particular, of Apostolic Succession. They fall into four groups:
  1. The Western and Eastern Churches of the Roman Catholic Church (often referred to simply as "the Catholic Church"). These understand "Catholic" to involve unity with the Bishop of Rome, and hold that "the one Church of Christ ... subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure."
  2. Those others that, like the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Old Catholic, Anglican, and some Lutheran and other denominations, claim unbroken Apostolic Succession from the early Church. Some of these identify themselves as the Catholic Church (e.g. the Orthodox Churches), while others see themselves as a constituent part of the Church (e.g. the Old Catholics, Anglicans).
  3. Those who claim to be spiritual descendants of the Apostles but have no discernible institutional descent from the historic Church, and normally do not refer to themselves as catholic.
  4. Those who have acknowledged a break in Apostolic Succession, but have restored it in order to be in full communion with bodies that have maintained the practice. Examples in this category include the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada vis-à-vis their Anglican and Old Catholic counterparts.
For some confessions listed under category 2, the self-affirmation refers to the belief in the ultimate unity of the universal church under one God and one Saviour, rather than in one visibly unified institution (as with category 1, above). In this usage, catholic is sometimes written with a lower-case "c". The Western Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed, stating "I believe holy Catholic church..." is thus recited in worship services. Among some denominations in category 3, "Christian" is substituted for "catholic" in order to denote the doctrine that the Christian Church is, at least ideally, undivided.

Brief organisational history of the Church

According to the theory of Pentarchy, the early Catholic Church came to be organised under the three patriarchs of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, to which later were added the patriarchs of Constantinople and Jerusalem. The Bishop of Rome was at that time recognized as first among them, as is stated, for instance, in canon 3 of the First Council of Constantinople (381)—many interpret "first" as meaning here first among equals—and doctrinal or procedural disputes were often referred to Rome, as when, on appeal by St Athanasius against the decision of the Council of Tyre (335), Pope Julius I, who spoke of such appeals as customary, annulled the action of that council and restored Athanasius and Marcellus of Ancyra to their sees. The Bishop of Rome was also considered to have the right to convene ecumenical councils. When the Imperial capital moved to Constantinople, Rome's influence was sometimes challenged. Nonetheless, Rome claimed special authority because of its connection to Saint Peter and Saint Paul, who, all agreed, were martyred and buried in Rome, and because the Bishop of Rome saw himself as the successor of Saint Peter.
The 431 Council of Ephesus, the Third Ecumenical Council, was chiefly concerned with Nestorianism, which emphasised the distinction between the humanity and divinity of Jesus and taught that, in giving birth to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary could not be spoken of as giving birth to God. This Council rejected Nestorianism and affirmed that, as humanity and divinity are inseparable in the one person of Jesus Christ, his mother, the Virgin Mary, is thus Theotokos, God-bearer, Mother of God. The first great rupture in the Church followed this Council. Those who refused to accept the Council's ruling were largely Persian and are represented today by the Assyrian Church of the East and related Churches, which, however, do not now hold a "Nestorian" theology. They are often called Ancient Oriental Churches.
The next major break was after the Council of Chalcedon (451). This Council repudiated Eutychian Monophysitism which stated that the divine nature completely subsumed the human nature in Christ. This Council declared that Christ, though one person, exhibited two natures "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation" and thus is both fully God and fully human. The Alexandrian Church rejected the terms adopted by this Council, and the Christian Churches that follow the tradition of non-acceptance of the Council—they are not Monophysite in doctrine—are referred to as Pre-Chalcedonian or Oriental Orthodox Churches.
The next great rift within Christianity was in the 11th century. Longstanding doctrinal disputes, as well as conflicts between methods of Church government, and the evolution of separate rites and practices, precipitated a split in 1054 that divided the Church, this time between a "West" and an "East". England, France, the Holy Roman Empire, Poland, Bohemia, Slovakia, Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, and Western Europe in general were in the Western camp, and Greece, Romania, Russia and many other Slavic lands, Anatolia, and the Christians in Syria and Egypt who accepted the Council of Chalcedon made up the Eastern camp. This division is called the East-West Schism.
The fourth major division in the Church occurred in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation, after which many parts of the Western Church either entirely rejected the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and became known as "Reformed" or "Protestant", or else repudiated Roman papal authority and accepted decisions by the civil ruler in religious matters (e.g., in Anglicanism and parts of the Lutheran Church).
A much less extensive rupture occurred when, after the Roman Catholic Church's First Vatican Council, in which it officially proclaimed the dogma of papal infallibility, clusters of Catholics in the Netherlands and in German-speaking countries formed the Old-Catholic (Altkatholische) Church.
All of the preceding groups, excluding some Protestants, consider themselves fully and completely Catholic, either as part of the Catholic Church or as the one and only Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church

For most members of this Church, the terms "Catholic Church" and "Roman Catholic Church" are synonymous. It is the world's largest single religious body, and comprises 23 "particular Churches," or Rites, all of which acknowledge a primacy of jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome and are in full communion with the Holy See and each other. These particular Churches are the one Latin-Rite or Western Church (which uses a number of different liturgical rites, of which the Roman Rite is the best known) and 22 Eastern Catholic Churches. Of the latter particular Churches, 14 use the Byzantine liturgical rite.

Eastern Christianity

The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches, as well as the Assyrian Church of the East, each consider themselves to be the universal and true Catholic Church. Each of the three regards the others—since the divisions at the Councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedonia (451)—as heretical and as having thus left the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches are autocephalous hierarchs, which roughly means that each is independent of the direct oversight of another bishop, although still subject, according to their distinct traditions, either to the synod of bishops of each one’s jurisdiction, or to a common decision of the patriarchs of their own communion. They are willing to concede a primacy of honor to the Roman See, but not of authority, nor do they accept its claim to universal and immediate jurisdiction. This is similar to the position taken by the Lutheran World Federation, the Anglican Communion, and the Old Catholic Church.

Oriental Orthodox Churches

The Assyrian Church of the East

Anglican and other churches

Within Western Christianity, the churches of the Anglican Communion, the Old Catholics, the Liberal Catholic Church, the Aglipayans (Philippine Independent Church), the Polish National Catholic Church of America, and many Independent Catholic Churches, which emerged directly or indirectly from and have beliefs and practices largely similar to Latin Rite Catholicism, regard themselves as "Catholic" without full communion with the Bishop of Rome, whose claimed status and authority they generally reject. The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a division of the People's Republic of China's Religious Affairs Bureau exercising state supervision over mainland China's Catholics, holds a similar position.


Introductory works on Anglicanism (such as Sykes' and Booty's The Study of Anglicanism, pp. 219 ff.) typically refer to the character of the Anglican tradition as "Catholic and Reformed", which is in keeping with the understanding of the Church articulated in the Elizabethan Settlement and in the works of the earliest standard Anglican divines such as Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes. Yet different strains in Anglicanism, dating back to its earliest formation, have emphasized either the Protestant, Catholic, or "Reformed Catholic" nature of the tradition.
Anglican theology and ecclesiology has thus come to be typically expressed in three distinct, yet sometimes overlapping manifestations: Anglo-Catholicism (or "high church"), "Evangelicalism" (or "low church"), and Latitudinarianism (or "broad church"), whose beliefs and practices fall somewhere between the two. Though all elements within the Anglican Communion recite the same creeds, Evangelical Anglicans regard the word catholic in the ideal sense given above. In contrast, Anglo-Catholics regard the communion as a component of the whole Catholic Church, in spiritual and historical union with the Roman Catholic, Old Catholic and several Eastern Churches. Broad Church Anglicans tend to maintain a mediating view, or consider the matter one of adiaphora.
The catholic nature of the Anglican tradition is expressed doctrinally, ecumenically (chiefly through organisations such as the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission), ecclesiologically (through its episcopal governance and maintenance of the historical episcopate), and in liturgy and piety. Anglo-Catholics (and some Broad Church Anglicans) maintain credence in the Seven Sacraments, practice Marian devotion, recite the rosary and the angelus, practice Eucharistic adoration, and seek the intercession of saints. In terms of liturgy, Anglo-Catholic (and some Broad Church) Anglicans use candles, incense, and sanctus bells in the Eucharist, which is often referred to by the Latin-derived word "Mass", and celebrate it facing the altar and tabernacle using a priest, deacon, and subdeacon. Anglicans believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The growth of Anglo-Catholicism is strongly associated with the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century. Two of its leading lights, John Henry Newman and Henry Edward Manning, both priests, ended up joining the Roman Catholic Church, becoming cardinals. Others, like John Keble, Edward Bouverie Pusey, and Charles Gore became influential figures in the Anglican Church. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is a patron of the Anglican organisation, Affirming Catholicism, a liberal movement within catholic Anglicanism. Conservative catholic groups also exist within the tradition, such as Forward in Faith.

Provinces of the Anglican Communion

As in Orthodoxy, all thirty-eight provinces of the Anglican Communion are independent, each with its own primate and governing structure. These provinces may take the form of national churches (such as in Canada, Uganda, or Japan) or a collection of nations (such as the West Indies, Central Africa, or Southeast Asia). All are in union with the see of Canterbury. They are:
In addition, there are six extra-provincial churches, five of which are under the metropolitical authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Protestant churches

There are catholic groups among the Protestant churches. For example, High Church Lutheranism, developed a movement known as Neo-Lutheranism, and there is a Scoto-Catholic grouping within the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Such groups point to their churches' continuing adherence to the 'Catholic' doctrine of the early Church Councils. The Articles Declaratory of the Constitution of the Church of Scotland of 1921 defines that church legally as 'part of the Holy Catholic or Universal Church'. However, the Roman Catholic Church does not accept that these other churches are Catholic as it views communion with the Bishop of Rome as being an indispensable part of what it means to be Catholic and maintaining Apostolic Succession necessary to be considered a Church.

Distinctive beliefs and practices

Because of the divergent interpretations of the word "Catholicism" spoken of above, any listing of beliefs and practices that distinguish Catholicism from other forms of Christianity must be preceded by an indication of the sense employed.
If Catholicism is understood as the Roman Catholic Church understands it, identification of beliefs is relatively easy, though preferred expressions of the beliefs vary, especially between the Latin Church, the Eastern Catholic Churches of Greek tradition, and the other Eastern Catholic Churches. Liturgical and canonical practices vary between all these particular Churches constituting the Roman Catholic Church.
In the understanding of another Church that identifies Catholicism with itself, such as the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches, clear identification of certain beliefs may sometimes be more difficult, because of the lack of a central authority like that of the Roman Catholic Church. On the other hand, practices are more uniform, as indicated, for instance, in the single liturgical rite employed, in various languages, within the Eastern Orthodox Church, in contrast to the variety of liturgical rites in the Roman Catholic Church.
In all these cases the beliefs and practices of Catholicism would be identical with the beliefs and practices of the Church in question.
If Catholicism is extended to cover all who consider themselves spiritual descendants of the Apostles, a search for beliefs and practices that distinguish it from other forms of Christianity would be meaningless.
Only if Catholicism is understood in the sense given to the word by those who use it to distinguish their position from a Calvinistic or Puritan form of Protestantism is it meaningful to attempt to draw up a list of common characteristic beliefs and practices of Catholicism. In this interpretation, evidently by no means shared by all, Catholicism includes the Roman Catholic Church, the various Churches of Eastern Christianity, the Old Catholic Church, Anglicanism, and at least some of the "independent Catholic Churches".
The beliefs and practices of Catholicism, as thus understood, include:
  • Direct and continuous organizational descent from the original church founded by Jesus , who, according to tradition, designated the Apostle Peter as its first leader
  • Belief that Jesus Christ is Divine, a doctrine officially clarified in the First Council of Nicea and expressed in the Nicene Creed.
  • Belief that the Eucharist is really, truly, and objectively the Body and Blood of Christ, through the Real Presence. Many Catholics additionally believe that adoration and worship is due to the Eucharist, as the body and blood of Christ.
  • Possession of the "threefold ordained ministry" of Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
  • All ministers are ordained by, and subject to, Bishops, who pass down sacramental authority by the "laying-on of hands", having themselves been ordained in a direct line of succession from the Apostles (see Apostolic Succession).
  • Belief that the Church is the vessel and deposit of the fullness of the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles from which the Scriptures were formed. This teaching is preserved in both written scripture and in unwritten tradition, neither being independent of the other.
  • A belief in the necessity and efficacy of sacraments.
  • The use of sacred images, candles, vestments and music, and often incense and water, in worship.
  • Veneration of Mary, the mother of Jesus as the Blessed Virgin Mary or Theotokos, and veneration of the saints.
  • A distinction between adoration (latria) for God, and veneration (dulia) for saints. The term hyperdulia is used for a special veneration accorded to the Virgin Mary among the saints.
  • The use of prayer for the dead.
  • Requests to the departed saints for intercessory prayers.

Sacraments or Sacred Mysteries

Churches in the Catholic tradition administer seven sacraments or "sacred mysteries": Baptism, Confirmation or Chrismation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony." In some Catholic churches this number is regarded as a convention only.
In Catholicism, a sacrament is considered to be an efficacious visible sign of God's invisible grace. While the word mystery is used not only of these rites, but also with other meanings with reference to revelations of and about God and to God's mystical interaction with creation, the word sacrament (Latin: a solemn pledge), the usual term in the West, refers specifically to these rites.
Baptism is the first sacrament of Christian initiation, the basis for all the other sacraments. Churches in the Catholic tradition consider baptism conferred in most Christian denominations "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (cf. ) to be valid, since the effect is produced through the sacrament, independently of the faith of the minister, though not of the minister's intention. This is not necessarily the case in other churches. As stated in the Nicene Creed, Baptism is "for the forgiveness of sins", not only personal sins, but also of original sin, which it remits even in infants who have committed no actual sins. Expressed positively, forgiveness of sins means bestowal of the sanctifying grace by which the baptized person shares the life of God. The initiate "puts on Christ" (Galatians 3:27), and is "buried with him in baptism ... also raised with him through faith in the working of God" (Colossians 2:12).
Confirmation or Chrismation is the second sacrament of Christian initiation, the means by which the gift of the Holy Spirit conferred in baptism is "strengthened and deepened" (see, for example, Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1303) by a sealing. In the Western tradition it is usually a separate rite from baptism, bestowed, following a period of education called catechesis, on those who have at least reached the age of discretion (about 7) and sometimes postponed until an age when the person is considered capable of making a mature independent profession of faith. It is considered to be of a nature distinct from the anointing with chrism (also called myrrh) that is usually part of the rite of baptism and that is not seen as a separate sacrament. In the Eastern tradition it is usually conferred in conjunction with baptism, as its completion, but is sometimes administered separately to converts or those who return to Orthodoxy. Some theologies consider this to be the outward sign of the inner "Baptism of the Holy Spirit," the special gifts (or charismata) of which may remain latent or become manifest over time according to God's will. Its "originating" minister is a validly consecrated bishop; if a priest (a "presbyter") confers the sacrament (as is permitted in some Catholic churches) the link with the higher order is indicated by the use of chrism blessed by a bishop. (In an Eastern Orthodox Church, this is customarily, although not necessarily, done by the primate of the local autocephalous church.)
The Eucharist is the sacrament (the third of Christian initiation) by which the faithful receive their ultimate "daily bread," or "bread for the journey," by partaking of and in the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and being participants in Christ's one eternal sacrifice. The bread and wine used in the rite are, according to Catholic faith, in the mystical action of the Holy Spirit, transformed to be Christ's Body and Blood—his Real Presence. This transformation is interpreted by some as transubstantiation or metousiosis, by others as consubstantiation or Sacramental Union.
Penance (also called Confession and Reconciliation) is the first of the two sacraments of healing. It is also called the sacrament of conversion, of forgiveness, and of absolution. It is the sacrament of spiritual healing of a baptized person from the distancing from God involved in actual sins committed. It involves the penitent's contrition for sin (without which the rite does not have its effect), confession (which in highly exceptional circumstances can take the form of a corporate general confession) to a minister who has the faculty to exercise the power to absolve the penitent, and absolution by the minister. In some traditions (such as the Roman Catholic), the rite involves a fourth element — satisfaction — which is defined as signs of repentance imposed by the minister. In early Christian centuries, the fourth element was quite onerous and generally preceded absolution, but now it usually involves a simple task (in some traditions called a "penance") for the penitent to perform, to make some reparation and as a medicinal means of strengthening against further sinning.
Anointing of the Sick (or Unction) is the second sacrament of healing. In it those who are suffering an illness are anointed by a minister with oil consecrated by a bishop specifically for that purpose. In past centuries, when such a restrictive interpretation was customary, the sacrament came to be known as "Extreme Unction", i.e. "Final Anointing", as it still is among traditionalist Catholics. It was then conferred only as one of the "Last Rites". The other "Last Rites" are Penance (if the dying person is physically unable to confess, at least absolution, conditional on the existence of contrition, is given), and the Eucharist, which, when administered to the dying, is known as "Viaticum", a word whose original meaning in Latin was "provision for a journey".
The Sacrament of Holy Orders is that which integrates someone into the Holy Orders of bishops, priests (presbyters), and deacons, the threefold order of "administrators of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1), giving the person the mission to teach, sanctify, and govern. Only a bishop may administer this sacrament, as only a bishop holds the fullness of the Apostolic Ministry. Ordination as a bishop makes one a member of the body that has succeeded to that of the Apostles. Ordination as a priest configures a person to Christ the Head of the Church and the one essential Priest, empowering that person, as the bishops' assistant and vicar, to preside at the celebration of divine worship, and in particular to confect the sacrament of the Eucharist, acting "in persona Christi" (in the person of Christ). Ordination as a deacon configures the person to Christ the Servant of All, placing the deacon at the service of the Church, especially in the fields of the ministry of the Word, service in divine worship, pastoral guidance and charity. Deacons may later be further ordained to the priesthood, but only if they do not have a wife. In some traditions (such as those of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches), while married men may be ordained, ordained men may not marry. In others (such as the Anglican), clerical marriage is permissible.
Marriage (or Holy Matrimony) joins a man and a woman (according to the churches doctrines) for mutual help and love (the unitive purpose), consecrating them for their particular mission of building up the Church and the world, and providing grace for accomplishing that mission. Western tradition sees the sacrament as conferred by the canonically expressed mutual consent of the partners in marriage; Eastern and some recent Western theologians not in communion with the see of Rome view the blessing by a priest as constituting the sacramental action.

Further reading

  • Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Basic Books, 0465006345, 2006).
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church—English translation (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2000). ISBN 1-57455-110-8
  • H. W. Crocker III, Triumph—The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church: A 2,000-Year History (Prima Publishing, 2001). ISBN 0-7615-2924-1
  • Eamon Duffy, Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes (Yale Nota Bene, 2002). ISBN 0-300-09165-6
  • K. O. Johnson, Why Do Catholics Do That? (Ballantine, 1994). ISBN 0-345-39726-6
  • Ludwig von Pastor, History of the Popes from the Close of the Middle Ages; Drawn from the Secret Archives of the Vatican and other original sources, 40 vols. St. Louis, B.Herder 1898
  • Basic Catechism—Seventh Revised Edition (Pauline Books & Media, 1999). ISBN 0-8198-0623-4
  • Peter Lynch, The Church's Story: A History of Pastoral Care and Vision (Pauline Books & Media, 2005). ISBN 0-8198-1575-6
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