10 Common Catholic Church Myths That Critics Believe

Think you know the Catholic Church? Think again.

Despite being the largest Christian denomination in the United States (and the world), much of what people believe about Catholics and the Catholic church simply isn’t true. Are you guilty of believing any of these 10 Catholic Church myths?

Related Reading: 5 Common Misconceptions About the Bible


Myth #1: Catholics Aren’t Christians


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Catholics consider themselves to be the original Christians, who are doing their best to hold the same beliefs and traditions that the church held in the first century.

According to Catholics, both Catholics and Protestants are Christians, and both Catholics and Protestants can go to Heaven. The Protestant denominations are simply offshoots of Catholicism that branched off over various theological disagreements.

Whether Catholics held fast to the correct teachings or they veered off at some point, the majority of devout Catholics do still try their best to hold to the Bible’s teachings today.


Myth #2: The Catholic Church Abandoned the Bible for Man-Made Traditions


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While the Catholic Church does have many traditions (like Lent) that aren’t explicitly found in the Bible, so does every church (and so do you, in your home). Traditions themselves aren’t bad. It’s only when we prioritize them over God himself or when they take us farther away from God instead of drawing us near that they cause problems.

One reason that the Catholic Church has so many traditions is that the first-century apostles didn’t write down absolutely every single thing they taught. In fact, John 21:25 tells us,

“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Catholics do their best to value and uphold both the written and oral teachings that were passed down from the apostles. Protestants look to the written teachings (the Bible) only.

The Catholic Church still highly prioritizes Scripture. It just isn’t their only source of information (and nowhere in the Scriptures does it tell us it should be).

Related Reading: Where is Lent in the Bible?


Myth #3: Catholics Worship Mary, Saints, and Statues


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Catholics do not worship Mary or statues; they worship God alone.

Instead, they “venerate” Mary, which, according to Google, is just a fancy word for “regard with great respect.” Similar to how we would show great honor or respect to a King or Queen, without actually worshiping them, Catholics hold Mary and other saints in high esteem as good examples of how to live a faithful life.

Yes, to Protestants, the practices definitely look like worship, and it’s easy to understand why this Catholic myth is still around. But since worship is an attitude of the heart, you can’t “accidentally” worship someone and not know it.

If Catholics’ hearts are in the right place — and they only want to show honor — then it’s not worship.

It’s the same with statues as well. Catholics look at them for inspiration, but they certainly don’t worship them.


Myth #4: Catholics Believe People are Saved by Works


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The Catholic Church does NOT teach that people are saved by their works. In fact, the catechism of the Catholic Church actually specifically forbids this notion.

Rather, the Catholic Churches basically teaches that if you call yourself a Christian, but you don’t act like it, maybe you’re not really a Christian after all. Or, said another way: Yes, God saves you through faith, but it’s a living faith that naturally produces good works.

Your faith doesn’t save you. But if you have a saving faith, you’ll naturally want to do good works.

Related Reading: Is Faith Alone Enough?


Myth #5: The Catholic Church Added Books to the Bible


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The books that are currently in the Catholic Bible are the same books that the church has recognized as being in the Bible for centuries. It wasn’t until the 16th century that Martin Luther and the Reformers moved them to the appendix before they were ultimately taken out.

(For the record, Martin Luther wanted to remove James, Hebrew, Jude, and Revelations as well but was unsuccessful. The books that he did remove are called Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, and Baruch.)

Whether or not these additional books should have been left in or taken out, we can’t say for sure. Either way, no core theological doctrine of the Catholic Church rests primarily or solely on verses included in the deuterocanonical books. As you read the Bible for yourself, you’re welcome to include these books or leave them out.


Myth #6: Catholic Priests Can’t Be Married


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(Some) Priests are married! Some even have children and grandchildren.

This happens when a man is already married and a priest in a different denomination and then converts to Catholicism later.

And of those who become priests the usual way and aren’t allowed to get married–not all of them even want to be.

Additionally, priests know what they’re signing up for. They have a choice between God and a wife, and it is their choice to make. No one is forcing them to choose one or the other.


Myth #7: Catholics Recrucify Jesus at Mass


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Catholics do not recrucify Jesus at Mass.

Instead, they believe that Jesus and the crucifixion occur outside the limits of time, so when they celebrate Mass, they are only making the sacrifice (which has already occurred) “present” on the altar.

This is a subtle distinction, but an important one!


Myth #8: Catholics Believe Only Catholics Can Go to Heaven


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While Catholics do believe their religion is the one true religion and the ordinary (most common) means of bringing people to salvation, it is a common Catholic misconception that they believe this is the only way.

Instead, they recognize that God can use any means He wants to bring people to Himself, including those other than the Catholic church, especially if the person has never had the opportunity or knowledge to join the church.

They believe that Protestants who have no reason to suspect their beliefs are incorrect can go to Heaven, as well as Protestants who were planning to convert before death but hadn’t done so yet.


Myth #9: All Catholic Priests Harm Children


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Yes, the Catholic church has had huge and horrible scandals in which some priests were harming children. This was absolutely awful and shameful, and they will have to stand before Jesus for what they did.

But if you look at the statistics, only a very small minority of priests were involved, and it isn’t really fair to blame every priest or dismiss Catholicism as a whole for what a few did.

Scandals like this happen in every church and in every city. That doesn’t make everyone guilty of the crimes of a few, and it does not mean that innocent Catholic priests deserve negative treatment today because of this stereotype.

Does the Catholic church need reform in this area? Absolutely. Is every priest guilty of harming children? Absolutely not.


Myth #10: The Catholic Church is Anti-Women


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The church isn’t anti-anyone. They do believe birth control is morally wrong — the same thing every denomination believed until 1930. But when pretty much every other denomination began to change its mind, the Catholic church held its ground on this teaching.

The Catholic church also doesn’t allow women to be priests, which has upset many. But if you look at the rate of women in non-priest leadership positions, it is WAY higher than average.

The Catholic church may not do things the “feminist” way, but they do hold women in very high esteem, even referring to them as the “crown of creation.”


This article originally appeared on Equipping Godly Women.

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