Catholicism - Key Teachings

This GCSE RE quiz looks at the key teachings of Catholicism. The Catholic Church is undoubtedly among the world’s oldest and most powerful institutions ~ tracing its origins directly back through the Papal succession to St Peter on the day of Pentecost, and gathering along the way a vast array of saints, scholars and patronage from the world’s high and mighty. No institution is likely to survive as long (2,000-odd years and counting … ), whatever its other apparent advantages, unless it has a robust core of shared beliefs among its membership which are fully defensible and at least adequately explained and understood.

Much of the main corpus of Catholic belief is common to the mainstream of Christian tradition, but equally clearly, along the way there have been divergences (‘schisms’) from the Orthodox on the one broad hand and the Protestant on the other.

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Catholicism could quite fairly be characterised as imbued with a strong sense of authority (i.e. that it can and should be doing and preaching what it does, because it is entitled and even expected to by God Himself). Times may change ~ not least within the past century with its World Wars, the social and technical upheavals of media and transport developments, and a spectrum of new views on the nature and bounds of personal relationships (not least, the impact of science and medicine on the outworkings of these, in an age of readily-available chemical contraception and unprecedented advances in genetic and transplant surgery).

So ~ what are some of the Catholic Church’s most distinctive doctrines?

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  1. Starting at the top of the organisation: all Catholics have to acknowledge the authority of the Pope. When a new pope is elected into office, which of the following is NOT a true detail of the process?
    The majority needs 'only' to be 2/3, after as many as 21 ballot cycles if necessary. Only then are the papers burned on their own, without the addition of wet straw, so that the smoke will be unmistakeably white. Since 1009 (more or less exactly halfway back through Church history) all Popes have adopted a new regnal name, rather than the one they were baptised with
  2. The Church hopes that its members will abide by common values and practices ~ by consent, through faith and on their merits ~ but occasionally someone will stumble and fall foul of The System. Only in the most extreme cases will The Church conclude it has no option than unilaterally to withdraw from its relationship with such a person ... not a step it would wish (nor be seen) to take lightly. What is this extreme sanction called?
    A sincere &/or deathbed confession can still bring about reconciliation. It is worth noting that where the sin overlaps with a civil or criminal offence (of a violent &/or sexual nature, say), the Church's primary concern is with the spiritual aspects of what took place: a falling-short from God's nurturing and compassionate standards, etc.
  3. Authority, conformity and obedience loom large in such an organisation as the Catholic Church: where does the Church hold that 'the rot set in'?
    Wow ... there are some seriously contorted and angsty suggestions here. Blaming God for 'scripting us to fail' (Ans.2) is clearly unlikely to be consonant with Catholic faith; simply blaming the Devil (Ans.3) is to shirk our own individual moral responsibility; Ans.4 is rather off-track and again not at all consonant with the Catholic view on evolutionism
  4. ... So is it wrong for Catholics to consider, let alone potentially accept, evolution as an explanation for the origin of the world as we more or less know it?
    Ans.2 was 'getting warm' here, but Ans.3 probably catches the view most clearly. Careful wider reading on this most fundamental question is recommended!
  5. In the Catholic view of the world, only God ultimately has the right and capability to bestow or extinguish life: the Ten Commandments enjoin us never to commit murder, and the origins of life (conception and birth) are subject to His wisdom, bounty and mysteries ~ through the cooperation of humans within the sacramental framework of monogamous heterosexual marriage. Which of the following is/are regarded as acceptable practices?
    The Catholic view is essentially clear, absolute, unflinching ~ and, as some who do not completely share it might mistakenly consider ~ sometimes a little short on compassion when particular &/or exceptional circumstances arise, e.g. a woman finds herself pregnant as a result of a rape. But rules are rules, and what could be more precious and sacred than a human life with who-knows-what potential? (One of the classic anti-abortion cases is 'the Beethoven argument': if a mother-to-be is already overworked, in fragile health, and the father is a drunkard who only makes an intermittent livelihood as a musician, 'mightn't an abortion at least be an option to consider?' ... Not if you wanted Beethoven's Fifth Symphony etc. in due course ~ without which such works of genius, human culture would undoubtedly have been the poorer! God in His wisdom and bounty may bless us through surprising channels, and it's not our prerogative to cramp Him!)
  6. Belief in Jesus is plainly pivotal for Catholics within the overall Christian church. Down the centuries there have been any number of 'heresies' ~ unhelpful, unproven side-issues that the Church has rejected. Which ONE of the following is not (if we may use such a phrase) a genuine heresy?
    There were heresies along such lines, but ultimately these arose because the humans involved (though doubtless otherwise sincere enough) could not grasp how an omnipotent God could ~ for His own purposes ~ act in ways we might find paradoxical. Ultimately this is a matter of limited faith. The 'Phlogiston Theory' label, meanwhile, is mis-borrowed from a long-debunked idea in combustion chemistry
  7. Within its creeds and doctrines, who and what does the Catholic Church actively believe Jesus was, and is? ONE of the following is significantly incomplete or otherwise wide of the mark: which one?
    ... Well, yes; most of us (Catholics heartily included) would probably accept that He was; but God's Fatherhood, through the Immaculate Conception, ought surely to be acknowledged in the same breath?
  8. We can choose to see evidence of the creator God around us, in such things as the natural world with its diversity and rhythms; we can choose to accept the remarkable feats of 'the historical Jesus', and the influence and consequences of the Holy Spirit in action; a few of us might in God's wisdom be vouchsafed a vision (of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in most apparent cases). But your typical Catholic will seek to draw closest to God through a range of sacraments ~ what we might dub 'special religious observances', over and above the ordinary everyday actions of our human life. ONE of the following is NOT officially such a sacrament: which one?
    Surprisingly perhaps, prayer in and of itself is not a sacrament, although it runs through and around and beyond the other listed (and unlisted) sacraments ~ of which there are seven in total. But we doubt any Catholic would deny that God can be approached in and through prayer ... which is 'communicating with God' in pretty well the most direct manner possible
  9. Here are some key Catholic doctrines that most other Christians do NOT adhere to ... except which ONE?
    Conversion is the (preferably voluntary) transition of a person into declaring and practising a different religious faith since previously. Someone brought up within another Christian tradition might, for instance, 'convert to Rome' (i.e. become a Catholic); a Catholic would not be able to convert to anything else. St Paul, a respected early missionary, himself underwent a pivotal and spectacular conversion to Christianity, after previously being radically opposed to it through his Jewish beliefs. Plenty of other religions accept and even welcome the idea of conversion (preferably into their own midst) so this is hardly an exclusively Catholic concept. But the others we have listed each are ~ you might like to look them up and clarify what they mean
  10. As and when the world (as we broadly know it) comes to an end at the Second Coming of Christ in Judgment, Catholics believe a number of things will happen. To call these 'spiritual loose-ends' seems somehow woeful, but in a sense it's valid. Be that as it may, which of the following is NOT then officially expected?
    Catholics do not believe it necessary or desirable to accept this particular prospect

Author: Ian Miles

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