Answers to FAQ about the Catholic Faith

Why do Catholics pray for the dead? … Is there humor in the Bible? … Is Purgatory painful? … Is there a dispensation for missing Mass when traveling? … Can human beings become angels after they die? … Why is the color blue associated with Our Lady? … Was the Catholic Church the first one to say no to contraceptives? (Click here)

Over 2,000 years of tradition can lead to many questions and misunderstandings about the Catholic Faith. If you’re confused, curious, or just wish you had good answers for all the challenging questions or confrontations that come your way – you’re not alone.

Catholic Answers to Catholic Questions provides solid answers to hundreds of common questions asked by people just like you – questions both big and small regarding doctrine, history, morality, the pope, saints, the sacraments, the Mass, prayer, Scripture, and much more.

Author, theology professor, and Catholic apologist Paul Thigpen ensures the answers are not only rock-solid, but also pastoral in their approach and written in everyday, relevant language. He considers questions from real people to reveal the vast breadth and depth of our Catholic teachings.

About the Author:

Paul Thigpen, Ph.D., is director of CHResources for the Coming Home Network International, an apostolate whose mission is to help non-Catholic clergy come home to the Catholic Church. A past editor of The Catholic Answer magazine, he serves on the National Advisory Council for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and is the author of thirty-seven books.

Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D., responds to questions in the magazine’s “TCA Faith” column, while Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D., writes the “TCA lIfe” column.

Nihil Obstat: Msgr. Michael Heintz, Ph.D. Censor Librorum
Imprimature: Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, Bishop of Fort Waye-South Bend April 9, 2010


1. Questions about Scripture 19

Do we have any original manuscripts of the books of the Bible?

Are we always to take all Bible verses personally?

Why do some Bibles have uppercase references to God, while others have lowercase references?

Is there a difference between "LORD" and "Lord" ?

Why doesn't the Bible talk about dinosaurs?

Are the half-tribes of Israel related to Joseph?

Do we have any examples of humor in the Bible?

In the Bible, somewhere, it talks about people who made fun of a bald man. What happened to them?

Where in the Bible does it say "God laughed"?

Is the "Bread of the Presence" the same as the Real Presence?

Why do Catholics and Protestants number the Ten Commandments differently?

What is the position of the Catholic Church on eating the "unclean" animals named in the Bible?

Does "Beth" have a particular significance in Hebrew?

Which of the four Gospels was written first?

Why are St. John the Evangelist and his Gospel symbolized by an eagle?

When Mary and Joseph had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to pay their taxes, how long would the trip have taken them?

How did St. John the Baptist escape the Massacre of the Innocents?

Why didn't St. John the Baptist perform miracles?

How accurate are the direct quotes in Scripture?

When did Jesus know He was God?

When Lazarus died, Jesus knew he was going to rise again, so why did Our Lord weep?

Did Jesus ever laugh?

When Jesus forgave the adulterous woman, what was the punishment, if any, for the man with whom she committed adultery?

What is the significance of the 153 fish mentioned in the Gospel of John?

What do we know about Pilate's wife?

What and where was the "Decapolis"?

Were Jews ever swineherds?

What's the difference between an apostle and a disciple?

Were all the twelve apostles Jews?

What day of the week was the Last Supper held on?

Was Jesus crucified through the wrists or the hands?

Why did the soldiers break the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus?

Why are Luke and Acts separated if they were written by the same person?

What's the meaning of the number 666 in Scripture?

Is it true that some anti-Catholics have claimed the pope is the "beast" in Revelation?

Does the Bible forbid drinking alcohol?

Does the Bible say that you cannot get any type of tattoo?

Does the Bible forbid foul language?

Why should we be concerned about our language?

What is the "unforgivable sin," "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit"?

2. Questions about Church Teaching

What was God doing before He created the universe?

Why did God allow Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

If we're made in God's image, why are we born into the world as sinners?

Can we repent of original sin?

What is the nature of the soul according to Catholic teaching?

Does Jesus have a soul?

How can we say that Jesus is fully human if He never sinned?

Did Jesus come to earth to die?

Why does Jesus' bodily resurrection matter?

Was Jesus' resurrection essentially the same as the raising of Lazarus from the dead?

How could the same Spirit who was sent by the Father and the Son after Jesus' ascension into heaven have already been at work in the world since its creation?

What does it mean to say the Holy Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son?

What is the meaning of the theological term theosis?

Does the level of our spiritual maturity at the moment of death determine where we will spend eternity?

Is purgatory painful?

Do Catholics believe in "the rapture"?

Do Catholics believe in the "great tribulation"?

What do Catholics believe about when the final judgment will take place?

What does the Church teach about reincarnation?

Do ghosts fit into Catholic belief?

What does the Catholic Church think about life on other planets?

3. Questions about the Sacraments and Liturgy

What is the reason for abstaining from eating or drinking anything one hour before receiving the Eucharist?

Why is a selection from the Book of Psalms always included in the Mass?

Is there an automatic dispensation from Sunday Mass for those who are traveling?

What is a "Master of Ceremonies" for the Mass, and why do we need one?

Is it liturgically proper to use recorded music during

the Mass to lead the congregation in singing?

Is the Novus Ordo liturgy ever celebrated in Latin?

Why do priests tell their congregations that those who are not Catholic cannot receive Communion? (Click here)

Are Catholics allowed to receive Communion in non-Catholic churches? (Click Here)

Why do Catholics have to pay for Masses?

If a priest in a state of mortal sin celebrates Mass or provides other sacraments are they still valid?

When is the proper time for announcements at the end of Mass?

What is "Gregorian water?

What is "Quinquagesima Sunday"?

Can Christians be baptized more than once?

Can children be baptized despite their parents' objection?

What is the status of the soul of a child who is stillborn?

Are baptizing and christening the same thing?

Is baptism using the words" in the name of the Creator, and of the Redeemer, and of the Sanctifier" valid?

What is a good confession?

Is following a priest's advice given after Confession mandatory?

Is it possible for an Anglican to go to Confession to a Catholic priest?

Is it possible to have Confession en masse?

In case of emergency can we can listen to someone's confession and forgive his or her sins?

Are we limited to one saint name at Confirmation?

Why does the age when Confirmation is allowed seem to vary so widely, even within a particular diocese?

If a person receives the sacrament of Confirmation but leaves

the Church for a long time, does that person have to receive the sacrament of Confirmation again?

Is the sacrament of Confirmation required before one can marry?

Is it accurate to say that all marriages, whether by a justice

of the peace or a minister of some other denomination, are accepted by the Catholic Church?

Can a Catholic who knows that he or she is sterile nevertheless validly contract marriage within the Church?

Can a Catholic priest offer the sacrament of Matrimony to a same-sex couple?

Is an annulment necessary if you were married by a justice of the peace and now want to be married in the Church?

Why are there so many more marriage annulments today than in times past?

Can the Church perform a purely sacramental marriage without civil effect?

Can the Last Rites be given to a dying and comatose Catholic patient?

Can an Alzheimer's patient, who is not in danger of death, receive the Anointing of the Sick?

Is blue permitted in Advent in place of the traditional purple candles and vestments?

Is it true that the date on which we celebrate Christmas (December 25) has pagan origins?

Why do we call the day that Jesus was crucified and died "Good Friday"?

Why do Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter on a different day from Catholics and Protestants?

What do the letters "P" and "X" on the Easter candle stand for?

What's the difference between All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day?

4. Questions about Our lady, Saints, Angels, and Demons

Since Jesus is "King of the Universe," doesn't calling Mary "Queen of the Universe" imply that Jesus and Mary are married?

Why is Mary often depicted with a crown of twelve stars?

Why is the color blue often associated with Our Lady?

What does the "dormition" of Mary mean?

Was anyone besides Mary assumed into heaven without dying?

Did Our Lady ever have to struggle with concupiscence?

How did Our Lady come to be associated with Mount Carmel in the Holy Land?

Why does the Catholic Church use the term "saints" to apply only to those who have been formally canonized?

Is canonization infallible?

Why aren't there any Old Testament saints?

Could a pope beatify or canonize saintly people who lived before Christ?

Is it legitimate to ask a saint to do something other than intercede for us?

Did any of the saints have a sense of humor?

Does burying a statue of St. Joseph help sell a house?

Was St. John the Baptist immaculately conceived as Mary was?

Did St. Peter have any children?

Why is St. Timothy the patron saint of those with stomach disorders?

How did a breed of dogs come to be named for St. Bernard of Clairvaux?

Can human beings become angels after they die?

Can angels come to earth and become human?

Why do we refer to St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael as saints, since all are known to be angels?

What exactly is an archangel?

How much do we really know about the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael?

Who is the archangel Ariel?

Are guardian angels real?

Can the devil create new things?

Can the devil torment you in your dreams?

Would it make any sense to pray for the conversion of the devil?

Do the good angels still have the capacity to choose against God and become demons?

5. Questions about Catholic Practices

What are the differences among various kinds of prayer such as formal, vocal, mental, discursive, and


Is prayer more effective if it is limited in scope?

Which version - Catholic or Protestant - of the Our Father is correct?

When should we pray the Apostles' Creed and when should we pray the Nicene Creed?

How does someone make a "spiritual communion"?

When I gain an indulgence, can I apply it to another person who is still living?

Can you pray for someone in hell?

What is the "Gift of Tears?"

If Catholics eat meat on Friday, are we supposed to do some other kind of penance?

Is our tithe supposed to be on the amount we get taxed on or the amount we bring home?

Why does the Church have the right to make laws (the precepts of the Church)?

Where does the term "Holy See" come from and what does it mean?

Is there a canonical process for removing a pope?

What is the bishop's "crosier"?

When is it the duty of the local bishop to excommunicate someone from the Church?

Are public notifications prohibiting Catholic politicians from receiving Communion if they support abortion the same as excommunication?

What makes a particular church a cathedral?

What's a monsignor?

What is the difference between a monk and a friar?

How does a person properly dispose of old blessed Bibles?

Is it customary to pay a regular fee or honorarium to a spiritual director?

Is Halloween a pagan or a Christian holiday?

What is the proper way to ship cremated remains?

Has the Church lifted its condemnation of the Masons?

Should Reiki practitioners be allowed at Catholic hospitals?

What is "Easter laughter"?

What should I tell my children about Santa Claus?

6. Questions about Catholic History

How did the Evangelists die?

Are the Fathers of the Church and the Doctors of the Church the same people?

What is the Didache?

Who were the Gnostics?

As a Catholic, am I allowed to read the Gnostic gospels?

Has the Catholic Church always been opposed to abortion?

Was there really a St. Valentine?

When did the Holy Host replace the bread and wine?

Do pretzels really have their origin in medieval Lenten practices?

What are gargoyles, and why are they found on churches?

What is the holiday known as "Twelfth Night"?

What are "Ember Days"?

What are "Rogation Days"?

Did St. Francis really write the famous "Prayer of St. Francis"?

Are religious tracts a Catholic invention?

What is the significance of blessing lambs on St. Agnes' feast day?

What's an antipope?

Has there ever been a pope who formally taught heresy?

How did the custom of popes choosing new names arise?

Are the prophecies of St. Malachy genuine?

Who were the first converts in America?

Is it true that the first American Thanksgiving was actually held by Catholics in Florida?

7. Questions about Moral Issues

What are the "Seven Deadly Sins"?

How can any of us make a "perfect act of contrition"?

Can our conscience ever mislead us?

Is the use of Viagra wrong?

When are we to judge and when are we to refrain from judgment?

Are daydreams frowned upon by the Church?

What does the Church teach about putting animals "to sleep"?

What is the Church's stand on being an organ donor?

What does the Church teach about the disposal of "surplus eggs" from in vitro fertility procedures?

If human beings were to be cloned, would the clones have souls?

Does the Sixth Commandment apply only to married persons?

Is it wrong to date if you are divorced but don't have an annulment?

If a Catholic couple confesses the sin of sterilization, will their penance require no further sexual relations?

Where does Scripture say that people should not live together before marriage?

Was the Catholic Church the first Christian church to say no to contraceptives? (Click here)

Is the marriage consummated if a couple uses contraceptives from the time of the wedding?

If a person is married before a judge, then has the marriage legally annulled in court, are they required to have that marriage annulled by the Church as well?

Can divorced Catholics receive Communion?

What is the Church's teaching on Catholics attending a humanist wedding service or a wedding in a registry office?

Is there a statute of limitations on the presumptive death of a former spouse in order that the remaining spouse may obtain the Church's blessing on a second marriage?

Is it fair that homosexuals have no choice but to live in perpetual chastity?

My same-sex-oriented son receives Holy Communion. What should I do?

If someone has a sexual dream during sleep, has he sinned?

Is viewing pornography on the Internet a sin if don't become aroused?

If an elderly person in a nursing home refuses to eat, is this considered suicide?

8. Questions about Apologetics

Why don't Catholics interpret the Bible literally?

Does every Christian belief have to be "proved from Scripture" to be valid?

How early in Church history was Mass celebrated on Sundays?

Where is it in the Bible that we should ask the angels or Mary and the other saints who have passed on to

pray for us?

Is Easter a pagan holiday?

How should we respond to claims that the resurrection of Christ was just a hoax, hallucination, or superstition?

Is it true that Jesus was only "spiritually" resurrected?

Why do Catholics pray for the dead?

Why does the Catholic Bible have seven more books than other Bibles?

Why do Catholics call priests "Father" when Jesus taught we should "call no man father"?

The Bible says Jesus had "brothers and sisters," so why does the Catholic Church say He was an only child?

How do I reply to Mormons when they ask why we don't baptize the dead in light of 1 Corinthians?

Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest?

When did the Church and Catholics begin calling themselves "the Catholic Church" and "Catholics" as opposed to "the Christian Church" and "Christians"?

Why do we call Mary the "Mother of God"?

Is an act by Pope Julius II, which required the alleged purchase of indulgences, proof that papal infallibility does not exist?

Has the Catholic Church tried to keep the Bible from the people?

What makes the "King James Bible" special?

Are the seven sacraments found in the Bible?

Isn't the existence of miracles a tenet of the Christian faith?

How should we debate non-Catholic Christians and nonbelievers?

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