The Baltimore Catechism
Revised Edition (1941)
The Catholic Church
“I believe in … the Holy Catholic Church …”
136. What is the Church?
The Church is the congregation of all baptized persons united in the same true faith, the same sacrifice, and the same sacraments, under the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him.
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. (Matthew 13:24)
137. Who founded the Church?
Jesus Christ founded the Church.
And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
138. Why did Jesus Christ found the Church?
Jesus Christ founded the Church to bring all men to eternal salvation.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life; and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
139. How is the Church enabled to lead men to salvation?
The Church is enabled to lead men to salvation by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, who gives it life.
140. When was the dwelling of the Holy Ghost in the Church first visibly manifested?
The dwelling of the Holy Ghost in the Church was first visibly manifested on Pentecost Sunday, when He came down upon the apostles in the form of tongues of fire.
And when the days of Pentecost were drawing to a close, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a violent wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as of fire, which settled upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak in foreign tongues, even as the Holy Ghost prompted them to speak. (Acts 2:1-4)
141. How long will the Holy Ghost dwell in the Church?
The Holy Ghost will dwell in the Church until the end of time.
And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. (John 14:16)
142. Who sent the Holy Ghost to dwell in the Church?
God the Father and God the Son sent the Holy Ghost to dwell in the Church.
143. What does the indwelling of the Holy Ghost enable the Church to do?
The indwelling of the Holy Ghost enables the Church to teach, to sanctify, and to rule the faithful in the name of Christ.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will teach you all the truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he will hear he will speak, and the things that are to come he will declare to you. (John 16:13)
144. What is meant by teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in the name of Christ?
By teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in the name of Christ is meant that the Church always does the will of its Divine Founder, who remains forever its invisible Head.
145. To whom did Christ give the power to teach, to sanctify, and to rule the members of His Church?
Christ gave the power to teach, to sanctify, and to rule the members of His Church to the apostles, the first bishops of the Church.
He who hears you, hears me; and he who rejects you rejects me; and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me. (Luke 10:16)
146. Did Christ intend that this power should be exercised by the apostles alone?
No, Christ intended that this power should be exercised also by their successors, the bishops of the Church.
And they prayed and said, “Thou, Lord, who knowest the hearts of all, show which of these two thou has chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas fell away to go to his own place.” (Acts 1:24-25)
147. Did Christ give special power in His Church to any one of the apostles?
Christ gave special power in His Church to Saint Peter by making him the head of the apostles and the chief teacher and ruler of the entire Church.
But Peter, standing up with the Eleven, lifted up his voice and spoke out to them. (Acts 2:14)
148. Did Christ intend that the special power of chief teacher and ruler of the entire Church should be exercised by Saint Peter alone?
Christ did not intend that the special power of chief teacher and ruler of the entire Church should be exercised by Saint Peter alone, but intended that this power should be passed down to his successor, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, who is the Vicar of Christ on earth and the visible head of the Church.
149. Who assist the bishops in the care of souls?
The priests, especially parish priests, assist the bishops in the care of souls.
And when they had appointed presbyters for them in each church, with prayer and fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:22)
150. Who are the laity of the Church?
The laity of the Church are all its members who do not belong to the clerical or to the religious state.
151. How can the laity help the Church in her care of souls?
The laity can help the Church in her care of souls by leading lives that will reflect credit on the Church, and by cooperating with their bishops and priests, especially through Catholic Action.
Behave yourselves honorably among the pagans; that, whereas they slander you as evildoers, they may, through observing you, by reason of your good works glory God in the day of the visitation. (I Peter 2:12)
151a. What is Catholic Action?
Catholic Action is the active participation of the laity in the apostolate of the Church under the guidance of the hierarchy.
151b. In what ways can the laity participate actively in the apostolate of the Church?
The laity can participate actively in the apostolate of the Church when they arouse the interest of non-Catholics in the Catholic faith; promote high standards in the press, motion pictures, radio and television; take part in the activities of Catholic societies and organizations; represent, under proper direction, the Church’s position in speaking and writing; and go as lay missionaries to foreign lands.