Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church, also calls itself the Catholic Church is a Christian church in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, currently Pope Benedict XVI. It traces its origins to the original Christian community founded by Jesus and then by the Twelve Apostles, in particular Saint Peter. It is the largest Christian church, representing over half of all Christians, and is the largest organized religious body in the world. The Catholic Church's recorded membership at the end of 2005 was one-sixth of the world's population at 1.115 billion members.

The worldwide Catholic Church is made up of one Western or Latin church and 22 Eastern Catholic autonomous churches, all of which look to the Pope in the Vatican (Rome), alone or along with the College of Bishops, as their highest authority on earth for matters of faith, morals and church governance. It is divided into jurisdictional areas, usually on a territorial basis. The standard territorial unit is called a diocese in the Latin church and an eparchy in the Eastern churches. Each diocese or eparchy is headed by a bishop, patriarch or eparch. At the end of AD2006, the total number of all these jurisdictional areas (or "Sees") was 2,782.

It calls itself 'the Church' as it sees itself as the one Holy, Universal and Apostolic church. The word catholic meaning 'universal'. However, it refers to itself in its relations with other denominations as either "the Catholic Church" or "the Roman Catholic Church". Some, especially Eastern Catholics, apply the term Roman Catholic Church only to the Western or Latin church, excluding the Eastern Catholic Churches. As for the term Catholic Church, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, Old Catholic, and other Christians, including members of independent Catholic Churches, claim to be part of the catholic Church (often writing "catholic" with a lower-case 'c' to distinguish it from the Roman Catholic Church). In ordinary use Catholic alone is used.

Origins and history of the Roman Catholic Church
The Church traces its history to Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, and sees the bishops of the Church as the successors of the Apostles, and the Pope as the successor of Saint Peter, leader of the Apostles. The first known use of the term "Catholic Church" was in a letter by Ignatius of Antioch in AD107, who wrote: "Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
Additionally, Catholic theologians list a number of quotations from early Church Fathers suggesting that the See of Rome had jurisdictional authority or primacy over other churches, (Orthodox theologians dispute this claim which was one of the reasons behind the East-West Schism, historically considering the Roman Pope's role as first among equals as merely bestowing a primacy of honor. However, several pre-schism Eastern Church leaders contradict this).
A central doctrine of the Catholic Church is Apostolic Succession, the belief that the bishops are the spiritual successors of the original twelve apostles, through the historically unbroken chain of consecration (see: Holy Orders). The Roman Catholic church is not the only denomination to hold this view. The New Testament contains warnings against (false) teachings masquerading as Christianity, and shows how matters were referred to the leaders of the church to decide what was true doctrine. The Catholic Church teaches that it is the continuation of those who remained faithful to the apostolic and episcopal leadership and rejected false teachings.

The Early Church and Christological Councils
Right from the beginning, Christians were subject to persecution. This involved death for Christians such as Stephen (Acts 7:59) and James, son of Zebedee (Acts 12:2). Organised persecutions followed at the hands of the authorities of the Roman Empire, beginning in AD64, when the Emperor Nero blamed them for the great Fire of Rome (
as reported by the Roman historian Tacitus). According to Church tradition, it was under Nero's persecution that St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred in Rome. In AD96 Pope Clement I wrote his first Epistle to the church of Corinth only a few years before the death of St. John, the last of the Apostles, in Ephesius.  Widespread persecution of the Church occurred under following nine subsequent Roman emperors including Domitian, Decius and Diocletian. From AD150 Christian teachers began to produce theological and "apologetic" works aimed at defending the faith. These authors are known as the Church Fathers, and study of them is called Patristics. Notable early Fathers include Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria and Origen.

Christianity was legalized in the fourth century, when Constantine I issued the Edict of Milan in AD313. Constantine was instrumental in the convocation of the First Council of Nicaea in AD325, which sought to address the Arian heresy and formulated the Nicene Creed, which is still used by the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglican Communion, and various Protestant churches. In AD326, Pope Sylvester I consecrated the first Basilica of St. Peter built by Constantine.

On 27 February AD380, Emperor Theodosius I enacted a law establishing Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire and ordering others to be called heretics. This period of history was also marked by the inauguration of a series of 
(worldwide) Ecumenical Christological Councils which established and formally codified critical elements of the theology of the Church. In AD382, the Council of Rome set the Canon of the Bible, listing the accepted books of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Also, the Council of Ephesus in AD431 declared that Jesus existed both as fully Man and fully God simultaneously, clarifying his status in the Trinity. The meaning of the Nicene Creed was also declared a permanent doctrine of the Church.

Medieval Period
In AD452 Pope Leo the Great met Attila the Hun, and dissuaded him from ransacking Rome. However, in AD476, the last Roman Emperor Romulus Augustus was deposed. Following the fall of the Roman Empire in the west, the Church entered into a long period of missionary activity and evangelism among the former barbarian tribes. Catholicism spread among the Germanic peoples (initially in competition with Arianism), the Celts, the Slavic peoples; the Vikings and other Scandinavians; the Hungarians, the Baltic peoples and the Finns. The rise of Islam from AD630 onwards, took the formerly Christian lands of the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa and much of Spain out of Christian control.
In AD480 St. Benedict set out his Monastic Rule, establishing a system of regulations for the foundation and running of religious communities. Monasticism became a powerful force throughout Europe, and gave rise to many early centres of learning, most famously in Ireland, Scotland and Northern France (Gaul), contributing to the Carolingian Renaissance of the 9th century.
The Middle Ages brought about major changes within the Church. Pope Gregory the Great dramatically reformed ecclesiastical structure and administration. In the early eighth century iconoclasm became a divisive issue, when it was sponsored by the Byzantine emperors. The Roman Pope challenged imperial power and preserved the use of images outside the empire. The Second Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (AD787) finally pronounced in favour of icons. In the early tenth century, western monasticism was further rejuvenated through the leadership of the great Benedictine monastery of Cluny.

Late Middle Ages
From the eleventh century onward, older cathedral schools developed into Universities (i.e. University of Paris, University of Oxford, and University of Bologna.) Originally teaching only Theology, these steadily added subjects including Medicine, Philosophy and Law, becoming the direct ancestors of modern Western institutions of learning.
Accompanying the rise of the "new towns" throughout Europe, mendicant orders were founded, bringing the consecrated religious life out of the monastery and into the new urban setting. The two principal mendicant movements were the Franciscans and the Dominicans founded by St. Francis and St. Dominic respectively. Both orders made significant contributions to the development of the great Universities of Europe. Another new order were the Cistercians, whose large isolated monasteries spearheaded the settlement of former wilderness areas. In this period church building and ecclesiastical architecture reached new heights, culminating in the orders of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and the building of the great European cathedrals.
From AD1095 under the pontificate of Urban II, the Crusades were launched. These were a series of military campaigns in the Holy Land and elsewhere, initiated in response to pleas from the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I for aid against Turkish (Islamic) expansion. The crusades ultimately failed to stifle Islamic aggression and even contributed to Christian enmity with the sacking and occupation of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.
Beginning around AD1184, following the wars brought about by the Cathar heresy, various institutions broadly referred to as the Inquisition, were established to suppress heresy and secure religious and doctrinal unity within Christianity through conversion, and if that failed, prosecution of alleged heretics. Historians distinguish between the Medieval Inquisition, the Spanish Inquisition, the Roman Inquisition, and the Portuguese Inquisition as distinct historical institutions, some under state control; others under church control.

East-West Schism
Gradually, from the seventh to the fourteenth centuries, the church underwent a slow schism that divided it into a Western (Latin) branch, generally known as the Catholic Church, and an Eastern (Greek) branch, which has become known as the Orthodox Church. These two churches disagree on a number of administrative, liturgical, and doctrinal issues, most notably the Filioque clause and papal primacy of jurisdiction. 
The Second Council of Lyon (AD1274) and the Council of Florence (AD1439) attempted to reunite the churches, but in both cases the Orthodox refused to ratify the decisions. Some Eastern churches have subsequently reunited with the Roman Catholic Church, and others claim never to have been out of communion with the Roman Pope. However the two principal churches remain in schism to the present day, although excommunications were lifted mutually between Rome and Constantinople in AD1965.

Reformation and Counter-Reformation
The fifteenth century Renaissance brought about a renewed interest in ancient and classical learning, and a re-examination of accepted beliefs. The discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus in AD1492 brought about a new wave of missionary activity as the Catholic Church sought to spread the faith throughout the colonies. Pope Alexander VI awarded colonial rights over most of the newly-discovered lands to Spain and Portugal.
On October 31, AD1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, which protested key points of Catholic doctrine as well as the sale of indulgences. Others like Zwingli and Calvin developed even more radical and extreme critiques of catholic teaching and worship. These challenges developed into a movement called the Protestant Reformation. Repudiated issues included the primacy of the pope, clerical celibacy, the seven sacraments, the eucharist, and various other Catholic doctrines and practices.
In AD1534, the English Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy making the King of England Supreme Head of the Church of England. The monasteries throughout England, Wales, and Ireland were dissolved and Pope Paul III excommunicated King Henry VIII in AD1538, beginning a decisive schism between Rome and Canterbury.
The Counter-Reformation, or Catholic Reformation, is the name given to the response of the Catholic Church to the challenge of Protestantism. Led by the Council of Trent, the Counter-Reformation was a renewed conviction in the validity of traditional Catholic doctrine and practice. This was seen as the source of ecclesiastic and moral reform, and the answer to halting the spread of Protestantism. Renewed enthusiasm led to the founding of new religious orders, such as the Jesuits, the establishment of seminaries for the proper training of priests, worldwide missionary activity, and the development of new yet orthodox forms of spirituality, such as that of the Spanish mystics and the French school of spirituality. The Council of Trent clarified and reasserted doctrine, issued dogmatic definitions, and produced the Roman Catechism. Catholicism spread worldwide, alongside European colonialism: to the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australasia.

18th Century to Present
In the 18th and 19th centuries the church found itself facing not only the teachings of Protestantism, but also Enlightenment and Modernist teachings about the nature of the human person, the state, and morality. Atheism and anti-clericalism were increasingly powerful forces. These expressed themselves in movements to secularise church lands , properties and functions. In many parts of the world religious orders were suppressed, worship discouraged, and education, healthcare and other functions were taken over by the state. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution, and the increased concern about the deteriorating conditions of urban workers, 19th and 20th century popes issued encyclicals such as Rerum Novarum explaining Catholic Social Teaching. The First Vatican Council (1869-1870) affirmed the doctrine of papal infallibility which Catholics hold to be in continuity with the history of St Peter's supremacy in the church.

Second Vatican Council Reforms
The Catholic Church engaged in a comprehensive process of "reform" during and immediately after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Convened by Pope John XXIII, the Council stressed what it saw as positive rather than what it saw as negative in other Christian communities and other religions. It was a primarily pastoral but authoritative council, called to make the historical teachings of the Catholic Church clear to the modern world. It issued documents on a number of topics, including the nature of the church, the mission of the laity, and religious freedom. It also issued directions for a revision of the liturgy, including permission for the Latin liturgical rites to use vernacular languages as well as Latin in the Mass and the other sacraments. 

The Crucifix, a cross with corpus or symbol of the dying Jesus, is a symbol used in Catholicism in contrast with some other Christian communions, which use only a cross. In its teachings, the Church uses the Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed, as structured summaries of the main points of Catholic belief. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives members and others a "systematic presentation of the faith" and a "complete exposition of Catholic doctrine". In addition, the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, first published in 2005 and in English in 2006, provides a more concise version of the Catechism, in question and answer form.
Catholicism embodies the main beliefs of orthodox trinitarian Christianity, placing particular importance on the Church as an institution founded by Jesus and kept from doctrinal error by the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit, as the font of salvation for humanity. The seven sacraments of the Church, of which the most important is the Eucharist, are of prime importance in obtaining salvation.
The teachings of the Catholic Church are derived from two sources, firstly the Sacred Scriptures (the Bible) and secondly the Sacred Tradition. Both are ultimately governed and interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church.
In AD1943 , Pope Pius XII (
encyclical letter, Divino Afflante Spiritu) encouraged Biblical scholars to study the original languages of the books of the Bible (Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic for the Old Testament; Greek for the New Testament) and other languages, to get a deeper and fuller understanding of these texts, stating that "the original text ... having been written by the inspired author himself, has more authority and greater weight than any even the very best translation, whether ancient or modern." The canonical list of sacred books, and their contents, accepted by the Catholic Church are those as contained in the old Latin Vulgate edition.
There is a variety of sources for knowledge of Sacred Tradition, taught by the Church to be originally passed from the apostles in the form of oral tradition. Many of the writings of the early Church Fathers reflect teachings of Sacred Tradition, such as apostolic succession. Sacred Tradition, unlike man-made traditions, are understood to be the lived experience of the teachings of Christ in the early Church.

Nature of God
Catholicism is monotheistic: it believes that God is one, eternal, all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), all-good (omnibenevolent), and omnipresent. God exists as distinct from and prior to his creation (that is, everything which is not God, and which depends directly on him for existence) and yet is still present intimately in his creation. In the First Vatican Council the Church taught that, while by the natural light of human reason God can be known in his works as origin and end of all created things, God has also chosen to reveal himself and his will supernaturally in the ways indicated in the Letter to the Hebrews 1:1-2.
Catholicism is also Trinitarian: it believes that, while God is one in nature, essence, and being, this one God exists in three divine persons, each identical with the one essence, whose only distinctions are in their relations to one another: the Father's relationship to the Son, the Son's relationship to the Father, and the relations of both to the Holy Spirit, constitute the one God as a Trinity.
Catholics are baptized in the Name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit — not three gods, but one God subsisting in three Persons. While sharing in the one divine essence, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct, not simply three "masks" or manifestations of one Person. The faith of the church and of the individual Christian is based on a relationship with these three Persons of the one God.
The Catholic Church believes that God has revealed himself to humanity as Father to his only-begotten Son, who is in an eternal relationship with the Father: "No one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him."
Catholics believe that God the Son, the Divine Logos, the second of the three Persons of God, became incarnate as Jesus Christ, a human being, born of the Virgin Mary. He remained truly divine and was at the same time truly human. In what he said, and by how he lived, he taught all people how to live, and revealed God as Love, the giver of unmerited favours or Graces.
After Jesus' crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, his followers (foremost among them the Apostles), spread more and more extensively their faith with a vigour that they attributed to the presence of the Holy Spirit, the third of the three Persons of God, sent upon them by Jesus.

Original sin
Human beings, in Catholic belief, were originally created to live in union with God. Through the disobedience of the first humans (Adam and Eve), that relationship was broken and sin and death came into the world. The Fall of Man left humans in a state called original sin, that is, separated from their original state of intimacy with God which carried into death through the idea of the individual human soul being immortal. But when Jesus came into the world, being both God and man, he was able through his sacrifice to reconcile humanity with God. By becoming one in Christ, through the church, humanity was once again capable of intimacy with God and also offered participation in the divine life on Earth, which will reach its fullness in heaven in the beatific vision. The sacrament of baptism is the ordinary means for the remission of original sin.

The Church (Ecclesiology)
By the end of the 1400s, Catholics such as Johann Gutenberg were operating 250 printing workshops all over Europe.The Church is, as scripture states, "the body of Christ," and Catholics teach that it is one united body of believers both in heaven and on earth. There is therefore only one true, visible and physical church, not several: and to this one church, originally founded by Jesus on Peter and the Apostles, Jesus gave a mandate to be the authoritative teacher and guardian of the faith. To transmit Christ's divine revelation, the apostles were given the mandate to "preach the Gospel," which they performed both orally and in writing, and which they preserved by leaving bishops as their successors. The Catechism states "the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time. This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it."  The Church is also a fount of divine grace which is administered through the sacraments. The Church claims infallibility in teaching the faith, based on Jesus' scriptural promises to remain with his church always, and to maintain it in truth through the Holy Spirit, so that the church is, in the words of 1 Timothy 3:15, "the pillar and the ground of the truth". Furthermore, Jesus promised divine protection to the teachings and judgements of the Apostles (Matt. 18:18 & Luke 10:16), and those who succeeded them in their teaching office (i.e. the bishops). Moreover, Jesus set up the church as the final arbiter between all believers (Matt. 18:17): "And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer" (1 Tim. 3:15).  In this, it bases its doctrines both on the written Apostolic record, The New Testament, and upon the oral traditions passed down from the Apostles to their successors (the bishops) through the continuous witness of the church.
Lumen Gentium states that "the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic" subsists "in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him." The term successor of Peter refers to the Bishop of Rome, the Roman Pope. (
Section 8 of the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, states that authentic interpretation of the Word of God is entrusted to the living Magisterium of the Church, namely the bishops in communion with the successor of Saint Peter. Catholic theology places the authoritative interpretation of Scripture in the hands of the consistent judgment of the Church down the ages (what has always and everywhere been taught) rather than the private judgment of the individual. The Magisterium does, however, encourage its flock to read Sacred Scripture.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "the Church's first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God." Therefore the Church's "structure is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ's members."

The Church teaches that salvation to eternal life is God's will for all people, and that God grants it to sinners as a free gift, a grace, through the sacrifice of Christ. "With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator." It is God who justifies, that is, who frees from sin by a free gift of holiness (sanctifying grace, also known as habitual or deifying grace). We can either accept the gift God gives through faith in Jesus Christ and through baptism, or refuse it. Human cooperation is needed, in line with a new capacity to adhere to the divine will that God provides. The faith of a Christian is not without works, otherwise it would be dead. In this sense, "by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone," and eternal life is, at one and the same time, grace and the reward given by God for good works and merits. Faith, and subsequently works, are a result of God's grace - thus, it is only because of grace that the believer can be said to "merit" salvation.
The Church teaches that a person must be in a state of Sanctifying Grace at the moment of death in order to be saved. Sanctifying Grace is conferred at Baptism, and is lost when a soul commits a mortal sin. A mortal sin is a deliberate and serious transgression of God's law. Sanctifying Grace is regained when a person confesses his or her sin in the Sacrament of Penance. If a person repents of his or her sin before he or she dies but is unable to obtain the actual Sacrament of Penance before death due to reasons outside of the person's control, the person's sin is forgiven by nature of the person's desire to receive it.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that through the graces Jesus won for humanity by sacrificing himself on the cross, salvation is possible even for those outside the visible boundaries of the Church. Christians and even non-Christians, if they respond positively to the grace and truth that God reveals to them through the mercy of Christ, may be saved (
in the case of non-Christians often referred to as "baptism of desire"). This may sometimes include awareness of an obligation to become part of the Catholic Church. In such cases, "whosoever, therefore, knowing [believing] that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved."
Baptism is essential in the life, and it is through the lens of baptism that the Church is understood to be a sacramental Church. Baptism not only purifies a person from sin, "it also creates an adopted son of God, who has become a "partaker of the divine nature." As such, baptism returns humanity to its original state, having been formed in the image of God. Yet there is only one image of God, for there is only one God. Therefore, with sin, we have fractured the image of God, the imago Dei. As Origen states, "where there is sin, there is multiplicity." Thus, only in Christ is the image of God restored, for "Christ is the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15) and "it pleased the Father that all of creation should dwell fully in him". Therefore, when one is baptized into the Church, which is the body of Christ, the person shares in the death of Christ so that they might also share in Christ's resurrected life.
Baptism ties the person into the communal life of the Church, and it is through the Church that the person is saved. As the theologian Henri de Lubac stated, "Christ the Redeemer does not offer salvation merely to each individual; he effects it, he is himself the salvation of the whole, and for each one salvation consists in a personal ratification of his original 'belonging' to Christ, so that he be not cast out, cut off from this whole." Salvation is a communal act, not one of the individual.This is why the Roman Catholic Church rejects Protestant concepts of the Church. The essential disagreements between the two can be summed up in de Lubac's quote:
" [The Church is not] the simple gathering together of those who as individuals have accepted the Gospel and henceforward have shared their religious life, whether in accordance with a plan of their own or as the occasion demanded, or even by following the instructions of the Master. She is neither an external organism brought into being or adopted after the event by the community of believers. It is impossible to maintain either of these two extreme theses, as it is impossible to keep them entirely separate. Yet that is the vain endeavor of most Protestant theology.”
According to doctrine, a devout Catholic will be saved. However, the church does not claim that those outside of the church will necessarily be condemned. In fact, the claim that only Catholics will be saved is considered heretical and is known as Feeneyism, after Father Leonard Feeney, who was excommunicated from the church for this belief. Catholics believe that God will not deny the help necessary for salvation to anybody, even those outside the Church. 

Catholic life
Catholics are obliged to endeavour to be true disciples of Jesus. They seek forgiveness of their sins and follow the example and teaching of Jesus. They believe that Jesus has provided seven sacraments which give Grace from God to the believer.
If a person dies in unrepented mortal sin, which can be forgiven through the Sacrament of Penance, he loses God's promise of salvation and goes to Hell. However, if the sinner truly regrets his or her actions before the moment of death, then he or she can undergo a purification, known as Purgatory, and eventually enter Heaven.
Catholics believe that God works actively in the world. Catholics grow in grace through participation in the sacramental life of the Church, and through prayer, the work of mercy, and spiritual disciplines such as fasting and pilgrimage. The Catholic laity also grow in grace when they fulfill their secular duties and try to imbue society with Christian values by being a model of Christ and his teachings.
Prayer for others, even for enemies and persecutors is a Christian duty. Catholics say there are four types of prayer: adoration, thanksgiving, contrition, and supplication. Catholics may address their requests for the intercession of others not only to people still in earthly life, but also to those in heaven, in particular the Virgin Mary and the other Saints. As Mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary is also considered to be the spiritual mother of all Catholics.

Sanctity of Human life
Pope John Paul II taught that, "by means of his corporality, his masculinity and femininity, (mankind) becomes a visible sign of the economy of truth and love, which has its source in God himself."  The Catholic Church affirms the sanctity of all human life, from conception to natural death. The Church believes that each person is made in the "image and likeness of God," and that human life should not be weighed against other values such as economy, convenience, personal preferences, or social engineering. Therefore, the Church opposes activities that it believes destroy or devalue divinely created life, including abortion, capital punishment, contraception, embryonic stem cell research, eugenics, euthanasia, genocide, human cloning, murder, suicide, and war.
Capital punishment, (which has not been wholly condemned by the Church), has come under increasing criticism by theologians and church leaders. Pope John Paul II, for instance, opposed capital punishment in all cases except those in which it is absolutely necessary for the defense of a society (found almost exclusively in developing nations). After four years of consultations with the world's Catholic bishops, John Paul II wrote that execution is only appropriate "in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent." This position is also held today by Avery Cardinal Dulles, Msgr. William Smith, Germain Grisez and other Catholic moral theologians, who oppose all "intentional killing," as philosophers term it.

Catholic social doctrine
Rerum Novarum, "On the Condition of the Working Classes," published in AD1891 by Pope Leo XIII, is the first in a series of Church documents concerning social matters which together is known as Catholic Social Teaching. As the founding document of this teaching tradition, Rerum Novarum, avoiding the extremes of laissez-faire capitalism and communism, articulates a set of principles taught to this day including the dignity of the human person, the dignity of labor, the living wage, reforms against child labor, the rights to private property, the common good, the right of labor to organize, the limited work day among others. Subsequent popes have added other principles such as subsidiarity, the option for the poor, and the sanctity of life. The social teachings of the Catholic Church were a major impetus in the evolution of the labor movement and the adoption of the major labor reforms of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Catholic Church teaches that human life and human sexuality are both inseparable and sacred.  The Church teaches that Manichaeism, the belief that the spirit is good while the flesh is evil, is a heresy. Therefore, the Church does not teach that sex is sinful or an impairment to a grace-filled life. As God created the human body in his own image and likeness, and because he found everything he created to be "very good," then the human body and sex must likewise be good. The Catechism teaches that "the flesh is the hinge of salvation."  Indeed, the Church considers the expression of love between husband and wife to be a most elevated form of human activity, joining as it does, husband and wife in complete mutual self-giving, and opening their relationship to new life. “The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, ‘noble and worthy.’” It is in cases in which sexual expression is sought outside sacramental marriage, or in which the procreative function of sexual expression within marriage is deliberately frustrated, that the Catholic Church expresses its grave moral concern.
Pope John Paul II's first major teaching was on the Theology of the Body. Over the course of five years he elucidated a vision of sex that was not only positive and affirming but was about redemption, not condemnation. He taught that by understanding God's plan for physical love we could understand "the meaning of the whole of existence, the meaning of life."  "The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it."
However the Church teaches that sexual activity outside of marriage is sinful because it violates the purpose of human sexuality to participate in the "conjugal act" before one is actually married. The conjugal act "aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul" (Catechism #1643) since the marriage bond is to be a sign of the love between God and humanity (Catechism #1617).
Masturbation, fornication, adultery, pornography, prostitution, rape, homosexual acts, and contraception are regarded by the Catholic Church as, "gravely disordered actions" (whether in actual fact they also constitute a mortal sin depends on other factors). The procurement of, or performance of (as well as assistance in) abortion can carry the penalty of excommunication, as a specific offence.
The Church has been criticized for its teaching on fidelity, sexual abstinence and its opposition to promoting the use of condoms as a strategy to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, and STDs.

Prayer and worship
In the Catholic Church, there is a distinction between Liturgy, which is the formal public and communal worship of the Church, and personal prayer or devotion, which may be public or private. The Liturgy is regulated by church authority and consists of the Eucharist (the Mass), the other Sacraments, and the Liturgy of the Hours. All Catholics are expected to participate in the liturgical life of the Church, but personal prayer and devotions are entirely a matter of personal preference.

Catholic liturgy
The Catholic Church is fundamentally liturgical in its public life of worship. Liturgy is derived from the Greek for "work of the people." The Second Vatican Council stated "for the liturgy, 'through which the work of our redemption is accomplished,' most of all in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, is the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church."

Mass (also called Eucharist)
The chalice is displayed immediately after the transubstantiation of the wine into the Blood of Christ.Catholics see the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life, and believe that the bread and wine brought to the altar are transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit into the true Body and the true Blood of Christ. The Holy Mass is a re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice on Calvary.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1131 teaches: "The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions."
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1113, "The whole liturgical life of the Church revolves around the Eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments. There are seven sacraments in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation or Chrismation, Eucharist, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony." 

Liturgy of the Hours
The Liturgy of the Hours, at least in the simple form of morning prayer and evening prayer, is the daily liturgy of all the Catholic faithful. It is intended as a communal experience, just as the Eucharist or the celebration of the other Sacraments, but is often recited by individuals.

Devotional life and Personal Prayer
In addition to the liturgy of the Church there is a variety of spirtual practices, devotions, and pietistic practices that Catholics may participate in, either communally or individually. Aside from the Mass, Catholics consider personal and communal prayer to be one of the most important elements of Christian life.
Important examples are blessings of people and of objects, as well as devotions to particular saints, spiritualities, prayers, or Catholic traditions. Popular devotions are not strictly part of the liturgy, but if they are judged to be authentic, the Church encourages them. They include veneration of relics of saints, visits to sacred shrines, pilgrimages, processions (including Eucharistic processions), the Stations of the Cross (also known as the Way of the Cross), Holy Hours, Eucharistic Adoration, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Rosary.
Similarly, the great variety of Catholic spirituality enables individual Catholics to pray privately in many different ways. The fourth and last part of the Catechism thus summarized the Catholic's response to the mystery of faith: "This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer."

Nature and mission of the Church
The Church is the People of God, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, the Body of Christ. It is fundamentally a communion of members, and a communion of communions, with each other and with God. The Second Vatican Council identified the nature of the Church to be a mystery. As the Body of Christ, every member has a distinct calling, and is gifted for different kinds of participation in the mission of the Church. This mission is essentially to preach the Good News to all people, to form a worshipping communion, and to help those in need, particularly the poor and marginalized.

Churches within the Catholic Church
Unlike "families" or "federations" of churches formed through the grant of mutual recognition by distinct ecclesial bodies, the Catholic Church considers itself a single church ("one Body") composed of a multitude of local or particular churches, each of which embodies the fullness of the one Catholic Church. The universal Church, however, is believed to be "a reality ontologically and temporally prior to every individual particular Church."
However, the Catholic Church attaches great importance to the particular churches, Rites, communities and societies within it, whose theological significance the Second Vatican Council highlighted. Two uses of the term particular church are distinguished:
Autonomous (sui iuris) particular churches are called 'rites'. Like for example the Eastern Catholic Churches or the Latin or Western Rite.
Particular or local churches (Dioceses and National Conferences of Bishops).

Ordained Ministry
The Church has a hierarchical structure, meaning a holy ordering (as opposed to a charismatic structure). This hierarchical nature applies to the entire Church, though it is often used to refer only to the ordained ministers of the Church, who belong to one of the three holy orders: episcopate (bishops), presbyterate (priests), or diaconate (deacons).

The Bishops, who possess the fullness of Christian priesthood, are as a body (the College of Bishops) the successors of the Apostles and are "constituted Pastors in the Church, to be the teachers of doctrine, the priests of sacred worship and the ministers of governance."
The pope, cardinals (in principle), patriarchs, primates, archbishops and metropolitans are all bishops and members of the Catholic episcopate or college of bishops.

Presbyterate (Priesthood)
Bishops are assisted by priests and deacons. Parishes, whether territorial or person-based, within a diocese are normally in the charge of a priest, known as the parish priest or the pastor.
Priests may perform many functions not directly connected with ordinary pastoral activity, such as study, research, teaching or office work. They may also be rectors or chaplains. Other titles or functions held by priests include those of Archimandrite, Canon Secular or Regular, Chancellor, Chorbishop, Confessor, Dean of a Cathedral Chapter, Hieromonk, Prebendary, Precentor, etc.
In the Latin Rite, only celibate men, as a rule, are ordained as priests, while the Eastern Rites, again as a rule, also ordain married men. Among the Eastern particular churches, the Ethiopic Catholic Church ordains only celibate clergy, while also having married priests who were ordained in the Orthodox Church. Other Eastern Catholic churches, which do ordain married men, do not have married priests in certain countries, such as the United States of America. The Western or Latin Rite does sometimes, but very rarely, ordain married men, usually Protestant clergy who have become Catholics. All rites of the Catholic Church maintain the ancient tradition that, after ordination, marriage is not allowed. Even a married priest whose wife dies may not then marry again.

Diaconate (Deacons)
Since the Second Vatican Council, the Latin Rite again admits married men of mature age to ordination as Permanent deacons. "Deacons are ordained as a sacramental sign to the Church and to the world of Christ, who came 'to serve and not to be served.' The entire Church is called by Christ to serve, and the deacon, in virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, is to be a servant in a servant-Church. As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshalling the Church's resources to meet those needs. Deacons are also dedicated to eliminating the injustices or inequities that cause such needs."
Candidates for the Diaconate go through a Diaconate Formation program that is designed based on the contemporaneous needs of their Diocese but must meet minimum standards set by the Bishops Conference in their home country. Upon completion of their formation program and acceptance by their local Bishop, Candidates receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders through Ordination. Generally, following Ordination, a Deacon is assigned by his Bishop to a local Parish in which he will perform his ministry and serve the local church and community.

All baptized members of the Catholic Church are called Christian faithful, truly equal in dignity, in the call to holiness, and in the work to build the Church. All are called to share in Christ's priestly, prophetic, and royal office. While a certain percentage of the faithful perform roles related to serving the ministerial priesthood (hierarchy) and giving eschatological witness (consecrated life), the great majority of the faithful perform a specific role of exercising the three offices of Christ by "engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's illuminate and order all temporal things." These are the Laity, whom John Paul II urged in the post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles laici (December 30, 1988) "to take an active, conscientious and responsible part in the mission of the Church," for they not only belong to the Church, but "are the Church." 
Equipped with the common priesthood in baptism, these ordinary Catholics — e.g., mothers, farmers, businessmen, writers, politicians — are to take initiative in "discovering or inventing the means for permeating social, political, and economic realities with the demands of Christian doctrine and life." They exercise the common, baptism-based priestly office by offering their prayer and works as spiritual sacrifices, the prophetic office by their word and testimony of life in the ordinary circumstances of the world, and the kingly office by self-mastery and conforming worldly institutions to the norms of justice.
This theology of the laity, called a "characteristic mark" of Vatican II by Paul VI and John Paul II, was complemented, and in some cases influenced, by the rise of many lay ecclesial movements and structures in the 20th century: examples are Focolare, Neocatechumenal Way, Communion and Liberation, and the personal prelature of Opus Dei. The Directory of International Associations of the Faithful, published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, lists the names and characteristics of lay movements that have received official recognition.
Some of the non-ordained exercise formal, public ministry in the name of the church, often on a full time and life-long basis, and often in ministries that were reserved to the presbyterate in the decades leading up to the Second Vatican Council. These are called Lay Ecclesial Ministers, a broad category which may include Pastoral Life Coordinators, Pastoral Associates, Pastoral Assistants, Youth Ministers, Campus Ministers, etc. .

Members of Religious Societies (Consecrated Life)
Consecrated Life (also called the Religious Life) refers to the life of men and women dedicated to God in a binding manner that is recognized by the Church. Its members are not part of the clerical hierarchy, unless they are also ordained priests, but remain members of the laity. The Catholic Church recognizes several forms of the Consecrated Life:  the cenobitic life in the religious institutes (often referred to as religious orders or religious congregations, cf. canons #607-709), the eremitic/anchoritic life (canon #603), the order of virgins (canon #604), the life of the consecrated widows/widowers, and in Secular Institutes (canons #710-730) and Societies of Apostolic Life (canons #731-746). It also makes a provision for the approval of "new forms of consecrated life" (canon #605). Most of the existing forms of the Consecrated Life require their members to consecrate themselves to God by their public profession, confirmed by vow or other sacred bond, of the three Evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, or their Benedictine equivalent, both proper to the institute and Church law (Canon law). Today the majority of those that feel called to follow Christ in the Consecrated Life join a religious institute, in which they follow a common rule under the leadership of a superior. They usually live in community, although occasionally permission is given to individual members to live for a shorter or longer time as a hermit without ceasing to be a member of their religious institute, others may be given permission to reside elsewhere, for example as resident chaplain to a community of nuns, or as priest serving a non-local parish.

Movements, Communities and Realities within the Church
Many Movements, Communities and Realities work within the Catholic Church. These are groups of usually lay members following a specific spirituality, aim or target as directed by the founder or initiator of the Movement, Community or Reality. This specific spirituality is always in tandem with the teachings of the Church Magisterium and Canon Law, but they may however consitute a specific way of Christian life.
Movements in the Catholic Church are groups of church members following a specific spirituality given to them by the founder of their movement. In the case of officially recognized movements, this specificity never finds expression in rejection or overemphasis of certain teachings of the Magisterium but constitute a specific way of Christian life.
Movements within the Catholic Church include the Italian Communion and Liberation, Focolare Movement, the Irish Legion of Mary, Regnum Christi, The Schönstatt Movement and the Couples for Christ. Recent youth movements include the Youth Fellowship.

Opus Dei, while sharing some of the characteristics of the movements listed above is not categorised by Catholic Church authorities as a Movement, because as a personal prelature, akin to a diocese or a military ordinariate, it is an integral part of the hierarchical and jurisdictional structure of the Church. The Neocatechumenal Way also does not view "itself" as a Movement, but rather as a ministry for adult faith formation. The Neocatechumenal Way has enjoyed the widespread support of the late Pope John Paul II and the present Pope, Benedict XVI, who started it in his own diocese of Munich when he was an Archbishop there in the 1970s.

Church Movements, Communities and Realities within the Church have proven to be hugely popular and have very strong followings. In the case of one particular Catholic Country, Malta, 22% of the Catholic population attends a movement, community or a reality within the Roman Catholic Church.

Membership of the Catholic Church
According to Catholic Canon law, one becomes a member of the Catholic Church by being baptized in the Church or by being received into the Church (by making a profession of faith, if already baptized). Someone who renounces membership, for example by Actus Formalis Defectionis ab Ecclesia Catholica, may later be received back into the Catholic Church, after making a profession of faith or, when the person has not defected by a formal act, going to confession.
The number of Catholics in the world is around 1.115 billion and continues to increase, particularly in Africa and Asia. Brazil is the country with the largest number of Catholics. The increase between AD1978 and AD2000 was 288 million. In most industrialized countries, church attendance has decreased since the 19th century, though it remains higher than that of other "main" churches. In Europe, Romance-speaking countries are historically Catholic, northern Germanic-speaking countries Protestant, and Slavic countries split between Orthodox and Catholic, although there are exceptions. Catholicism's presence in the rest of the world is due to the work of missionaries mainly from Spain, Portugal, and France, as well as immigrants from these countries and other Catholic parts of Europe such as the Irish, who planted Catholicism throughout the English-speaking world. In Latin America, where it once had a virtual monopoly, Catholicism has suffered increasing competition from Protestantism, particularly in parts of Central America and the Caribbean. In Africa, it is most dominant in the central part of the continent, while in Asia, there are only two majority-Catholic countries: the Philippines and East Timor.

Catholic Church and Ecumenism
While the Catholic Church sees itself as the church founded by Jesus, it recognizes that many of the salvific elements of the Gospel are found in other churches and ecclesial communities also. The Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium says that "the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic... 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."  At the same time, it affirms that "the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. ... Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved."
The Catholic Church has, since the Second Vatican Council, reached out to other Christian bodies, seeking reconciliation to the greatest degree possible. Significant agreements have been achieved on Baptism, ministry, and the Eucharist with Anglican theologians. On 31 October 1999, a similar agreement was signed with the Lutheran World Federation on the theology of justification. The same document was adopted by the World Methodist Council in a tripartite signing ceremony that took place on 23 July 2006. These landmark documents have brought closer fraternal ties with those ecclesial communities. However, recent developments, such as ordination of women to priesthood and acceptance of homosexual relationships, present new obstacles to reconciliation with some of them.

Consequently, in recent years the Catholic Church has focused its efforts at reconciliation with the Orthodox Churches of the East, with which the theological differences are not as great. Relations with the Russian Orthodox Church were strained in the 1990s over property issues in countries that were formerly Soviet-dominated, and these differences are not solved (most notably the parishes belonging to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church); however, fraternal relations with other Eastern churches continue to progress.

Role of the Catholic Church in civilization
Church doctrine and science
 Historians of science, including non-Catholics such as J.L. Heilbron, A.C. Crombie, David Lindberg, Edward Grant, Thomas Goldstein, and Ted Davis, have argued that the Church had a significant, positive influence on the development of civilization. They hold that, not only did monks save and cultivate the remnants of ancient civilization during the barbarian invasions, but that the Church promoted learning and science through its sponsorship of many universities which, under its leadership, grew rapidly in Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries. St. Thomas Aquinas, the Church's "model theologian," not only argued that reason is in harmony with faith, he even recognized that reason can contribute to understanding revelation, and so encouraged intellectual development. The Church's priest-scientists, many of whom were Jesuits, were the leading lights in astronomy, genetics, geomagnetism, meteorology, seismology, and solar physics, becoming the "fathers" of these sciences. It is important to remark names of important churchmen such as the Augustinian abbot Gregor Mendel (pioneer in the study of genetics), Roger Bacon (a Franciscan monk who was one of the early advocates of the scientific method), and Belgian priest Georges Lemaître (the first to propose the Big Bang theory). Even more numerous are Catholic laity involved in science: Henri Becquerel who discovered radioactivity; Galvani, Volta, Ampere, Marconi, pioneers in electricity and telecommunications; Lavoisier, "father of modern chemistry"; Vesalius, founder of modern human anatomy; Cauchy one of the mathematicians who laid the rigorous foundations of calculus.

This position is a reverse of the view, held by some enlightenment philosophers, that the Church's doctrines were superstitious and hindered the progress of civilization:-
In the most famous example cited by these critics, Galileo Galilei, in AD1633, was denounced for his insistence on teaching a heliocentric universe, previously proposed by Nicolaus Copernicus, who was probably a priest.  After numerous years of investigations, consultations with the Popes, promises kept and then broken by Galileo, and finally a trial by the Tribunal of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, Galileo was found "suspect of heresy" - not heresy, as is frequently misreported. Although the church includes all his books on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, and Galileo was forced to recant his heliocentrism and spent the last years of his life under house arrest on orders of the Inquisition, Pope John Paul II, on 31 October 1992, publicly expressed regret for the actions of those Catholics who badly treated Galileo in that trial. An abstract of the acts of the process against Galileo is available at the Vatican Secret Archives, which reproduces part of it on its website. Cardinal John Henry Newman, in the nineteenth century, stated that those who attack the Church can only point to the Galileo case, which to many historians does not prove the Church's opposition to science since many of the churchmen at that time were encouraged by the Church to continue their research.
Recently, the Church has been both criticized and applauded for its teaching that embryonic stem cell research is a form of experimentation on human beings, and results in the killing of a human person. Criticism has been on the grounds that this doctrine hinders scientific research. The Church argues that advances in medicine can come without the destruction of humans (in an embryonic state of life); for example, in the use of adult or umbilical stem cells in place of embryonic stem cells.

Church, art, literature, and music
Several historians credit the Catholic Church for the brilliance and magnificence of Western art. They refer to the Church's fight against iconoclasm, a movement against visual representations of the divine, its insistence on building structures befitting worship, Augustine's repeated reference to Wisdom 11:20 (God "ordered all things by measure and number and weight") which led to the geometric constructions of Gothic architecture, the scholastics' coherent intellectual systems called the Summa Theologiae which influenced the intellectually consistent writings of Dante, its creation and sacramental theology which has developed a Catholic imagination influencing writers such as J. R. R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and William Shakespeare, and of course, the patronage of the Renaissance popes for the great works of Catholic artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, Borromini and Leonardo da Vinci. In addition, we must take into account the enormous body of religious music composed for the Catholic Church, a body which is profoundly tied to the emergence and development of the European tradition of classical music, and indeed, all music that has been influenced by it.

Church and economic development
Francisco de Vitoria, a disciple of Thomas Aquinas and a Catholic thinker who studied the issue regarding the human rights of colonized natives, is recognized by the United Nations as a father of international law, and now also by historians of economics and democracy as a leading light for the West's democracy and rapid economic development.
Joseph Schumpeter, an economist of the twentieth century, referring to the scholastics, wrote, "it is they who come nearer than does any other group to having been the ‘founders’ of scientific economics." Other economists and historians, such as Raymond de Roover, Marjorie Grice-Hutchinson, and Alejandro Chafuen, have also made similar statements. Historian Paul Legutko of Stanford University said the Catholic Church is "at the center of the development of the values, ideas, science, laws, and institutions which constitute what we call Western civilization."

Social justice, care-giving, and the hospital system
Historian of hospitals, Guenter Risse, says that the Church spearheaded the development of a hospital system geared towards the marginalized. The Catholic Church has contributed to society through its social doctrine which has guided leaders to promote social justice and by setting up the hospital system in Medieval Europe, a system which was different from the merely reciprocal hospitality of the Greeks and family-based obligations of the Romans. These hospitals were established to cater to "particular social groups marginalized by poverty, sickness, and age," according to historian of hospitals, Guenter Risse.
James Joseph Walsh wrote the following about the Catholic Church's contribution to the hospital system:
"During the thirteenth century an immense number of [these] hospitals were built. The Italian cities were the leaders of the movement. Milan had no fewer than a dozen hospitals and Florence before the end of the Fourteenth century had some thirty hospitals. Some of these were very beautiful buildings. At Milan a portion of the general hospital was designed by Bramante and another part of it by Michelangelo. The Hospital of the innocents in Florence for foundlings was an architectural gem. The Hospital of Sienna, built in honor of St. Catherine, has been famous ever since. Everywhere throughout Europe this hospital movement spread. Virchow, the great German pathologist, in an article on hospitals, showed that every city of Germany of five thousand inhabitants had its hospital. He traced all of this hospital movement to Pope Innocent III, and though he was least papistically inclined, Virchow did not hesitate to give extremely high praise to this pontiff for all that he had accomplished for the benefit of children and suffering mankind."
In spite of the lingering problems of the Dark Ages, hospitals began to appear in great numbers in France and England. Following the French Norman invasion into England, the explosion of French ideals led most Medieval monasteries to develop a hospitium or hospice for pilgrims. This hospitium eventually developed into what we now understand as a hospital, with various monks and lay helpers providing the medical care for sick pilgrims and victims of the numerous plagues and chronic diseases that afflicted Medieval Western Europe. Benjamin Gordon supports the theory that the hospital – as we know it - is a French invention, but that it was originally developed for isolating lepers and plague victims, and only later undergoing modification to serve the pilgrim.
Owing to a well-preserved 12th century account of the monk Eadmer of the Canterbury cathedral, there is an excellent account of Bishop Lanfranc’s aim to establish and maintain examples of these early hospitals:
"But I must not conclude my work by omitting what he did for the poor outside the walls of the city Canterbury. In brief, he constructed a decent and ample house of stone…for different needs and conveniences. He divided the main building into two, appointing one part for men oppressed by various kinds of infirmities and the other for women in a bad state of health. He also made arrangements for their clothing and daily food, appointing ministers and guardians to take all measures so that nothing should be lacking for them."
The beauty and efficiency of the Italian hospitals inspired even some who were otherwise critical of the Church. The German historian Ludwig von Pastor recounts the words of Martin Luther who, while journeying to Rome in the winter of AD1510–1511, had occasion to visit some of these hospitals:
In Italy, he remarks, the hospitals are handsomely built, and admirably provided with excellent food and drink, careful attendants and learned physicians. The beds and bedding are clean, and the walls are covered with paintings. When a patient is brought in, his clothes are removed in the presence of a notary who makes a faithful inventory of them, and they are kept safely. A white smock is put on him and he is laid on a comfortable bed, with clean linen. Presently two doctors come to him, and the servants bring him food and drink in clean glasses, showing him all possible attention.

The Catholic Church as opus proprium, says Benedict XVI in Deus Caritas Est, has conducted throughout the centuries from its very beginning and continues to conduct many charitable services — hospitals, schools, poverty alleviation programs, among others.
On November 14, 2006, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also issued the document 'Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination' to provide "guidelines for the pastoral care of people with a homosexual inclination".
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