Is the present-day Roman Catholic Church the same church on which it was founded? The Roman Catholic Church holds that the first pope was St. Peter, and his burial became the St. Peter's Basilica. If I remember correctly, National Geographic Inside the Vatican seems to support the idea that the first pope was St. Peter. Anyway, is the present-day version of the church the same church on which it was founded? In what ways has the church changed or modified to deal with the times?

The obvious:

  • Different popes
  • Different worldly events
  • Different cultures

Doctrinally, how is the present-day Roman Catholic Church the same or different from the one led by the first Pope in Rome?

  • 1
    This is an interesting question, but it seems a bit broad... Sep 2, 2013 at 1:16
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    There have been 2000 years to understand and expound doctrine; but the Faith has not changed. It is what makes the Church the Church. It is interesting that even in today's world the Church is just as countercultural as it was 2000 years ago. Sep 2, 2013 at 6:25
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    I think the issue here is that Catholics will give you a different answer than some Protestants. Generally Catholics will say what Andrew has said and some Protestants will be more cynical and will focus on things like indulgences, different canonizations of saints, etc.
    – user3961
    Sep 2, 2013 at 16:36
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    Since recognition of heterodox teaching would have to go up a disciplinary hierarchy, presumably heterodoxy would exist for some time (especially with slow communication). Are minority but "official" (from priests or even bishops) views that have not yet been condemned part of church doctrine? Doctrine also tends to accumulate. ISTR that some teachings on Mary were only in recent centuries adopted as non-contradictable (so previously contradictory teachings would have been tolerated but now they would be weeded out).
    – user3331
    Sep 2, 2013 at 20:42
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    @PaulA.Clayton No: Church doctrine is that which has been expounded as doctrine by the Magesterium [there's another question here about that]. A minority view which is not heterodox is not necessarily orthodox. Sep 3, 2013 at 15:53

4 Answers 4


Is the present-day Roman Catholic Church the same church on which it was founded?

The shortest and simplest answer is: yes.

The longer and significantly more complex answer would fill many volumes of an encyclopedia.

But, to very briefly scratch the surface...

The Church maintains that, although her fundamental doctrine hasn't changed, it has developed over the centuries.

Catholic apologists compare the Catholic Church's growth and development to that of an acorn. An acorn, in its smallest and simplest form, is genetically the same as a 200 year old Oak tree. An acorn looks nothing like an Oak, even though it fundamentally has everything it needs to grow and develope into a giant 200 year old tree.

In the same way the early primitive Church and her depositum fidei was planted by Christ through Holy Spirit. Of course the Church had to grow and develope in order to preach the Gospel to all nations.

The tradition which comes from the apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts, through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For, as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her. (Dei Verbum 8)

Over time the Church has developed various doctrines and dogmas that aren't explicitly displayed in Sacred Scripture. Some examples are the doctrines of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Hypostatic Union. These doctrines are fundamental to the Faith, yet haven't always been as clearly defined as they are now.

Most of the Church's development of doctrine has been brought on by the assaults of heresies such as Arianism and Monothelistism. Various councils and synods have been called to develope these crucial doctrines in order to protect her fundamental truths.


Finally, its important to distinguish between the true teachings of the Church and the abuse of the teachings of the Church. Many Christians have been scandalized by false representations of the truths of what the Church teaches.

Martin Luther posted his 95 theses primarily because the Church's indulgences were being fraudulently abused. The true purpose of the granting of indulgences is simply to help Catholics grow in holiness, but millions of people have been scandalized because the abuses of men like Johann Tetzel.

The same goes for marriage. Marriage is, by definition, a holy and righteous sacrament institiuted by Christ. Millions of people are scandalized everyday because marriage is abused.

The abuse of a good does not diminish the good of a good. (Matthew Kelly, Rediscovering Catholicism)


Catechisms and catechists break down the teachings of the Catholic Church into four categories stemming from:

  1. The Apostles Creed
  2. The Seven Sacraments
  3. The Ten Commandments
  4. The Lords Prayer

So I guess I could stop now and you could go find out for yourself whether or not these things have consistently been the pillars of the Church from its inception, but I'll ramble on a bit, but one point should be very clear:

Not only is the Catholic Church the largest religious organization in the world today, but it is the only institution that has survived the fall of the Roman Empire.

The Faith of Millions - Rev. John A. O'Brien Ph,D.

The Apostles Creed

When folks are baptized, or have their children baptized, they recite the Apostles Creed in communion with the assembly gathered and the priest says at the end

This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord

and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recently wrote on the same subject:

The faith is a theological virtue, given by God, but transmitted by the Church throughout history. St Paul himself, writing to the Corinthians, affirms he has communicated to them the Gospel that he too had received (cf. 1 Cor 15:3).

and he goes on to quote the Vatican II document Dei Verbum saying:

The Council says: “The apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by a continuous line of succession until the end of time”

Pope Benedict XVI - General Audience August 31, 2012

The Sacraments

The Seven Sacraments are all biblical in nature.

The Eucharist

  • Jesus and the Apostles that the Holy Eucharist contains the Body and Blood of Christ (Mat 26:26-28; 1 Cor 10:16).
  • The Catholic Church holds fast to the clear teaching of Christ and the Apostles that the Holy Eucharist contains the Body and Blood of Jesus under the appearances of bread and wine

The Faith of Millions, pp71


  • Jesus gave His disciples the ability to forgive peoples sins (John 20:23) and St. Paul reiterates this teaching (2 Cor 5:18).
  • Since they inherit their power from the Apostles, the Bishops and their helpers the priests continue the ministry of healing the soul through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


  • Christ taught the indissolubility of marriage (Mat 19:6) and pointed out strongly that men who even look at other women commit adultery (Mark 10:11.

  • So far as anyone can tell, the Catholic Church still forbids divorce, she even gave up England to prove that point.

Anointing of the Sick

  • St. James (one of them) called the sick to be brought before the priest of the Church and have them be prayed over (James 5:14).

  • The Catholic Church continues the practice of anointing the the sick and those in danger of death. She always allows for extraordinary practices in danger of death (for instance, anyone can baptize a person in danger of death). But the ordinary circumstances call for a priest to be present, as naturally would what St. James wrote about in his letter.


  • As is written in The Acts of the Apostles, Sts. Peter and John confirmed the new Christians who had already been baptized (Acts 8:15-17). They did so by laying hands on them.

  • Today a Catholic Bishop (or priest under his authority) places his hands upon the confirmandi and prays over them so that they may receive the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The 10 Commandments

The commandments make up the fundamental social doctrine of the Apostolic and Catholic Church. Jesus, throughout His preaching reiterates and strengthens the commandments. The Church in turn, keeps the commandments and bases it's entire moral teaching on them and the two Greatest Commandments (Love of God and Love of Neighbor) proclaimed by Christ in the Gospel and there is evidence of it throughout salvation history:

Ever since St. Augustine, the Ten Commandments have occupied a predominant place in the catechesis of baptismal candidates and the faithful. In the fifteenth century, the custom arose of expressing the commandments of the Decalogue in rhymed formulae, easy to memorize and in positive form. They are still in use today. The catechisms of the Church have often expounded Christian morality by following the order of the Ten Commandments.

CCC 2066

The Catechism goes on to quote two of the last few of Councils saying:

The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; the Second Vatican Council confirms: "The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.

CCC 2068

The Lord's Prayer

Like a large portion of the Latin Rite Mass (and other Catholic/Byzantine Rite Liturgies) the prayer Jesus taught to His disciples is repeated at every Mass and most other prayers (Liturgy of the Hours, The Rosary, etc...). The Our Father in English isn't exactly what one reads in the the Gospel, but in Latin is much more similar:

PATER NOSTER, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen

EWTN Latin Prayers - The Lord's Prayer

Pater, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie. Et dimitte nobis peccata nostra, siquidem et ipsi dimittimus omni debenti nobis. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.

Luke 11:2-4

Aside from the additions (completely from the nearly as ancient [Didache]) The only word that is different between the Latin Vulgate and the Latin Mass is Debts vs Sins. And since I'm not a Latin aficionado, I'd be hard pressed to tell you why the Latin differs in the opposite way from English, but oh well.

The main point is that Catholics from the Early Fathers to Pope Francis love talking about the Lord's Prayer and how it's the heart of all Christian prayer:


No. The Catholic Church used to proclaim it was the Church of Christ, now it claims it only "subsists" in the Church of Christ (this means that its one tiny piece of the Church Christ founded but not equivalent to it). The Catholic Church used to proclaim it was the only way to Salvation, now it claims that there are many paths to salvation. The Catholic Church used to refer to Protestantism as heresy and condemn Martin Luther, now it considers Protestantism to be something "other than heresy" and promotes the "Zeal" of Martin Luther. The Catholic Church used to say that Islam was paganism and that the pagans worshipped demons, now it claims that Catholics and Muslims worship the same God. I could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on

  • I would choose and clarify on only the last sentence and say that it is not entirely true. This answer here puts some light on it. Sep 4, 2013 at 4:01
  • @jayeshu You linked to a Vatican II document that states that Muslims "adore the one God", this is a deviation from earlier teachings.
    – user
    Sep 4, 2013 at 12:14
  • @apocalypse What church do you belong to? Just curious...
    – user5286
    Sep 4, 2013 at 17:55

No it wasn't. The church had undergone many reformations. Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counter-Reformation. Essentially, it became less power centered over the centuries, as well as more about unity.

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    – user3961
    Sep 6, 2013 at 7:21

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