Take the quintessential History of the Catholic Church quiz

Olivia Cantor

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About This Quiz

The Catholic Church has had a long history, with many interesting details. Before someone else can ask, "How Catholic are you?" let's take a quiz on Catholicism, and find out some neat stuff about this iconic and historic religion.

The Catholic Church once encouraged the Crusades in the Middle East. What were they, really?

The Catholic Church encouraged the military invasions called the Crusades during the middle and later parts of the Middle Ages. There were many reasons why they were started, but the knowledge with which the soldiers returned would plant the seeds of the Renaissance.

It's been said that religion is having a tougher time in the modern age. That said, where in the world is Catholicism gaining ground these days?

Around 1910, the majority of Europe was Catholic. By 2010, only a fourth was. It's in Asia and Africa that Catholicism is growing rapidly these days.

This is an important question for all the married ones among us. Why are annulments not like divorces in the Catholic faith?

Marriage annulment in the Catholic faith is not a divorce, because you're not ending a marriage. It's proving that the marriage wasn't there in the first place. That way, the sacrament of marriage is kept whole and solid. Talk about erasing your history!

Its title may sound scary, but what does an Advocatus Diaboli really do in the Catholic Church?

The Advocatus Diaboli is the guy who's the Devil in the works. His job is to see if a candidate for sainthood shouldn't be one. The position isn't necessary anymore, but if one is needed, one can be called.

Which Catholic VIP is closely linked to the use and image of the rosary?

The rosary helps Catholics ask Mother Mary for her help in bringing their prayers to Jesus and God. Some people think that it's about praying to her, but it's more asking for her help and prayers.

When a new pope ascends to take the place of the old one, where does he live?

Vatican City state is in Italy, but it is a state unto itself. The pope, therefore , does not live in Italy. A blessed confusion!

What favorite non-alcoholic drink of ours is blessed by a Pope?

Pope Clement VIII must have really loved coffee. He baptized this "devil's drink" in the 16th Century to make it accepted in Catholic Europe. Starbucks thanks you, o Pope C!

Why was the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965 seen as a very important meeting of minds?

The Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II, emphasized cooperation with other religions and Christian Churches. It also addressed how the Catholic Church should approach the changing times, promoting the theme of peace and unity.

For which book is the Catholic Church responsible, from beginning to end?

The Catholic Church may not be the original author, but the church decided what’s included in the Bible. It also decided on how the chapters and verses were laid out. Editorial duties abound in this church, all the time, for all time!

What is one thing about the Bible that the Protestants say Catholics did?

The Catholic Church didn't add new books to the Bible, as the Protestants sometimes say. It's the other way around: Protestants removed books, such as Tobit, Judith, the Maccabees books, and a few more. In fact, Martin Luther even wanted to remove James and Revelations, but did not succeed. Historical re-revisionism, anyone?

Aside from being a symbol of Jesus Christ crucified, the cross had another meaning. What was it?

The symbol of the Cross is older than Catholicism, and the vertical line is the divine, with the horizontal line for our world. This means that there should be a union of the holy and the earthly matters. Yes, people, intersectionality -- literally!

St. Moritz is a martyr saint. What makes him so special?

St. Moritz was a black Egyptian soldier for the Roman Empire. He refused to kill Christians, and was put to death in the third century.

Even if the Vatican City is the center of the Catholic Church, it also has this surprising statistic about law and order.

Since the Vatican City has less than 500 actual citizens, the crime rate of one crime a day gives it the highest crime rate per capita in the world! On the other hand, it's usually outsiders who commit the crimes. Heaven forgive them.

Who was the first head, or pope, of the Catholic Church?

Saint Peter never was officially the pope in his lifetime, but he was seen as the first head of the church in his time. He preached in Turkey, and was eventually crucified when he was caught.

We know that Saint Peter was crucified, but what was the big difference compared to the way Christ was crucified?

Emperor Nero must have had a twisted sense of humor - or was just plain cruel. Peter was crucified upside down.

When William Tyndale translated the Bible into English, he wasn't exactly rewarded. What happened to him?

William Tyndale was executed in 1536 for translating the Bible into English. And to make it obvious that it wasn't a good thing, he was choked, then impaled, and then finally burned at the stake. And that was after he was found guilty of heresy. Ouch!

It's said that the Catholic Church follows a rank structure similar to the Roman Empire. If that's the case, what were the nuns?

Think about it. The Pope is the Emperor, the senators became the cardinals. The governors were renamed as archbishops. So… the vestal virgins live on as nuns.

If you're a Mexican Catholic, then this symbol with its crown of thorns and holy cross is very familiar. What is it?

The Sacred Heart, though very popular in Mexican and South American Catholicism, is actually an old symbol. It can be traced historically to the 17th Century. Old hearts live long, eh.

When this holy relic was tested, the carbon dating says that it was made in the 14th Century. But how it was made still stumps modern technology. What is this relic?

The mysterious image of the body of Christ on the Shroud of Turin is controversial. Carbon dating puts it as having been created in the 14th Century, but they say the sample used was from a repaired patch of the cloth. Also, how do you explain the almost-photographic way the image was "burned" on the cloth? Eternal mystery, this one.

When Catholics celebrate the holy mass, it is believed that the bread and wine they consume turn into this.

The Catholic faith believes that the bread and wine offered during the mass is turned into the spiritual body and blood of Christ. The process is known as transubstantiation, and is at the core of the Holy Mass.

From which Biblical scene is the Holy Mass supposed to be taken from?

The Holy Mass was instituted at the Last Supper, where Jesus laid the foundation of how future Catholics should offer themselves to God. This offering at the Last Supper is seen as the same with Jesus' suffering at Calvary.

When Catholics use incense, what does it traditionally symbolize?

Aside from blessing and purification, incense is also seen as prayers rising to heaven. This explains the Catholic idea of it being used for blessing and purification, since all is offered up to God.

Some scholarly works attribute the first expansion of Catholicism to this.

It's been noted that the existence of the Roman road network probably made it easier for the Catholic religion to spread to other states and countries. Had it not been for this important Roman development, the Catholic Church may have expanded at a slower rate, which could have changed the course of history.

With all the changes happening in the world today, will we soon have female Catholic priests?

The Catholic Church will never allow female priests, in keeping with its own doctrine. However, it's not a guy thing. It's because the Church recognizes that men and women have different roles in the Church. Tell that to the feminists...

There isn't much attention paid to Friday penance any more, but are Catholics still required to abstain?

The more traditional Catholics will probably take it to heart and strictly fast with no meat on Fridays, as this is really a religious requirement. However, some Church leaders have suggested that if fasting can’t be done, other forms of penance should be. Therefore, some Catholics just avoid red meat and eat fish and veggies during the Lenten season, and do the same during other seasons if they can.

We see them with their funny costumes in Vatican City, but what is the Swiss Papal Guard, really?

The Pope's Swiss Guards are a real military force. They may have snazzy outfits designed by Michelangelo, but they are trained to use modern weapons, and they even have an honest-to-God armory in Vatican City. They're expected to lay down their lives for the Pope if they have to. Faithfully fierce!

Traditionally, what are the ashes for Ash Wednesday made from?

The ashes used in Ash Wednesday are from the Palm branches used in the previous year's Palm Sunday. Just as Catholics celebrate Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, they should also remember that they should repent their sins. And it's great recycling, too, in a way.

Baptism, which welcomes a person to the Catholic faith, historically can be done in times of danger or impending death. But who can do it at those times?

Although there are some rules to follow, baptism in an emergency situation can be done by any Catholic. You would need some water to pour on the person's head, say the words, and make sure that it is the wish of the person to be baptized.

What famous Biblical food animal became a symbol for Jesus Christ?

The fish is a symbol with many meanings for Catholics. First, it is supposed to be a stylized symbol of the first letters of "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior," if said in Greek. Taken another way, it's also symbolic of Jesus being a "fisher of men." Finally, the symbol of a fish was used in Roman times to see if a person or place was friendly to Christians. Nothing fishy at all.

He was the mind and hands behind the paintings on the ceiling the Sistine Chapel. Who is this creative Catholic genius?

Michelangelo was one of the greatest artists of his time. Aside from his work in the Sistine Chapel, he created the Pieta, and the statue of David. What an artistic Catholic!

How many Sacraments does the Catholic Church have?

The Catholic Church has seven sacraments. They are: Baptism, Reconciliation (penance or confession), Confirmation, Holy Orders, The Eucharist (Holy Communion), Matrimony, and the Anointing of the Sick. Sacraments are rituals or symbols that act as a bridge between the spiritual and material worlds, to be taken from the beginning of one's life and up to the end of it.

When you genuflect, what does it mean if you bend your right knee?

Although not all Catholic sects follow this rule today, the right knee is, historically, the one bent when a person genuflects before God. The left knee was used for genuflecting before worldly powers, like heads of state.

There are many Christian Churches, but which was the first one?

The Catholic Church is the first Christian Church. In fact, for the first 1,000 years of its existence, it was the only one. Many of the later Churches are only a few centuries old, by comparison.

Most people will find this surprising, but the Catholic Church has no problem with this scientific development.

The Catholic Church surprisingly doesn’t have a problem with the theory of evolution as a historical marker of earth's creation. The caveat is, the church is OK with it provided that God is the one behind the evolution, as a prime mover or as One who sometimes guides development (if not all the time).

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