Principle Doctrines of the Catholic Church with Their Degrees of Theological Certitude

This content of this table is taken from Appendix I of Everyman's Theology by Leo Rudloff, O.S.B.  The text has been reformatted in tabular form to improve readability.

Key to the Degree of Certitude:

D Dogma An article of faith
Cert Certain The unanimous teaching of theologians
Com. Acc. Commonly Accepted Taught by the majority of theologians
Prob. Probable Held by distinguished theologians


The Catholic Faith
God's Eternal Plan of Creation and Redemption
    God, One and Triune
    Economy of Creation and Redemption
Execution of the Plan of Redemption
    Necessity of Redemption - Original Sin
Application of the Redemption - Our Sanctification
    God, The Sanctifier
    The Holy and Sanctifying Community - The Church
    Means of Grace - The Sacraments
        Holy Eucharist
        Holy Orders
        Extreme Unction



The Catholic Faith

D Religious faith is the assent of the intellect to truths revealed by God on the authority of God. This assent occurs with the collaboration of free will influenced by grace.
D Christ founded the Church and gave to her the threefold office of teaching, governing, and sanctifying.
D Christ appointed the Apostles, and commissioned them with the threefold office.
D According to divine right the bishops are the successors of the Apostles.
D Christ gave St. Peter the primacy of jurisdiction, to which the pope of Rome succeeds.
D Christ endowed the teaching authority (pope, general body of bishops) with infallibility.
D The ordinary teaching authority resides in the universal Church on earth.
D The extraordinary teaching authority resides in the pope and in the General Council.
D The sources of faith are Sacred Scripture and Tradition.
D Holy Scripture is inspired, i.e., it has God for its author.
Cert Holy Scripture is free from error.

God's Eternal Plan of Creation and Redemption

God, One and Triune

D There is one God, who is the essence of all perfection. He is infinite, eternal and immutable, omnipresent and immense, omniscient and all wise, holy. good, just, merciful, long-suffering, faithful, and true.
D There is one God in three Persons. These three Persons are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are distinguished one from another by their various "processions": the Father proceeds from no one, the Son proceeds from the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son.
D The procession of the Son from the Father is termed "generation".
Cert The Son proceeds by way of mental generation from the intellect of the Father.
D He is therefore known as the "Word".
Cert The Holy Spirit proceeds from the mutual love existing between the Father and Son.

The Economy of Creation and Redemption

D God created the material and spiritual world out of nothing.
D All creatures were created good. Evil came through the sin of the creature.
D God created the angels, i.e., spirits superior to man.
Cert The angels were created in the state of sanctifying grace, but not in the state of glory.
D Some angels sinned.
D The good angels watch over mankind.
Cert Every baptized soul has his or her own guardian angel.
D God created man to His own image. God created man at least mediately.
Cert Every immortal soul is created by God.
Prob God created the bodies of the first human beings directly.
Cert All mankind descends from the first man and woman.

Execution of the Plan of Redemption

Necessity of Redemption–Original Sin

D The first persons of the human race were created in a state of justice and holiness.
Cert This state was a supernatural gift of grace.
D The first human beings were immortal.
Cert They were not subject to inordinate desires.
Com Acc They were not subject to suffering or ignorance.
Cert These endowments were "preternatural" gifts of God.
D The first human beings sinned grievously, in so far as they transgressed a command of God.
D All those who are the natural descendants of Adam (the Blessed Virgin excepted) are born with the guilt of his sin, original sin.
D Loss of sanctifying grace is a result of original sin.
Com Acc The essence of original sin consists in the loss (culpable) of sanctifying grace.
D He who dies with original sin on his soul cannot enjoy the beatific vision.


D Christ is our Redeemer.
D Christ is true God and true Man. The divine and the human nature are united in the one person of Christ.
D Christ was born of the Virgin Mary.
D Mary is the Mother of God.
D Mary always remained a virgin.
D Mary was immaculately conceived.
D [1] The body of Mary was assumed into heaven.
D Mary is the mediatrix of graces. She is mediatrix because she bore Christ.
Cert ...because through her intercession she can obtain every grace for us.
Prob ...because every grace is obtained through her intercession.
D To Mary is due special veneration (hyperdulia).
D Christ redeemed the world through His death on the cross.
D Christ offered Himself as a true and perfect sacrifice on the cross. Hence He is the High Priest.
Cert Christ died for all men.
D Christ did not die for the "predestined" or for the faithful departed alone.
Cert Christ made superabundant satisfaction for sin.
D Christ arose from the dead.
Cert Christ is the head of all mankind.

[1] In the original source the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is listed as 'Cert'. This doctrine was proclaimed as dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950 (Munificentissimus Deus), after the publication of the source in 1942.

Application of the Redemption–Our Sanctification

God, The Sanctifier

Com Acc Sanctification is pre-eminently ascribed to the Holy Spirit. He is the Spirit of the Son of God made Man. Hence, He is also the Spirit of all those who partake of the Sonship of God through incorporation into Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian who is a living member of the Body of Christ.
D The sanctification of man consists in the infusion of sanctifying grace which is a permanent state of the soul, destroys sin.
Cert ...and makes us partakers "of the divine nature".
D Man is also in need of "actual grace," i.e., a temporary help from God.
D Grace is absolutely necessary to salvation.
D The beginning of justification is also from God.
D Every just person receives sufficient grace for the observance of the commandments, provided he does not make himself unworthy of these graces.
Com Acc God gives sinners sufficient grace for conversion.
Cert Every nonbeliever receives sufficient grace to attain faith.
D Good works merit an increase in sanctifying grace and eternal life.
D With sanctifying grace, the theological virtues, faith, hope, charity, are infused into the soul.
Cert Likewise, the moral (cardinal) virtues.
Com Acc ...and the "Gifts of the Holy Spirit".
D The life of grace is either hampered or destroyed by sin.
Cert Sin is the transgression of a divine command which, in the last analysis, is founded in the nature of God.
D Mortal sin destroys the life of grace and merits eternal damnation.
Cert He commits a mortal sin who knowingly and willingly transgresses God's command in a serious matter.
D Venial sins do not destroy the life of grace.

The Holy and Sanctifying Community–The Church

D Christ founded the Church for the sanctification of mankind of all times.
Cert The Church is the ever living Christ, the mystical Body of Christ.
D The Church is one, catholic, holy, and apostolic.

Means of Grace–The Sacraments

Cert A sacrament is a holy, outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace.
Com Acc A sacrament is an "efficacious" sign; it effects what it symbolizes.
D There are seven sacraments, instituted by Christ: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.
Com Acc The external sign of the sacrament consists in the "matter" and the "form".
Com Acc The sacraments bring us into contact with the God-Man and His work.
D The sacraments are effective ex opere operato; they contain the grace they symbolize and impart it when the recipient wills to receive the sacrament, and the minister has the intention of administering it according to the mind of the Church.
D The validity of the sacraments does not depend on the faith or on the sanctity of the minister.
D Baptism, confirmation, and holy orders imprint an "indelible character" on the soul of the recipient.
Com Acc This "indelible character" is a participation in the priesthood of Christ.
Com Acc The sacraments are an "externalizing" of faith.
Cert There are also sacramentals which have been instituted by the Church.
D These rites and prayers of the Church may not be held in contempt.


D Baptism is a true sacrament, instituted by Christ.
Cert Baptism is the first of the sacraments.
D Natural water is required for the administration of baptism.
Cert Baptism is administered by pouring water on the head of the one to be baptized, while saying at the same time: "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost." Every person can baptize validly and in case of necessity may and should do so. In ordinary circumstances, the pastor is the minister of baptism.
D Baptism destroys the guilt of all sin: original sin and all actual sins committed before baptism, and also all punishment due for sin.
D Baptism imprints an indelible character.
Cert The baptismal character denotes membership in Christ and participation in His priesthood.
D Baptism is absolutely necessary to salvation.
Cert The baptism of blood and the baptism of desire can, under certain circumstances, be substituted for the baptism of water.
D Baptism may and should be administered to infants.


D Confirmation is a true sacrament, instituted by Christ.
Cert The external sign of confirmation consists in the anointing with chrism, the accompanying imposition of hands, and the saying at the same time of the words: "I sign thee with the sign of the cross and confirm thee with the chrism of salvation in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen".
D Confirmation also imprints an indelible character upon the soul.

Holy Eucharist

D The Holy Eucharist is a true sacrifice and sacrament instituted by Christ.
D In the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ are really and truly present.
D The manner in which Christ becomes present in the Holy Eucharist is called by the Church "transubstantiation".
D Christ is present whole and entire in every part and particle of the Holy Eucharist.
D Christ remains present in the Holy Eucharist for as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain.
D Adoration is due to Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
D The Mass is a true and real sacrifice.
D The Sacrifice of the Mass is essentially the same as that of the cross.
Com Acc Holy Communion effects the remission of venial sin, and accidentally effects remission of mortal sin if the recipient be ignorant of serious guilt.
D The Holy Eucharist is a means of salvation in as much as it frees us from our daily faults.
D The Holy Eucharist is the pledge of our bodily resurrection.


D Penance is a true sacrament, instituted by Christ for the remission of sins committed after baptism (D). Christ gave to His Church the power to remit all sins without exception committed after baptism.
D Only priests and bishops can administer the sacrament of penance.
Com Acc The external sign of penance consists in the words of the priest as "form," and the acts of the penitent as "matter".  (According to some the ceremonies and words of the priest alone are the matter and form.)
D The confession of all grievous sins according to the number and kind is required for a valid reception of penance.
D Auricular confession dates from the very beginning of Christianity.
Cert Contrition (with purpose of amendment) and satisfaction are required for the sacrament of penance.
Cert Imperfect contrition suffices in the sacrament of penance.
D The entire temporal punishment is not always forgiven with the guilt of sin.
D For the validity of the sacrament, the minister must have "jurisdiction".
D The Church has the power to grant indulgences, and their use is beneficial to Christians.

Holy Orders

D Holy orders is a true sacrament, instituted by Christ.
D Consecration of bishops and ordination of priests belong to this sacrament.
Cert The diaconate also belongs.
  In regard to subdeacon, acolyte, exorcist, reader, and ostiary, St. Thomas is of the opinion that, in so far as they share in the order of deaconship (assistantship), they also partake of the sacrament of holy orders. However, the greater number of present-day theologians hold the contrary view.
D The ordinary minister of holy orders is the bishop.
  Whether the imposition of hands or the presentation of the insignia of the various orders, is the exterior sign of this sacrament, has not been dogmatically defined. Most probably the essential exterior sign of the sacrament of holy orders (bishop, priest, deacon) is the imposition of hands.
D Those grades of the priesthood which belong to the sacrament of holy orders imprint an indelible character.


Cert Marriage, as the legitimate spiritual-corporeal union of man and woman in a permanent life companionship, was instituted by God in paradise.
D Christ raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.
D Christian marriage is monogamous, i.e., one man and one woman bind themselves to a life union.
Cert Christian marriage, if it has at least been physically consummated, is indissoluble.
Cert The marriage of two nonbaptized persons can be dissolved by reason of the Pauline privilege.
Cert The two contracting parties mutually administer the sacrament to one another.
Com Acc The external sign of the sacrament of marriage consists in the visibly expressed marriage contract, indicating mutual surrender and acceptance
Cert Every valid marriage contract of two Christians is in itself a sacrament. Sacrament and contract are inseparable.
D Christian marriage is subject to divine and to ecclesiastical law as well.
D The Church may set up marriage impediments.
Cert The secular power is competent in the mere civil effects of marriage.

Extreme Unction

D Extreme unction is a true sacrament, instituted by Christ. The Apostle James is witness to it.
Cert The "matter" of extreme unction consists in the anointing with holy oils.
Cert The "form" used in the Western Church is as follows: "Through this holy unction and His most tender mercy, may the Lord pardon you whatever sins you have committed by sight, hearing, etc." The effects of extreme unction are: strength of soul against all the trials and tribulations in the hour of death;
Cert ...remission of the guilt of venial sin;
Com Acc ...and mortal sin;
Com Acc ...the partial or entire remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, as well as other consequences of sin;
Cert ...finally, restoration of bodily health, if this will aid the soul
D Extreme unction is administered by the priest.

The Consummation

D Every man born in the state of original sin (with the possible exception of those who are living at the second coming of Christ) must die.
Cert The soul is judged immediately after death. Its eternal destiny remains unchanged.
D He who dies in the state of mortal sin will be doomed to eternal punishment.
D The punishment of hell consists primarily in exclusion from the vision of God.
Cert To this essential punishment are added other positive punishments.
D The punishments of the damned vary in degree.
D The souls of those who die in the state of sanctifying grace, and are still burdened with venial sin or temporal punishment due for sin, must undergo a process of purgation.
D Our prayers can aid the "Poor Souls".
Com Acc The saints also come to their aid
D Those who die without the least stain of sin or have no temporal punishment on their soul, enter immediately into a state of complete supernatural beatitude.
D Salvation is eternal and can never be lost.
D Salvation consists essentially in the beatific vision.
Com Acc With this essential beatitude is associated the happiness attendant on the possession of created goods, e.g., transfiguration of the body.
D The saints in heaven are worthy of veneration. The veneration of the relics and images of saints is permissible and salutary. The saints intercede for us, and it is good and advantageous for us to ask their intercession.
D At the end of time, all men will rise from the dead.
D Christ will come again as judge of the world, to judge all men