Who founded the Catholic Church?


By BibleAsk Team

The Catholic Church claims it was founded by Jesus Christ through Peter. This is found in Catholic literature and not explicitly in Scripture. The term “Catholic” was first used in the early 2nd century AD. The word “Catholic” means “universal,” propagating that it was to have a universal scope.¬†Other Christians view the Catholic Church as having started much later – specifically during the reign of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century and the subsequent Councils of the Church.

Since then there are 2 main branches of Christianity: Catholics and Protestants. Protestants typically emphasize a return to the Word as the source of Christian faith while Catholics also have the practices and beliefs that later came with the developments of Catholic tradition.

The Political History of the Catholic Church

The political rise of the Catholic Church has an extensive history. For about 300 years after Christ’s ascension, Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire. Christianity was outlawed and those who followed the religion of Jesus were punished by torture and death. Despite persecution, Christianity was growing stronger, while the Roman Empire was growing weaker.

This continued until the conversion of Constantine in A.D. 313. The Roman Emperor Constantine, who had been a pagan solar worshiper, accepted Christianity. During his reign, he sought to unite the Roman Empire under the banner of Christianity.

Soon after Constantine’s conversion, he legalized Christianity in Rome. He then gave properties to the bishop of Rome, such as the Lateran Palace which became Old Saint Peter’s Basilica. This gave the Catholic church temporal power that had never been in place before. This also created an interest from other nations as to the leadership of the papacy.

Attempt to Unify a Nation

In AD 325, Constantine called the Council of Nicea in an attempt to unify Christianity. During Constantine’s time, there were several sects of Christianity as well as pagan religions in Rome. Constantine promoted Christianity as a religion that could unite the Roman Empire. While this freedom to the Christians seemed like a positive step, the mixing of Christian beliefs with pagan practices was a negative blow to the purity of the faith.

Some examples of this were the the first Sunday-worship law. Constantine also sought to make it easier for pagans in his realm to embrace his new political religion. Thus, he encouraged Christians to adopt certain pagan practices such as honoring pagan statues renamed after the Christian God or various Christian saints. This is still seen in St Peter’s Cathedral with the statue of Jupiter.

Persecution of the Believers

While Christianity became legal, this was only true for the mainstream Roman Church. Other sects of Christianity, such as Arianism, were now persecuted by the Church. In 385, the new legal authority of the Church resulted in the first use of capital punishment being pronounced as a sentence upon a Christian ‘heretic’, namely Priscillian, a nobleman with differing views of Christian worship. While the Pope is said to have not been in favor of this man’s execution, persecution of Christians with opposing views continued to persist.

Joining Church and State

By the year 538 A.D., a decree from Emperor Justinian went into effect that assigned absolute preeminence to the Church of Rome. This made the Papacy a religious-political system. The Catholic Church became, in essence, the Roman Empire baptized. The very capital of the old Roman Empire became the new capital of the Christian empire. The office of Pontifex Maximus was continued in that of the pope.


The contents of this article and website are not intended to be against any individual. There are many priests and faithful believers in Roman Catholicism who serve God to the best of their knowledge and are seen by God as His children. The information contained herein is addressed only towards the Roman Catholic religio-political system which has reigned in varying degrees of power for nearly two millennia. This system has established an increasing number of doctrines and statements that are not in harmony with the Bible.

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