Roman Catholicism: The Basics: 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Roman Catholicism: The Basics

2nd Edition

By Michael Walsh


234 pages

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From the most basic terms to the structures and practices of the Church, this book offers a plain-speaking introduction to Roman Catholicism. Now in a second edition, it contains new sections on relations with other faiths, coverage of recent controversies in the Church and an expanded section on social teaching. It covers:

  • Roman Catholic beliefs and traditions
  • practices and devotional life – rituals, prayer, mass
  • Church structures and authorities – from Vatican to parish church
  • Church hierarchies and people – from bishops to the laity
  • the role of the Church in society.

With a glossary, further reading sections and reference to official documents of the Church, this is the perfect guide for students approaching the study of Roman Catholicism for the first time.


"Michael Walsh is a learned, lucid and insightful guide to grasping the wonders and complexities of Roman Catholicism. He is thoughtfully aware of critical issues faced by the tradition. It would be difficult to find a better short introductory book. This new edition is to be welcomed."

Gavin D'Costa, University of Bristol, UK

"Walsh’s book is practical, nuanced, and easy to read. He writes with a good sense for history which enables him to contextualize his narrative, explaining how Roman Catholics may differ from other Christians on a particular issue or teaching, and he is critical about historical claims without being dismissive. (…) Walsh’s book gives a fine overview of the basics of Roman Catholic faith, life, and Church. Those unfamiliar with Catholicism will find it very helpful."

Thomas P. Rausch, SJ, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, USA

Table of Contents


1. The Church - Catholic and Roman

2. What do Catholics believe?

3. Authority

4. People

5. Structures

6. The Vatican

7. The Liturgy

8. Devotional Life

9. The Church in Society

10. Unfinished Business

Appendix: The history of the Papacy




About the Author

Michael Walsh is a writer and broadcaster. He was librarian at Heythrop College, University of London from 1972 to 2001 and was the editor of the Heythrop Journal. A former Jesuit, he has written on many aspects of the history of Christianity, and especially on the contemporary Church.

About the Series

The Basics

The Basics is a highly successful series of accessible guidebooks which provide an overview of the fundamental principles of a subject area in a jargon-free and undaunting format.

Intended for students approaching a subject for the first time, the books both introduce the essentials of a subject and provide an ideal springboard for further study. With over 50 titles spanning subjects from Artificial Intelligence to Women’s Studies, The Basics are an ideal starting point for students seeking to understand a subject area.

Each text comes with recommendations for further study and gradually introduces the complexities and nuances within a subject.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
REFERENCE / Research
RELIGION / General
RELIGION / Christianity / Catholic