<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1906385056278061&ev=PageView&noscript=1" />
Skip to main content Accessibility feedback

The World’s Toughest Catholic Quiz

Some call it “the pop quiz from hell.” Others call it things we can’t print in a family magazine.

You are about to find out if you know as much about your faith as you claim to know. Take it from me: Your ego will suffer. But don’t fall into despair. Most Catholics (some priests included, alas) will answer most of these questions incorrectly.

When I sprang this quiz on an audience of well-informed Catholic business leaders and their spouses, few got more than half the questions right, and that was with some sub rosa “sharing” by test takers. The high score was seventeen right out of twenty, and that was a very good score indeed. Some people got only a third right.

To save you acute embarrassment, this quiz will not be turned in. It is for your enlightenment (and amusement) only. In fact, I suggest you take the quiz in private so no one else will know the truth about the state of your Catholic knowledge. (If you happen to do well, you can brag later.)

For each question, circle the one answer which you think is most fully correct. There are no trick questions, but you must read very carefully. Terms are used in their precise meanings; don’t be fooled into selecting a wrong answer by thinking in loose or colloquial terms. Each question has only one correct answer, but it might be “None of the above.”

At the end of this article I explain why each possible answer is right or wrong. You can score yourself and see how you rate as an apologist. (Sorry, no prizes will be awarded to anyone for anything.)

All set? Here we go:


1. In the Mass

a. Jesus is symbolized by the bread and wine from the moment of consecration onward.

b. Jesus is spiritually present when the community gathers in prayer under the leadership of the priest and ceases to be spiritually present when the priest leaves the sanctuary.

c. Jesus is physically present along with the bread and wine once the consecration has occurred.

d. Jesus is present, and the bread and wine are not present, after the consecration.

e. None of the above.

2. After the consecration

a. The host on the paten is Jesus’ body, and the contents of the chalice are Jesus’ blood.

b. The host symbolizes Jesus’ body, and the wine symbolizes Jesus’ blood.

c. The host is both Jesus’ body and blood, and the wine is both Jesus’ body and blood.

d. Jesus’ body and blood are really present with the bread and the wine, and this is called the Real Presence.

e. None of the above.

3. The consecration of the Eucharist

a. Can be performed by a Catholic priest or by a priest of an Eastern Orthodox church.

b. Can be performed by a Catholic priest only if he celebrates Mass with at least two witnesses.

c. Can be performed by Catholic priests and Anglican priests so long as they have the proper intention and pronounce the correct words of consecration.

d. Can be performed by deacons and specially-commissioned lay persons in emergency situations.

e. None of the above.

4. A Mass is invalid

a. If fewer than half the people present hold hands during the Our Father.

b. If the priest omits the opening sign of the cross and the Nicene Creed.

c. If the priest celebrates Mass while he is in the state of mortal sin.

d. If the priest ad libs any part of the canon.

e. None of the above.

5. Holy Communion may be taken by

a. Anyone at all, so long as his conscience tells him it is the right thing to do.

b. Any Christian who wishes to manifest the unity which Christ willed for his Church.

c. Catholics in the state of grace, but not by Protestants even if they are in the state of grace.

d. Catholics who have committed mortal sins and are sorry for them, even if they have not confessed them yet in confession.

e. None of the above.

6. The doctrine of the Trinity means

a. There is one God who manifests himself in the three distinct roles of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

b. Since the Resurrection there have been four persons in the Trinity, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ the God-Man.

c. In the Godhead there is only one divine person, and he takes on different.aspects according to his actions as Creator, Redeemer, or Sanctifier.

d. There are three Gods who work so closely together that it is proper to call them one God.

e. None of the above.

7. A deacon is

a. A priest who does not have permission to celebrate Mass until after his wife dies.

b. A layman who may distribute Communion, marry people, baptize babies, and wear vestments.

c. A man who has received the first level of holy orders and is neither a priest nor a layman.

d. Forbidden to hear confessions and give absolution except in emergency situations and in the absence of a priest.

e. None of the above.

8. A sister is

a. Neither a lay person nor a cleric.

b. A cleric, but no longer a lay person.

c. May be installed as a chaplain of a hospital.

d. Is the female equivalent of a deacon.

e. None of the above.

9. An archbishop

a. Is always an older bishop and, by canon law, must be at least 55 years of age.

b. Has jurisdiction over all the bishops within his metropolitan area, and he may overrule their decisions.

c. Assists the pope by voting on prospective cardinals.

d. Is a regular bishop who has been given the honorary title of archbishop by leading bishops in his national bishops’ conference.

e. None of the above.

10. Which of the following is a defined Catholic dogma? 

a. Limbo

b. Purgatory

c. Both limbo and purgatory.

d. Priestly celibacy.

e. None of the above.

11. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception means

a. Mary conceived Jesus immaculately in her womb, without the aid of a human father.

b. Mary conceived Jesus immaculately in her womb, and he remained without sin.

c. Mary was conceived immaculately in her mother’s womb, without the aid of a human father.

d. Mary was conceived immaculately in her mother’s womb and was preserved from sin.

e. None of the above.

12. Papal infallibility means

a. The pope is preserved by the Holy Spirit from committing mortal sins.

b. Anything the pope teaches is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit to be true.

c. The pope’s teachings must be obeyed because he is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and thus speaks for the Holy Spirit, who cannot err.

d. The pope is incapable of teaching erroneously on matters of faith and morals when he teaches publicly and officially a doctrine for all Christians, not just Catholics, to hold.

e. None of the above.

13. Contraception is

a. Permissible only to married couples with the permission of their parish priest and under extenuating circumstances.

b. Never permissible, no matter what the circumstances.

c. Permissible if the husband and wife, after honest prayer, conclude it is right for them and do not use it selfishly.

d. Permissible only if the wife’s health would be in danger or if the husband is unable to support a large family.

e. None of the above.

14. The sacrament of confession

a. Must be received before receiving Communion by anyone guilty of a mortal sin since his last confession.

b. Is entirely superfluous if you privately and sincerely confess your sins to God.

c. Must be received by all Catholic adults at least once a year. (This is one of the six precepts of the Church.)

d. Was done away with by Vatican II, except in cases of the three sins which “cry out to God for vengeance”: murder, adultery, and sexism.

e. None of the above.

15. At the Crucifixion

a. Jesus’ human nature died on the cross.

b. Only the human person of Jesus, not the divine person of Jesus, died on the cross.

c. God died on the cross.

d. Jesus’ human and divine natures both died on the cross, but the universe was kept going by the Father and the Holy Spirit until Jesus’ Resurrection.

e. None of the above.

16. Purgatory is

a. A state of natural happiness where souls of unbaptized infants and morally good non-Christians will wait until they are judged on the Last Day.

b. A state of mild punishment for people who were not bad enough to go to hell and who were not good enough to go to heaven.

c. A state of purification for people who die in the state of grace but who do not die with complete love for God.

d. A temporary state where sincere people who do not die in the state of grace get a second chance to do good and thus avoid going to hell.

e. None of the above.

17. An annulment is

a. The canon law equivalent of a divorce under the civil law.

b. A Church-authorized dissolution of a marriage which has failed through the infidelity of one of the spouses.

c. A declaration that no valid marriage existed in the first place, even if there are children born during the relationship.

d. A declaration that children born in a failed marriage are not illegitimate.

e. None of the above.

18. Parish councils

a. Were set up by Vatican II to oversee the work of parish priests.

b. Prevail against the opinions of pastors if at least two-thirds of the council members agree on an issue.

c. Advise the pastor and relieve him of administrative duties, but have no authority over him.

d. Were instituted by Vatican II because the Church is now a democracy, not a monarchy.

e. None of the above.

19. Mortal sin

a. Is nowhere mentioned in Scripture.

b. Is a theological construct from the Church of the Middle Ages, and since Vatican II we recognize that there are only two kinds of sins, venial and serious.

c. Is the same as serious sin; only the words are different.

d. Makes it impossible for you ever to get to heaven, no matter what you do.

e. None of the above.

20. Apologetics means

a. Never having to say you’re sorry.

b. The art of apologizing for being a Catholic.

c. A course which seminarians used to have to take but which they now are exempted from by canon law.

d. Giving reasoned explanations and defenses for the faith.

e. None of the above.


There you have it! Now you know why some people call this “the pop quiz from hell.” Now let’s look at the answers.

Question 1

a. Wrong, because Jesus is not symbolized by the bread and wine–they become him.

b. Wrong, because Jesus is more than just spiritually present during Mass and because he remains present in the consecrated elements until they cease to look like bread and wine. The priest’s presence in the sanctuary isn’t necessary.

c. Wrong, because, although physically present, Jesus is not present with the bread and the wine. They cease to be present after the consecration. This is the heresy of consubstantiation or impanation.

d. Correct, because the bread and wine cease to be present in their essence or substance after the consecration. Only Jesus is present, though the mere appearances of bread and wine remain.

e. Wrong, because 1d is correct.

Question 2

a. Wrong, because the host and the contents of the chalice are each both the body and blood of Jesus, even though, because of their appearances, we commonly call one the body and the other the blood.

b. Wrong, because the host and wine do not symbolize Jesus but become him.

c. Correct, because both the host and the wine (which is no longer wine but is called that only because of its appearance) become both the real body and blood of Jesus.

d. Wrong, because after the consecration the bread and wine cease to be present, so Jesus’ body and blood cannot be present with them.

e. Wrong, because 2c is correct.

Question 3

a. Correct, because the Eastern Orthodox churches have the seven sacraments and therefore a real priesthood. It takes a real priest to confect the Real Presence.

b. Wrong, because a priest may celebrate Mass by himself. The validity of the Mass does not depend on the presence of witnesses. Perhaps you are confusing here the validity of a marriage, which normally requires two witnesses.

c. Wrong, because Anglican orders are not valid. Out of courtesy we call Anglican ministers “Father,” but Pope Leo XIII definitely determined in 1896 that Anglican orders long ago became defective. This means Anglican priests are, technically, Christian laymen. Since they aren’t priests, their having the proper intention and their pronouncing the correct words of consecration are immaterial.

d. Wrong, because deacons have only partial priestly orders and lay people have no priestly orders, and you need full priestly orders to consecrate the Eucharist.

e. Wrong, because 3a is correct.

Question 4

a. Wrong. If you chose this answer you should think seriously about enrolling in a first-grade religion class. The seven-year-olds probably will be able to teach you something.

b. Wrong, even though it is illicit for a priest to omit the opening sign of the cross or, when specified by the rubrics, the creed, such omission does not make the Mass invalid.

c. Wrong, because the efficacy of any sacrament does not depend on the holiness of the minister. If so, we never could tell if absolution “took” in the confessional or if a Mass were validly said, since we can’t see inside the priest’s soul. Sacraments work through their own power, given by Christ, not through the virtuousness of the priest.

d. Wrong, but close. If the priest ad libs the words of consecration, he likely will end up with an invalid Mass. If he ad libs other parts of the canon, he acts illicitly and perhaps sinfully, but the Mass does not become invalid.

e. Correct, because all the other possible answers are wrong.

Question 5

a. Wrong, because, as an obvious case, non-Christians may not take Communion, nor may someone knowingly in the state of mortal sin.

b. Wrong, because canon law provides that only those Christians (such as the Eastern Orthodox) who believe in the Real Presence as Catholics do may take Communion in our churches (canon 844). All they need do is ask.

c. Correct. Since Protestants do not believe as Catholics do regarding the Real Presence, they may not take Communion, even if they are in the state of grace. The very act of taking Communion is a visible sign that you believe exactly as the Catholic Church teaches concerning the Real Presence, and Protestants don’t.

d. Wrong, because, absent a life-or-death situation, you must go to confession before receiving Communion, even if you have repented of your mortal sin.

e. Wrong, because 5c is correct.

Question 6

a. Wrong, because this is the heresy of Modalism, which says that there is one Person in the Godhead and that Person, so to speak, wears different “masks” according to his different activities.

b. Wrong. This is another nonsense answer. The very word Trinity comes from the prefix for three (“tri”), so you should have seen right away that the Trinity could not be composed of four Persons.

c. Wrong, because this is just a rephrasing, in “gender neutral language,” of 6a.

d. Wrong, because Christians are monotheists and believe in one God, not three. No matter how closely together three gods work, they remain three gods, not one.

e. Correct, because all the other possible answers are wrong.

Question 7

a. Wrong, because a deacon is not a married priest. Married priests are called, well, married priests, and they are common in some of the Eastern rites. Although deacons are ordained, they receive only the first level of holy orders.

b. Wrong, because, although deacons may do all these things, they are not laymen. They are clerics, even though they usually don’t dress anything like priests.

c. Correct, because a deacon, as a cleric, is no longer a layman but is not yet a priest.

d. Wrong, because a deacon never can give priestly absolution, for the simple reason that he is not a priest.

e. Wrong, because 7c is correct.

Question 8

a. Wrong, because sisters (women religious), like brothers (men religious), are lay people. They are not ordained–they take vows, which is different.

b. Wrong, because sisters are not ordained, and only the ordained are clerics. There are three grades of clerics: deacons, priests, bishops.

c. Wrong, even though in some places sisters are termed chaplains. According to canon law (canon 564), chaplains, properly speaking, are priests. It isn’t correct to call someone a chaplain merely because he (or she) provides some sort of spiritual counseling.

d. Wrong, because there are no female deacons, because women cannot be ordained as deacons, priests, or bishops.

e. Correct, because all the other possible answers are wrong.

Question 9

a. Wrong, because canon law provides no age requirement for the office of archbishop.

b. Wrong, because diocesan bishops (ordinaries), as distinguished from auxiliary bishops, have only the pope as their boss, though, for ceremonial purposes, arch_bishops take the lead over bishops within their metro_politan areas.

c. Wrong, because cardinals are not selected by voting. The pope chooses them directly.

d. Wrong, because a man becomes an archbishop by being named by the pope to an archepiscopal see. Such sees normally are in larger cities or have had some historical importance.

e. Correct, because all the other possible answers are wrong.

Question 10

a. Wrong, because limbo is not a defined dogma. It is a theological speculation, and good Catholics may believe or not believe in it, as the arguments move them. But if the Church were to define formally the existence or non-existence of limbo, everyone would be obliged in conscience to fall in line.

b. Correct, because purgatory is an official dogma of the Church. Even though it is not much talked about today, Catholics still must believe in it. It is not optional.

c. Wrong, because only purgatory is a defined dogma.

d. Wrong, because priestly celibacy is a custom, not a dogma.

e. Wrong, because 10b is correct.

Question 11

a. Wrong, because this defines not the Immaculate Conception, but the Virgin Birth of Jesus (that is, the birth of Jesus from a Virgin).

b. Wrong, even though it is true Jesus remained without sin and was conceived immaculately. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception concerns Mary’s conception, not Jesus’.

c. Wrong, because Mary had a human father. It is believed her mother’s name was Anne and her father’s Joachim.

d. Correct, because the main consequence of the Immaculate Conception is that Mary was able to live a sinless life. (She could have sinned, had she so chosen, but she chose not to; Adam and Eve could have chosen not to sin, but they chose to sin.)

e. Wrong, because 11d is correct.

Question 12

a. Wrong. This is the notion of impeccability–the inability to sin. Only Jesus was impeccable. It has nothing to do with infallibility, which means the inability to err.

b. Wrong, because the pope’s infallibility is guaranteed only when he speaks officially on matters of faith and morals. If he tells you who will win the next World Series, keep your betting money in your pocket.

c. Wrong, even though it is true that the pope’s teaching (even his non-infallible teaching) must be obeyed. This simply isn’t what the doctrine of infallibility means.

d. Correct, as defined formally at Vatican I (1870).

e. Wrong, because 12d is correct.

Question 13

a. Wrong, because a priest cannot give permission to anyone to engage in any sinful act.

b. Correct, as explained in Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. It is immaterial that most Catholics don’t practice what the Church always has preached. Truth is not determined by majority vote.

c. Wrong, because this is a cop-out. Contraception is always immoral and does not become moral just because some couples agree not to use it “selfishly.” Do bank heists become moral if the thieves agree to distribute the proceeds not to themselves but to the poor?

d. Wrong, because a good motive cannot make an evil act good. If there is a problem with the wife’s health or the family’s pocketbook, the couple should consider natural family planning (which is not the same as the rhythm method); it can be used morally because it does not subvert the requisite openness to new life.

e. Wrong, because 13b is correct.

Question 14

a. Correct. Compare answer 5d.

b. Wrong, because this would imply Jesus set up a superfluous sacrament, confession, and he never did anything superfluously. See John 20:22-23.

c. Wrong, because this is not one of the six precepts of the Church, for the simple reason that you need to go to confession only if you commit a mortal sin, though it is good to go frequently even if you commit only venial sins.

d. Wrong, because this is another nonsense answer. The word “sexism” didn’t even exist during Vatican II.

e. Wrong, because 14a is correct.

Question 15

a. Wrong, because natures aren’t put to death–persons are. When you die, it is not your human nature which dies, but you as a distinct person.

b. Wrong, because there is no human person in Jesus. There is only one Person, the divine, who already (by definition) had a divine nature and who took on a human nature.

c. Correct, because the Person who died on the cross was a divine Person, commonly called the Son of God. Since that Person is God, it is proper to say God died on the cross, even though that sounds odd and may make some unthinking people conclude that it means that God ceased to exists, which, of course, was not the case. (If you were sure this answer could not be right, don’t fret–you’re in good company. Most people miss this question because the correct answer “just doesn’t sound right.”)

d. Wrong, first because natures don’t die, persons do, and second because the answer suggest Jesus couldn’t keep the universe going, as though he ceased to be God between the time of his death and his Resurrection.

e. Wrong, because 15c is correct.

Question 16

a. Wrong, because what is described is almost (not quite) the definition of limbo–not quite because limbo is posited to be a permanent state of natural happiness, not one that will end on the Last Day.

b. Wrong, first because the answer suggests purgatory is permanent (in fact, it will cease to exist at the end of the world when the last person leaves it for heaven), second because the answer suggests purgatory is for people who are not good enough to go to heaven (in fact, it is precisely for people who are good enough to go to heaven–but not quite yet; everyone who goes to purgatory will go to heaven).

c. Correct, because purgatory is a state in which the last vestiges of self-love are removed, so we might enter heaven according to Revelation 21:27, which says “nothing unclean shall enter heaven.”

d. Wrong, because you only go around once in life (“It is appointed to man once to die and then comes judgment” [Heb. 9:27]). Your soul is judged immediately after your death, and your fate is sealed then.

e. Wrong, because 16c is correct.

Question 17

a. Wrong, because there is no canon law equivalent of civil divorce because sacramental marriages can’t be ended by divorce.

b. Wrong, because a sacramental marriage, once made, is not undone even if one of the spouses becomes unfaithful. Only death ends a valid, sacramental marriage.

c. Correct, because the existence of children from the relationship is not a bar to being granted a decree of nullity.

d. Wrong, because an annulment is a decision that no valid, sacramental marriage existed in the first place. It is not a decision about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of children. (Church law holds that children born in putative marriages which are later annulled are to be considered legitimate.)

e. Wrong, because 17c is correct.

Question 18

a. Wrong, because Vatican II did not set up parish councils and because such councils are not above parish priests.

b. Wrong, because this is just a “supermajority variation” of 18a.

c. Correct, because parish councils are under the pastor, who, under canon law, is subject in his running of the parish only to his bishop and to the Vatican.

d. Wrong, because Vatican II did not institute them (parish councils predate Vatican II) and because the Church remains a monarchy, not a democracy, because it mirrors the organization of heaven, which is a monarchy.

e. Wrong, because 18c is correct.

Question 19

a. Wrong, because mortal sin is mentioned in 1 John 5:16: “Not all sin is mortal,” which implies that some sin is.

b. Wrong, because serious sin is exactly the same as mortal sin. Only the words differ.

c. Correct; see 19b.

d. Wrong, because you can go to heaven if you die after repenting of a mortal sin.

e. Wrong, because 19c is correct.

Question 20

a. Wrong, unless you saw the movie Love Story too many times.

b. Wrong. This betrays a penchant for using the colloquial meaning of a word when trying to decide on the word’s definition.

c. Wrong, even though it is true that no seminary we know of has courses in apologetics.

d. Correct. Need we say more?

e. Wrong. Back up one answer.


Those are the answers. Tally up how many you got right. Don’t fret if your percentage is lower than you expected it to be.

As you see, the Catholic faith is a very exact thing. Yes, you can be saved even if you know it imperfectly, but your value as an apologist will increase as you learn how much you still have to learn.

Here are the official rankings:

Fewer than four answers correct: Downright embarrassing. Even random guessing should have gotten you a score of four out of twenty. Crumple up your answer sheet and make a novena.

Four to seven answers correct: Frankly, pretty poor. You have a long way to go before you’re prepared to explain your faith in public.

Eight to ten answers correct: On the low side, but you will be spared public penance.

Eleven to thirteen answers correct: About average or a little better–nothing to be ashamed about, but nothing to write home about either.

Fourteen to sixteen answers correct: You’re nearly ready to take over the adult education classes in your parish–you need to do just a little more homework.

Seventeen to nineteen answers correct: Wonderful! You have every reason to be satisfied with yourself.

Twenty correct: Zounds! Contact me about a job as an apologist.


Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission! Donate