The Vatican. The Inquisition. Contraception. Celibacy. Apparitions and miracles. Plots and scandals. The Catholic Church is seldom out of the news. But what do its one billion adherents really believe, and how do they put their beliefs into practice in worship, the family, and society? This down-to-earth account goes back to the early Christian creeds to uncover the roots of modern Catholic thinking. It avoids getting bogged down in theological technicalities, and throws light on aspects of the Church's institutional structure and liturgical practice that even Catholics can find baffling: why go to confession? How are people made saints? What is 'infallible' about the Pope? Topics addressed include: - scripture and tradition - sacraments and prayer - popular piety - personal and social morality - reform, mission, and interreligious dialogue Lawrence Cunningham, a theologian, prize-winning writer and university teacher, provides an overview of Catholicism today which will be indispensable for undergraduates and lay study groups.