HOW TO IDENTIFY THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Classic Catholic teaching states that the Church is "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic." A few other principles of importance here are the Church being the mystical body of Christ, the indefectibility of the Church, the infallibility of the pope, and finally the promise of Christ that "the gates of Hell shall not prevail over it." Let us review each of these features in detail:
ONE: Unity of government is one essential quality which it must possess, even in such cases where there clearly was more than one group. At the top of course is God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but after that (and first in the earthly realm) there comes the pope, who succeeds Peter in the role of using the keys of the kingdom. There can never be more than one pope at any given time. Even in those times where there were two or even three persons claiming to be the pope and recognized as such by substantial portions of the Church during their lifetimes, only one of them at any time (at most) could have ever been the pope and the others, regardless of how holy and pious and good and capable as leaders of the flock some of them in fact had been, were only "antipopes."
The only other alternative is to have no pope, such as what happens when each pope dies and until the next pope accepts his office. Just as having two and three claimants to the papal throne did not destroy the unity of government of the Church, neither does that frequent but usually brief period without any living pope. Were such a popeless period to be sustained over a period of several years, even that would not pose a major problem for the Church. In 1268, when Pope Clement IV died, the Church allowed nearly three entire years to pass before electing Pope Gregory X in 1271.
In those times when the Church is between popes, She is united in government by being submitted both to the popes which have already gone and to the popes yet to come. We unite ourselves to the popes of the past by obeying the things they commanded while they were alive as if they were still alive and still there ruling and expecting us to obey them. We unite ourselves to the popes of the future by having resolved that we shall obey them as the final authority when they come to exist. It is quite proper for any Catholic to speak of being "in union with the pope" and not merely "the papacy," even when the Church is between popes, or uncertain as to which (if any) of more than one claimant is the pope.
Another part of that oneness is the unity of the believers themselves who all live in the same framework of right and wrong. Even in those rare cases where there is a gray area where the Church has not as yet ruled as to what is right or wrong, believers continue to stand up for each other and help each other. We Catholics are all united to the Truth and since there is only one real Truth, we are therefore united to each other in that one same Truth.
This oneness does not necessarily imply personal friendship or even an absence of petty rivalries and even animosities. Paul even fought with Barnabas in the Bible (Acts 15:39), and Church history is littered with great Saints, such as Augustine and Jerome, or Epiphanius and John Chrysostom, who were at odds with each other for various personal reasons. That is still very much the case today, all the more so in the relative absence of any clearly and authoritatively Catholic leadership who might be concerned with resolving these difficulties.
One essential part of that unity is that every Catholic is united in submission to the pope. Every true Catholic with a right to the name MUST be united to the pope, but as will be seen from the foregoing chapters this is not necessarily the same thing as a union with John Paul II. It is also of interest to discuss whether one's union with John Paul II (if any) is bilateral or unilateral, and where unilateral, which way and why.
HOLY: Holiness, piety, reverence, a life led in accordance with the Ten Commandments of God and the Six Commandments of the Church, is an essential quality unique to the Roman Catholic Church. It is true that we are all sinners, and that no one walking about on the surface of the earth other than Jesus and Mary is known to have completely avoided sin. The Church serves and must always serve the purpose of drawing people to God and separating them from their sins.
Holiness is not just being "nice people." Many false churches and religions and even non-religions are filled with "nice people." Holiness most certainly does include kindness as a basic component, but a supernatural kindness which goes the extra mile and even to death, and yet can also be as firm and stern as death itself. The standard is not human but Divine. "Nice people" may do well by human standards, but Holiness is a Divine standard. The Founder of our Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, is perfectly holy, and what holiness the Church possesses is all drawn from, and fed by, the holiness of Her Founder.
What better way is there to be Holy than to behave as if God is watching, since in fact, He is. With great humility, the holy priest approaches the sacred altar of God where also resides the tabernacle containing the consecrated hosts, actual pieces yet whole and entire of His sacred body and blood and soul and divinity. The congregation kneels in awe and silence as the priest prays, both as one of them by facing the altar as they do, but also on their behalf as only a priest can do.
If a priest should puncture this sacred action with irreverent jokes or other mannerisms or behaviors which mock God, or act as though He is not there or He doesn't exist, that priest is not a holy priest, regardless of how moral his private life may be. It is written that God does not tolerate mockery. If a priest's worship is not holy, then his is not the worship of the Roman Catholic Church, and any real Catholic, if present, should leave. It does not make the slightest bit of difference whether the priest does this on his own initiative, as any priest potentially could have done in the "good old days" before "the changes," or if he does so at the direction of his equally irreverent diocesan Post-Vatican II bishop. The moral implications of both situations are identical.
Irreverent worship scandalizes, offends, and disgusts those who attend it, or else it teaches them to mock God. Irreverent worship therefore provokes sin, the very opposite of what reverent worship does. What is said of worship also applies to all actions of the Church and its representatives. A man of the cloth must always live as though God were watching. By so doing he causes those he meets up with to abandon their sins, and therefore he so does the work of the Church in his community.
CATHOLIC: That is simply an ancient word meaning "universal." The Catholic Church is universal primarily in the sense that it is for all persons and not just Europeans or whoever. The moral standards promulgated by the Church are binding on all life which is capable of moral choice. The truths of the Church are not merely "true" for some people and not others any more than the notion that 2 + 2 = 4 is only "true" for certain persons. In particular, the Catholic Church is not owned or controlled by any secular power. The East Orthodox churches are controlled by the Russian government, the Greek government, and so forth. The Protestant churches were also founded (and many are still run) by secular rulers in Germany, England, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, and so forth.
Another sense of the word Catholic is that this Church teaches universally all things which are to be believed. There can be no picking and choosing in Faith or Morals. A Catholic must believe all that the Church teaches.
"Catholic" has also come to imply that certain "character" distinct from "Protestant" or "Jewish" or "Atheist." There are many numerous tiny details and actions and an outlook of the Faithful, such as making the sign of the cross, or grace both before and after meals, or veneration of the Catholic saints, which reflect Catholic belief and alliance. When an individual employs or exhibits all of these details in his life he is saying through them, whether hypocritically or genuinely, "I am a Catholic."
Finally, "Catholic" is the name of our Church. Only one Church has been able to retain that title out of all of the other "Christian" churches. Those who separated from it in the East have been forced to take the title of "Orthodox." Those who separated from it during what some call the "Reformation" have been forced to take the title of "Protestant." Those who separated from it to follow Dollinger and the Jansenists have been forced to take the title of "Old Catholic," the nearest anyone else has come to keeping the title of "Catholic," yet still obviously different.
APOSTOLIC: The Catholic church has the interesting distinction of having been started by Jesus and the Apostles back in the first century. All others come along on the scene much later. The Catholic bishops of today have a line of succession which can be traced all the way back to the original twelve Apostles. It is also the only church which has exactly the same faith as those Apostles. The connection between then and now is something I call continuity of which more will be said in later chapters. What this amounts to is the fact that the Catholic Church is not merely similar to the early Church (indeed, some differences might be found, particularly in a number of procedural and disciplinary details), but in fact the identical self same thing.
Another aspect of being Apostolic is the authority to send missionaries and the exercise of that authority so as to bring people from every tribe and nation into the Church. The Church is never content to leave anyone in spiritual ignorance or darkness, but desires that all should come to a true knowledge of Christ. Many missionary priests, bishops, monks, and nuns have suffered much to bring the Gospel to hostile nations and tribes.
THE CHURCH IS THE MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST: As such it is a living thing which grows and changes over time even as a person does from infant to child to adolescent to mature adult. This growth occurs naturally and organically, every new detail firmly rooted in other details which have been long established and logically derived from them. For example, since Jesus Christ is one person, the Second Person of the Trinity, yet with two natures, His human nature and His divine nature, it is therefore proper to refer to His mother as the Mother of God, or the Theotokos (Greek for "God-bearer.") That mystical body cannot be killed in any sense except that sense in which He Himself died on the cross. Even though He dies, He also lives forever.
THE POPE IS INFALLIBLE: It is often said that the Church is infallible, but this always boils down to the fact that the pope is infallible. The "infallibility of the Church" is always the product of the Church echoing what is taught by Her popes. This means that a Catholic pope, as pope and when speaking to the entire Church, could never teach error in matters of faith or morals. As an individual, or private theologian, even after his election to the papacy, he is every bit as subject to error as any other theologian of comparable wisdom and knowledge. Also, outside the realms of Faith and Morals (and most particularly in the realm of Discipline), his competence is no different than that of any man of comparable wisdom and knowledge. Everything taught by the Church has been either taught or at least affirmed and approved by some pope at some time. Finally, Infallibility is intrinsically intertwined with universal sovereignty. All Christians, in order to follow Christ, must be subject to the Supreme Pontiff.
Conversely, the Supreme Pontiff (pope), in order to exercise such authority, must be able to claim jurisdiction or authority over all Catholics. That is part of the definition of his office. For him to claim that his jurisdiction is over any less than all of the Church is for him to relinquish the universal authority of the papacy and take on a status similar to that of the other bishops. The jurisdiction or authority of all bishops other than the Bishop of Rome is limited, in most cases to a certain diocese or archdiocese, or to the members of the religious order to which one is Abbot. For precisely that reason they are not, in and of themselves, infallible, but derive what limited infallibility they do have from their pope.
THE CHURCH IS INDEFECTIBLE: This means that the Church could never be changed from the perfect society which Jesus Christ made into anything else. If ever it should seem that it has, either the changes are not substantial or else it means that that which is changed has ceased to be the Church, and (since the Church could never be done away with) something else has become the Church. The only eternal society in the earthly realm is that perfect and eternal society created by God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. All other societies will eventually disappear.
THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT: No matter what evil Satan and his demons throw at the Church, the Church suffers but is never destroyed. It is unpublicized yet widely known, scourged but not killed (2 Corinthians 4:7-12). Even Christ, while dead on the cross, or in the grave, was spiritually alive and preaching to the spirits in prison. So too, even the Church, if mortally attacked, is in fact very much spiritually alive, and as it turns out, bodily alive as well.
With all of that in mind, I now introduce the startling and shocking but true thesis which resides at the heart of the remainder of this book and is to be demonstrated throughout it:
THE TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC MOVEMENT
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH!
When we of the traditional Catholic movement use such words as "traditional" to describe ourselves or "tridentine" to describe our worship, these terms are strictly descriptive adjectives, on par with "short" or "tall." We are simply Roman Catholics. Our right, and indeed our duty before God, to cling tenaciously to that title is absolute and irrefutable! It may take a large number of martyrs to prove this, but if that is necessary then so be it! God forbid that we should ever become a "Traditional Catholic" Church created in opposition or rivalry to the "Roman Catholic" Church. We are the Church; it is the Modernists who have set up a brand new rival Church and we must not allow them to continue using the name of "Catholic" to describe themselves.
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