Friday, August 28, 2020 –
Ever-onward in our discussion of the Marks of the Church! Today we will be talking about CATHOLIC (AKA CATHOLICITY). This one confuses people because so many think, “oh! Y’all just givin’ yourselves the **name** Catholic.” Sorry, but no. Catholic literally means universal. And that, dear reader, is what we aim to clarify today. Basically, we are talking about the little “c” catholic (adjective), not the BIG “C” Catholic (noun).
Here is what the Catechism says about Catholicity:
III. THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC
What does “catholic” mean?
830 The word “catholic” means “universal,” in the sense of “according to the totality” or “in keeping with the whole.” The Church is catholic in a double sense:
First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.” In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him “the fullness of the means of salvation” which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost and will always be so until the day of the Parousia. (<–Side note: Parousia is a fancy Greek term for “Second Coming.”)
831 Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race:
All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one. . . . The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit…
868 The Church is catholic: she proclaims the fullness of the faith. She bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation. She is sent out to all peoples. She speaks to all men. She encompasses all times. She is “missionary of her very nature” (AG 2).
Umm…right. Well, let’s pick up our Baltimore Catechism for our third-grade review:
Q. 564. How is the Church Catholic or universal?
A. The Church is Catholic or universal because it subsists in all ages, teaches all nations, and maintains all truth.
Q. 565. How do you show that the Catholic Church is universal in time, in place, and in doctrine?
A. 1. The Catholic Church is universal in time, for from the time of the Apostles to the present it has existed, taught and labored in every age;
2. It is universal in place, for it has taught throughout the whole world;
3. It is universal in doctrine, for it teaches the same everywhere, and its doctrines are suited to all classes of persons. It has converted all the pagan nations that have ever been converted. (Baltimore Catechism, #3)
And now let’s build on our Baltimore Catechism basics by cracking open Bishop Morrow’s My Catholic Faith:
53. The Catholic Church: Catholicity and Apostolicity
Why is the Church catholic or universal? –The Catholic Church is catholic or universal because, destined to last for all time, it never fails to fulfill the divine commandment to teach all nations all the truths revealed by God.
1. The very name of the Church is Catholic, that is, universal. Even its critics admit that it is catholic. It has existed in all ages since the time of Christ, and teaches all peoples of every nation the same faith…
Wherever we go, whether in Europe, America, Africa, Asia, or Australia, we shall find the Catholic Church established. Everywhere it teaches the same doctrines taught in the United States; everywhere it is ruled by the same Head recognized in the United States: the Pope.
When we say the Church is Catholic or universal, we understand that wherever it exists it must have the mark of unity. Otherwise it would not be the same body, but many separate bodies. Some heretical churches have branches in different countries, but they are really different bodies, because they change doctrines under different conditions.
2. The Church everywhere teaches all the doctrines that Christ commanded His Apostles to teach…
3. The True Church must be so organized that it can admit all men into its communion. This the Catholic Church does. Christ founded the Church for all men, not only for a selected few, He died for all men, and wishes the fruits of His death to do good to all men. At present only the Catholic Church is to be found all over the world, ministering to all races and peoples, to all classes of the population, poor or rich, wise or ignorant, saint or sinner. The Catholic Church is the only Church for Everyman.
Most denominations are national; all are localized. For example: in Germany the Kaiser used to be the head of the Lutheran Church; in Russia the Czar used to be head of the Russian Church. The Queen of England is head of the Anglican Church. (Bishop Morrow, My Catholic Faith, p. 106-107)…
Great! Now that we have our materials all laid out, we will build our list of what makes the Catholic Church…um…well…CATHOLIC:
- Because the Church was instituted by Christ and because He is present in her.
- Christ gave His Church the “the fullness of the means of salvation”
- Christ also gave His Church a mission to spread the Gospel to all the ends of the earth.
- Because Christ made His Church for all men, not just a select few. Christ died for ALL!
- Because the Church is universal in time, place, and doctrine.
- She is universal in time because she remains throughout time since Christ.
- She is universal in place because she is in all places. Meaning, the Church’s mission to spread the Gospel to all places. No corner of the universe can ever be denied; we’ll get to them all…eventually!
- She is universal in doctrine because the same doctrine Christ taught to the Apostles is still handed down today.
All righty! I believe that leaves us with one final Mark of the Church: APOSTOLIC. We will get to that tomorrow, and then maybe a final roundup of any lingering issues or questions followed by our standard break.
Saint Alexander, pray for us!