So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Saturday, April 22, 2017

One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. Why be Catholic?

A brief listing of sources describing why one should be Catholic.
Why should a person be Catholic? The answer is really quite simple, but not simplistic. The Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ on the Apostle Peter. The Bishop of Rome has always been the earthly head of the Church. The orthodox Church Fathers universally attested to Rome's preeminence, not based upon mere honour but on the authority given the Office of Peter by Jesus Christ. If one accepts the authority of Jesus Christ, then one must necessarily accept the fact that Jesus entrusted the care of His Church to Peter—and Peter's successors.

Only in the Catholic Church does one find the fullness of the Faith. Outside the Catholic Church there are certainly beautiful examples of grace at work. However, those graces all point and lead to the fullness of the Catholic Faith found in the Catholic Church. To enjoy the fullness of the Faith, one must be in communion with the Church that Jesus Himself founded, the Church to which He gave authority to act in His name.

Eastern Orthodox christians possess much in common with Catholic Christians, but the so-called national "Orthodox" churches have not retained communion with the Bishop of Rome. They, therefore, lack the Petrine Ministry, for one.

Regrettably, most non-Catholic ecclesial communities have relaxed the teaching of Christ regarding divorce and remarriage, and teaching on artificial contraception varies in the non-Catholic eastern churches from the Catholic teaching to a permission to engage in the abomination of artificial contraception. If some had their way, the German Catholic bishops, for example, they would have the Catholic Church also relax Christ's teaching, if that were possible.

The Catholic Church alone preserves the teaching given her by Jesus Christ, i.e., that every valid marriage cannot be dissolved by man, and that artificial contraception is, indeed, an abomination, an affront to God. Non-Catholic churches that permit couples to enter into second "marriages" (while a first spouse is still alive) clearly contradict the teaching of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church considers such "second unions" to be adulterous, as did Christ (Mt 5:31-32). Unless grounds for nullity exists, i.e., proof that a (previous) union was never valid, and therefore never existed (cf Annulment/Decree of Nullity), then a marriage is for life.

We've already touched a bit upon authority in the Church by acknowledging that the Catholic Church, which is comprised of many Eastern Catholic churches in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of Saint Peter, has always had that universal authority. No one dared to question that authority when a Bishop of Rome—St Clement I, for example—stepped in to resolve a dispute in the East (e.g., the correction of the Church at Corinth, circa A.D. 96) and imposed a resolution by virtue of his office, the Office of Peter. No ecumenical council, for that matter, was valid if not ratified by the Bishop of Rome. The pope would send legates to councils to act in his name.

In brief, like it or not, the Roman Pontiff is only answerable to our Lord Jesus Christ. Popes can be reprimanded for their personal behaviour and clumsy personal comments, but if a teaching of faith and/or morals is defined ex cathedra, that teaching enjoys the protection of the Holy Spirit. Point of fact, no pope has ever taught heresy ex cathedra. While the eastern churches were mired in heresy for long periods, the Roman Church remained (and remains) orthodox. The eastern national churches, having demonstrated a history of error, are simply not in a position to challenge Roman authority in faith and morals.

There are other reasons for being Catholic: 1) unity in the truth, and not fragmented along national lines, as are the Eastern Orthodox or national churches; 2) theological depth and development that can only be described as Spirit-guided (think Saint Thomas Aquinas, Blessed John Henry Newman, Pope St. John Paul II, Blessed Paul VI (Humanae Vitae!), etc.). Look at the many blessings given to Catholics: heroic saints; masterful artists and musicians; great theologians; great scientists; immense missionary success; vast educational and health systems that serve all people. These signs point to a fact: the Catholic Church enjoys the blessing of God.

Lastly, the Catholic Church must be who she says she is by virtue of the fact that, given the personal failings of Catholics past and present, no human institution could have survived so many of her members acting badly unless she was protected by God. And not just survive, but thrive!

Catholics, if they be Catholics, are the first to admit to the many wrongs committed in the name of the Church. Pope Saint John Paul II demonstrated contrition on behalf of all Catholics to remind us that we all bear the wrongs of the past and must seek forgiveness from God. However, those wrongs do not invalidate the claims of the Church to be the one True Church. Abusus non tollit usum; the abuse of a thing (by unfaithful Catholics) does not render it (the Church) invalid.

Despite what some might erroneously and irresponsibly claim, the Catholic Church has never taught error in faith and morals. Individual laymen, priests and bishops might fall into doctrinal heresy, but the Office of Peter enjoys the protection of the Holy Spirit. Christ promised to protect the Church under Peter (and his successors!). No other church can make that claim, and that is another reason why one should be Catholic.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.

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