Thursday, February 07, 2008

What means this word Catholic?

"Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance." -Opening of the Athanasian Creed


"I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting. Amen." -From the Apostle's Creed

"And I believe one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church."
-From the Creed called Nicene (i.e. Nicene-Constantinopolitan).

From the usage of the word "Catholic" in ancient times we see that it speaks, above all, of the Church and of the Faith of that Church (namely, its doctrine). This word is used by everybody in Christianity, and is the property of no one denomination. The churches under the Pope, the Roman Catholic and the Byzantine (Eastern Rite) Catholic Churches, have been associated with this word in a denominational sense, which causes some confusion. It leads to the bad argument of Cardinal Newman, that if, in any town you asked to be taken to the Catholic Church, you would be taken to the Roman Catholic Church, which makes it, alone, the real thing. Actually, it means the cab driver reads the signs on the front of church buildings, and it proves only that he is literate, at least to that degree. Beyond that, it proves nothing.

It offends some Roman Catholics that others, Anglicans, the Orthodox, the Polish National Catholic Church, sometimes even the Byzantine Catholic Churches, openly use the word "Catholic" as their own property. But, the use of this word by others is not intended as a gesture of disrespect for Roman Catholics, and neither is it used to seduce the naive of their flock into a wolf's lair- the old "bait and switch." It is, rather, respect for what we know ourselves to be, and for what we believe and teach (and the capital "C" is used in the Book of Common Prayer because, by usage, "Catholic" is a name of the Church. We need not use the lower case).

We believe in the Catholic Church, and furthermore, we believe the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church (i.e. we believe what it teaches and the Truth to which it testifies). Each of us says these words in the first person: "I believe." This is not a denominational word, but a credal word. It is a word that lives in the persuasion of the mind, the depth of the heart and the power of conscience. It is theological, not cultural. And, as each person says it liturgically, by the rule of Lex Orandi Lex Credendi, each one rightly takes it as his own. We do not say we believe it as someone else's property, removed from us. We do not claim to believe a church that we do not belong to. We do not confess a Faith that we cannot own. We intend no offense or disrespect, and certainly no deception; but, we will not give up this word or what it means, for it belongs to us just as surely as Christ himself is our Lord.

When we speak of branches of the Church, we do not intend even so much as to imply, let alone assert, that outward and apparent division among God's people is the plan and purpose of God. It is not of the nature of the Church that it exists in divided branches, rather it is symptomatic of the current state of all mankind this side of our promised immortality. Partly, divisions are due to the sin and foolishness of fallen man, and the problem of division was addressed long ago by St. Paul, writing to the Church in Corinth.

"For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ."1 He did not say, "the true Church among you are those who say 'I am of Cephas.' " Neither did he say, "the true Church among you are both those who say 'I am of Cephas' and 'I am of Paul'- the double foundation o' foolish Corinthians." Even those who saw themselves as separate because they were better than the others, those who said "I am of Christ," were rebuked by the Apostle for their divisiveness. Paul attributed all of this to childishness and carnality. 2 The idea that these divisions were God's plan, or that one party should be favored as right, and the others condemned as wrong, was not considered by the Apostle. Nor would he consider it today.

But, current divisions into which the Church has been driven are historical, not the fault of anyone living, and they are beyond the power of anyone simply to remedy (therefore I said "partly" above). The Anglican view is that both Rome and Orthodoxy are the One True Church, and so are we. In fact, we agree with The Catechism of the Catholic Church where it says that everyone who is baptized belongs to the Church.3 Division is not the plan of God, but he has provided what is needed for the salvation of each soul through the Church, nonetheless. Furthermore, the divisions exist even among members of the same Communions. In the United States each major city has Orthodox Churches of various jurisdictions, answering to different bishops under different Patriarchates. And, before anyone begins to crow triumphantly, let it be remembered that in addition to the Roman (as in Latin Rite) Catholic bishop, in any given city we find any number of Byzantine Catholic bishops (and often feelings of strife exist between the Byzantine Catholics and the Latin Rite, or Roman, Catholics). Nonetheless, people in these outwardly divided bodies, none of whom created this work of history, are part of the Body of Christ and belong to one Church. The Church Militant is visible, and, for the present, visibly divided.

Common Property

It was never possible, really, for the Gospel to be preached in all nations without the Church having within it differences of culture and language. Therefore, unity has had obstacles, some of them very sad. The division of the Coptic Christians from the rest of the Church as early as the Council of Chalcedon was not about real heresy, but about perceived heresy due to a simple, or rather complicated, misunderstanding of the Greek word, ὑπόστᾰσις (hypostasis). Differences of culture have also caused problems of misunderstanding. But, for the most part, the Church was unified for a thousand years, and only in recent decades (beginning in the 1960s) have the ancient Patriarchates of Rome and Constantinople approached each other in charity with a view to reconciliation. But, they remain divided.

Our common property, nonetheless, is the Apostolic Succession, both as an unbroken line of orthodox teaching, and as a sacramental link through our bishops to the Apostles and the Incarnate Christ, the Risen Christ Who breathed on them the Holy Spirit. This is the Tradition that includes all of our Scriptures with the key that unlocks their true meaning, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our fathers died and were imprisoned during the persecution by the Empire, and they fought for the Faith once delivered to the saints 4 by defending and clarifying that Faith, seen most obviously in the Ecumenical Councils. They preached in times and places of peril to pagans of many tongues and strange customs, overcame opposition, and established the Church of Christ in many lands where demonic spirits demanded sacrifice to false gods, tearing down those shrines to build new holy places for the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.

The mark of the Holy Spirit is the revelation of Jesus Christ that we find as their collective teaching, and the Gospel that was the testimony of the Apostles and other martyred eyewitnesses. The teaching has its universal and complete uniformity of meaning because of the Holy Spirit, who creates unity of mind that cuts through all the chaos of human fallenness, across times and across continents. This is "what has been believed always, everywhere and by all" clearly and obviously in a way that defies the apparent disunity of temporary polities.

This is what we mean by "the Catholic Church" and "the Catholic Faith." This supernatural and visible heritage among mankind is our common possession.

__

1. I Corinthians 1:11, 12
2. 3:3,4
3. 12:13
4. Jude 3

18 comments:

poetreader said...

Masterful!
Wish I'd said that!
Well, sooner or later I'm sure I will.

ed

An Anglican Cleric said...

I'm sorry, but the word "Catholic" is shared in a joint copyright agreement between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Catholic Church. Any such use of the word "Catholic" by a body outside of said bodies represents a violation of the aforementioned copyright and is subject to legal action (unless used with a lower case "c" in nonbinding documents).

The young fogey said...

Tried to answer this nearly five years ago. Pretty close to yours I dare say, Father.

An Anglican Cleric, I'm fairly sure the Roman Catholic Church isn't suing the Polish National Catholic Church, a small but real and fairly orthodox American church, over use of the word.

Use of the C word by Orthodox has meant either acknowledging a commonality with Rome like Anglo-Catholics do or (more the official line) the ultimate rejection of it, like some Protestants ('we're the real catholics') only with a one-true-church claim mirroring Rome's.

Sometimes in America there was a legal as well as theological or sentimental reason: the word remained in denominational names because it's in old charters of parish churches started as Greek Catholic ones. Show continuity, win in court and keep the buildings. So until 1970 the official denominational name of the old Russian Orthodox dioceses was the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in the USA (or America, I don't remember which) and a 1930s schism from Rome is still officially the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Diocese (it's under Constantinople).

An Anglican Cleric said...

Of course I meant it tongue firmly planted in cheek.

poetreader said...

AC
I laughed. Thanks for the light note. You managed to show how ridiculous word games can become. As soon as one tries to establish a proprietary interest in a long-standing word, one ends up in strange logical and logistical tangles. This word has a history, and its history bears out pretty much the meaning Fr. Hart has discerned, and does not justify its use as a denominational label.

ed

John said...

I think the Continung Church should drop the alphabet soup stuff and become the Confederate Catholic Church.
.

When you think about it it is accurate.

I am glad to share my trademark for a small royalty

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Confederate? I trust this is not an American allusion to history, in which case it would make no sense. I assume it refers to jurisdictions not formally tied together, following the same set of principles.

Anonymous said...

A Sad Aside:

Perhaps some of you are already aware of this, but in Norway, some 4 years ago a group of (Roman) Catholics (supported by one of their bishops, now deceased) launched a lawsuit against the "Nordic Catholic Church" (which originated in 1999 when a group of "Evangelical Catholics" left the Lutheran State Church of Norway and placed themselves under the episcopal oversight of the Polish National Catholic Church) requesting the court to bar the NCC form using the word "Catholic" (Katolsk) in its name or any of its documents. The State Church had no objection to this, since it (like the other Scandinavian and German Lutheran bodies) translates the word "Catholic" in the Creed and elsewhere either as "Christian" (following Luther in this) or else with a word meaning "universal" (almanig or allemanig). Despite the Orthodox submitting briefs on the side of the NCC and against The RC claim, the court indicated that the suit seemed to be based on valid legal premises, even though it dismissed it in the end on the grounds that the suit had been brought too late, after the time limit for bringing a suit in such a case had expired.

William Tighe

Anonymous said...

The following are quotes from St.Augustine of Hippo:
'I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic church.'
A Christian man is a Catholic while he remains in the church. Cut off he becomes a heretic. The Spirit does not follow an amputated member.'
Taking into account all the different Christian traditions that abound in the world,which of them has the authority to interpret the scriptures? And outside of which tradition would a Christian man be considered a heretic?
Ann

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Ann:

So, what's your point? We who contribute to this blog, Anglicans one and all, are fully joined right now to the Catholic Church of which St. Augustine spoke.

Taking into account all the different Christian traditions that abound in the world,which of them has the authority to interpret the scriptures? And outside of which tradition would a Christian man be considered a heretic?

The test is easy enough to pass. Wherever the Church holds truly to the faith once delivered to the saints, which by necessity brings us back to "that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all" since Apostolic times, coupled with the Apostolic authority and charisms to validate the sacraments, you find the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. That includes us.

Tom S. said...

An honest, sincere and would appear heartfelt article, Fr. Hart. Hat-tip to you sir. I wish that I could share that view, but I don't believe that the primary sources are on your side in this one.

I created an article on my obscure blog after years of hearing young fogey make a similar claim.

With few exceptions I attempted to avoid the papacy issue as part of the topic.

In the end we all have to make choices and I believe that I stand with Ss Pacian,Damasus,Irenaeus Cyril of Jerusalem and Optatus of Milevis.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The comment by Tom S. is a perfect example of hit and run "apologetics" that makes no argument at all, but rather appeals to an illusory delusion that his opinion must be self-evident. I think Roman Catholicism deserves better, frankly. The position I take, as an Anglican theologian and a fairly good Church historian, is based on a very good grasp of the primary sources, and always has been. But, Tom S. does the hit and run thing, and keeps moving.

I suppose that some of the self-appointed apologists are impressed by their list of quotations, and are shocked to discover that I find such lists to be unconvincing concerning the point that the comments are intended to make. We do not read the ancient references to "the Catholic Church" as meaning "the Roman Catholic Church." That alone is a point to be debated, not assumed.

By the way, I am surprised that none of these apologists has pulled out the usual list of quotations by St. Maximos the Confessor. It is my favorite list of words taken so completely out of their historical context as to make the use of them into an abuse.

Sorry, O Hit and run apologists; but your point needs to be debated. Rejecting your conclusion is not the same as rejecting the Fathers. Your point of view is not self-evident.

Tom S. said...

Fr.Hart: The comment by Tom S. is a perfect example of hit and run "apologetics" that makes no argument at all, but rather appeals to an illusory delusion that his opinion must be self-evident.

Given the world of the internet today and examples are abundant of my fellow Catholics who exhibit various tracks and throw it out for all the world to “see the light”, is indeed alive an well. This was not my intent and I don’t fault you for jumping to that conclusion. Having respect for the forum and those on it, I didn’t feel it my right or position to dump several pages of primary sources on your site. I chose to link material with which to provide some constructive discussion. I most certainly don’t believe that the material is self-evident to anyone’s position. And over the past 15 years on the net I have been called many things, but never an apologist. I have no polished debate skills and have no desire in bludgeoning my fellow Anglicans or Orthodox communions. However I do have personal experience with the reformation, because it lives within my own house, being married to a Baptist.

So perhaps we could start over. Your premise if I understand it correctly is based on this:

Fr. Hart: “the usage of the word "Catholic" in ancient times we see that it speaks, above all, of the Church and of the Faith of that Church (namely, its doctrine)” and you proceed to state 3 different creeds.

I can agree with you on all of the above. However, you then state that the use of the term Catholic in a denominational sense causes confusion, I take issue with you. I believe it provides needed clarity.

The primary source documents deal not just with the Faith of the church, but with the protection of as St. Irenaeus says the apostolic paradosis. It is the duty of the church to protect the paradosis, otherwise there is no basis from which to defend the faithful against heresy. This then IMO means that ecclesiology has to be included along side the creeds. Otherwise we have a unity which lacks both obedience and charity. Would you agree?

Fr. Hart: “current divisions into which the Church has been driven are historical, not the fault of anyone living, and they are beyond the power of anyone simply to remedy (therefore I said "partly" above). Division is not the plan of God, but he has provided what is needed for the salvation of each soul through the Church, nonetheless.”

Again I agree, however the primary sources deal directly with this issue. Schism isn’t acceptable within the term Catholic that I’m aware of (but I can be taught), I don’t see how one isn’t drawn to the conclusion that schism is simply something we have to accept, this may not be your intent, but it seems to be the likely inference. I f it is, I don’t find schism as being inclusive of the term Catholic in the church fathers? If that is correct then clearly there are those who are Christian based on the creeds yet not Catholic based on apostolic paradosis. Would you agree without getting into who’s in & who’s out?

Donatists & Novatians were not removed from the term Catholic by creeds, but by the authority of the church as you know. Do you believe that God did not provide us with the means to formally exclude those who are not in obedience to His church for issues not dealing with heresy (which clearly He did) but with issues of obedience?

Fr. Hart: We do not read the ancient references to "the Catholic Church" as meaning "the Roman Catholic Church." That alone is a point to be debated, not assumed.

I don’t make that assumption either, sorry if I gave that impression. As you’ve stated Roman linked with Catholic is simply describes the Liturgy not the paradosis.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Tom S.

First of all, by Primary Sources you must mean the Scriptures, the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils. I see no reason for your confidence that they somehow make a case against my elaboration here of three of those Primary Source documents. Neither should you forget that what I write is based on my knowledge of those same Primary Sources that I have studying for well over three decades.

I do not mean that schism is acceptable or good within the Catholic Church, otherwise I would not say that it is caused by sin. I do mean, rather, that God is not limited by human failing, and that he works through the Church despite human imperfections. That schism within the Church is not only possible, but a fact of history, seems beyond dispute.

We see in I Corinthians that schism can be defined in two ways: 1) from the Church and 2) within the Church. Both Roman Catholics and Orthodox often find the second to be a scandalous and impossible notion. We, however, accept the fact that Christians are not yet free of the effects of Original Sin in this life, and that the polities of the Church in this time, due to the weakness of the flesh, can be effected by it. These divisions are clearly set forth before our eyes; and yet we have no right to say to the other members, "I have no need of thee," neither to say, "I am not of the Body." We believe that no one in the Church, not even the Patriarch of Rome, can simply "unchurch" other Christians. Neither do we believe that one branch of the Church can "unchurch" other branches (see how I use the word "branch" in the article itself at the top of this thread).

Article XIX says: "The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same."

This describes the Church Catholic in a way that is accessible to people who need to have confidence that they are in a true congregation of that Church. It presupposes true doctrine and valid sacraments. It sets forth as necessary many things, including valid Apostolic Succession, true Eucharistic theology and faithful teaching in general, all of which we are sure we have in their fullness.

I am not sure why you write what you do about the Donatists and Novatians. My article is about how the Creeds use the word "Catholic," both to affirm the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith. Yes, the Donatists and Novatians erred from the Church, but they did so on the basis of false doctrines they held, in which they denied God's grace and forgiveness to those who had repented. Their exclusion from the Church was doctrinal, which is usually the case. Therefore, it was as much credal as it was ecclesiastical.

Tom S said...

Fr Hart: First of all, by Primary Sources you must mean the Scriptures, the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.

Tom: Yes, although in this case specifically I was referring to the Church Father mini-cantena on my blog. While my Latin breaks down after the 3rd declination, it’s rusty. I too have studied the fathers for the same period of time, but clearly my disadvantage is not in a formal setting. In that time I’ve noticed that regardless of who I read for commentary and analysis on the fathers, it’s not so much what they say as what they don’t. This includes Romans as well. Note on my side bar of my blog “Historian Motto” happens to have been an Anglican Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson and its something I try to live by in these discussions.

Fr. Hart: That schism within the Church is not only possible, but a fact of history, seems beyond dispute.

Tom: Sorry I guess I am unable to grasp how “schism” on the one hand and “within the church” on the other can co-exist- within. One is by definition out isn’t it?

Fr. Hart:"I am not of the Body." We believe that no one in the Church, not even the Patriarch of Rome, can simply "unchurch" other Christians. Neither do we believe that one branch of the Church can "unchurch" other branches (see how I use the word "branch" in the article itself at the top of this thread).

Tom: I am intentionally trying to put forth the effort to avoid as much as possible papal primacy in the discussion. And while I can partly agree with your statement of fallen man as a cause of division, that would be based on lack of obedience to the rightful authority specifically which in turn is caused by the fall of man. Again without getting into the whom or what St. Irenaeus of Lyon is refering too, clearly the church has the right (without councils or creeds, since they weren’t utilized in the 2nd century) to remove local churches from the body of Christ.

I don’t quite agree with you on St. Paul’s reference to the Corinthians either. I would read that as the laity, who where infants in the faith, not mature Christians. Additionally, there wasn’t a schism between St. Paul, St. Peter and Apollos as far as I read it. And it is on this level IMO that schism causes division, not at the level of the laity. This is why I started out with St. Ignatius on my blog, not simply because it has the word Catholic in it (which would be simplistic in the extreme), but because he very clearly states that the laity follows the bishop “As Christ DOES the Father”.
That’s how I read schism are to be avoided, through obedience to the bishop, who in turn is obedient to Christ and the teachings of the apostles. ST. Pacian, Bishop of Barcelona, Epistles to Sympronian states much the same: “Therefore he who is a Catholic, the same man is obedient. He who is obedient, the same is a Christian, and thus the Catholic is a Christian”

Naturally neither of them had to deal with what does one do when there is disagreement between bishops.

As I read the fathers it is disobedience to the lawful authority that leads one into schism and at point there after generally into heresy as well. So for me either Rome is in error with papal primacy, or Orthodoxy is in it’s rejection of the filioque, or Anglicans are correct in holding to the branch theory. Two of the three are in clear disobedience to the Catholic church, wherever she is found.

Fr. Hart: This describes the Church Catholic in a way that is accessible to people who need to have confidence that they are in a true congregation of that Church. It presupposes true doctrine and valid sacraments. It sets forth as necessary many things, including valid Apostolic Succession, true Eucharistic theology and faithful teaching in general, all of which we are sure we have in their fullness.

Tom: No offense intended here, out of obedience to my church as you know, I’m bound by Apostolicae Curae. However, I recognize that this is a jurisdictional matter more so then a doctrinal one and Cardinal Willebrands statement in ARCIC-II that it is at least possible for restoration, I pray for that eventuality. I’m certainly unable to commit the time needed to untangle that particular web. For the sake of discussion, you can assume agreement with what you said, but in schism only.

Fr. Hart: I am not sure why you write what you do about the Donatists and Novatians. My article is about how the Creeds use the word "Catholic," both to affirm the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith. Yes, the Donatists and Novatians erred from the Church, but they did so on the basis of false doctrines they held, in which they denied God's grace and forgiveness to those who had repented. Their exclusion from the Church was doctrinal, which is usually the case. Therefore, it was as much credal as it was ecclesiastical.

Tom: I disagree. The Novatians were schismatics to being with not heretics. It was over the issue of who was the bishop of Rome. There was no council or creed with which to appeal too, that I know of. In the Donatist case, they were the witnesses, not Traditor(who gave up sacred scripture or vessels) to the True faith and they didn’t apostatized like the lapsed Catholics.
They were “unchurch” by the church, but not as you would recommend (by creed) but by councils from which they were excluded, although their bishops out numbered the Catholics. The Donatist were after all considered to be Catholics during the persecutions under Emperor Diocletian. Additionally, St. Cyprian & St. Basil were among those who rejected baptism by heretic’s as valid. That ruling was as far as I can tell based strickly on the authority of Pope Stephen.
Which leads me to St. Vincent of Lerins “canon” where he clairifies what he means by it in chapters 4,5 & 6 (Donatists & Pope Stephen) is what he uses as examples of it.

So “that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all” is not an appeal to any creeds, still less to councils, or consenses of bishops. IMO it is to those who are charged with protecting the apostolic paradosis.

Sorry I didn't intent this to be so lenghty. If you have the time to respond fine. If not that's fine too.

Respectfully,
Tom

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Tom S.

The authority that exists in true doctrine is what you are missing or disputing in my comments. The Donatists, for example, were never removed from the Church by any authority. They taught a false doctrine, namely that God does not forgive those who lapsed under persecution. They denied, as well, the indelible nature of the unrepeatable sacraments. By rejecting true doctrine in essential matters they removed themselves from the Church.

My use of the Corinthian passages takes into account that the nature of division among believers there proves that sin causes division among Christians based on a carnal notion of affiliation. What we have today is the same problem, only it is more broad. Perhaps only laity were involved back then, but if so, why would the Apostle have to address it instead of the local clergy? Nonetheless, if you cannot grasp the idea of schism within the Church, it may be because you underestimate the power of sin, and also the grace of God. Sin is present everywhere that fallen man is found, and the grace of God is present through the word and sacraments because that is his will and purpose in his Son.

I respect the fact that you are bound in obedience to Apostolicae Curae, as I am bound by persuasion and conviction to Saepius Officio. The essential difference between us is that I see true doctrine as something that cannot simply be dictated by the Church's official authority. The opposite is the Anglican (and Orthodox) view. The official authority of the Church must yield to this principle: No authority is higher than the Truth, that is, the word of God. The second paragraph of the Article I quoted says that (in certain specifics known to everyone who believes the doctrines of the English Reformation) the Church of Rome has erred. Not that it ceased to be a true Church, as the Continental Protestants taught; but, simply, that some of its teaching has strayed from the truth.

After those days, however, the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics were making headway in ironing out these differences, all of which are matters of conviction. Such useful discussion must be resumed, which is what I hope and pray for. Reunion has to be based on theological common ground, matters of conviction, and therefore no stumbling block to conscience.

Tom S said...

Thanks for your comments, Father, I'm still unmoved by your position of schism within the church, but I'll reflect on the issue of sin with respect to schism.

I would expect no less from you with respect to Saepius Officio.

Perhaps since you've tackles the term Catholic you should do as well for the term Orthodox. After all those not within the Orthodox communion would be implicitly un-orthodox, little "o" or big "O" I have not idea.

Blessings to you & your readers.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Saepius Officio is the last word on the subject it addresses.