The word is sometimes heard from disaffected Catholics -- those who may have got their feelings hurt by something a priest told them, or who perhaps have been perpetually bored by the vacuous preaching and inane liturgical antics in their parish churches -- that they have decided to "leave the Catholic Church." (I wrote recently on this with regard to certain relatives of mine.) What these people probably do not know is that there is no other Church whither they may go. There is only one Church, and it must be the Catholic Church, the Church of the ages, the one that has apostolic lineage and belief. Never mind whatever alleged corruptions may ave entered into her over the centuries. As a body of humans, the Church cannot be without fault. But as a divine institution, the one created by Christ, she must be that of which Saint Paul wrote: holy, spotless and without wrinkle.
The unfortunate, ignorant defector from the Church may one day come to the realization that there is nothing good outside the Catholic Church that she herself has not always had, and that, to boot, other Christian groups came into existence on account of their departures from the true doctrines espoused by the only Church.
One would not get very far in saying the Apostles Creed to realize that without the Catholic Church there would be no certainty of what to believe about nearly anything. Let's see, for example: "I believe in God the Father almighty ..." How is one sure that in God there is paternity, and that He is limitless in power? (Note that this is only the first line of the creed.) One may attempt to answer by saying that Jesus taught the existence of the Father. But was this meant merely to be taken as a figure of speech, when He only meant to indicate divinity, pure and simple; or perhaps did Christ mean that there is indeed a distinct Person in God who is called the Father? This question in turn leads one to ask: Who is this Jesus to speak authoritatively, such that one is compelled to believe that there is a Father in God? Is this speaker, Christ the "Son" Himself God, or does He merely bear a relationship to this Father-God in a way like a human son to his dad? One might ask further whether this Father is truly "almighty" (in the creed) or whether He may be limited in some way: Can He do literally all things? (At one time there wre heretical Christians who denied this.) And finally: Is the teaching of Christ, upon which this opening phrase of the creed is derived, accurately reported in the bible? In other words: Is the bible itself a reliable record of what Christ said? Yet further: Who said that the bible ought to be the norm and measure by which we are to believe anything? Could it perhaps be merely a series of pious documents -- admirable perhaps -- but not binding on the prospective believer for his salvation?
None of these questions can be settled with certainty without the authoritative teaching of the Catholic Church which has the guarantee of infallible truth. Should one depart from it, one must necessarily lose the stability, the footing upon which faith must depend. In such case, one would be set adrift in a sea of any number of alternative possibilities of what may be true about God and other spiritual realities. The Catholic Church is the "pillar and ground of truth," in the words of Saint Paul, who came to understand this, not from the bible (which then did not exist as such), but directly from Christ and from the apostles who proceeded him in the one truth Church. The Church then must be a supernatural reality and not a mere human institution (even though it is composed of men). The Church, in fact, is the body of Christ, an extension of Himself (its Head) into His members. When one leaves the true Church in search of anything other, he necessarily departs from Christ Himself. This he may do with little or even not culpability, depending on what he knew he was doing thereby, but the significance of taking leave of the Church is most serious.
I write this because I know there are Catholics who have no idea of what the Church is. They were badly catechized and were left substantially ignorant about it. Some of them, coming to an awakening of spiritual sensibilities, became dismayed over their local Catholic parish and its secular, silly, half-hearted religiosity, and left the true Church for some other exciting, interesting expression of Christian belief. Others became so bored by their spiritually lifeless parishes that they simply dropped out and bothered themselves no further with religion.
You, dear people, need to have at least a vague sense of appreciation of the necessity of the Church for your salvation. Without the one and only Church established by Christ you'd be literally astray, lost, and off the only track that can bring you to salvation. As I indicated, you cannot even profess the Creed, nor can you rely on the veracity of the bible, unless the authority of Christ's church were the foundation of those beliefs.
After this brief lesson in the foundation for even the most elementary truths of the faith, how would you ever be able to profess more complex expressions such as "consubstantial with the Father," or "begotten, not made;" or "proceeds from the Father and the Son;" -- unless you had the Church assuring you of their truth?
Outside the Catholic church there is only falsehood, and perhaps a simulation of truth, a semblance, a substitution for its truth -- what Plato called opinion, as opposed to truth. That you are a Catholic is due to the sheer benevolence of God. Your gratitude to Him should know no bounds.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Fr. Perrone: Catholics sometimes "leave the Church" because the treasures they forfeit thereby are often hidden by dissent and confusion
Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" (Assumption Grotto News, June 19, 2016):