Recently I’ve heard of some of our Catholic parishioners complaining about people coming up to them from other churches and telling them (our parishioners) that they (Catholics) are not Christians. So, I’d like to shed some light on this matter. If one studies the history of Christianity, it’s abundantly clear that early Christian beliefs were Catholic. In fact, for the first millennium (before the Reformation), there was complete Christian unity over the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

Since then, not only is there disagreement about the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, but many religions claim the Bible is the only “rule of faith”, meaning that it contains all of the material one needs for theology, and that this material is so sufficiently clear that one does not need apostolic tradition or the Church’s magisterium (teaching authority) to help one understand it. Many think that anything extraneous to the Bible is simply non-authoritative, unnecessary, or wrong — and may well hinder one in coming to God. Catholics on the other hand, believe that the “rule of faith” — is found in the living teaching authority of the Catholic Church, to which it was entrusted with the tradition of the oral teachings of Jesus and the apostles, along with the authority to interpret Scripture correctly.

The early Church Fathers describe the Church as Catholic. In the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch (110 A.D.), the word “Catholic” is used to distinguish the Church of Jesus Christ, from heretical (non-Christian) teachings. Ignatius was the first to document the term “Catholic” in its current form, to describe the Universal Church. In the 4th Century, the Catholic Church defined the “Trinity” and fought against the heresy of “Arianism”, which stated that Jesus was not “fully God” and not “fully human.”

The Catholic Church protected the Bible throughout the ages until the Gutenberg press was invented. Century after century, monks in monasteries faithfully copied Scripture. It would take each monk ten years to copy one Bible and thousands of faithful Catholics dedicated their lives to this work. Catholics protected the Bible over the centuries of wars, famines, plagues, the fall of Rome, fires, and threats from all sides. This was long before any other denominations existed.

The Catholic Church chose which books to include in the Bible at the Synods of Hippo (393 AD) and Carthage (397 AD). The non-Catholic Bible scholar Peter Flint, who won “best popular book” from the Biblical Archeology Society for his translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, tells us that there was no Bible until 397, when the Catholic Church decided on which books belong in the Bible. Peter Flint said that without the Catholic Church we have no Bible, just a bunch of books and letters. 

The above summary is in no way a complete or exhaustive history of the Catholic Church, but it gives you a flavor of why the Catholic Church, in every way, is Christian. There are many beautiful traditions and teachings of our church that might be confusing to some — even to Catholics themselves — but rather than making judgments or relying on the opinion of another individual, I encourage anyone who has questions to consult a reliable Catholic resource or even contact me to seek answers to your questions.

St. Bernard Catholic Church has scheduled a Mission for March 19-21. Our guest speaker will be John T. “Jack” Johnson, who served as an ordained Baptist minister for 22 years. In fact, from 1986-1990, he was the pastor at First Baptist Church at New Market. After considerable study and a giant step of faith, he was received into the Catholic Church in 1999. On March 21 at 6 p.m., he will be talking about his faith journey. I cordially invite all of you to our church to hear Jack share his witness. See you there.

Father Dennis Faker is pastor of St. Bernards Catholic Church.

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(5) comments

YourNameHere

I would like to respectfully disagree with this article.
If you read the Bible, you would see where Catholic beliefs do not fall in line with Bible teachings and principles. You should be able to see this immediately if you were to only read through Genesis itself.

I encourage everyone to read the Bible, not just the parts you like, or your favorite scriptures. Read it from beginning to end.

From idolatry to baptism and beyond, many Catholic traditions do not follow Bible teachings, go directly against Jehovah God and are the exact behaviors taught and warned against by Jehovah and Jesus Christ.

Read the Bible. Educate yourselves about Jehovah and Jesus Christ. Ask questions. Statues of Jesus, baptising at infancy, crosses around your necks, etc, will not save you.

Evan Williams

Thank you for the solid article, Father!

@ trustandobey:

"Interestingly, the Catholic church decided upon which books were spurious and could NOT be trusted, such as the ones in the Apocrypha [sic]. (Why the Catholic church changed its mind concerning this is a different and interesting study)."

The Deuterocanon were considered authoritative in both the Synods of Hippo and Carthage. While individuals within or without (cf. Luther) the Church challenged the authority of the Deuterocanon, the Catholic Church has not formally changed her teaching on the matter.

The Church challenged the authenticity and authority of dozens of Apocryphal books (none of which constitute the Protestant "Apocrypha," so-named), such as the Gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas or the Acta Pauli (Acts of St. Paul). It seems that you've confused the Protestant Apocrypha or Deuterocanon with the books dismissed at the Councils of Hippo and Carthage.

trustandobey

Thank you for your article. My sincerest apologies to you and your parishioners who have been confronted by poor representatives of our common Faith.

I do want to make clear, though, that there are non-Christians in the Catholic church just as there are non-Christians in any church. Being physically present in a local church, no matter the flavor, does not make you a Christian just like being in a garage does not make you a car.

I have brothers and sisters in the Catholic church and brothers and sisters in others churches, because the Church is catholic -- universal, one body. "They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another." I will always emphasize that there DOES need to be a greater amount of love shown among true believers. Jesus' passion was for unity and we need to make that our passion as well.

I must disagree with the author regarding the books of the Bible, however. The Catholic church did not choose (from scratch) the books of the Bible, but affirmed what was already in use throughout the majority of the world. At Carthage they limited the texts that were to be used in Christian services to these books. Interestingly, the Catholic church decided upon which books were spurious and could NOT be trusted, such as the ones in the Apocrypha. (Why the Catholic church changed its mind concerning this is a different and interesting study).

It took centuries to form a complete canon of Scriptures because of the cost and work involved in copying the text, the slowness of transportation, etc., but please keep in mind that for the vast majority of Christians, there already existed a list of texts that were basically agreed upon and in use in the churches at least by the end of the second century, if not before.

Finally, even if I were a Catholic, I do not think I would not be so quick to laud (embellish) the triumphs and supposed 'protections' of the Catholic church throughout history. There is a large amount of tragic history, martyred believers, burned translations, deadly crusades, and evil inquisitions which also took place at the approval and with the authority of the Catholic church.

However, I will be the first to admit that those tragic events should not be held against the present-day Catholic church, just as the death of Jesus should not be held against the Jews -- something that Pope Benedict as recently come out as having written about. What white American today would want to be held responsible for the sick slavery which existed centuries ago, or the deplorable racism which exists decades ago in our country? (I wish I could write of racism only in the past tense, but it is a persistent sin which continues to plague our society.)

The teachings of Christ tell us that as a tree is judged by its fruit so is a minister of Christ to be judged by his fruit. There has been much bad fruit throughout history among the various factions of Christendom. I do NOT believe that this will end until Jesus returns, but until that time I pledge to "endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Donna Wilson

Montgomery County: I will love it when we all can worship in the way we feel that God calls us to worship. What about the below (our Catholic belief) is not Christian? We pronounce this proudly each service, our children have it memorized before they go to school. We believe in each word deeply. Sure our traditions and rituals may not be the same as other Christian churches but there is nothing but reverence to Christ Jesus in all of them.

The Nicene Creed (What we believe as Catholics)
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen

christian

I am surprised that anyone would question whether the Catholic church is Christian. How ludicrous! What one must realize is that the Mormon cult claims to be Christian, but are far from it. I am sorry to say I married a man that joined the cult and as a member for over 30 years. He even reached bishop. He has told me so many horrible things that are part of their rituals. It infuriates me that we have elected these cult members into the Senate, and are considering having some run for the U.S. Presidency. People should never question the teachings of the Catholic church. I was raised a Baptist, in fact was raised in the New Market Baptist Church.

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