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.