Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Newman on Catholicity

The Church is everywhere, but it is one ; sects are everywhere, but they are many, independent and discordant. Catholicity is the attribute of the Church, independent of sectaries.
Since my Church isn't catholic, the objector reasons with himself, catholicity, as applied to "Church" must mean something else. Or perhaps my Church really is catholic and "Church" itself means something else. At any rate, I must avoid the temptation to entertain the possibility of the so-called "Catholic Church" as being Church (since it is quite obviously catholic). Yes, it must be the great catholic apostasy. Or if I admit that it is truly "Church" (moreover, part of the Church) then I must understand "catholic" to mean something closer to "lowest common denominator" than to "Catholic".
The Church is a kingdom; a heresy is a family rather than a kingdom; and as a family continually divides and sends out branches, founding new houses, and propagating itself in colonies, each of them as independent as its original head, so was it with heresy.
He goes on to show numerous examples not refraining to point out that each sect called the Catholics by a different name. Yet in order to call "Catholics" anything, they were forced in the first place to pay them that utmost honor of being called "Catholic". For to say "Catholics are carnal" (as the Montanists did), one must start by referring to them as "Catholics". But if none of this rings true of modern sects outside the Catholic Church, Newman continues:
In one point alone the heresies seem universally to have agreed, — in hatred to the Church. This might at that time be considered one of her surest and most obvious Notes. She was that body of which all sects, however divided among themselves, spoke ill ; according to the prophecy, " If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of His household." They disliked and they feared her ; they did their utmost to overcome their mutual differences, in order to unite against her.
In yet one more irony, those sects are "catholic" only in their hatred for "Catholicism". Even if they use the lowest common denominator argument, ("catholic" = the bare essentials of Christianity), whatever could be so fundamentally true of the various non-Catholic sects as to merit being called catholic must also be true of the Catholic Church (faith in Christ, resurrection, forgiveness of sins etc...) Therefore we can omit this argument since it applies also to that Church which it seeks to deny is catholic. For again, if one demonstrates that the Catholic Church really is catholic, the objector must demonstrate that she is not "Church". And if one demonstrates that she is "Church" or even part of "Church", the objector must demonstrate that she's not catholic.

As for us, we hold it self evident that novel sects having no succession from the apostles, teaching doctrines which are not held universally now nor from the beginning and going so far as to name themselves after men, places and systems of ecclesial government rather than prophetic attributes are neither "Church" nor "catholic".


Rene'e said...


I heard this on EWTN and thought you would like it.

Napoleon went to the Church and said to the Pope,” I will destroy the Church.”
The Pope said in response,” If we could not do it, you can not do it.”


Ashley Weis said...

Hey, wouldn't the Church be both a family and a kingdom? A familial kingdom? :)

Anyway, another interesting post. Continually tossing these ideas at me.

Ma, that is an interesting post... I wonder what the Pope meant by that.


George Weis said...

There I go again... aaaarg!


Rene'e said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rene'e said...


It was stated in response to the reference of sinners in the Church on EWTN.

He meant that though there were and are "sinners" in the Church,even they are not enough to destroy her.


Sue Durand said...
This comment has been removed by the author.