Us Catholics are lucky, sometimes I think we have no idea how lucky we are that we have the Church.
It is the universal Church, go almost anywhere in the world and you can find a Catholic parish, and hopefully a priest will turn up and say mass, hear confessions and anoint the sick every once in a while. I’m thinking of parishes in the heart of the Amazon where the priest turns up once a year to say mass. And people think they’ve got tough in this country.
There is only one Church like the Church too, I know there are the Eastern Church communities who are in communion with Rome, and the Eastern Orthodox communities who aren’t but we know they have valid sacraments, but still you could go virtually anywhere and you will be able to attend the Roman rite of the mass if you poke around. (I don’t know how hard it is in Islamic countries, probably quite hard but still)
It always amuses me when protestants say the creed (often with great somberness and plodding pace) when it comes to the bit where it says, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. Catholic? Oooooooooh really, you believe that do you? even though Protestants are endlessly divided by nationality, socially, doctrinally, liturgically, culturally and even racially.
The Roman Church is united, its leadership agrees on doctrine and can be gathered together in the same room without it turning into a pie fight. (not something I’m sure the Anglicans can claim.)
With regards to Anglicans I know this can be a sore point for some of them, the ones that still believe something more than the symbolic happens during Anglican communion. The Catholic Church still regards Anglican orders of priesthood utterly null and void and no I don’t think the Dutch touch changes that either because one Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said so when he re-iterated this in 1998, (yes I know its a Wikipedia link but if you want to verify it you can do the legwork)
Why? because their hierarchy have abandoned the true apostolic meaning of orders and the lost the context of the Church. Wishing that this wasn’t so doesn’t change anything, if you are Anglican you are most, most welcome to join the new ordinariate. (as an aside I can’t emphasise this enough, how truly welcome Anglicans are to join the Catholic Church, we crave, hunger for you to be in communion with the Church, I feel an ache in my heart for Christians separated from Rome.)
This apostolic and doctrinal unity of the Church is why the Tablet’s continued determination to be the voice of dissent is so disturbing, it is making that doctrinal and apostolic unity, which is very real, harder to see. Especially by non Catholics, who can mistakenly point it out as a sign of disunity. Catholics are united, the question is when the Tablet is dissenting is it being Catholic? (simple answer, no, and if a Tabletista does one day read this, which is doubtful, let me clarify, I’m not saying you aren’t Catholic, I’m saying you are being a bad Catholic by attacking Church teaching)
Of course as soon as you start disagreeing with what the Church teaches you inevitably and rapidly become irrelevant because whilst Catholics may sometimes struggle with an aspect of Church teaching they still want to be given authentic Church teaching. They don’t want to be told a watered down version of the truth, which is after all is what is commonly called lies and lets really get the juices flowing, lets call it for what it is, heresy!
Anyway back to the four marks of the Church.
The Apostolic nature of the Church is what guarantees its teaching, its fidelity to, and ability to perform the sacraments. We can trace our priestly orders right back to St Peter. If you doubt this then you only have to look at the way the Catholic Church doesn’t sell out its teaching, whereas the Anglican Church has been selling out from day one on its attack on sacramental worship and especially since it changed its stance on contraception way back in the day. What was once objectively immoral doesn’t suddenly become objectively moral.
The Church is also Holy, set apart from the world to give worship to God. This of course doesn’t mean that its members don’t sin, that would indeed be rather handy. It means that since the Church is the body of Christ it is holy. Being set apart from the world is interesting too, it is perhaps the key reason why modernism (or liberalism as some have come to miss name it) has no place within the Church.
We are called to share the Gospel, the faith of the Apostles, which doesn’t change. Our understanding of it may grow, but the faith never changes. That St Paul railed against the spirit of the age should be enough to prove that, but alas people determined to water down the faith can’t see the woods for the trees when it comes to a clear Biblical injunction.
That the Church is the body of Christ is a great encouragement to Catholics because though we sin as long as we keep endeavoring to conform ourselves to the Church we are conforming ourselves to Christ and hopefully one day our humanity we will be conformed by God fully into Christ’s image, in this life or the next. Wowser and on that note I think I’ll leave it at that.