Who is a Catholic?


The roman catholic church in Uzhhorod (Ukraine)

The roman catholic church in Uzhhorod (Ukraine) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Given the selection of a new Pope, the Roman Catholic Church is much discussed in the media and on blogs. Here is a random comment I replied to today in one place. It is a comment I can partly assent to, but rather more needed to be said:

Anglicans ARE Catholic. In fact, many of us secretly believe we are more Catholic than the Romans, though we’re usually tactful enough to mention this to them. And of course, we are ALL, Roman and English, “under Christ” in an ultimate sense – the question at issue is merely the more mundane one of how exactly one goes about delegating Christ’s authority on a day-to-day level.

My response was as follows:

Every Christian is a Catholic except those who believe that their denomination has a monopoly. If we be looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, as it says, we will all be looking at the right direction, the right leader, who needs no vicar, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The authority of Christ is not at this time a political one – the devil has the lease on the politics of this world and its nation states for now, so Churches in all cases should be separate from states.

About David J. James

52 year old accountant who loves languages, literature, history, religion, politics, internet, vlogging and blogging and lively written discussion. Conservative Christian, married to an angel, we have three kids, and live in Warsaw, Poland. I can help you with company set-up, bookkeeping, payroll, tax, audit and due diligence all over Poland and the region.

Posted on 19/03/2013, in Blog only, Creation v Evolution, Religion and Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Kyle Peters

    I know this post is old and all, but I remembered this just recently after I found a particular website. You said my argument was ‘cogent and brief’ and approved it for publication, but in retrospect it perhaps was a poor argument and I do not think myself very articulate in explaining my position well. May I then provide a link to a more vigorous defense of my faith?

    http://www.catholic.com/documents/pillar-of-fire-pillar-of-truth

    I sincerely hope you will give it serious consideration and thought, though I understand if you simply do not have the time or interest. Either way, I do enjoy following your blog and I hope to see more. Thanks for your time.

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    • You see, Kyle, the link that you gave at a very early point contains the following special pleading for Roman Catholicism:

      Among the Christian churches, only the Catholic Church has existed since the time of Jesus. Every other Christian church is an offshoot of the Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox churches broke away from unity with the pope in 1054. The Protestant churches were established during the Reformation, which began in 1517. (Most of today’s Protestant churches are actually offshoots of the original Protestant offshoots.)

      Only the Catholic Church existed in the tenth century, in the fifth century, and in the first century, faithfully teaching the doctrines given by Christ to the apostles, omitting nothing. The line of popes can be traced back, in unbroken succession, to Peter himself. This is unequaled by any institution in history.

      This argument is actually specious. Why? Because it all hinges on how you define the Church in the first place. If you define the Church as “the Catholic Church” the way they did in the first centuries, they said “Catholic” because it meant “all embracing”. The letters in Revelation show us that churches were first of all not considered by denomination, just the Christians who met at specific places. The New Testament deals with the problem of people spreading wrong doctrine and splitting off, and we know that ot was in defence against that that various denominations did appear – one called the Nicolaitans is even mentioned in Revelation. But the term Catholic referred to all those churched in all places that were willing to recognise each other as retaining apostolic doctrine. In due course creeds were made at conventions and those who assented to these were considered part of the Catholic church but by this time we are already in the Fourth Century and only then did there become a unified Church government, and the reason it was in Rome was because it was being subverted from a group of believers focussed on Christ and seeking to follow Him in love and obedience into a State Religion, one that answers already to the carnal requirements of political power and owes a living to the Prince of the world and not solely to the Prince of Peace.

      At the point at which Justinian makes the Roman Catholic Church a political power right the way through to when Napoleon at the Quirinale the prophesied 1260 years later (reflecting incidentally the 1260 days of Antichrist’s personal sway at the close of this age, which hasn’t started yet although not much remains for this to be feasible in the way we have be anticipating it for centuries), ownership of the organisation was taken away from Christ who said that His Kingdom was not of this World and given to the prince whose fiefdom is very much of this world. The church then pursued political power for 1260 years and didn’t care too much about the quality of those heading it at certain times, and when we look at some of those who have been popes we can only ask ourselves that even if the doctrine of Apostolic succession were true, ie were a true way of understanding the verses on which it is hung in Catholic theology, how could such succession survive the interloping of such diabolical office holders? Can the vicar of Christ on earth be a devil? Or is it more likely that the devil would send his emissaries to seek to control Christ’s church the minute their eyes were taken off the goal, just as he had done in Israel, and succeed?

      In the meantime of course individuals who were in the Church as members (after all, everyone was, believer and unbeliever alike, and they took sacraments side by side in a blasphemous way provoking the Lord for centuries upon centuries as the devil laughed) still were Christ’s own, still were loyal, still struggled to understand how what they could read in the Bible – as far as they were allowed – squared with the antocs of prelates, and quietly they led Christian lives, relied on Christ, and could be sure that even though they were led off into all manner of inappropriate things like praying to human beings or buying priests’ undergarments as pardons, or idolising pieces of painted wood, still to the degree that they found the Gospel hidden amongst all these side-shows and cleaved unto Jesus, He will have been receiving them just as He always promised to do. No thanks to the system, though. Jesus’ church always existed but the real “Catholic” church had nothing to do with the so-called Roman Catholic Church, nor the Orthodox, in all of its Byzantine flavours, nor indeed the various Protestant denominations when they arose. Jesus calls His own one by one – “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” and this is the Catholic Church – the true church of believers who truly love Jesus and believe in Him for their salvation IRRESPECTIVE of which organisation they belong to, if indeed any.

      God’s temple is not made with hands.

      Of course if you want to change the definition of Church to mean what you want it to mean rather than what Jesus recognises under that term, then you can get away with saying what was said in the two quoted paragraphs above. But without a blatant re-defining of what Church actually means and will indeed mean for all eternity, the above quote from your source would be at best irrelevant and at worst a simple lie.

      And until we can get past this issue, is it really worth my proceeding to read the rest? We really already got into what is, for me, the core of the issue.

      Since Napoleon Buonaparte and his freemasonic “brothers” took back the curse Justinian gave and placed it on the Nation State in the way we have the Nation State today, the Roman Church has a great opportunity to focus back on Jesus Christ and do great work. To do so it needs a root and branch reform – a review of the doctrinal history since Augustine of Hippo and a confrontation of each doctrine and practice with the whole counsel of God, the Bible, and not comapring tradition to tradition, and favorite proof texts that ignore other texts. This is needed and would be in the interests of every believer in Christ whichever organisation they find themselves in now.

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  2. Mike Ellwood

    I was brought up as a Roman Catholic and we were told that “Catholic” meant “universal”, and this is reflected in the common English usage of small-c “catholic” as in “he has catholic tastes”, meaning wide-ranging tastes. I no longer regard myself as either a Catholic or a Christian (I prefer to take Shaw’s approach and call myself an agnostic, rather than an atheist – not that I agree with a lot of Shaw’s views, e.g. on spelling reform. That’s G.B.Shaw, not T.E.Shaw, of course).

    “so Churches in all cases should be separate from states.”

    True, but this has never been the case in England, either in pre- or post-Reformation times. The established church was always used as a political tool, sadly.

    It would be healthier for governance and for the CofE if the latter were dis-established. If Bishops (or Rabbis or Immams or any minister of religion) believes there should be a spiritual dimension to the legislature, then let him or her stand for election (and the upper house should be all-elected, and on a non-party basis, i.e. they should all be independents). There should be no appointed Bishops, etc.

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    • That’s quite correct, any religious appointments to governments need to go via the same system as the non-religious ones, however I am very skeptical about how the ballot box works anyway, and the role of political parties and parliamentarians in the first place. It seems to me we actually have the technology now for a far more open democracy and could be consulted far more on an issue-by-issue basis, meaning that we wouldn’t need these people we feed from our taxes and pay their bloated expense bills, we could instruct the civil service ourselves via the machine. That’s the kind of democracy I’m looking for, rather than one where I vote some fallible person into a privileged job for five years based on promises he has no intention of keeping, and based on a multi-party system where whoever you vote for, the same thing happens anyway and you cannot recognise the actual agenda as relating back to any of these parties’ manifestos. Only a minority of decent politicians, many but not all of them people of faith anyhow, keep the current democracy even half-way tolerable. But the whole thing needs a review from a zero base. We are now sitting on technology our grandparents were still only dreaming of, but basing our democratic system on ideas from the Middle Ages and even Classical Times.

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  3. Kyle Peters

    I respectfully disagree with your dismissal of Roman Catholic Christianity, Mr. Huliganov. Christ founded the Catholic Church on the rock of Peter, whereas all other branches were founded by men and men only. That does not mean we look down on Protestants or Eastern Orthodox followers, merely that they are sheep who have become lost from the herd, and are still baptismal brothers and sisters. You are correct that Christ is our leader and the Truth Himself, but He delegated His earthly leadership to the Pope, who is a shepherd and a fisher of men. The Church has indeed had close calls because of human mistakes and infiltration by the devil and others, but it has endured its trials for two millennia and at its core it remains true to the doctrine and traditions of Christ and the Apostles, unlike (unfortunately) several branches which have become highly heretical. It is true the devil possesses and rules many states, especially western ones, but the Church is not a state. It is the Church only, a community of the faithful.

    In any case, it might be a good idea to take precedent from Pope John Paul II and establish ecumenical dialogue to further discuss these issues, rather than for either side to hold grudges and point fingers.

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    • I’m very happy to approve your comment for publication and even give it five stars as a very cogent and brief statement of the usual Roman Catholic position.

      That having been said, even your comment makes it clear why it is hard for Roman Catholics and Protestants to agree on things because we really do approach things from very different startpoints. In my case I recognise the Bible as authoritative and take as little heed as I can from human traditions which even Jesus warned us against, saying “ye have made the commandment of none effect by your tradition”.

      You seem sure that Apostolic Succession and Papacy are what Jesus had in mind when saying to Peter that “on This Rock I shall build My Church”. Has it not occurred to you that Jesus is the Rock? The whole conversation was about who people say Jesus is. This is even borne out by prophesy when Moses was sheltered in a rock against the wrath of God.

      The Doctrines on which Roman Catholicism is based have changed over time, many under a traceable influence from the syncretism of Pagan ideas, not necessarily by wrong motives of those involved at the time, but still in the light of Scripture unlikely to be pleasing to God. Other doctrines appeared I have to say clearly from politic and economic expedient and they changed one way and another over time. We don’t have the sale of pardons now to reduce purgatory time but the underlying anti-biblical doctrine of purgatory still persists. The early Church fathers would not recognise the doctrine, and this is by far not the only area in which independent congregations around the world today looking to the Bible alone for their guidance rather than a large, entropic mixed bag of traditions can often seem closer to the early Church than the Roman one does.

      What do you suppose Jesus thinks of the amazing wealth stored up in the Vatican? Ok, maybe it will not be there much longer since Francis I has said he will be putting the poor first. Imagine how many would be brought in humility to the foot of the Cross if the new Pope were finally to do what each one before ought to have done and never did! This would be the one incontrovertible proof that the Roman Catholic Church really does put Jesus first and His commandments rather than being a machine for the accumulation of wealth and power as it clearly has been for a lot of its history.

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  4. What IS a Catholic, then?

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    • Catholic means “all-embracing”. At the time of the NIcene Creed, the creedmakers were making the point that every believer is in the Church, that there really is only one Church. This later became comstrued into “everyone else should really be in my denomination” but that’s actually the opposite of being Catholic, in the original meaning of the word. Just one of many of the sad ironies that have happened to words as the devil has been attaching these instruments of human thought down the centuries and subverting the real meanings of words and expressions.

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