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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Why Catholic? Further Thoughts

It seems to me that the real implied meaning of Newman's "To be deep in history..." statement is that there is theological significance to the visible ecclesial continuity of which the facts of history give ample testimony. A Protestant position is exactly the opposite: there is no theological significance to any visible ecclesial continuity, whether real or perceived.

As appealing as that Protestant position may be on certain occasions, reflection surely indicates that if visible ecclesial continuity has no theological significance, then the exercise of authority to maintain orthodoxy in faith and morals ultimately is a fruitless undertaking, even in those Protestant communities. It is the revenge of a bad principle, applied consistently. "If I submit only when I agree, the one to whom I submit is me." In other words, there is no golden mean for the principle of individual interpretation; it will destroy the supposed authority of Willow Creek Community Church as truly as it did to Catholic Europe in the 16th century.

It's the frank recognition of that truth that leads to the binary choice between the Catholic Church or atheism. So intermingled is the witness of Christian history with the alleged authority of the Catholic Church that we must in all honesty consider if that authority is divine.

It's of course possible to believe that a great apostasy overtook the Christian people soon after the death of the last apostle, but in the martyrs we are forced to consider that the ones in error are in fact us.

For Christ and His Vicar did they die, not some nebulous concept. When the heathen took the head of Pope Fabian, they knew exactly whom they were attacking. He was not simply one among many; he was in some sense the head of the Church.

There is no reason to profess anything that has no conceivable claim to be true. If the biblical story is the story of God's faithfulness to His people in spite of their unfaithfulness, then the unfolding story of that faithfulness in the New Covenant must be the Catholic Church. The God who sent His only Son for us does not, and could not, hide His gospel after the coming of Christ for more than 1500 years. The New Covenant is about splendor, not beleaguered remnants. Daniel 2 says nothing about secrets. It's pretty clear who and what that Rock is. We may suffer, but it seems that the Church has been suffering in plain sight all this time. Just like her Lord.

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