in Catholica

Being the Church

„Todd illustrates the huge difference between being the Church and being a denomination. A denomination is free to alter its beliefs, practices, and structures as it deems best; nothing is given. As George Weigel puts it in his book The Truth of Catholicism, a denomination is always in the process of recreating itself:

There is little that is given or secure in a denomination; the denomination is constantly being remade by its members. Christianity as denomination has no distinctive, fixed form, given to it by Christ; it adapts its form, its institutional structures, to the patterns of the age…. In much of American denominational Christianity today, institutional process is more important than binding doctrinal reference points; anything can change. The denominational community’s boundaries are ill defined, even porous, because being nonjudgmental is essential to group maintenance. Religious leadership is equated with bureaucratic managership; bishops and other formally constituted religious leaders are discussion moderators whose job is to keep all opinions in play, rather than authoritative teachers.

A denomination is something we help create by joining it; according to Vatican II, however, the Church is a divinely instituted community into which we are incorporated by the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist). Denominations have members like voluntary associations or clubs; the Church has members as a human body has arms and legs, fingers and toes. A denomination has moving boundaries, doctrinally and morally; the Church, according to Vatican II, is nourished by creeds and moral convictions that clearly establish its boundaries. The structures of a denomination are something we can alter at will; the Church, according to Vatican II, has a form, or structure, given to it by Christ. Catholicism has bishops and a ministerial priesthood, and Peter’s successor, the Bishop of Rome, not because Catholics today think these are good ways to do things but because Christ wills these for his Church.

Why in the world would the Catholic Church want to become another Episcopal Church? Why would it want to cease to be the Church and become just one more denomination among thousands?“ [Pontifications]

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