Signs For Our Times – Part I: Unity of the Church

In 08 Musings by Jack Reagan on 2013/04/04 at 6:15 AM

The first mark of the true Church is UNITY in both doctrinal and moral teaching. All true Catholics believe the same basic doctrines and accept the Church’s moral code under the direction of the Pope and the bishops.  The liturgy of the Mass is the same everywhere. Unity does not mean sameness; unity refers to essentials.    Even the Eastern rite Churches, which participate in the full unity of the Church under the Pope, celebrate Mass with different ceremonies and languages while maintaining the essential parts of the Mass.

What makes the unbroken unity of the Church unique is that it cannot be explained on purely human terms.  No human organization can maintain its unity in essentials for two millennia.  It simply cannot be done without divine guidance and protection.  No other church or religion has maintained its original unity.  The Protestant world now has about thirty thousand denominations all claiming to be the true church and yet among them there are vast differences in doctrine and moral teaching.  Islam is divided into different allegiances.  Buddhism has divisions.  Judaism has divisions.  The Catholic Church has been threatened with division many times in its history by those who objected to some doctrine or aspect of a doctrine.  The two great divisions were the Great Western Schism of 1054 which gave rise to what are called the Orthodox Churches.  The other is the Protestant Reformation which affected Christian unity but did not destroy the essential unity of the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church did not change or alter any doctrine or moral teaching.

The basic reason for the unity of the Catholic Church is that Christ is what all true Catholics have in common.  Without Christ and all His teachings, there can be no true Church.  Remember that the founder of the Catholic Church is still alive whereas no other religion founder still lives.  We are not followers of a dead human, but a God-man who brought Himself back from the grave.  No other religion even claims such a miracle.

Another preserver of Church unity is the office of the Pope.  There are no democracies in the Bible.  And Christ Himself set up the office when He appointed Peter as chief of the Apostles.  This shows divine wisdom at work because divine authority placed in the hands of one person is better to maintain the status quo than a council with its potential dissensions and disagreements.  

Some have questioned the absolute unity of the Catholic Church by citing dissension in the Church over the last fifty years.  Most dissenters questioned either established doctrine (ordination of women) or sought liturgical changes, and while they are vocal and have gained followers, they are not the custodians of doctrines and morals in the Church and thus do not affect the essentials of the Church.

Whenever an organization loses its essential unity, it can no longer function properly because of internal dissent.  Eventually it can no longer strive to attain its original goals.  It either goes out of business, or it changes its goals to something it might be able to achieve.  The Catholic Church has the same goals and the same means to the goals it always had, namely, the sanctification of those members who make the effort to become Christlike.

If you are a practicing member of the Catholic Church, rejoice in the great gift and live accordingly.  If you are not a Catholic, ponder the miracle of two thousand years of unity in the Catholic Church (after all, the twelve apostles would recognize the moral teaching of the contemporary Catholic Church).   Think of the certitude you could have in a Church established just for you.

Next week we will look at the Holiness of the Church.


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