The Church


1. Why do Catholics believe the Church must be apostolic?

Because the Bible says it must be. "the household of God...built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." (Ephesians 2:19-20) How is your Church connected to the Apostles for its foundation, if it wasn't founded in their time at all, and does not extend from their line? The Apostles ordained priests for their churches, and bishops who ordained more, but where do Protestant churches get their pastors? They don't get them from anywhere connected to the Apostles. The line is broken. That by itself proves that the Protestant churches are not the Church of the Bible: their foundation, their founding, doesn't go back to the New Testament period. They are completely modern, therefore not of the Bible.

2. Any Church is apostolic as long as it teaches the New Testament.

That's not what the Bible teaches. Being apostolic is about where your foundation is; where were you founded and by whom; if not by Our Lord beginning with His Apostles and continuing on in an unbroken line, then you are Protestant or something else. But Catholics can prove our line and show you who ordained our bishops all the way back to the Apostles. It's a matter of history and revealed truth: the Bible does not teach that churches can pop up out of nowhere unbidden; it teaches the opposite, that churches are founded by Apostolic men. "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee." (Titus 1:5) Elders do not ordain themselves; they don't start their own churches after deciding they are called; they are ordained by previous bishops to be over a flock of people, and Protestant churches all break down in that regard prior to the 16th century.

3. What evidence is there that the Catholic Church is the Church of history?

Every evidence available to us. We have history; we have Scripture; we have reason; we have faith. But first let's start with Scripture: the Church started by Christ had bishops and a Pope (Peter and the Apostles), a structure that no other Church retains. The same structure is found throughout the historical Church, from the first day to the latest; no other form has been found except among heretics and schismatics, and most of those have died out to show their non-originality; and those that haven't, we can point to the day of their founding to show that they are not Apostolic. There are also the doctrines the Church accepts which are in Scripture that no other Church believes: Purgatory, Mary's Immaculate Conception, Transsubstantiation of the Eucharist, and myriad other things that are unique to the Catholic Church but taught by Scripture; those that reject these things clearly are not Apostolic, when they reject what the Apostles taught.

If we wish to use reason, we can consider all churches and pare it down gradually, by consideration of their founders; for those that are founded later than the first century are not the Church of history. We can carry out this method until we have eliminated all non-Apostolic churches, and we are left with the Catholic Church alone, and the Orthodox, which are connected to us but in schism -- and even that you can point to the beginning of and the principal instigators of it. For all these reasons we know that the Catholic Church is the Church of history.

4. The Reformation didn't invent new doctrines -- it re-discovered Biblical ones.

If they were Biblical, they wouldn't need re-discovered, for God does not let His truth become lost in the Church (John 14:26, 16:13, etc.). But the Reformation did invent new doctrines: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and private interpretation certainly weren't anciently known, nor are they in the Bible to be "re-discovered" there. In modern times Protestants have invented the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture and the right to contraception, and these are only the smallest portion of ideas promoted in the name of the Reformation. Later Protestant ideas are often contrary to earlier Protestant ideas, but all are in the name of the Reformation; so you find one version of Sola Scriptura that allows for some Tradition to be tolerated, and other versions of Sola Scriptura that make all Traditions evil -- but both are Protestant. Protestantism also invented new doctrines by throwing out so many Catholic ones: that Purgatory isn't real is a doctrine invented by Protestantism, that Confession isn't necessary, that Mary wasn't ever-virgin, etc. These things had constantly been believed in the Church, and the novelty was that they might be thrown out. And that proves that Protestantism isn't the Church of history, and all you're left with is the Catholic Church, as it truly is.

5. Jesus didn't start a denomination.

No, but Catholicism isn't a denomination. Denominating churches began when people broke away from the Church and started circulating their new ideas, and there needed to be names ("nomina" in Latin) by which to term their novel faiths; Catholicism has no part in such things, for we were started before there ever was a named community beside us. But I think what you mean is that original Christianity wasn't an organized body like a denomination; and I wonder how you can conclude that, given the New Testament evidence: in Matthew 16:18 Jesus starts a Church with a universal leader, or promises to start one, and bishops under him can be shown in other passages. Matthew 18:15-18 shows structure well enough, as it shows lay people "listening to the Church" for a decision, while Jesus gives the Apostles the power to make authoritative decisions. That's structure; that's organized leadership; that's Catholicism.

6. Why do Catholics insist on one Church?

Because the Bible insists on one Church, and because many competing churches couldn't rationally all be true. Scripture says that we must all be one: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10; see also John 17:20-23, Acts 4:32, Ephesians 1:10, etc.) Scripture insists on unity in the Church so forcefully that fulfilling this demands both unbreakable structure and historical continuity; structure, because a house falls to pieces without it, and historical continuity, because any unified body must either go on for as long as it can, still being one, or else dissipate over time; and that latter is not an option for us.

7. Why do Catholics insist that everyone agree with your doctrines? Diversity isn't bad.

We insist that everyone agree with our doctrines because our doctrines are true and holy. Diversity may be good sometimes, but not diverse falsehoods; there is only one truth, and it is good, and so we want all men to know it, because we want what is good and true to be shared by all. Besides this, Scripture says that Christians must agree with the Church: "If any man does not listen to the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the tax-collectors." (Matthew 18:17) If the Bible says you must agree with the Church, are you going to stand there and tell me that diversity is better? No. You cannot break away from what God says to pursue the trap of diversity. And what God says is said by the Church: "Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven." (Matthew 18:18) That's God's Word, not mine, and people who want to respect what God has bound in heaven have therefore got to listen to the Church on earth.

8. My pastor has studied the Bible for as long as your priest. He can understand it just as well.

Your pastor may be a very smart man and have all the tools for teaching Scripture that Protestantism can provide. But that's not all there is to it. The Bible doesn't teach that pastors are the ultimate authority in interpreting the Bible; the Church is. Authority to bind on earth, and the matter be bound in heaven, wasn't given to your pastor; it was given to the Church, and that makes the Church the authority to go to when it comes to the Bible and its interpretation. Because of that, those who teach in union with the Church have greater reason to be listened to than those who teach their own ideas. It has nothing to do with our priests being smarter or better trained; it has to do with, where is the truth to be found, the whole truth and nothing but the truth: is it in the Catholic Church, or in the Protestant churches? And the fact is, the Catholics have more evidence.

9. The Church isn't meant to be an institution. It's just believers united by faith, no matter where.

First, the Church is meant to be an institution. It has bishops and a Pope over them who we have to listen to -- that's the Biblical portrait, not my own. Second, being a believer means accepting what Jesus taught, including His command to listen to the Church. You speak of being "united by faith" -- that implies faith in the same things. But Protestantism can't provide that. Even the idea of believers being united by faith implies the truth of the Catholic Church, the only Church that is truly united in a single faith and moral code. That's why we insist that everyone be a member of the Church: because we desire unity, and union in the truth taught by Jesus and His Church.

10. The true Church wouldn't bind people to laws and regulations -- be preachers, not law-makers!

Jesus gave the Church the ability to bind on earth and the matter be bound in heaven, and the ability to loose on earth and the matter be loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18). "Binding" and loosing are legislative terms and they imply that the Church can make laws and regulations. A law is simply a binding, authoritative command; the Church has that authority and ability to bind; therefore, the Church can make laws.