onsdag 22 april 2009

Why I am a "Roman" Catholic

The use of the term "Roman" Catholic is confined to certain protestant countries where it distinguishes it from other protestant religious groupings which refer to themselves as catholic. In England, for example, the Church of England describes itself as "catholic and reformed" ie protestant, and within it there is an "Anglo-Catholic" group which adheres to many of the liturgical practices of the Catholic church and considers itself as a continuation of the pre-Reformation English Church, whose allegiance was to Rome.

The Catholic church is that Christian body which is in direct line of descent from the Apostles and in communion with the Bishop of Rome, the successors of St Peter. Authority for this claim comes from Matthew 16: 18-19, which establishes the role of the Roman Bishop as exercising a special ministry as the head of the Christian Church on earth.

"You are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven."

The Church of England is not recognised as being in communion with the Bishop of Rome, a matter which was clarified in Apostolicae Curae, a Bull Pope Leo XIII issued in 1896, which declared Anglican orders invalid.

Unlike all other Christian denominations, there never was a time after the Apostles when something called "Catholic church" came into existence. It is the church that begins at the foot of the cross when Jesus said to his mother "Woman, this is your son" and then to the disciple: "This is your mother". (John 19:26-27)

It is the magisterium of the Catholic Church, working out of tradition, that determines how scripture is to be interpreted. A key teaching is that through the ministry of its validly ordained priests, bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ, not in a merely symbolic way but in a manner that makes them really present on the altar. In addition to tradition, we know this from John 6:53–56/60.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him".

"Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"

This was a deliberately shocking statement, because the drinking of blood is forbidden to Jews. Jesus made no attempt to soften what he said, no attempt to correct "misunderstandings," for there were none. His listeners understood perfectly well and were duly shocked, to the point that many of them left him. They no longer thought he was speaking metaphorically. If he had been and they had misunderstood what he said, why was there no correction?

Thus these passages can only have been included if it were intended to emphasise the point that the eating of flesh and drinking of blood were not merely symbolic. It is only the Apostolic (Catholic and Orthodox) churches which make this claim unequivocally.

To conclude, here is a performance of Tu Es Petrus by Palestrina.

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