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Catholic and “catholic”

Fr. Paul D. Scalia: The Church’s children should resemble her. We ought to strive to be catholic (universal) in our zeal, our mercy, and our embrace of Truth.


In today’s Gospel, our Lord likens the Kingdom of heaven to “a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.” (Mt 13:44-52) This net, which gathers not just one kind of fish but fish of every kind, serves as a good description of what we confess every Sunday: the Church is catholic.

Now, most people probably think of “Catholic” as the brand name of a particular Christian denomination. Yes, we speak colloquially of the Catholic Church as distinct from the Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist churches, etc. But that’s a fairly recent designation, only since the Reformation. Before the Church was “Catholic” she was already “catholic.” It’s a truth we find expressed in the Church’s earliest years. The word “catholic” means universal, embracing and bringing all things together into a unity (from the Greek kata holos, “according to the whole).

Now, the distinction and relation of “Catholic” and “catholic” is important: one cannot be Catholic without also being catholic. To be a member of the Church means to share in her catholicity. So, what does that entail?

First, the Church is catholic – universal – in the most obvious sense: for all people. “Here comes everybody” is James Joyce’s famous description of the Church. She welcomes all comers, embraces and incorporates all people – “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, all peoples, of every race, nation, and country throughout the world.” (Rev 7:9) She leaves no group or kind of people beyond her mission and solicitude.

Now, catholic in this sense does not mean everyone thrown together willy-nilly, as you might toss all your clothes into the closet. Rather, it means all people brought together as one, as a unified whole. In the United States, we are now witnessing what happens to a society when its various peoples have lost their principle of unity. The Church, however – and, in the end, only the Church – is truly universal because she both embraces all people and makes them one body in Christ.

The implications of this universality should be clear. It means, first, that we welcome all people into the Church. Anyone who repents and believes is welcome regardless of any accidental qualities.  Further, this catholicity requires that we actively seek to bring the Gospel to all peoples, and all peoples to the Church.

Second, the Church is catholic in the sense that she forgives all sins. This is a consequence of her being the continuing presence of Christ Himself in the world.  Our Lord has authorized her to act and speak in His Name. He entrusted to her ministers His own power to forgive, a power limited only by a person’s desire to be forgiven.

Through the ministry of the Church, any of our sins, from the most trivial to the most severe, can be forgiven when we repent and ask forgiveness. Which also means that we should desire the extension of that forgiveness and reconciliation. Indeed, we should participate in the Church’s ministry of reconciliation. As such, our own personal forgiveness should extend as far as the Church’s, from the most trivial slight to the gravest sin against us. As regards forgiveness we can never say, “thus far and no further.”

Throughout her history, from Tertullian to Calvin, the Church has seen plenty of rigorists who would like to shorten the reach of her mercy. Like the slaves in the parable of the wheat and tares (Mt 13:24-43), they want a Church of saints not sinners. In the current “cancel culture,” the mobs of secular rigorists give us a sense of just how brutal a society is that desires pure justice (or what passes for it) and no mercy.

Finally, the Church is catholic in the sense that she possesses all truth. Everything necessary for salvation is found within her doctrine. All religions possess some aspects of the truth. Only Christ’s Church possesses the fullness of the truth.

Notice that the net in the parable brings in “all kinds of fish,” both the desired and the undesired. Similarly, the Church holds both pleasing truths (human dignity, forgiveness, heaven) and hard truths (sin, judgment, hell). To be Catholic means to assent to all that the Church teaches – not just to the parts we like.

The Church’s history is littered with heresies, a word that indicates the choosing of one truth to the exclusion of others (Greek again haerisis, not kata holos). Those who do so cease to be catholic, because they are embracing not the fullness of the truth but only the parts they like. If we call ourselves catholic, we must show ourselves to be truly catholic, embracing all truths — not just the convenient ones.

Mother Church’s children should bear a resemblance to her. So it is that we ought to strive to be catholic in our zeal for souls, in the reach of our mercy, and in our embrace of the truth.

COLUMN BY

Fr. Paul D. Scalia

Fr. Paul Scalia is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Va, where he serves as Episcopal Vicar for Clergy. His new book is That Nothing May Be Lost: Reflections on Catholic Doctrine and Devotion.

EDITORS NOTE: This The Catholic Thing column is republished with permission. © 2020 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.org. The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Christmas in History: First Media Reports of Nativity Story

How did the ancient mass media report the alleged birth of Christ?

The People’s Cube prepared the following compilation of quotes from the Roman and Judean sources, which should help our readers to form an unbiased opinion of what really happened in the days surrounding the so-called Christmas…

© 2007 Directorate of Historical Revisionism, Karl Marx Treatment Center.


Click here for a larger image

OTHER STORIES:

Judea Today

Another Consumer of Nature’s Resources Born in BethlehemAn international scientific consensus has been reached, and it’s not in Mary and Joseph’s favor. Had the parents of Jesus been more proactive in raising their awareness, they may have considered such important factors as Judea’s fragile environment and air pollution that only increases with every newborn child. No matter how amusing a set of small carbon footprints around the house may seem initially, potential parents should always remember that the footprints will only become bigger as the child matures and turns into yet another indulgent consumer of nature’s limited resources.

The Daily Pharisee 

Scrutiny Tightens On Three Magoi’s Lobbying Operation

BETHLEHEM, December 28 – House Ethics Committee Chair Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Judea) urges congressional ethics probe into gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh by three Magoi – who are the focus of criminal investigations by the Justice Department.

The ethics panel said in a statement that a special subcommittee would try to determine if two Nazoreans violated the law by accepting “gifts, travel benefits, contributions to religious committees and organizations, or any other items of value” from the three Magoi and their lobbying operation.

The Nazoreans who were identified by name as the focus of the committee’s investigations – Joseph and Mary – have said they are innocent of wrongdoing.

Samara Post Intelligencer

Suspected Religious Cultists Exposed in Bethlehem

A homeless couple claiming that an “angel” had declared their infant child “the son of God,” was caught red-handed while apparently trying to engage in some ritual involving animals behind a local inn. Despite his young age, the unplanned and undocumented child whom they referred to as “Jesus” had already acquired notoriety in the religious underworld, operating under several aliases including Immanuel, Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace. Authorities are investigating a possible link to the highly profitable smuggling of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The police arrived at the scene after a call made by a local PETA activist who complained that the couple and the mob that followed them had inconvenienced the resident animals and “displaced handfuls of hay” in order to make a bed for the infant. “What sort of people are these that would invade a peaceful manger, disturb the animals in their home, deprive them of sleep of nourishment, and do YHWH knows what else with them?”

Prosecutors are considering charging the couple as accessories to an unauthorized light show that terrorized area shepherds who happened to be tending their flocks at night. No charges are currently being considered against the infant, though authorities have made clear that he will require careful observation and possibly therapy as he grows up.

The Nazareth Post (Lifestyle Section)

Mary: A Pregnant Teen Failed By The Government

Despite the homeschooling, the abstinence-only education, and her determination to save herself for that special someone, Mary Davidian, 15, still found herself pregnant. Neither her former resolve to remain chaste, not the fact that she was known by all and sundry as “The Virgin Mary,” prevented her from becoming yet another statistic in the growing problem of unwed teen mothers throughout the Roman Empire, particularly in poorer provinces like Judea.

Mary’s been betrothed for some time to Joseph Nazareth, 18, who operates a struggling lumber fabrication business out of his own home. But Joseph – and Mary, too – both agree he’s not the father.

When asked about the father’s identity, Mary raves incoherently about angels and dreams, and someone whom she can only identify as God, a likely gang-related alias.

“We don’t know who this God is, his age, if perhaps he’s so much older than young Mary that he might be guilty of statutory rape,” said a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Nazareth. “Notwithstanding, the fact that Mary conceived even though she’s still a virgin is all the proof anyone needs, that teaching abstinence to our children is totally unrealistic and ineffective. Can’t the right-winged religious extremists see that even when they remain virgins, young people are still going to go out and have sex?”

Rome News and World Report

Senate Ratings At All-Time Low As Occupation of Judea Continues

ROME (Associated Papyrus) The Senate voted today to continue the funding of legions in the Middle East under the threat of a dictatorial veto if they passed a bill that would have denied the funds. The move further alienated the Senate’s base, which vented its anger with posts on The DailyStylus.

“We voted to put them in office with the promise that they’d bring the legions home before Saturnalia. Well, it’s Saturnalia and they’re not home. I’m never voting again!” wrote Alvamus Goldscroll, an unemployed lyre player from Woodaquaduct. “I’m so angry, I’m getting a mallet. Stop the illegal occupation of Judea!”

EDITORS NOTE: This political satire (a.k.a. politically correct) column originally appeared on The Peoples Cube.