Much of the following is taken directly from Lumen Gentium,” Vatican II’s “Dogmatic Constitution of the Church. This is Rome’s official definition of itself.
Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element. For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body. (LG 8)
Note what is being said here. Christ is both God and man. In the Incarnation, he “assumed” a human nature that is “inseparably united to Him.” In a similar way, the reprehensible nature of the church hierarchy that we have seen throughout history, which claims to be affirmed in itself through an unverifiable “apostolic succession,” – “the visible social structure” of the Church, is “comparably” “inseparably united” to Christ.
Just in case there is any question about what this means:
This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, … (LG 8)
Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. (LG 14)
“The Roman Catholic Church” here defines and identifies itself, (and subsequent statements have affirmed this), as “the one church of Christ” – founded instantly at the moment the words of Matt 16:18 were spoken – in majestic and glorious authority from that moment till the present. In the following selections, then, just to see what is really being named here, because “The Church” has been defined as “The Roman Catholic Church,” note the glory that this “Church” claims for itself:
When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Roman Catholic Church, and thus, all those who believe would have access through Christ in one Spirit to the Father.(LG 4)
The Roman Catholic Church, which the Spirit guides in way of all truth and which He unified in communion and in works of ministry, He both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with His fruits. By the power of the Gospel He makes the Roman Catholic Church keep the freshness of youth. Uninterruptedly He renews it and leads the Roman Catholic Church to perfect union with its Spouse. (LG4)
Thus, the Roman Catholic Church has been seen as “a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (LG 4)
The mystery of the holy Roman Catholic Church is manifest in its very foundation. The Lord Jesus set it on its course by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Kingdom of God, which, for centuries, had been promised in the Scriptures: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand”(LG 5).
When Jesus, who had suffered the death of the cross for mankind, had risen, He appeared as the one constituted as Lord, Christ and eternal Priest, and He poured out on His disciples the Spirit promised by the Father. From this source the Roman Catholic Church, equipped with the gifts of its Founder and faithfully guarding His precepts of charity, humility and self-sacrifice, receives the mission to proclaim and to spread among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God and to be, on earth, the initial budding forth of that kingdom. While it slowly grows, the Roman Catholic Church strains toward the completed Kingdom and, with all its strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with its King. (LG 5)
And kind in a way similar to the way that a fireworks show has a “grand finale,” Lumen Gentium provides a “grand summary” of all the glories of the Roman Catholic Church, taken right from the pages of Scripture:
In the old Testament the revelation of the Kingdom is often conveyed by means of metaphors. In the same way the inner nature of the Roman Catholic Church is now made known to us in different images taken either from tending sheep or cultivating the land, from building or even from family life and betrothals, the images receive preparatory shaping in the books of the Prophets.
The Roman Catholic Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ. It is a flock of which God Himself foretold He would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds; are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds, who gave His life for the sheep.
The Roman Catholic Church is a piece of land to be cultivated, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the Prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly Husbandman. The true vine is Christ who gives life and the power to bear abundant fruit to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Roman Catholic Church remain in Christ without whom we can do nothing.
Often the Roman Catholic Church has also been called the building of God. The Lord Himself compared Himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the cornerstone. On this foundation the Roman Catholic Church is built by the apostles, and from it the Roman Catholic Church receives durability and consolidation. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God in which dwells His family; the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling place of God among men; and, especially, the holy temple. This Temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Holy Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. As living stones we here on earth are built into it. John contemplates this holy city coming down from heaven at the renewal of the world as a bride made ready and adorned for her husband.
The Roman Catholic Church, further, “that Jerusalem which is above” is also called “our mother”. It is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless Lamb, whom Christ “loved and for whom He delivered Himself up that He might sanctify her”, whom He unites to Himself by an unbreakable covenant, and whom He unceasingly “nourishes and cherishes”, and whom, once purified, He willed to be cleansed and joined to Himself, subject to Him in love and fidelity, and whom, finally, He filled with heavenly gifts for all eternity, in order that we may know the love of God and of Christ for us, a love which surpasses all knowledge. The Roman Catholic Church, while on earth it journeys in a foreign land away from the Lord, is like in exile. It seeks and experiences those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right-hand of God, where the life of the Church is hidden with Christ in God until it appears in glory with its Spouse. (LG 6)
Now, these are some mighty fine credentials. Indeed, if what the Roman Catholic Church says about itself is true, we ought just to bow down before God and thank Him for it. But if the Roman Catholic Church is not all the things it says it is, (and remember, the test of a prophet is 100%), then ought it not to be condemned as practicing the worst kind of idolatry?
On what basis does the Roman Catholic Church think of itself in this way?
It seems to me that Matthew 23 provides more of an apt comment on the Roman Church: “Everything they do is done for men to see: they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues …”
Stay tuned, because in my next several postings, I’m going to provide an overview of how the Roman Church today arrives at its own wonderful assessment of itself.