Authentic Faith and the “Four Marks of the Catholic Faith.”
Greetings Friends, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Heavenly Father, it is my prayer that this time that we have allocated for instruction and dialog will be beneficial to everyone seeking to know you fuller, that your sanctifying grace will fill each heart viewing and listening with a desire to worship you in Spirit and in Truth, being transformed by the renewing of their minds so that they may know that which is good and acceptable, perfect and authentic in your sight. Amen.
"Authentic Faith, Radical Transformation and Contemplative Prayer" is an ebook I wrote a couple of years back with the catechetical intent of instructing Catholics on some fundamentals of our faith. The Catholic Church understood correctly is indeed something RADICAL. To attain an Authentic Faith you MUST become radically different than what our modern culture demands.
My writings here are intended to be somewhat of a catechetical session were we look into certain aspects of our historic faith. What I’ve discovered is that many Catholics have not expanded their faith knowledge base much past their initial confirmation classes, if at all. The best example of this just may be Catholics involved in our political system. No, Authentic Faith is not predicated on party affiliation, but when a preponderance of Catholics historically vote for candidates or party platforms that are in direct opposition to authentic faith values, you should at a minimum ask yourselves, why cognitive the dissonance? I take the stand (with the faithful over at EWTN) that the world at large and the Catholic Church in particular are falling prey to “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.” False teachers have entered the sheepfold of faith teaching a foreign gospel, couched in truth, but as vicious as the serpent in deceiving Adam and Eve. I encourage you to do a search on Youtube for “EWTN Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” for an excellent teaching on this subject. You should be able to find a 12-part series that should open your eyes.
Yes, authentic faith seems to be in short supply these days. But this is not really such a new phenomena. Back in the summer of 1976 I was a soldier in the US Army, going to a school outside of Washington DC. While I was in close proximity to our nation's capital, I was also very near to my uncle, a Jesuit priest and very ardent social activist. My uncle, the late reverend William Callahan, S.J. was also the founder of a so called Catholic social justice organization known as the Quixote Center. One weekend while in the DC area I spent a couple of days at the center, making protest signs for a march in favor of women's ordination. The Quixote Center was on the leading edge of many Catholic social justice issues that are in direct opposition to Church tradition, doctrine and dogma. Somehow they believed that if they spoke out loud enough, often enough, and with enough voices that they could manipulate foundational doctrine of the Church. What I've since learned is that Authentic Faith is not something which may be manipulated by a democratic process.
There seems to be a prevailing attitude in the world that “I'll only approach God on my own terms.” Authentic faith has always been transformative, not acquiescing to social norms and public opinion but striving to become transformed into something radical according to worldly standards -- something holy.
In Romans 12 we read "And do not beconformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
How much of the division in today’s Church is due to pride and believing that our personal feelings and desires are what should guide church doctrine and dogma? How can we, like my Uncle dare to call ourselves “Catholic” when we are so vehemently opposed to the historic principles of God’s Church? Those with an Authentic Faith take to heart through the empowerment of Sanctifying Grace, that it is us, we the people of God who are the ones requiring transformation, not the Church.
There is much fracturing and division among the body of Christ. I recognize that this one presentation is insufficient in volume to repair the divides. It is my prayer that God’s sanctifying grace will open the hearts of many and move us closer to the true unity that exists through our individual baptism into the Body of Christ.
I find tagged to my personal mission a yearning to do my part in drawing together the various members of the body and focusing on on our essential unity rather than on that which divides. As a Regional Provincial Bishop for the Order of Corporate Reunion (OCR), I am actively seeking reconciliation and unity with other member Churches of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Point in fact, Pope Francis has been active in discussions with bishops in the Old Catholic tradition seeking ways to move forward. Pope Francis explained that since the Second Vatican Council it “ has been possible to build new bridges of a more profound mutual understanding and practical co-operation,” between the Old Catholic communion and the [Roman] Catholic Church.
The Pope called both Catholics and Old Catholics “to persevere in substantive theological dialogue” and to continue to pray and work together towards a deeper conversion in Christ. In the meantime, he continued, the Churches ought to work to address the spiritual crises and needs of the world. He suggested that the two communions can “support and encourage one another, especially at the level of parishes and local communities,” in helping address the spiritual difficulties facing the continent.
Ever since the “Great Schism” of the Churches of the East and West, there have been multiple churches that lay claim to an Authentic Catholic Faith. So it is with the Catholic Church in America, which claims the “Old Catholic” tradition. Our particular practice of faith lays claim to the rich history of the early and undivided Church. Our commitment to authentic Catholic faith is outlined in the 1st article of one of our founding documents, the Declaration of Utrecht: We adhere faithfully to the Rule of Faith laid down by St. Vincent of Lerins in these terms: “Id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est; hoc est etenim vere proprieque catholicum.” [Let us hold to what has been believed everywhere, always, by all; for this is truly and properly catholic.] For this reason we preserve in professing the faith of the primitive Church, as formulated in the ecumenical symbols and specified precisely by the unanimously accepted decisions of the Ecumenical Councils held in the undivided Church of the first thousand years.
It is in this understanding that we also claim the “Four Marks of the Church” as our own. The Four Marks of the Church is a term describing four specific adjectives—one, holy, catholic and apostolic—indicating four major distinctive marks or distinguishing characteristics of the Christian Church. The belief that the Church is characterized by these four particular "marks" was first expressed by the First Council of Constantinople in the year 381 in its revision of the Nicene Creed, in which it included the statement: "[I believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." In Protestant theology these are sometimes called the attributes of the Church. They are still professed today in the Nicene Creed, recited in the liturgy of Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and many Protestant churches' worship services.
While specific doctrines, based on both tradition and different interpretations of the Bible, distinguish one Church or denomination from another, largely explaining why there are so many different ones, the Four Marks, when defined the same way, represent a summary of what historically have been considered the most important affirmations of the orthodoxy in the Christian faith. Fundamentalist Roman Catholics lay claim to these four marks with a sense of exclusivity, believing that theirs is the one and only true church established by Jesus and the Apostles. This particular writing isn’t intended confront faithful Roman Catholics, but to provide a balanced historical perspective.
The information presented herein is not intended to be a suma on every aspect of the Authentic faith, but rather an overview of certain aspects. The ideas behind the Four Marks have been in the Church since early Christianity. Allusions to them can be found in the writings of 2nd century early Church Father and bishop, Ignatius of Antioch. They were not established in doctrine until the First Council of Constantinople in 381 as an antidote to certain heresies that had crept into the Church in its early history. There the Council elaborated on the Nicene Creed, established by the First Council of Nicea 56 years before by adding to the end a section that included the affirmation: "[We believe] in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” The phrase has remained in versions of the Nicene Creed to this day.
Some Catholics believe the description "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church" to be applicable only to their branch of the Catholic Church — the Church of Rome for instance. They hold that "Christ established here on earth only one Church" and they believe they possess "the full identity of the Church of Christ within their particular Church". While "there are numerous elements of sanctification and of truth which are found outside her structure", these, "as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity". The eastern Churches not in full communion with the Rome thereby "lack something in their condition as particular Churches". The communities born out of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation "do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constituent element of the Church." (From Vatican II)
The Eastern Orthodox Churches along with those in the Old Catholic Tradition, are in disagreement with the Roman Church on this matter and also regard themselves as historical, organic bodies in continuation of the original Church founded by Christ and his apostles.
The Four Marks
"There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" [Eph. 4:5-6]. This list in the Pauline letters of factors making Christians one body, one church, is doubtless not meant to be exhaustive, says Francis Aloysius Sullivan, but it affirms the oneness of the body, the church, through what Christians have in common, what they have communion in. Elsewhere, Paul the Apostle says: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). This statement was about Christians as individuals, but it applied to them also as groups, as local churches, whether composed mainly of Jewish or Gentile Christians. In 1 Cor. 15:9, Paul spoke of himself as having persecuted "the church of God", not just the local church in Jerusalem but the same church that he addresses at the beginning of that letter as "the church of God that is in Corinth" (1 Cor. 1:2). In the same letter, he tells Christians: "You are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (1 Cor. 12:27), and declares that, "just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12). Some scholars have argued that in modern American English, what is rendered as "one," but it has commonly been rendered as "universal.”
The word holy means set apart or “sanctified” for a special purpose by and for God. It does not imply that the members of the Church are free from sin, nor that the institution of the Church cannot sin. Christ's Church is holy because it is Christ's Church: "...upon this rock I will build my Church."[Matt. 16:18] Jesus founded his Church to continue his redemptive and sanctifying work in the world. Christians understand the holiness of the universal Church to derive from Christ's holiness. [Matt. 16:19] And the Church is holy because God is Holy and the Church shares in God's very own life and holiness. [Eph. 5:30-33]
Jesus drew near and said to them, "I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt. 28:18-20
The word "catholic" is derived from the Greek adjective καθολικός (katholikos), meaning "general", "universal". It is associated with the Greek adverb καθόλου (katholou), meaning "according to the whole", "entirely", or "in general", a combination of a preposition meaning "according to" and another adjective meaning “whole."
Applied to the church, the adjective "catholic" means that in the church the wholeness of the Christian faith, full and complete, all-embracing, and with nothing lacking, is proclaimed to all people without excluding any part of the faith or any class or group of people. The adjective can be applied not only to the church as spread throughout the world but also to each local manifestation of the church, in each of which nothing essential is lacking for it to be the genuine Church of Christ.
For his subjects, Emperor Theodosius I restricted to believers in "the one deity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, in equal majesty and in a holy Trinity" the term "catholic christians", and applied the name "heretics" to others (Edict of Thessalonica of 27 February 380).
In the following year 381, the First Council of Constantinople adopted the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, expressing belief in "one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church".
This describes the Church's origin and beliefs as rooted and continuing in the living Tradition of the Apostles of Jesus. The Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Catholic Church in America, each claim to be actively preserving authentic teaching of the apostles. They each also have apostolic succession in that their bishops derive their authority through a direct line of laying on of hands from the apostles, a claim that they accept can be made by the other churches in this group. The Anglican Communion likewise claims apostolic succession, but its claim is generally questioned by the others mentioned. Protestantism, on the other hand, holds that what preserves apostolic continuity is the written word: as Milne put it, "A church is apostolic as it recognizes in practice the supreme authority of the apostolic scriptures.”
Through the OCR, the Catholic Church in America is doing its part to build up the body of Christ — His Church. This is primarily done through laying on of hands and passing on Apostolic Succession to those Churches and Christian leaders who are seeking to become Authentically Catholic.