We were busy, in our preceding article, with the attribute of catholicity of the church. We had quoted from the Dogmatics of Dr. H. Bavinck in connection with this attribute, and had begun to quote from the “Radio Replies” by the Fathers Rumble and Carty, which we consider extremely interesting, inasmuch as they may be considered to give us an accurate presentation of this subject. We will now continue to quote from these Radio Replies, Volume I.
498. Whence do you get the name Roman Catholic?
The word Roman is derived from the fact that St. Peter established the headquarters of the Church in Rome. I am not a Roman Catholic in any sense of Roman citizenship. I am an American Catholic in communion with that Church which has its centre in Rome. (Incidentally, there is no proof whatever, either Scripturally or historically, that Peter ever established the headquarters of the Church in Rome.—H.V.)
499. What is the difference between a Catholic and a Roman Catholic?
The same as between a Britisher and an Englishman, or if you wish, as that between the Jewish and the Mosaic religions. There is no real difference. The words Roman Catholic do not mean that there are other kinds of Catholics, but only that all true Catholics belong to that one great Church which has its centre in Rome. There are no Catholics apart from that one great universal Church. Those who leave that Church cease to be Catholics. At the time of the Reformation Protestants left the Catholic Church. They cannot leave it and belong to it. The only way they can be Catholic is to return to the Church their forefathers should never have left.
500. Is not Catholic Church broader in meaning than Roman Catholic Church?
Catholic means universal, not Roman Catholic. Catholic and Roman Catholic are alternative expressions. The Roman Catholic Church is the Church universal on earth. All Catholics in Europe, America, Asia, Africa, and Australia, and in the rest of the world, are subject to the present Bishop of Rome. Were you to stop any man indiscriminately in the street and ask him to direct you to the nearest Catholic Church, he would unhesitatingly point out what you term a Roman Catholic Church. The average man makes no mistake in practice on this point.
501. If the word Roman identifies your Church as the only Catholic Church, where do the other Churches come in?
They are man-made substitutes which do not come in, but which went out. Modern Protestants do not advert to the fact that they have been robbed of membership in the true Church by their ancestors. Protestant Churches cannot claim to have been founded by Christ, yet they confuse many people. But the true Church may be discerned by finding out that one which goes back to St. Peter, and through him to Christ. And he who is subject to the Pope is in communion with the very successor of St. Peter.
502. Scripture mentions neither the word Roman nor Catholic in connection with Christ’s Church.
It is not a question of a name, but of the thing. And the universal spiritual society now known as the Catholic Church is most clearly described in Scripture. Christ said clearly that His Church would be one fold under one shepherd, the fold embracing all nations, the shepherd being St. Peter, and his successors. Either the Catholic Church is the one Christ established, or His Church has altogether ceased to exist. (All this would be true, provided that Peter was appointed to be the shepherd of Christ’s Church, and that the popes are the successors of this shepherd, and provided also that we do not bear in mind that Christ gathers His Church by His Word and Spirit, and therefore where His truth is proclaimed according to the Word of God.—H.V.)
503. We Protestants say, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church!” when we recite the Creed.
The recitation of a formula does not make one a member of the true Church. A profession of belief in America would not make a man an American citizen. Citizenship in the Catholic Church involves actual reception into that Church and submission to her authority.
504. Would you say that Christ Himself was a Catholic?
Yes. The Founder of the Catholic Church was certainly a Catholic, and history proves that Christ founded the Catholic Church, and identified it with Himself. Thus St. Paul says, “God bath made Him head over all the church (not churches) which is His body, and the fullness of Him who is filled all in all.” Eph. 1:22-23. (Of course, Christ is the Head over all the church, not churches. Christ’s church is one. Protestants surely maintain this.—H.V.)
505. How could Christ be a Catholic when He existed before the Church?
His pre-existence did not prevent His founding a Church and identifying it with Himself. As the Son of God He existed before the Incarnation, but that did not prevent His being man from the moment of the Incarnation.
512. In the name of Catholicity you often point out that your Church exceeds all others numerically. But that only disproves your case. Christ said that He scarcely expected to find faith on earth.
Christ said that His Church would teach all nations, and go to the uttermost parts of the earth, the tiniest of seeds growing into a great tree. His words, “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find, think you, faith upon earth?” refer not so much to numbers as to quality of belief, as the context shows. And He is referring to special conditions which will prevail towards the end of time when the charity of many shall have grown cold.Matt. 24:12. The text in no way suggests that the body of believers through all the ages will necessarily be small. (This is certainly an evasive answer. The question concerned the statement of Christ that faith would be scarce upon the earth upon His return upon the clouds of heaven. Now we know that the Roman Catholic Church is certainly very large, counts its members in the hundreds of millions, and that this church will also be of vast size when Christ returns upon the clouds of heaven. Does this answer imply that, upon Christ’s return, the vast majority of these Roman Catholic members will not have faith? Does the answer imply that the vast majority of Roman Catholic members will have grown cold in their faith and love? Also Protestantism maintains vehemently that that “tiny seed will grow into a great tree,” and that the Church of Christ will be constituted of a multitude as great as the stars in the sky, the sand along the seashore, the dust upon the ground. H.V.)
513. Christ said, “Fear not, little flock.”
The Church was a little flock at the time Christ spoke, for it was in the seedling stage. But even the vast grown tree can be called a little flock. The Catholic Church is little and despised by worldly-minded men because she consists chiefly of the poor and of the despised. And it is always little in spirit, insisting upon humility in accordance with Christ’s words, “Unless you become as little children you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. (This, too, is surely a perversion of these words of Christ in Luke 12:32. Do these words mean that this little flock of Christ, at a given moment in the New Dispensation, would consist of hundreds of millions of sheep, and that this flock is little only in the sense that it is poor in spirit, humble, and poor in the materialistic sense of the word? We know better. Besides, it can hardly be said that the Roman Catholic Church of today, or ever since this church grew into prominence, is characterized by poverty in the earthly sense of the word. The Roman Catholic Church of today, as well as in the Middle Ages, presents a rather imposing structure in the midst of the world. The Roman Catholic Church is not earthly poor but earthly rich.—H.V.
Also of interest are question and answer 472 in Volume III of these radio replies by the Fathers Rumble and Carty. This question reads: “We Protestants are Catholics; but you are Roman Catholics.”
And the answer reads: “You do not say what type of Protestantism you profess. But no single type of Protestantism can possibly be Catholic. The Catholic Faith is one Faith believed universally. The Catholic Church means one world-wide united body. Protestantism as a whole is a conglomerate of conflicting bodies. And no single form of Protestantism is world-wide in any sense of the word. You must face the difficulties of your position. Let us suppose that you are an Anglican. What are you going to do with the Greek Orthodox, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists and others? Are they ‘Catholics’? Or will you call them Greek Catholics, Wesleyan Catholics, Presbyterian Catholics, etc? Are Anglicans alone to be straight out Catholics? Or are each and all these conflicting religions Catholic—Roman Catholics alone not being Catholics? Also, turn to history. It is said by Anglicans that the Pope had falsely usurped jurisdiction over the whole Church. England had to leave the Pope, but intended to remain Catholic. But if that were so, on its own principle it should have joined the Greek Church which had already renounced the Pope. Yet it did not. England separated from any kind of union with all other bishops in the world! Again, no Anglican will deny that the Church in England prior to the Reformation was the Catholic Church. If the present Church of England is the same why was the Mass abolished, and a new Prayer Book and Communion Service unheard of till then in Christendom introduced? Edward VI abolished the, Mass; Mary the Catholic restored the Mass; Elizabeth the Protestant abolished the Mass. The Church of England adopted the word Protestant; and the king has to swear that he is a faithful Protestant as opposed to the Catholic religion. James II could have remained king had he ceased to be a Catholic. He was deposed and William of Orange was brought in to secure the Protestant succession. How can Anglicans turn round now and say that they are Catholics? You yourself now wish to remain a Protestant, yet be a Catholic. We are Roman Catholics. No one in Spain is a Catholic—all there are Spanish Roman Catholics. No one in France is a Catholic. They are French Roman Catholics. The ‘Catholics’ in the United States are not Catholics. They are. American Roman Catholics. Pure and undefiled Catholics” are to be found only in Anglicanism. If you want to find a genuine Catholic, you must look for him in an English Protestant! No sane man in the world would admit this. But I have said enough. Those only are Catholics who belong to that Catholic Church which is discerned from the fact of its union with the Bishop of Rome.”
The Lord willing, in our following article, we will comment on the claim of Rome that it is truly the Catholic, universal Church of God and of Christ in the midst of the world.