Another attribute of the church of God is its holiness. As one might expect, also Rome maintains the holiness of the church. This lies in the nature of the case. Scripture speaks only too plainly of the holiness of the church of God, and Rome must maintain this attribute of the church. However, Rome does not speak of the holiness of the church in the same sense as it is set forth by the Protestant view. When Rome speaks of the holiness of the church it refers, in the first place, to a liturgical, ceremonial holiness, consisting in this that the church, as institute, possesses the proper form of worship and the proper use of the sacraments, through which the Lord works holiness in the believers as through these powerful means and instruments of Divine grace. And, in the second place, Rome refers to personal holiness, which does not necessarily have to be the possession of all or of most within the church, but is always found in some and then in varying degrees.
Before we proceed with our discussion of the holiness of the Church, we wish to make a remark about the unity or oneness of the church. Rome, we have already observed, points with pride to its unity, and we also understand that Rome’s unity is inseparably connected with the pope of Rome. In the Radio Replies of the Fathers Rumble and Carty, Vol. I, Question 441 reads as follows: “But where was unity even within the Catholic Church during the fourteenth century, when there were three Popes at once, each with his own section of adherents?” And this interesting answer is given: “There has never been more than one true Pope. At times there have been rival claimants to the Papacy, but if several pretenders put forward today their claims to be King of England, their claims would not invalidate the right of the present king. Anti-Popes are not really Popes. But take the 14th century. In 1378 Urban VI was lawfully elected Pope at Rome. Some French Cardinals, wrongly thinking or maintaining that he had not been rightly elected, elected another who called himself Clement VII. Good men on both sides believed in each Pope’s right, but no one admitted that both could be Popes at once. All held that one only of the two could really be Pope. To settle the difficulty, another group of Cardinals later on went beyond their rights, declared the rival Popes deposed, and elected a second anti-Pope, Alexander V. This gave rise to three lines of claimants and thus complicated the position. A general council was called. The legitimate successor in the Urban line, Gregory XII, resigned. The successors of the anti-Popes were declared to be unduly elected, and the difficulty was overcome by the election of Pope Martin V in 1417. The true succession was never lost; nor was essential unity. All the time there was but one true Pope, and the mistake on the part of the faithful as to which was the true Pope was not an error in faith. The Church, under God’s guidance, weathered this difficulty of internal dissension, once more showing the divine protection which the Catholic Church has ever enjoyed in virtue of Christ’s promise to be with her all days till the end of the world.”—end of quote. However, notice, please, that, according to this answer Urban VI had been lawfully elected Pope at Rome in 1378. When Martin V was elected Pope in 1417, the other three Popes renounced their claim to the Papacy and recognized this Martin V. How must it be explained that Urban VI, who had been elected lawfully in 1378, now renounces his right to the Papacy? To this question we have no answer in this 441st answer. The holiness of the Roman Catholic Church is set forth in these Radio Replies by the Fathers Rumble and Carty, and inasmuch as they set forth the Roman Catholic position on this attribute of the Church we wish to quote from these radio replies, Vol. II, 388-398.
Question 388: “I agree that the Roman Catholic Church is remarkable for its unity. But should not the true Church of Christ also be holy?”
Answer: “It should be, and is. Catholics, therefore, are justified in their great act of faith, ‘I believe in the Holy Catholic Church’.”
Question 389: “Your church makes a claim that no other Church dare make.”
The answer: “That is true; and I am grateful for the admission. No other Church is really conscious of possessing any of the four great marks of the true Church of Christ, or of being one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.”
Question 390: “In what particular way is your Church remarkable for holiness?”
The answer: “She is holy in her Founder, Jesus Christ; in her teachings; in her sacramental system of grace; and in her members. There is no need to dwell on the first point. The Catholic Church alone was founded by Jesus Christ; and there can be no doubt about Hisholiness. On the other points I must ask you to, be patient with a rather lengthy explanation. Take first the question of teaching. The Catholic Church has fought everywhere and at all times to spread and defend the full truth revealed by Christ. Where other professing Christian bodies have made outrageous concessions to rationalistic unbelief, she has remained adamant. And there is not a single dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church which does not tend to confirm in us the will to sanctify our souls; whether it be the dogma of our origin from God by creation; or of our redemption by Christ, His Son and our Lord; or of our going back to God and to our judgment with one of three possibilities awaiting us—heaven, hell, or purgatory. Certainly, the dogma of hell has never yet induced a man to sin. The dogma of purgatory has inculcated the necessity of purifying our lives by Christian mortification and self-denial. The dogma of grace and of the supernatural rules out mere standards of outward respectability, and demands that one’s daily life, personal, domestic, and civic, must be inspired by a deep love of God.
“If we turn from the dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church to her moral laws, we can challenge any man to keep them, and not be the better for it. So, too, we can challenge him to violate them, yet not degenerate. There is no Church on earth which so fights to lift man above the natural and the sensual, fighting for purity of morals, the holiness of marriage, and the rights of God in every department of life. So much so that no one joins the Catholic Church sincerely without desiring a loftier standard of living than was previously proposed to him; and no one leaves the Catholic Church save for a lower standard of conduct. If Catholics go, it is not because they have discovered their Church to be untrue, but because they themselves have not been true to their own conscientious obligations.
“But the Catholic Church is not only holy in her teachings; she is also holy in her members. The Church certainly has the power to sanctify men in practice. But, naturally, this power will attain its object insofar as men allow themselves to be influenced by it [in the last statement Roman Catholic Arminianism and free-will asserts itself—H.V.]. In general, ordinary holiness prevails amongst the vast majority of Catholics insofar as they usually keep in a state of grace and out of a state of mortal sin. They do try to keep God’s laws conscientiously, often making great sacrifices to do so. They are remarkable for their fidelity to their religious duties to God; to their Sunday Mass; to the Sacraments; to prayer; to fasting and other forms of self-denial; to the obligations of alms-giving and charity. [And the Fathers Rumble and Carty might also have added that, having faithfully done their Sunday duties, such as having attended their Sunday Mass, the great majority of Roman Catholics spend the rest of the Lord’s Day in doing whatever they please and in the satisfying of all their carnal and earthly desires.—H.V.] Often they are ridiculed as fools and as scrupulous for this fidelity to their religion by those who regard themselves as advocates of liberty. If they sin from time to time, they are never happy in that state, but are most uneasy until they recover God’s grace. And always they will admit that sin is sin, acknowledging themselves to be sinners, rather than hypocritically trying to save their faces by pretending that sin is virtue, and that what is unlawful is really lawful.
“Turning from ‘ordinary’ holiness, which does allow for lapses through frailty, though the greater part of life is spent in God’s grace, there are hosts of Catholics who go further. [We must ask the question: where does the Word make this distinction between ‘ordinary’ holiness and another kind of holiness? Where do the Scriptures teach us that there is a kind of ‘ordinary’ holiness which allows for lapses through frailty? Do not the Scriptures teach us that we must always and everywhere be holy even as God is holy?—H.V.] They not only consistently avoid mortal sin, but they labor earnestly to emancipate themselves from even venial sins. And yet others push on to the practice of heroic Christian virtue. Take the almost interminable list of canonized Saints produced by the Catholic Church. They are her living miracles through the ages, and her true pride and joy as well as the delight and inspiration of Catholics the world over. [One might ask these Roman Catholic writers whether the apostle Paul would permit himself to be canonized, who wrote of himself that the good he would he does not and that the evil he would not he does.—H.V.]
“That there are bad Catholics does not affect all that I have said. Christ predicted that there would be bad Catholics. The cockle will grow side by side with the wheat. But we can account for the bad Catholics. It is for the critics of the Church to account for the good ones, and above all, for the Saints who have flourished in every age of the Church.”
Question 391. “Did not the Roman Church, by its corruption, forfeit its right to be the true Church, so that Christ had to establish the Protestant Churches in its place?’
Answer: “That cannot be said. Christ declared that His Church would be like a net holding good and bad fish. But any corruption amongst the members of the Catholic Church is not because of her teachings, but against them and in spite of them. Despite the bad fish within the net, however, the net is quite good. You cannot argue from bad fish to a bad net. And certainly Christ did not establish the Protestant Churches in place of the Catholic Church. It is absurd historically to say that He established them when we know that they were established sixteen centuries after He left this world by men whose names are also well known. It is absurd logically to say that Christ, who is Truth itself, and who said that His Church would be one as He and His Father are one, founded a whole lot of conflicting Churches, each contradicting what the others assert. And it is absurd to say that the forces of evil did prevail against the Catholic Church when Christ said that they would not do so. He said that He would preserve His Church from error and corruption—as a Church—all days from His time till the end of the world. How any one can continue to believe in the Divinity of Christ, yet insist that He could not do as He said He would do, passes comprehension.