The Church and the Sacraments, The Time of the Reformation, Views on the Church, The Roman Catholic View

Quoting from “Radio Replies by Fathers Rumble and Carty,” Volume III, paragraphs 285-298, setting forth the Romish conception of the Church, we were quoting Answer 294 which is an answer to the question whether there are any references in the Old and New Testaments to any definite religion of Christ. And we had quoted that part of the answer which referred toIsaiah 2:2-4. We will now continue with this quotation: “The correct sense of that passage (Is. 2:2-4 —H.V.) is as follows: When the Christ shall come, He will solidly establish the religion of God in a visible form which all men will be able to recognize. As opposed to the one chosen people of the Jews, all nations will be represented amongst its members. And they will learn from it the ways of God; and will walk in His paths under its guidance. This promised religion will originate in Jerusalem. Now, if we turn to the New Testament, we find Christ carefully fulfilling this prophecy of the Old Testament. He says in Matt. 16:18, ‘I will build my Church.’ He prescribed its doctrine and commissioned it to go forth from Jerusalem teaching men, as He says in Matt. 28:20, ‘To observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.’ In Matt. 18:18, He gives this Church His authority. ‘Amen, I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven.’ In the preceding verse He gives the Church judicial power. ‘If a man will not hear the Church, let him be as the heathen.’ And He sends that Church no longer to the Jews only, but to the Gentiles also. In Matt. 28:19, ‘Going, therefore,’ He says, ‘Teach all nations.’ His Church must remain one Church, for it is to be ‘one fold under one shepherd.’ It is to last with the constitution He gave it all days till the end of the world. ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ And again, ‘Behold, I am with you always even to the consummation of the world.’ All this obviously indicates a very definite religion, and a very definite Church.”

295. If I were to embrace Catholicism, would I, if at any time I was not satisfied, be at liberty to leave the Catholic Church?

Firstly, so long as you think it even possible that you would want to leave the Church in the future, you have not attained an absolute conviction of its truth. And you cannot become a Catholic with lingering doubts in your mind. When a person has really attained to the gift of Faith, all such vague fears vanish. But, secondly, if you did receive the gift of Catholic Faith in all its fullness and certainty, yet after becoming a Catholic you were to lose that Faith through your own fault, you would be under no physical compulsion to continue to profess the Catholic religion and fulfill its duties. You could walk off, declare you had left the Catholic Church, tell your friends that you had become a Christadelphian, or anything else you might wish; and nothing would be done to restrain you. The only thing that really prevents Catholics from abandoning their Church is their own interior conviction of its truth, and of their personal obligation to remain loyal to conscience and to God. Whilst they have that conviction, they themselves do not feel at liberty to leave the Church. Should they lose that conviction, they would fee.1 at liberty to do as they pleased. But, if ever you receive the gift of Catholic Faith, I can assure you that you won’t be afraid lest you cannot get away from it; you will rather dread lest anybody or anything should get it away from you. For you will find that, instead of robbing you of your liberty, it has given to you the liberty of the children, of God; liberty from error, and weakness, and sin; and the liberty to use wonderful means of divine grace, thus to progress in virtue and holiness of life before God and man. (Notice what this. answer calls a person who declares that he has left the Romish Church. He is called a Christadelphian, or anything else he might wish to be called. A Christadelphian was a member of a small religious sect founded in the United States about 1833 by John Thomas, M.D., and later extended to, England and other countries. They reject the Trinity, deny infant baptism, etc.)

296. What does your Church teach concerning the fate of a man who was brought up as a Catholic, but who leaves the Church, and dies still rejecting the Catholic Faith?

The Catholic Church has no teaching concerning the ultimate fate of any individual soul. She leaves that to God. But she does teach that no Catholic who has been brought up as such can ever have a sufficient reason to justify his abandoning it. If, therefore, a Catholic should lose his faith and abandon the Church he has certainly been guilty of sin; and if he dies in that state without repenting of his sin he will lose his soul. Whether any particular soul goes from this world without interior repentance God alone, of course, can say.

297. What if a man reasoned himself out of his faith?

In such a case the man would have misused his reasoning powers. No instructed Catholic can renounce the Catholic Faith without a grave fault on his part. Always he has a grave duty to adhere to his faith, and always he has reasonable grounds for doing so. If he abandons it, he does so by a wrong and guilty choice as well as by an unreasonable choice. If any reading awakens or fosters doubt in the mind of a. Catholic, he knows at once that he must cease reading things which endanger his faith. If he goes on reading such things, he does so at the price of violating his conscience. Then, too, when some difficulty presents itself, he behaves most unreasonably in thinking that because he can’t solve it, therefore there is no solution of it. Ordinary prudence dictates that he seek advice from some competent guide. Certainly, if such a Catholic did end by losing his faith, it would involve the resistance of grace, the neglect of prayer, the refusal of ordinary prudent consultation, and the guiltyfollowing of an evil will.

298. Supposing that he carefully studies the Catholic religion in the light of science, and finds it untrue?

As God is the Author of the Catholic Faith, and also the Author of all natural truth, there can never be any real conflict between the authoritative teachings of the Catholic religion?, and the true findings of science. Any man who thinks that science proves the Catholic religion to be untrue, either does not know the Catholic religion, or has wrong ideas of science. And a man who has but an inadequate knowledge of Catholicism, and who is quite untrained in science, should know that he is simply incompetent to form such a judgment as you indicate unless he is sublimely unconscious of his limitations. He has not the elements of humility, and a sin of pride and presumption at least has preceded his fall. (Apart, now, from the question in re the claims of the Romish Church with respect to its infallibility, etc., there is considerable truth in these remarks. It is a sure thing that anyone who elevates Science above the Bible is characterized by sinful pride and arrogance.—H.V.) Most men have a general instinctive knowledge of what they must do to safeguard their bodily health. But if any serious trouble threatens, they are sensible enough not to rely upon such inadequate knowledge of physiology or medical information which they have picked up by their own reading. They seek advice from one who has received definite medical training in a qualified university. So, too, the average man has a sufficient working knowledge of the law for ordinary purposes. But if he finds himself in a legal tangle, he rightly distrusts his own knowledge and capacity, and consults one whose very business it is to be trained in legal matters. Yet, when not his bodily health, and not his temporal affairs, but his eternal destiny is at stake, this same man will consider himself fully competent to decide the gravest issues for himself. He chooses to throw to the winds a prudence he would never dream of abandoning in lesser matters. And the choice is a guilty violation of reason and conscience. The ordinary Catholic has sufficient working knowledge to save his soul. But where special religious difficulties occur, he is obliged to consult those qualified to advise him. Ignorance alone can conclude that science conflicts with Catholicism, as that famous scientist, Louis Pasteur, ever maintained. When people marveled that so great a scientist should have such fervent faith in the Catholic religion, he would reply, “I believe as firmly as the Breton peasant; and, if I had a little more knowledge, I would believe as firmly as the Breton peasant’s wife.” The man you suggest for consideration would be guilty of pride in setting up his judgment against the authority of the Church established by God to teach mankind the truths of religion; guilty of imprudence in not seeking counsel; and guilty of presumption in not seeking light from God by prayer. If he lost the faith, he would be responsible for doing so; and if he died without repenting of his sin, he would lose his soul. We hereby conclude our quotations from “Radio Replies by Fathers Rumble and Carty.” According to Rome the Church is a company of men externally bound together by the profession of the same Christian faith, united in the communion of the same sacraments, under and subject to the government of legitimate pastors, especially the pope. This implies that Rome excludes from the Church all heretics and infidels, all the unbaptized, all who are not subject to bishops having canonical succession and, of course, do not recognize the pope. There is no salvation outside of the Romish Church, and whoever leaves that Church, and does not really repent of his sin before he dies, cannot possibly be saved, and must lose his soul.

THE PROTESTANT VIEW

The Protestant view of the Church is expressed in the Protestant Symbols, such as the Reformed Symbols (the Heidelberg Catechism and the Confession of Faith or the Netherlands Confession), the Westminster Confession, and also the Second Helvetic Confession. Inasmuch as not much space is allotted me in this article, we will conclude this article by quoting from the Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 54. Question 54 reads: “What believest thou concerning the ‘holy catholic church’ of Christ?” And this is the beautiful answer: “That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world, gathers, defends, and preserves to himself by his Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and that I am and for ever shall remain, a living member thereof.” Later, in this series of articles we will also quote from the Thirty-Seven Articles. But it is well to bear in mind that, when we would understand the Protestant and, particularly, the Reformed conception of the church, we do not neglect to quote also from the Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 54.

—H.V.