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The Catholic Church

To be a part of the Catholic Church is to be part of something that makes grand claims that embody high aspirations There is a distinction to be made between the church as a bureaucratic and earthly institution, and the Church as spiritual entity.  For a believing Catholic the latter is far, far more important than the former, the former being merely a tool of the latter.  This is not to denigrate the bureaucratic and organizational aspects of the Catholic Church.  The the Catholic Church’s early emphasis on hierarchy and organization played an important role in its survival.  The Catholic ChurchBokenkotter has described the Apostle Paul as being a person “with an uncanny ability to organize” and much of the subject matter of his letters had to do with organization, hierarchy, and the need to present a united front to the surrounding world.

But bureaucracy is the church in the world; there is, Catholicism believes, another aspect of the church which utterly transcends its organizational modus operendum.  In the City of God St. Augustine catalogued the Pauline claims that the Catholic Church constituted the body of Christ.  Jaroslav Pelikan has catalogued other spiritual claims made by the fathers of the early church.  Those claims were as follows. 1] The Catholic Church was seen as one; that is, it asserted that it possessed the one true doctrine. 2] The Catholic Church was holy—for Christ was seen as being present in it. 3] The Catholic Church was universal; i.e. it contained many individual churches, but all were seen as making up only one Catholic Church. 4] The Catholic Church was apostolic; it claimed that Christ had transmitted truth to the apostles and that they, in turn, had transmitted the truth to the Catholic Church.

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