The Catholic Church is aware of the fact that She holds the plenitude of the means of salvation, as John Paul II said: “Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head (Unitatis Redintegratio # 3). In other words, “the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace” (Unitatis Redintegratio # 4).
Our brothers who were born in the so-called Evangelical Churches and are thus separated of the totality of Catholic faith cannot be blamed for the separation that happened in the past. On the other hand, they are deprived of many means of salvation and sanctity that Jesus left to the Church as His Legacy: Sacraments, Marian Devotion, devotion to the saints and much more.
It is worth noticing that when the Catholic Church refers to Protestant Churches, She means traditional historical hierarchical movements like Anglican and Lutheran Churches. She does not mean those countless small sects that uncontrollably and independently multiply at each day: it is obvious that Jesus never authorized that.
Vatican Council II Lumen Gentium affirms that:
“This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity” (Lumen Gentium # 8).
The Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican Council II also affirms that:
“For it is only through Christ’s Catholic Church, which is “the all-embracing means of salvation,” that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation. We believe that Our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, in order to establish the one Body of Christ on earth to which all should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the people of God” (Unitatis Redintegratio # 3).
The unity inside Christ’s Church is manifested in several factors: doctrine, liturgy, governing, Apostolic Succession and so on. The Church has only one doctrine and only one profession of faith received through the Apostles. Those who do not believe is these articles of faith cannot affirm that they are Catholic in the true sense of the word.
The Catechism approved by the Pope in 1992 clearly shows that there is only one doctrine both in terms of dogma and morals.
The liturgical celebration of the Sacraments is an essential factor of unity. The whole world follows the Liturgical Calendar: everywhere you go around the world you will find the same liturgical celebrations and will be able to participate in the same Mass, with minor variations. Another factor of unity in the Church is the Holy Hierarchy that Jesus Himself wanted and enforced. The Apostolic Succession protects and guarantees the fraternal order inside the Church through the Sacrament of the Order. The main factor is the Pope, “the pillar of union” to whom all Clergy and Laity are subject.
The greatest children of the Church have always followed the principle: “Cum Petro et sub Petro” (With Peter and subject to Peter).
The Lord’s Providence has always been with the Church: we have had 264 Popes and the Church has never lacked a Visible Head. The Pope is Christ’s Representative on earth. In the words of Saint Catherine of Siena, the Pope is “sweet Christ on earth”. We have had 50 anti-popes so far, in other words, illegitimate popes who were fruit of human weakness, though we have never lacked a True Pope, Christ’s representative and Peter’s Successor who carries the burden of all sins of mankind.
Professor Felipe Aquino
Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s page:www.cleofas.com.br Twitter: @pfelipeaquino