The Church was already Catholic on the morning of Pentecost

01-09-2022Weekly Reflection

Here is important commentary by the distinguished theologian Cardinal Henri De Lubac on why the Church is called Catholic:

The Church which is “Jesus Christ spread abroad and communicated” completes—so far as it can be completed here below—the work of spiritual reunion which was made necessary by sin; that work which was begun at the Incarnation and was carried on up to Calvary. (The Incarnation means God the Son became Man. His Name is Jesus Christ.)

In one sense the Church is herself this reunion, for that is what is meant by the name of Catholic by which we find her called from the second century onward, and which in Latin and well as in Greek was for long bestowed upon her as a proper noun. Katholikos, in classical Greek, was used by philosophers to indicate a universal proposition.

(A universal does not mean fifty bottles of milk as opposed to one bottle of milk. A universal is a property or relation common to individual things. Eg. Mortality is a universal characteristic of every single human being.)

Now a universal is a singular and is not to be confused with an aggregate. The Church is not Catholic because she is spread abroad over the whole of the earth and can reckon on a large number of members. She was already Catholic on the morning of Pentecost, when all her members could be contained in a small room, as she was when the Arian waves seemed on the point of swamping her; she would still be Catholic if tomorrow apostasy on a vast scale deprived her of almost all the faithful.

(Arius was a priest who became a false teacher because he taught that Jesus was not equal to His Father. To combat Arianism the Church issued the Nicene Creed which we profess on Sundays and solemnities. Apostasy is a sin against faith and the First Commandment whereby a Christian totally rejects and throws over his/her Christian Faith.)

For fundamentally Catholicity has nothing to do with geography or statistics. If it is true that it should be displayed over all the earth and be manifest to all, yet its nature is not material but spiritual. Like sanctity, Catholicity is primarily an intrinsic feature of the Church.