One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

Denise J. Hunnell, MD - One Holy1


I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. (1Cor 1:10)

It seems that even during the time of the Apostles there was a tendency to divide into factions. Some identified with Paul while others claimed allegiance to Apollos or Cephas. We can see from Scripture that Paul wisely tried to nip this in the bud. The Body of Christ, the Church, is to be unified in Christ and no other.

Sadly, the tribalism of the first Christians is alive and well in the 21st century. You can hear nonsensical comments like, \”I am a John the XXIII Catholic, not a Benedict XVI Catholic,\” or \”I am a Benedict XVI Catholic not a Francis Catholic\”. Some try to narrow their Catholicism with words like liberal or conservative, traditional or progressive, Latin or Novus Ordo. In the online world of Catholic blogging you see cults of personality built around this or that prominent blogger. Dare to criticize one of these Catholic celebrities and his or her fans descend upon the interloper in the comment box with the ferocity of sharks in a feeding frenzy. Civility and charity are often left behind.

There really should be no modifiers to our Catholicism. There is only one Christ and one Church. Adding labels are divisive and the antithesis to Christ’s desire that all should be one in Him. Rivalries among factions serve only to wound the Church when we should be building up the Body of Christ instead.

There is no question that different people are drawn to different teachers, theologians, musicians, and artists. As I look at the various writers who have given me insight into the Church and helped form my faith in Christ I can attribute a great deal of spiritual growth to Peter Kreeft, Bert Ghezzi, Amy Welborn, Christopher West, and probably most significantly, Pope Benedict XVI. This does not make me a Kreeft-Ghezzi-Welborn-West-Ratzinger-Catholic. I am Catholic. Period. I can describe my status on the faith journey with adjectives like faithful, struggling, complacent, growing, etc. But these are descriptions of me and not a branding of my own individual Catholicism. Trying to carve out my own personal Catholic Church that fits my lifestyle and tastes is erroneously setting myself up as a Magisterium of one.

So how do we unite all of our squabbling tribes? There has never been a family without some bickering and our Catholic family is no different. But in a strong family, the bickering never breaks the filial bonds. All the branches of our Catholic family tree may stretch out in different directions, but they have a common root, Jesus. Our allegiance must be to Christ and His Church, not to any particular branch.

Of course each of us may have different preferences for language, music, architecture, or preaching style. As long as your preference is still attached to the root of the true Magisterium, feel free to choose. Then be charitable and respectful when another Catholic chooses differently than you do. It is truly disheartening to hear the belittling and denigration that goes on among those who are all supposed to be of the same Catholic Church. Snobbery has no place among brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have heard Catholics who prefer the Novus Ordo Mass claim that Catholics who attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass are sedevacantists and anti-Semites. I have heard those who attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass claim that those who attend the Novus Ordo are Catholics in name only. Such broad brush labeling is the sin of pride rearing its ugly head and speaks more of the insecurities of the labeler than the true characteristics of the labeled. The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is Catholic. The Novus Ordo is Catholic. Women who veil are Catholic. Women who do not veil are Catholic. Gregorian chant is Catholic. Guitars are Catholic.

So pause before you speak or write. Think. Will my words unify or divide? I know it can be satisfying to turn that snarky phrase and play to your base. I struggle with the temptation to get the last clever jab in an argument. But Christ did not tell us to go and win debates. He commanded that we go and make disciples of all the nations. That requires charity, not derision. The goal is not for “my side” to win, but that all sides be united in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

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12 thoughts on “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic”

  1. There are only 3 types of Catholics. Faithful Catholics, Catholic heretics, and Catholic schismatics. (See Church definitions in CCC 2089.)

    1. QUOTE: ” Christian love bears evil, but it does not tolerate it.

      It does penance for the sins of others, but it is not broadminded about sin.

      The cry for tolerance never induces it to quench its hatred of the evil philosophies that have entered into contest with the Truth.

      It forgives the sinner, and it hates the sin; it is unmerciful to the error in his mind.

      The sinner it will always take back into the bosom of the Mystical Body;
      but his lie will never be taken into the treasury of His Wisdom.

      Real love involves real hatred:
      whoever has lost the power of moral indignation and the urge to drive the buyers and sellers from the temples
      has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.

      Charity, then, is not a mild philosophy of “live and let live”;
      it is not a species of sloppy sentiment.

      Charity is the infusion of the Spirit of God,
      which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly. ” UNQUOTE – Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

  2. Name calling will never win friends and influence people.
    However, we must NEVER sacrifice the TRUTH or TOLERATE MORTAL SIN itself.

    Jesus did not change His teaching because most of his disciples left Him. He let them go instead. Jn 6:66

    All Catholics are required to adhere to the “CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, Second Edition” in entirety. The CCC contains the Doctrine of the Faith in entirety.
    For quotes from Popes JPII, Benedict, and Francis about the CCC go to:
    “What Catholics REALLY Believe SOURCE”

  3. A couple of years ago in a combox conversation I as much as wrote out a liberal commentator with an invitation that she ought to leave the Catholic church as she didn’t seem to care for it much. The very next day in a different conversation I was “shown the door” by someone more conservative than I! A lesson I will never forget. The best I can do is invite people in. It is not now and never will be my place to kick them out.

  4. Thank you Denise, I really appreciate how you have reminded us about unity, and that who we like as teachers should not divide us. There is too much pride. The arguing back and forth can also damage people new to Catholicism, or those considering Catholicism. In that sense pride damages the New Evangelization.

  5. Wendell Clanton

    Except for the part about guitars (in the Liturgy), a hearty ‘Amen’.

    A guitar played well can be a beautiful thing. However, there are some instruments not meant for the Mass. This is not a matter of mere taste but a matter of liturgical propriety. As Catholics, we are obliged to ‘think with the Church’ and not impose our tastes upon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Part of the problem is that too many uninformed or misinformed Catholics assume that there are no proscriptions with regards to the celebration of the Mass. Some folk may be offended by the suggestion that some instruments are not appropriate. Be that as it may, over the centuries the Church (East and West) has given much thought to the principles which have guided the celebration of the Mass/Divine Liturgy, i.e., the compositional and orchestration techniques appropriate to the true, good and beautiful celebration of the Liturgy. She, the Church, tends to speak of what should be included—e.g., chant, the organ (or no organ at times)—rather than what should be excluded. Many attempt to argue that, since there are no obvious or particular objections mentioned in some of the relevant documents, this amounts to approval of certain instrumental and compositional techniques or choices. That would be a rather broad brushed assumption with little historical and philosophical merit.

    1. Some folk may be offended by the suggestion that some instruments are not appropriate.

      But this is nothing for anyone to get upset about. Many of us who do attend the Latin Mass– either regularly or semi-regularly in addition to the Novus Ordo– also listen to music that wouldn’t be appropriate at Mass, which includes a lot of “classical” music, and not just pop, rock, or folk. A lot of us also enjoy playing instruments that wouldn’t be appropriate for Mass, either.

      Even instruments that are appropriate can be played in inappropriate ways. The organ is appropriate, but pulling out the stops and blasting it throughout Mass would not be.

  6. A very timely and astute observation. When Jesus said he had come to bring a sword
    I believe its manifistation lies in a cleaving of definitions adopted by an early church
    and refined at a later age. Hence, the Reformation and subsequent disorder within
    the ranks of faithful themselves. Even swords blunt over time and may even deform
    into plowshares.

  7. Pingback: Why Some Saints Called Doctors of the Church -

  8. Thank you Dr. D for this fine piece-and so to the point for what occurs in many parishes with so-called “ACTS Catholics.” They remind me of the ancient Gnostics who purported to have the secret codes and inner truths that the run-of-the-mill “ordinary” church members did not have. Some of these modern-day Gnostics speak about their “ACTS Sisters” and their “ACTS brothers,” and have special meetings and events for ACTS folks only. When I told them about the letters and other things that happen on ACTS retreat, though I have not done one, they considered me to have wrongfully exposed state secrets. I really upset them when I applied for the women’s retreat, was refused, and jokingly accused them of sex discrimination. We are all in this together, each of us a member of the Church Militant, each a member of the Mystical Body Of Christ, each my sister in Christ, each my brother in Christ – of equal standing and of equal infinite value. Guy McClung, San Antonio.

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