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September 01, 2005

Ch. XXIII. Q. 128. What is the unity of the Church?

THE UNITY of the Church is (a.) her numerical oneness: (b.) her indivisibility: (c.) her homogeneity, or the generic likeness of her local branches or communions. This Unity is made visible by means of inter-communion and cooperation in charity. It is obscured, though not destroyed, by schism.1

2. There never can be but one body of Christ, one Chosen People and one Bride. Therefore, there can be but one Church, viz., that visible Kingdom which was founded upon the Apostles and Prophets. There may, of course, exist in this kingdom various congregations and more or less mutual independence of territorial jurisdiction, according to human arrangement, and for greater convenience in the execution of the Apostolic commission. In this sense only does the New Testament speak of more than one Church.2 The entire Church is there spoken of as one.3

3. Since the Church is one, wherever and and however established and represented as to jurisdiction, there must exist a generic likeness between her various organized parts or communions. This likeness appears in (a.) a common and three-fold Ministry, which receives its mission and authority through the Episcopate by unbroken succession from the Apostles: (b.) a common or Catholic Faith — the Faith once for all delivered to the saints 4— which contains much that has been lost by those who have broken away from the Apostolic Ministry: (c.) common Sacraments, including the two greater ones and the five lesser ones: (d.) a common mode of worship or Liturgy, which is the same in its general outline, whatever variations occur in phraseology, in every Communion of the Catholic Church5: (e.) common institutions and practices — e.g., the arrangement of the Christian year, and the rule of fasting Communion — which help to form an atmosphere and ἤθος peculiar to the Catholic Church. These points of likeness are only found in Catholic Communions, which they identify as parts of the one Church which Christ came to establish.6

4. The essential Unity of the Church can be obscured by rupture of visible inter-communion between local branches, but it cannot be broken. All those Communions which preserve the Apostolic Ministry and the generic characteristics of the Church are parts of one organism, of which Christ is the Head and the Holy Ghost is the Sanctifier and Illuminator.7

5. The act by which the Church's visible unity is broken is called schism. It is of two sorts: (a.) internal, or schism in the Church, a rupture of visible inter-communion between true branches of the Church, such as exists between the Eastern and Western, and between the Roman and Anglican Communions: (b.) external, or schism from the Church, a revolt of individuals from the Apostolic Ministry and fellowship, followed by the formation of rival societies and ministries of human devising which differ in kind from those of the Church. Such schism exists in the Protestant world.8

6. Schism is (a.) formal, when caused by wilful action known to be inconsistent with visible unity: or (b.) material, when not intentional. The spirit of schism, which is a lack of charity, is sinful; but has troubled all parts of the Church for ages, and must be remedied before a restoration of visible unity can be looked for. Such a restoration must be sought—not only because of the great increase of conversions which will follow, but also—as an end in itself, since visible unity is a necessary part and expression of charity in the Church, the chief of Christian virtues. The formal responsibility for schism now rests with the papal see, the claims of which make visible unity impossible; and with modern sects, the very existence and inspiring principles of which are schismatic.9

1 Palmer on the Church, I. iv, v: Pearson on the Creed, Art. IX. pp. 599-603: Grueber's Kingdom of God, 27-37: Church Militant 116-121: Forbes' N. Creed, 274-291: Mason's Faith of fhe Gosp., VIII. 2: Churton's Foundation of Doc., II. pp. 68-75: Schouppe, III, 222-234: Maclear's Introd. to the Creeds, 223-226: Hammond's Christian Church, pp. 86-48, 73-83, 182-193: Hutchings on the Holy Ghost, 128-146, 168: Pusey's Eng. Church True, 18, 19, 44-63: Hooker's Ec. Pol. III. 1,2, 3.

2 e.g., Acts IX. 31: XVI. 5: II. Cor. VIII. 19, 23, 24: XI. 28: Rom. XVI. 4: Gal. I. 22: Rev. I. 4

3 S. Matt. XVI. 18: I. Cor. XII. 28: Gal. I. 13: Ephes. I. 22, 23: III. 10, 21: V. 23-32: Phil. III. 6: Col. 1.18, 24: Heb. XII. 23. cf. Psa. CXXII. Palmer, pp. 68, 69.

4 Jude 3

5 cf. Acts II. 42

6 Palmer, p. 71: I. v. 2, 4, 5: Pearson: Staley's Cath. Church, II. v.

7 Palmer. I. iv. 3: Pusey, 58, 59.

8 Mason, VIII. 2.

9 Palmer, I. iv. 1-3: I. xiii. 2: pp. 415, 416: Staley's Cath. Church, III. iv: Forbes' N. Creed, 284-291

Posted by Trevor at September 1, 2005 11:29 AM