MY CATHOLIC FAITH
LXVI. Authority of the Church
What are the chief attributes of the Catholic Church? –The chief attributes of the Catholic Church are authority, infallibility, and indefectibility.
An attribute is any quality or characteristic. Virtues as well as faults are attributes.
What is meant by the authority of the Catholic Church? –By the authority of the Catholic Church is meant that the Pope and the bishops, as the lawful successors of the Apostles, have power from Christ Himself to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful in spiritual matters.
Authority is the power one person has over another, such that he can exact obedience justly. Thus rulers have authority over subjects; parents over their children; teachers, over pupils, etc.
Christ appointed the Church to teach whatever He, taught: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. . . . teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19)
Christ taught, as in the Sermon on the Mount.
Christ appointed the Church to sanctify the faithful, by administering the means of grace to its members.
Christ dispensed the means of grace, as when He forgave Mary Magdalen, gave His flesh and blood at the Last Supper, and blessed little children.
Christ appointed the Church to govern with authority and jurisdiction.
Christ was the pastor or ruler of men. He gave commandments, sent the disciples on missions, instructed them, reproved the Pharisees.
Did Christ give the Church full authority? –Christ gave the Church full authority and power, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21).
As a father who goes away on a journey leaves all his power and authority to the mother, so Christ upon leaving the earth gave to His Church full power and authority to carry on His work. “He who hears you, hears me; and he who rejects you, rejects me” (Luke 10:16).
The authority of the Church is not restricted to matters of doctrine and belief, but to whatever is necessary for the good of the Church and its members.
Thus the Church lays down laws concerning fasting and abstinence, keeping of Sundays and holydays, worship, and administration of the sacraments.
The members of the Church must observe whatever laws and regulations it makes. Authority in some form is necessary for every organization; without it members could not be directed to their common purpose.
Every society lays down rules for its members. Those who do not wish to keep them are excluded from it. Without authority the Church could not fulfill its divine purpose. The denominations that broke from the unity of the Church denied its authority. Having no head to obey, they Split and resplit into hundreds of churches.
How does the Church exercise her authority to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful? –The Church exercises her authority to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful by various means, among them being:
Teaching by sermons and by religious classes in schools and parishes.
Today the Church teaches by preaching, by deciding controversies, and by condemning wrong teaching. Parish churches have sermons in the Masses of Sundays and holydays of obligation. Every Catholic school prescribes the study of religion in every class. Every parish holds catechetical classes.
Sanctifying by the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, by the sacraments, by blessings, and by special devotions held in the churches.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, instituted by Our Lord Himself, is the great act of worship of the Church, the source of grace to sanctify the faithful. The sacraments are means of grace by which we obtain help to become more holy children of God.
Governing by the commandments of the Church, by other laws ordered from time to time as need arises, and from the general control by bishops in the dioceses.
In her capacity as ruler, the Church makes regulations forbidding what is dangerous or sinful, as when she prohibits the reading of dangerous books and magazines. All members of the Church are under a strict obligation to obey her laws and regulations; disobedience to the Church is disobedience to Him Who authorized her rule, Jesus Christ, God.