Catholicism: The Story of Catholic Christianity

Catholicism: The Story of Catholic Christianity

Catholicism: The Story of Catholic Christianity

Catholicism: The Story of Catholic Christianity

Synopsis

This title includes the following features: Accessible, engaging, andauthoritative introduction to Catholic Christianity by the distinguishedtheologian Gerald O'Collins; Illuminates Catholicism in terms of scripture andhistory; Spells out the challenges Catholic Christianity faces at present andengages with contemporary moral debates

Excerpt

The world's oldest and largest institution, the Catholic Church, is not limited to any particular class, race, or nation. With its geographical and cultural spread, it reaches out to all humanity. It lives up to its attribute, 'catholic': that is to say, it is worldwide and universal. It embraces all nations. A Catholic can join St Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in saying: 'I exist in all languages: my language is Greek, my language is Syrian, my language is Hebrew. My language is that of all peoples, for I exist in the unity of all peoples' (Enarrationes in Psalmos, 147. 19).

'Catholicity' belongs, of course, among the characteristics of the Church confessed by all Christians in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed which is derived in its full form from the First Council of Constantinople (ad 381). Used at least sometimes every year by all Christians when they celebrate the Eucharist, this Creed declares a common faith in the 'one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church'. That is the confession of many Protestants when they profess the Creed each Sunday, whether or not they meet for the Eucharist. Some people would prefer us to give this book the title of Roman Catholicism. After all 'Catholics' are those Christians who are in communion with the Bishop of Rome; they accept the authority of the Pope who lives in Rome and presides over the diocese of Rome. Nevertheless, when one speaks or writes of 'Catholics' or 'Catholicism', people almost invariably understand a reference to Roman Catholics. That surely was the presumption behind the request that we should write a book on 'Catholicism', and not one on 'Roman Catholicism'. At the same time, we appreciate the motives of some readers (e.g. some Anglican readers) who will add 'Roman' whenever we write of the Catholic Church and Catholicism, and who object to the Roman Catholic Church calling itself or being called 'Catholic' tout court. In any case, many elements of Catholic Christianity are found beyond the Catholic Church—a point to which we will return below. What is characteristic of Catholicism need not be always uniquely Catholic. Greek, Russian, and other Orthodox Christians share, for instance, the same range of seven sacraments.

Any claims by the Catholic Church to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church are contested by Orthodox Christians; their rival claims

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