Ch 7: How Unity Was Lost and How it Can Be Regained

Go To the Forward & Introduction to all Three Volumes of So That The World May Believe 

Go To the Beginning of this Book So That The World May Believe Volume I: Rediscovering the Early Church’s Unity in Diversity 

Chapter 7 

How the Unity in Diversity of the Undivided Early Church Was Lost in History, and How the 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican Council II) Laid the Groundwork for its Eventual Restoration

This is a brief overview – for many more details on these topics, see Volume III

It is fairly common knowledge, even among Protestant Christians, that the Undivided Early Christian Church commonly called itself the Catholic Church.  But even today’s over 1 Billion Roman Catholic  Christians have largely forgotten just why the Early Church called itself the Catholic Church.  Only one quarter of all Catholic Christians were Roman Catholics in the Undivided Early Church, which called itself the Catholic Church and not merely the Roman Church because it was a Catholic (Greek for Universal) Communion of orthodox Christian Sister Churches (Eastern and Western).  In addition to the Western, Roman culture which had been renewed in Christ Jesus, the other three quarters of orthodox, Catholic Christians in the Undivided Early Church were Eastern Rite Christians, belonging to the three other major ancient cultures which were renewed in Christ Jesus: the Syrian culture centered in Antioch; the Egyptian culture centered in Alexandria; the Greek culture centered in Byzantium which was later renamed Constantinople –  and some Christians belonged to the small Jerusalem Church which had been the original center of Christianity, and the center of the Jewish culture from which all the original Christians came, before the pagan Romans destroyed Jerusalem in the Second Jewish War of 135 AD and scattered the Jews from their homeland until modern times (those who believed in Jesus and those who did not; those who did being such a minority that they were absorbed into the mass ranks of Gentile converts to Christianity, worshiping with the Christian Syrians, Egyptians, Romans or Greeks).

The same Early Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Christian Church which first clearly articulated and permanently established the basic fundamental beliefs of orthodox Christianity also declared the Christian overseers (also called bishops or eparchs) of the five cities of Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, Constantinople, and Jerusalem to be patriarchs, the five distinct cultural expressions of orthodox Christianity under their jurisdiction patriarchates, and these five different cultural Rites or Sister Churches or Patriarchates of Early Undivided Christianity lived a wonderful unity in diversity in the First Christian Millennium, in which, united in common Christian faith, they enriched each other with their different perspectives on their common faith and different practical expressions of their common faith.  The  original “Pentarchy” of five Christian Patriarchates sent missionaries to other cultures, which also eventually became distinct cultural Rites or Sister Churches, “Daughter Churches” of the original five which retained many elements of their missionary “Mother Church,” and some of these when they were more mature became also known as Patriarchates themselves.

This was the structure of the Undivided Early Catholic (Universal) Christian Church.  However, due to accident of history today the great majority of Catholic Christians belong to the Roman Catholic Sister Church or Patriarchate within the ongoing Catholic Communion of orthodox Eastern and Western Christian Sister Churches which is still known collectively as the Catholic Church.  Today’s Catholic Church is still a Universal or Catholic Communion of about 26 different orthodox Eastern and Western Rites or Sister Churches (the original five Sister Churches and their many “Daughter Churches”), but it is hard to see this since the tens of millions of non-Roman Catholic Christians (including myself) are dwarfed in numbers by the billion-member Roman Catholic Sister Church within today’s ongoing Catholic Communion of Eastern and Western Sister Churches which still, as in the Undivided Early Church, recognizes the pope in Rome as the Successor of Peter (the chief Apostle to whom Jesus gave “the keys of the Kingdom” in Matthew 16:17-19) and thus as the Head Pastor of the entire Catholic (Universal) Christian Communion of East and West (this papal belief, in evidence since Apostolic times, was also clearly articulated in the Acts of the Early Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Early Church since the 431AD 3rd Ecumenical Council, and declared an irreformable Christian dogma at the 8th Ecumenical Council of 869 AD – see Volume III’s Chapter 5).   

So how did the ancient Undivided Early Catholic Christian Communion come to be numerically dominated by only one of its Rites, the Roman, such that even its own members became largely unaware of just what being Catholic really means?  By accident of history (surely aided by the Devil who wanted to destroy the loving ancient Christian unity in diversity of the First Millennium Catholic Communion).  First of all the ancient (Eastern) Antiochene and Alexandrian Catholic Sister Churches or Patriarchates lost substantial portions to heresy in the First Millennium (which became known as the heretical “Lesser Eastern Churches,” still around today though small).  The other Eastern Catholic Sister Churches began referring to themselves as the Eastern Orthodox Churches at this time, to distinguish themselves from the sizable Eastern heretical or unorthodox Churches, but they were still Catholic, members of the Undivided Early Catholic Christian Church (“orthodox” means “not heretic,” it does not mean “not Catholic”).  Sadly, what remained of the Eastern Antiochene and Alexandrian Orthodox and Catholic Sister Churches was mostly wiped out by militant Islam later in the First Millennium.  In the Second Millennium, most of the remaining Eastern Catholic Sister Churches (the majority being of the Byzantine Patriarchate, which influenced the remnant of the Antiochene and Alexandrian Churches even though they were older Patriarchates) were forced out of the Catholic Communion by the Muslim conquerors of Constantinople (Byzantium), in 1472.  The Muslims did not want the Eastern Rite Christians in their conquered territories having anything to do with the Western, Roman Church and the pope in Rome who had sent Roman Catholic Crusaders into Muslim territories originally to protect Byzantium (Constantinople) from Muslim conquest and to free the Holy Land from Muslim rule.  Some of the Eastern Churches (like the Antiochene Maronites and the Byzantine Italo-Albanians) were never separated from the Universal (Catholic) Christian Communion, and half of the Byzantine Ukrainians and smaller portions of all the other Eastern Sister Churches returned to the Catholic Communion afterwards.

Before the actual break of Universal (Catholic) Christian communion forced by the Muslims in 1472, there had previously been centuries of tension between East and West rooted in cultural prejudice and both sides losing sight of their First Millennium loving Christian unity of faith in a great diversity of faith expressions within the Undivided Early Church’s Catholic Communion.  The worst example of this tension was in the 1054 personal mutual excommunication of the pope (Catholic Patriarch of Rome, head of the Roman Catholic Sister Church as well as Head Pastor of the Catholic Communion) and the Catholic Patriarch of Constantinople (head of the Byzantine Catholic Sister Church) over differences like what kind of bread “should” be used in Holy Communion.  This despite the fact that the earlier Ecumenical Councils which defined the fundamentals of Christianity against the various heretics had also established the Patriarchates as a way of declaring that the different customs of the different Sister Churches – including using leavened or unleavened bread for Holy Communion – were all valid expressions of Christianity.  The Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Celularius, had provoked this conflict by impiously throwing unleavened Communion bread used by the Roman Rite churches in Constantinople into the street, and then he refused to meet with the Roman legates sent by the pope to settle the issue, which not surprisingly escalated into a mutual excommunication, since there was no hope for resolution when the side that provoked the confrontation refused to talk.  This mutual personal excommunication of the Roman and Byzantine Patriarchs was not an excommunication of the entire Sister Churches under each patriarch’s jurisdiction, so this kind of tension had never become a complete break of the Catholic Communion.  There continued to be many examples of continued unity as well as strained unity, and the East and West still participated in Ecumenical Councils together on several occasions after 1054.  The 17th Ecumenical Council of 1439 officially dealt with the long East-West tensions and strained Catholic Communion, and both sides joyfully re-affirmed their ancient Catholic Communion, declaring that in their differences East and West had been “aiming at the same meaning with different words,” that they shared the identical ancient orthodox Christian, Catholic faith merely expressed differently and celebrated through different rituals and worship customs which were all valid expressions of orthodox Christianity.  Unfortunately, the underlying mutual cultural prejudice and spirit of Satanic accusation of other Christians being wrong or inferior for being different, which was behind the long East-West tension, was never formally recognized nor rooted out, and so after the Muslim conquerors of the East (in 1453) forced the total break of communion (in 1472) which made the Eastern Orthodox Churches for the first time not Catholic, the largest portions of these Eastern Sister Churches did not return to the Catholic Communion when they later had opportunity (though smaller portions of all of them did). 

This was largely because for many centuries, since the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, the East and West had had very little contact with each other and both sides gradually became used to expressing and practicing their Christian faith in their own culturally-based way with little reminder that there were other ways of other Churches which their own Church had once enjoyed a loving and mutually enriching unity in diversity with in the Catholic (Universal) Communion of East and West. 

Before the Fall of the Western Roman Empire there is not the slightest hint of an Eastern Christian failure to recognize the pope in Rome as the Successor of Peter the Chief Apostle and Head Pastor of the entire Universal (Catholic) Christian Church and center of unity of the one Christian Church, but a great consensus of papal recognition by both Eastern and Western Christian Saints, including those who were most involved in defending the common fundamental tenets of Christianity against many different heretics, and including those involved in the first four Ecumenical Councils (the fourth in 451 AD) which clearly articulated and permanently established the basic Christology of orthodox Christian faith (see Volume III’s Chapter 5).  Pope Saint Leo I (“the Great”) had actually developed, articulated and explained the fundamental Christian doctrine all fundamentally orthodox Christians now know as “Jesus is fully God and fully man,” against the Monophysite Christian heretics who interpreted the Bible differently, and the 4th Ecumenical Council of Eastern and Western Christian leaders, on hearing Pope Leo’s doctrine, thunderously applauded him and proclaimed their recognition of Leo as Peter’s Successor the Pope, saying “Peter has spoken through Leo.”

Even after the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, when East and West started to have little communication and the East-West discomfort with each other’s different expressions of Christianity began, the Church remained one Undivided Universal (Catholic) Christian Church for many centuries.  The Eastern, Byzantine Patriarch Acacius sought to compromise with the heretics and ban the “fully God and fully man” definition, but the temporary schism he caused was settled by the East and West signing a Christian Creed in 517 AD which included the doctrine that “Jesus is fully God and fully man” and included a formal recognition of the pope in Rome as the Successor of Peter and Head Pastor of the one Christian Church.  In 867 AD the later Byzantine Patriarch Photius tried to split the Eastern Church from the Catholic Communion pastorally guided by the pope using trivialities of customs which were different between East and West as his excuse, but the Eastern and Western Christian leaders healed this temporary schism at the 8th Ecumenical Council of 869 AD which made the 517 AD Creed’s definition of the papacy an irreformable dogma of the Undivided First Millennium Christian Church of East and West.  Even the 2nd Millennium Byzantine Patriarch Michael Celularius’ 1054 AD attempt to split the Eastern Churches under his influence from the Catholic (Universal) Communion which recognizes the pope was not fully successful, and the Russian Orthodox Church (one of the Byzantine missionary “Daughter Churches”) still sought the pope in Rome’s approval for canonizing saints long after 1054.  There would be no total break in Christian communion between East and West before it was forced by the Muslim conquerors of the East, though sadly the gradual drifting apart of both sides and the gradually increasing cultural prejudice which was increasingly uncomfortable with Christian ways different than one’s own on both sides would prevent the full reunification of East and West after this forced break.  Other than the dominant half of the Byzantine Ukrainian Church, only smaller portions of all of those Eastern Sister Churches which had been separated would return to the Catholic Communion pastorally guided by the pope, and those portions were so small next to the huge Roman Sister Church which had not suffered Muslim conquest like the East did that most Roman Catholic Christians, who never had contact with now-minority Eastern Catholics (even though the four Eastern Patriarchates together outnumbered the one Western, Roman Patriarchate in the Early Church) would forget about the Catholic East and come to commonly but incorrectly think of the Catholic Church as being equivalent with their own Western, Roman Catholic Sister Church whose Patriarch was also the Catholic (Universal) pope only because Peter the Chief Apostle had died in Rome and not somewhere else (had Peter stayed in Antioch and died there, the Bishop of Antioch would be Peter’s Successor, not the Bishop of Rome).

There was nothing inherently superior in the Western, Roman cultural expression of Christianity than in the various Eastern cultural expressions of Christianity; in fact the Universal (Catholic) Communion of different cultural Sister Churches was superior to any one Rite or Sister Church or  Patriarchate’s distinct cultural expression of Christianity aloneMore of the infinite truth revealed in Jesus Christ the Living Word of God and in the Bible, the Written Word of God, was emphasized and reflected upon and developed in deeper understanding by the different Sister Churches with their different perspectives and emphases together, which is why it took the Ecumenical (worldwide) Councils of the leaders of all the Sister Churches together to most clearly articulate the basic, fundamental tenets of Christianity against heretical challenges to the Christian faith from within the Early Church (even the Roman Pope Saint Leo I’s “Jesus is fully God and fully man” definition had artfully combined the theological work of the Antiochene and Alexandrian theological schools).  But unfortunately, the ongoing Catholic Communion of orthodox Eastern and Western Christian Sister Churches after the Muslim-forced schism had a vast majority of specifically Roman Catholic members.  Unfortunately, these Roman Rite Catholics were already used to worshiping Jesus in their own distinctly Roman ways and hardly ever having contact with non-Roman Catholics, and they were generally unaware even of the continued existence of the ancient Eastern Catholic Sister Churches.  So Roman Rite Christians became all the more Roman, and less aware of what it meant to be a truly Universal (Catholic) Communion of different Eastern and Western Sister Churches, and they came to falsely associate Catholicism only with the particularly Roman expressions of Catholicism.  Eastern Rite Christians were now mostly formally separated from the ancient Catholic (Universal) Communion of East and West and they likewise associated their ancient but particularly Eastern expressions of Christianity as if they were the only proper or best form of Christianity.  Today’s very loose communion of Eastern Orthodox Churches are mostly Daughter Churches of the Byzantine Patriarchate and in the same way they often are not particularly respectful even of the Eastern but non-Byzantine expressions of Christianity. The Eastern Catholic Christians were the ones who retained most of the sense of the Undivided Early Church’s unity in diversity, but they were such a minority that they were not very influential and to this day people generally are not aware of their existence (as one of them, I hope to change that with this book).

[the rest of this first Internet Edition of Volume I Chapter 7 is  more rough but still in complete sentences and paragraphs with good idea flow]

Unfortunately, not that long after the 1472 Muslim-forced total break of the majority of the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches from the Catholic (Universal) Communion of East and West, the Western, Roman Catholic Sister Church, would also have a major schism of its own: the Protestant Reformation.  The Protestant Reformers, being raised Roman Catholic, inherited the then-typical Roman Catholic ignorance about what the Church’s proper universality and unity in diversity was supposed to look like, since it had not been clearly visible for so long.  The Protestant Reformers had many legitimate concerns about needed reforms within the 16th Century Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, which they mistakenly thought of as the Catholic Church entire, as most Roman Catholics also did (the forgotten smaller Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church which remained in the Catholic Communion at that time did not have the same problems).  The Roman Catholic Church was aware of the problems and saintly Cardinal Ximenes had already eliminated most of them in Spain, which is why the Protestant Reformation never took root in Spain – there was nothing to “protest” against.  The  18th Ecumenical Council in 1515 (2 years before Luther posted his 95 Theses) had already formally identified some of the problems needing correction, but implementation of that Catholic Reformation which had begun before the Protestant Reformation was very slow except in Spain.  Impatient with the slowness of Roman Catholic reform efforts, Luther and the other Protestant Reformers started whole new churches, which in many ways were like “Daughter Rites” of the ancient Roman Patriarchate, still bearing many distinctive marks of particularly Western and Roman expressions of Christianity which are easily identifiable to Eastern Christians who do not share them.  But unlike the many formal “Daughter Rites” or “Daughter Churches” of the ancient Eastern Patriarchates, these new Western daughter churches were not on good speaking terms with their Roman “Mother Church,” and they had abandoned entirely enough of the elements of ancient undivided Catholic Christianity which had been abused in the Roman Rite of the time (instead of correcting abuses) that they were no longer constituted like the ancient Sister Churches which shared a mutually enriching unity in diversity in the First Christian Millennium.

So sadly the Protestants inherited from Roman Catholics who had also mostly forgotten the mutually enriching unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Catholic Church the notion that there was only one proper or best way to celebrate and express one’s Christian faith.  Thus, each of the individual Reformers having their own individual notions about how to “fix” what they (rightly or wrongly) perceived as in need of reform in the 16th Century Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, they formed a dozen or two entirely separate churches in their different attempts to “reform” the Church, and many of them actually wrote to each other calling each other “sons of Satan” and the like for founding churches that were different from theirs.  The Protestant Reformers had no sense at all of the proper unity in diversity of the Undivided Early Church which had been hidden in the recent centuries of East-West tension and lack of contact.  So while they (happily) inherited the Canon of the New Testament and the fundamental doctrines of Christianity from the Roman Catholic Church, they also (unhappily) inherited the notion of uniformity rather than unity in diversity, of their being only one best or one proper way to be Christian.  Whatever provocation they may have had in the resistance to reform of certain Roman Catholic authority figures, nevertheless, the new Protestant churches were created in a very reactionary fashion, wherein problems within the historical, Catholic Church were not worked through patiently and the entire structure of the Undivided Early Church of the First Millennium was abandoned entirely instead of patiently correcting misconceptions and abuses.1  Entire new separated churches were formed instead of solving disagreements through a patient and loving process among Christian brothers united in common fundamentals.  This attitude is part of the historical foundation of Protestantism, which set the precedent Protestants have continued to follow for almost 500 years: there are today over 35,000 distinct Protestant denominations registered with governments worldwide because whenever there is disagreement in a Protestant church, a whole new separate church is formed!  The Body of Christ is divided again!  Whereas Roman Catholic Christians, despite the trend of ignorance towards the non-Roman Rites of the Catholic Church, can disagree with each other on many points (there are different theological schools, often associated with different religious orders, which have debated certain theological issues for centuries!) and still be brother Roman Catholics in one Roman Catholic Church, a Church itself still in full Christian communion with the Eastern Sister Churches in the Catholic Communion which have their own Eastern theological distinctives.  In contrast, Protestants it seems cannot acknowledge each other fully as Christian brothers in one Christian Church denomination unless they are almost entirely like-minded and share exactly the same theological theories of how to best understand the common Divine Revelation they have accepted in faith.  In this and many other ways, Protestants took trends within the Roman Catholic Sister Church they left and took them to extremes, in this case to the fragmentation of the one Church of Jesus Christ.

Vatican Council II, the 21st Ecumenical Council of the Catholic (Universal) Church, brings hope for the possibility of the eventual reversal of all the prolific division within Christianity.  The Catholic Church, because it never actually lost the Undivided Early Church’s nature and structure even though it was long hidden from the view of most, finally had an Ecumenical Council which reflected on the nature and structure of the Christian Church throughout history (especially in the First Millennium) and formally defined it, and so this Council lays the groundwork for the eventual full, visible restoration of the structure of the Undivided Early Church of the First Millennium.

The Catholic Church’s Official Understanding of the Nature and Structure of the Church as the Mystery of the Body of Christ (see Ephesians 5:22-32) organized in the World as a Catholic (Universal) Communion of Orthodox Eastern and Western Christian Rites or Particular (Sister) Churches Pastorally Guided by the (Universal) Pope and the (Particular) Patriarchs, in the Words of Vatican II (the 21st Ecumenical Council) 

On The Nature of the Church 

“Since the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament—a sign and  instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men — she here proposes, for the benefit of the faithful and  of the whole world, to set forth, as clearly as possible, and in the tradition laid down by earlier Councils, her own nature and universal mission. The condition of the modern world lends greater urgency to this duty of the Church; for, while men of the present  day are drawn ever more closely together by social, technical and cultural bonds, it still remains for them to achieve full unity in Christ. ” (Vatican Council II, LG 1, emphases added)

“Really sharing in the body of the Lord in the breaking of the eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with him and with one another. “Because the bread is one, we, though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). In this way all of us are made members of his body (cf. 1 Cor. 12:27), “but severally members one of another” (Rom. 12:4).”

As all the members of the human body, though they are many, form one body, so also are the faithful in Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 12:12). Also, in the building up of Christ’s body there is engaged a diversity of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare of the Church (cf. 1 Cor. 12:1–11). Among these gifts the primacy belongs to the grace of the apostles to whose authority the Spirit himself subjects even those who are endowed with charisms (cf. 1 Cor. 14)2. Giving the body unity through himself, both by his own power and by the interior union of the members, this same Spirit produces and stimulates love among the faithful. From this it follows that if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with him, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26).

The head of this body is Christ. He is the image of the invisible God and in him all things came into being. He is before all creatures and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body which is the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he might hold the primacy (cf. Col. 1:15–18). By the greatness of his power he rules heaven and earth, and with his all-surpassing perfection and activity he fills the whole body with the riches of his glory (cf. Eph. 1:18–23). …On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, following in trial and in oppression the paths he trod, we are associated with his sufferings as the body with its head, suffering with him, that with him we may be glorified (cf. Rom. 8:17).

From him “the whole body, supplied and built up by joints and ligaments, attains a growth that is of God” (Col. 2:19). He continually provides in his body, that is, in the Church, for gifts of ministries through which, by his power, we serve each other unto salvation so that, carrying out the truth in love, we may through all things grow unto him who is our head (cf. Eph. 4:11–16, Gk.).

In order that we might be unceasingly renewed in him (cf. Eph. 4:23), he has shared with us his Spirit who, being one and the same in head and members, gives life to, unifies and moves the whole body. Consequently, his work could be compared by the Fathers to the function that the principle of life, the soul, fulfils in the human body. ” (LG 7, emphases added, with gloss in parentheses)

“The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ, the visible society and the spiritual community, the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches, are not to be thought of as two realities. On the contrary, they form one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element.  For this reason the Church is compared, in a powerful analogy, to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed [human] nature, inseparably united to him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a somewhat similar way, does the social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ who vivifies it, in the building up of the body (cf. Eph. 4:15).

This is the sole Church of Christ which in the [ancient Nicene] Creed we profess to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter’s pastoral care (Jn. 21:17), commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it (cf. Mt. 28:18, etc.), and which he raised up for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him.  Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines [particularly in the non-Catholic churches which left the Catholic Communion in history but remain “Catholic at heart,” wholly committed to the essentials of traditional (Catholic) Christian faith]. Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity [the orthodox, traditional Christian faith “belongs” to the one Church of Christ which subsists in the Catholic Church, so the non-Catholic but orthodox or “Catholic at heart” churches rejoining the Catholic Communion is the best guarantee of their long-term Christian orthodoxy, as mature Protestantism (which is “ doctrinally liberal” or unorthodox) demonstrates]. ” (LG 8, emphases added, with gloss in parentheses)

On The Structure of the Church

 The holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government. They combine into different groups, which are held together by their hierarchy, and so form particular churches or rites. Between those churches there is such a wonderful communion that this variety, so far from diminishing the Church’s unity, rather serves to emphasize it … These individual churches both Eastern and Western, while they differ somewhat among themselves in what is called “rite,” namely in liturgy, in ecclesiastical discipline and in spiritual tradition, are none the less all equally entrusted to the pastoral guidance of the Roman Pontiff [the pope], who by God’s appointment is successor to Blessed Peter in primacy over the Universal Church. Therefore these churches are of equal rank, so that none of them is superior to the others because of its rite. They have the same rights and obligations, even with regard to the preaching of the Gospel in the whole world (cf. Mk. 16:15), under the direction of the Roman Pontiff [the pope]. ” (Vatican Council II, OE 2,3, emphases added)

“The one People of God is accordingly present in all the nations of the earth, since its citizens, who are taken from all nations, are of a kingdom whose nature is not earthly but heavenly. All the faithful scattered throughout the world are in communion with each other in the Holy Spirit so that ‘he who dwells in Rome knows those in most distant parts to be his members’[Chrysostom].3 ” (Vatican Council II, LG 13)

“Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions, without prejudice to the Chair of Peter which presides over the whole assembly of charity,  and protects their legitimate variety while at the same time taking care that these differences do not hinder unity, but rather contribute to it. ” (LG 13)

“It has come about through divine providence that, in the course of time, different Churches set up in various places by the apostles and their successors joined together in a multiplicity of organically united groups which, whilst safeguarding the unity of the faith and the unique divine structure of the universal Church, have their own discipline, enjoy their own liturgical usage and inherit a theological and spiritual patrimony. Some of these, notably the ancient patriarchal Churches, as mothers in the faith, gave birth to other daughter-Churches (LG 23) …. The patriarchate as an institution has existed in the Church from the earliest times, and was already recognized by the first ecumenical councils. ” (OE 7)

“… This multiplicity of local Churches, unified in a common effort, shows all the more resplendently the catholicity of the undivided Church. ” (LG 23)

[unfinished section – I will here want to discuss how all Christians coming to envision the Church’s structure as described above, a way which captures the reality of the Undivided Early Church of the First Millennium, as properly a universal communion of different orthodox “Sister Churches” united in common faith and common dogma but expressing that common faith according to different but mutually enriching theological traditions and worship and devotional customs and practices, has tremendous potential for eventually bringing down the barriers which currently divide Christians.  This Undivided Early Church model makes only a very few of the many differences between churches actual contradictions which are worthy of being separate over for now, and these few contradictions, on their own, can much more easily be worked out with time and patient Christian love .  This Undivided Early Church model sees the Catholic (Universal) Church, that is, the Catholic Communion of orthodox Sister Churches (not just the large Roman Rite), as the historical and only possible platform for the Church reunification we all know Jesus desires for us: former Nestorian heretics, after recanting their errors, have already been received back into the Catholic Communion headed by the pope as the Chaldean Rite of the Catholic Church (in the 16th Century), and once one understands the Catholic Church’s basic structure according to this model, it is easy to see currently divided churches as potential future Rites of the one Catholic (Universal) Church of Jesus Christ – the Eastern Orthodox Churches simply rejoining the Eastern Catholic Rites; the Church of England being reestablished as the Anglican Rite of the Catholic Church which it effectively was before the schism of Henry VIII; the conservative Lutherans, after recanting their few actual errors like the sola scriptura doctrine which birthed the liberal and unorthodox Protestantism they despise, being received back into Catholic communion as the German Rite of the Catholic Church; the Presbyterians as the Scottish Rite; and even the many various Evangelical churches as the North American Rite of the Catholic Church, since Protestant Evangelicalism is in many ways a distinctly American cultural response to the Gospel which, divested of its very few actual contradictions with Catholic faith, is in principle just as valid as the ancient Roman or Greek cultural response to the gospel – see the concluding chapter of Volume III for more on the Biblical and papal principles which support my assertion here.]

I would like to note that all of the suggestions in this book towards Christian reunification are intended to help Christians come to think about unity like the Undivided Early Church lived it, in order to prepare us for our future reunification in the Holy Spirit’s love and timing.  For right now, Roman Catholic Christians, the current great majority of Catholic Christians (and by far the largest group of all Christians), will have to get used to these ideas as much as Protestant Christians will before reunification can happen, since the Catholic Church’s 21st Ecumenical Council, which laid the groundwork for real Christian reunification as in the Undivided Early Catholic Christian Church, is so recent, and its teaching has not yet filtered down thoroughly into the minds and hearts of the “average Roman Catholic.”

[ I repeat that this unfinished Volume I Chapter 7 is a brief overview – for many more details on these topics, see Volume III]

One Body One Spirit: 

God Already Treats Us as One Body Despite Our Current Divisions – the Holy Spirit Fell in Power at the Protestant Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas on New Year’s Eve, 1900, Beginning the Protestant Pentecostal Movement (Which Was Later Mainstreamed in Protestant and Catholic Churches as the Charismatic Movement) – on Exactly the Same Evening Pope Leo XIII Was at Mass in Rome Formally Dedicating the 20th Century to the Holy Spirit, after Leading Catholic Christians for Years to Pray for Exactly Such an Outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church (God Sent the Holy Spirit Initially on Protestant Christians in Response to Catholic Christian Prayer Because Despite Our Divisions We Are One Body of the Redeemed in Christ) 

[This unfinished section will refer to my short book One Body One Spirit: The Prehistory of the Charismatic Renewal Movement from Pentecost to Pentecostalism Unleashed by the Pope, which  discusses Pentecostal or Charismatic or Mystical experience throughout Christian history since Apostolic times (and the documented dream of Pope Leo XIII which led him to lead the Catholic Church to pray for the kind of Pentecostal renewal which in fact started in Kansas exactly the same evening as he was dedicating the 20th Century to the Holy Spirit).

[the following are some headings for unfinished sections or other summative statements for Volume I:]

Unity in Visible Love for Each Other on the Basis of Our Vast Common Faith (In the Light of Which Each Church Understands its Different Secondary Doctrines) Even While Our Formal Divisions Remain  for the Sake of the Christian Mission to the World must Be Our First Goal; but Long-term Structural Christian Reunification Is Also Truly Possible Through Our Gradually Consciously Restructuring Ourselves According to the Model of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity in the Loving Power of the Holy Spirit

 

What I Am Advocating Is a Church That Is Both Truly Catholic and Truly Reformed – a Catholic Church Genuinely Reformed According to the Undivided Early Catholic Church Model – Meaning (Though it Will Take Much Time to Work out the Details) Both Catholics and Orthodox Non-Catholics including Reformers/Protestants Should Be Comfortable in it – and the Reform I Propose Is Already Called and Prepared for by the Catholic Church’s Highest Authority in its 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II)  

 

As Protestant Pastor Turned Catholic Scholar Scott Hahn Wrote, “In the Writings of the Early [Christian Church] Fathers … I Ran Smack up Against a Church I Could Only Recognize as Catholic.  It Was Liturgical, Hierarchical, Sacramental.  It Was Catholic, and Yet it Held All That I Loved about the Reformation Tradition Too: a Deep Devotion to Jesus, a Spontaneous Life of Prayer, a Zeal to Transform the Culture, And, of Course, a Burning Love for Scripture” – So it must Be Possible to Genuinely Reform the Catholic Church According to the Undivided Early Catholic Church Model for Reformers and Catholics to Once Again Belong to One Church  

 

The Catholic Church’s 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican II, 1962-5) Already Laid the Groundwork for the True Re-Formation of the Undivided First Millennium Catholic Church’s Instinctively-lived Loving Unity in Diversity, but the Council’s Teaching Has Not Yet Settled Deeply into the Minds and Hearts of Most Catholic Christians, Which it must Before this Ecumenical Council Can Bear the Fruit of Christian Reunification.    This Book (Especially Volume III) Is Meant to Help Catholic Readers Come to Fully Understand, Accept and Appreciate the Council’s Holy Spirit-led Teaching as They Are Already Obligated to Do as Good Catholics.  This Book Is Also Meant to Help Non-Catholic Christians Understand the Wonderful Official Teaching of Vatican II Towards Christian Reunification So They Can Hold Catholic Christians Accountable to it and Thus Participate in the True Re-Formation of the Catholic Church as in its First Millennium of Undivided Christian Unity  

 

The Undivided Early Church Called Itself the Catholic Church and it Had All the Essential Features of Today’s Catholic Church Including Those Which Have Been Hidden by the Long Numerical Dominance of the Roman Rite Within the Catholic Church, Elements Which Need to Be Made More Prominent as the Catholic Church Reforms Itself According to its Own Vatican Council II.  Eastern Orthodox and Conservative/Evangelical Protestant Christians Show Themselves to Be “Catholic at Heart,” Belonging in Heart Already to the Ancient Catholic Christian Communion of Sister Churches, Because They Act like Catholics Where it Matters Most – They Unquestioningly Accept the Traditional Fundamentals of Orthodox Christianity Which Are the Official Catholic Interpretation of the Traditional New Testament Which Is the Official Catholic List of the New Testament Books.  Doctrinally Liberal Protestant Christians Act like Real Protestants and Are Thus Uncertain of Which Portions of the New Testament Are Actually Scriptural and Authoritative over Them and Are Uncertain of the Traditional Fundamentals of Christianity Because Both of These Were Early Matters of Major Christian Disputes Which Were Officially Settled for All Time by the Catholic Church.  The Creedal “Statements of Faith” of Conservative/Evangelical/Pentecostal Protestant Churches in Fact Represent NOT “The Bible Alone” but Also Conserve and Pass on the Catholic Sacred Tradition as Officially Clarified by the Early Catholic Magisterium of Just What the New Testament Is and Just How it must Be Fundamentally Interpreted, Whereas Doctrinally Liberal or Unorthodox Protestant Christians Are Unsure of or Reject the Traditional Bible Canon or the Traditional Christian Fundamentals Because They Are “Protestant at Heart” and They Naturally and Logically Protest Against Anything Settled by the Catholic Church’s Authority as the Living Body of Christ and “Pillar and Foundation of the Truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), an Authority Which the Protestant Reformation Rejected

 

The Protestant Reformers Reformed but in Protest and Succeeded in Further Deforming the Ancient (Catholic) Christian Church by Shattering its Ancient Unity and Losing Firm Grip on its Ancient Orthodoxy; I Ask Fundamentally Orthodox (Therefore “Catholic at Heart”) Protestant Christians Now to Help Us Catholic Christians to Truly Reform the Catholic Church According to the Model of the Undivided Early Catholic Church Communion of All Orthodox Christians, as Our Own Catholic 21st Ecumenical Council Has Called Us to do 

 

Introduction to Volumes II and III 

Volume II Explains Catholic Mariology as the Logical Result of Long and Sustained Christian Reflection upon the Fundamental Christian Belief in the Incarnation of God the Eternal Son in Jesus Christ, “Fully God and Fully Man,” though Mary’s Virgin Birth, Which Protected the Incarnation from the Heretics in the First Millennium; Volume III Discusses in Detail How Looking Closely at the Undivided Early Church’s History it Is Undisputable That the Pope Had an Integral Role in the Undivided Early Church Which Cannot Be Denigrated or Ignored Without Putting the Essential Fundamentals of Christian Orthodoxy Themselves in Jeopardy; My Conviction Is That Once Orthodox Protestants Truly Understand the Catholic Church’s Mary and Papacy Beliefs and How They Are Not Only Compatible with the Common Christian Fundamentals but Actually Support and Protect Them, and Are in Fact the Very Reason Catholic Christianity Does Not Have the Major Problem Protestant Christianity Does of “Doctrinal Liberalism” and Unorthodoxy, Orthodox Protestants Will No Longer Find These Catholic Beliefs Offensive and Will Be Willing to Truly Dialogue with Catholic Christians about Them So That Together We Can Come to Mutually Agreed-on Resolutions to Our Current Disputes

 

The Catholic Church’s 21st Ecumenical Council (Vatican Council II) Which Recently and for the First Time in an Ecumenical Council of the Church Clearly Defined the Nature and Structure of the Ancient Undivided Early Church (Which Has Tremendous Implications for the Eventual Re-establishment of the Undivided Early Church’s Unity in Diversity), Officially Recognizes the Holy Spirit as the Source of the Church’s Unity and “Places its Hope [For Reunification] Entirely in the Prayer of Christ for the Church, in the Love of the Father for Us, and in the Power of the Holy Spirit” 

In any case, it is only the Holy Spirit of God’s Divine Love who can unify currently divided Christianity, who can help us to overcome our human sin and weakness in love, even with the Undivided Early Church model of Christian unity in diversity (discussed in depth in Volume III) clearly in view.  All currently divided Christians need to be open to the various unexpected and divine ways the Holy Spirit may choose to bring us closer together towards the eventual fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer for our unity.  The Catholic Church officially recognizes this, and Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio, UR) states:

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:4–5). For “all you who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ …for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27–28). It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity. “(UR 2)

“Today, in many parts of the world, under the influence of the grace of the Holy Spirit, many efforts are being made in prayer, word and action to attain that fullness of unity which Jesus Christ desires. The sacred Council exhorts, therefore, all the Catholic faithful to recognize the signs of the times and to take an active and intelligent part in the work of ecumenism. ” (UR 4)

“There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without interior conversion. For it is from newness of attitudes of mind, from self-denial and unstinted love, that desires of unity take their rise and develop in a mature way. We should therefore pray to the Holy Spirit for the grace to be genuinely self-denying, humble, gentle in the service of others and to have an attitude of brotherly generosity toward them. The Apostle of the Gentiles says: “I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1–3). ”  (UR 7)

“This sacred Council firmly hopes that the [ecumenical] initiatives of the sons of the Catholic Church, joined with those of the separated brethren [Protestant and Orthodox], will go forward, without obstructing the ways of divine Providence, and without prejudging the future inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Further, this Council declares that it realizes that this holy objective—the reconciliation of all Christians in the unity of the one and only Church of Christ—transcends human powers and gifts. It therefore places its hope entirely in the prayer of Christ for the Church, in the love of the Father for us, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. “And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). ” (UR 24)

© 2005, 2009 Peter William John Baptiste SFO

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1There were many Roman Catholics of the period who were just as aware as Luther of what genuinely needed to be reformed, like Saint Thomas More, but who prayed and worked towards true Catholic reform without leaving the Church.

2The Catholic Church since Vatican II re-studied the history of charisms or supernatural gifts in the Church and re-emphasized these Charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Not surprisingly the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement began shortly after the Council.  But that history of charisms in the Church shows the danger of those with charismatic gifts (which can be counterfeited by the supernatural power of God’s Enemy) not being subject to the Apostolic authority passed down in the ordained overseers of the Christian Church who are entrusted with guarding the Apostolic Deposit of Orthodox Christian Faith.  The Montanist heretics of the 2nd Century began as “charismatic” Christians but, following their apparent “gifts” and not the ordained Church leaders in line of succession from Christ’s ordained Apostles (to whom Christ promised He would give a special “charism of truth” – John 16:13), they eventually became heretics, losing basic orthodoxy, as have some groups on the fringes of the 20th Century Protestant Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements.

3Saint John Chrysostom, who wrote this, was the Eastern Archbishop of Constantinople (before it was made a Patriarchate).  He is the most prolific of the Early Eastern Saints and Doctors of the Church, and most Eastern Orthodox as well as most Eastern Catholic Christians celebrate the Divine Liturgy he wrote at their Sunday Christian worship services.  While the main point of this quote is that a Catholic (Universal) Christian from anywhere knows Christians far away are members of the same Body of Christ he belongs to, he likely also has the pope in Rome in mind when he says “he who dwells in Rome [specifically] knows those in most distant parts to be his members.”  Chrysostom, the greatest doctor of Eastern Orthodoxy, recognized the pope as Peter’s Successor and referred to Peter and the pope in Rome in terms such as “fisherman of the universe” and “pillar of the Church.”