Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

St. Francis de Sales - On "The Headless Church"

In describing the mark of the true Church as one, undivided institution, St. Francis makes an appeal that the Church is represented in Scripture as a house and family and therefore naturally needs one visible Master.

He also makes the point that I have often used, that every successful business has one CEO and every successful nation in history has one visible leader. The Church is no different. The principle of governance by one leader is part of the "natural law" and historically has proven to be the only successful method of governance that safeguards the longevity of a nation. Nations divided against themselves have never stood, but the greatest kingdoms/nations of all history have always been united under one human , visible leader- not an "invisible committee" of equals, each with equal authority to decide how to rule the country. The paradigm proposed by the reformers as St. Francis points out, had never existed before in the history of the world. For the Church to remain as One Visible Body, it must be united under one visible head, lieutenant, vicar general, or yes, one pope, meaning father. Let's see how St. Francis lays out this argument:

"Now the Church being a house and a family, the Master thereof can doubtless be but one, Jesus Christ: and so is it called house of God. But this Master and householder ascending to the right hand of God, having left many servants in his house, would leave one of them who should be servant-in-chief, and to whom the others should be responsible; wherefore Christ said: Who (thinkest thou) is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath set over his family (Matt. xxiv. 45). In truth, if there were not a foreman in a shop, think how the business would be done-or if there were not a king in a kingdom, a captain in a ship, a father in a family-in fact it would no longer be a family. But hear Our Lord in S. Matthew (xii.): Every city or house divided. against itself shall not stand. Never can a province be well governed by itself, above all if it be large. I ask you, gentlemen so wise, who will have no head in the Church, can you give me an example of any government of importance in which all the particular governments are not reduced to one? We may pass over the Macedonians, Babylonians, Jews, Medes, Persians, Arabians, Syrians, French, Spaniards, English, and a vast number of eminent states, in regard to which the matter is evident; but let us come to republics. Tell me, where have you ever seen any great province which has governed itself? Nowhere. The chief part of the world was at one time in the Roman Republic, but a single Rome governed; a single Athens, Carthage, and so of the other ancient republics; a single Venice, a single Genoa, a single Lucerne, Fribourg and the rest. You will never find that the single parts of some notable and great province have set to work to govern themselves. But it was, is, and will be necessary that one man alone, or one single body of men residing in one place, or one single town, or some small portion of a province, has governed the province if the rest of the province were large. You, gentlemen, who delight in history, I am assured of your suffrages; you will not let me be contradicted. But supposing (which is most false) that some particular province was self-governed, how can this be said of the Christian Church, which is so universal that it comprehends all the world? How could it be one if it governed itself? And if not, there would be need to have a council of all the bishoprics always standing-and who would convoke it? It would be necessary for all the bishops to be absent; and how could that be ? And if all the bishops were equal, who would call them together? And how great a difficulty would it be, if there were some doubt in a matter of faith, to assemble a council! It cannot then possibly be that the whole Church and each part thereof should govern itself, without dependence of one part on the other.

"You will say to me: Our Lord is not dead, and moreover is always with his Church, why then do you give him a vicar? I answer you that not being dead he has no successor but only a vicar; and moreover that he truly assists his Church in all things and everywhere by his invisible favour, but, in order not to make a visible body without a visible head, he has willed further to assist it in the person of a visible lieutenant, by means of whom, besides invisible favours, he perpetually administers his Church, and in a manner suitable to the sweetness of his providence."


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