Summation of the Church

“Now, if we look at what was done, Jesus Christ did not arrange and organize such a Church as would embrace several communities similar in kind, but distinct, and not bound together by those bonds that make the Church indivisible and unique after that manner clearly in which we profess in the symbol of faith, ‘l believe in one Church.’ … Now, Jesus Christ when He was speaking of such a mystical edifice, spoke only of one Church which He called His own: ‘I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18]. Whatever other church is under consideration than this one, since it was not founded by Jesus Christ, cannot be the true Church of Christ… And so the Church is bound to spread among all men the salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ, and all the blessings that proceed therefrom, and to propagate them through the ages. Therefore, according to the will of its Author the Church must be alone in all lands in the perpetuity of time… The Church of Christ, therefore, is one and perpetual; whoever go apart (from it) wander away from the will and prescription of Christ the Lord and, leaving the way of salvation, digress to destruction. But He who founded the only Church, likewise founded it as one; namely, in such a way that whoever are to be in it, would be held bound together by the closest bonds, so much so that they form one people, one kingdom, one body: ‘One body and one spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling’ [Eph. 4:4]… Agreement and union of minds are the necessary foundation of so great and so absolute a concord among men, from which a concurrence of wills and a similarity of action naturally arise… Therefore, to unite the minds of men, and to effect and preserve the union of their minds, granted the existence of Holy Writ, there was great need of a certain other principle… Therefore, Jesus Christ instituted in the Church a living, authentic, and likewise permanent magisterium, which He strengthened by His own power, taught by the Spirit of Truth, and confirmed by miracles. The precepts of its doctrines He willed and most seriously commanded to be accepted equally with His own… This, then, is without any doubt the office of the Church, to watch over Christian doctrine and to propagate it soundly and without corruption… But, just as heavenly doctrine was never left to the judgment and mind of individuals, but in the beginning was handed down by Jesus, then committed separately to that magisterium which has been mentioned, so, also, was the faculty of performing and administering the divine mysteries, together with the power of ruling and governing divinely, granted not to individuals [generally] of the Christian people but to certain of the elect…

Therefore, Jesus Christ called upon all mortals, as many as were, and as many as were to be, to follow Him as their leader, and likewise their Savior, not only separately one by one, but also associated and united alike in fact and in mind; one in faith, end, and the means proper to that end, and subject to one and the same power… Therefore, the Church is a society divine in origin, supernatural in its end, and in the means which bring us closest to that end; but inasmuch as it unites with men, it is a human community. When the divine Founder decreed that the Church be one in faith, and in government, and in communion, He chose Peter and his successors in whom should be the principle and as it were the center of unity… But, order of bishops, as Christ commanded, is to be regarded as joined with Peter, if it be subject to Peter and obey him; otherwise it necessarily descends into a confused and disorderly crowd. For the proper preservation of faith and the unity of mutual participation, it is not enough to hold higher offices for the sake of honor, nor to have general supervision, but there is absolute need of true authority and a supreme authority which the entire community should obey… Hence those special expressions of the ancients regarding St. Peter, which brilliantly proclaim him as placed in the highest degree of dignity and authority. They everywhere called him prince of the assembly of disciples, prince of the holy apostles, leader of that choir, mouthpiece of all the apostles, head of that family, superintendent of the whole world, first among the apostles, pillar of the Church… But it is far from the truth and openly opposed to the divine constitution, to hold that it is right for individual bishops to be subordinate to the jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiffs, but not for all taken together… Now this power, about which we speak, over the college of bishops, which Holy Writ clearly discloses, the Church has at no time ceased to acknowledge and attest… For these reasons in the decree of the Vatican Council, regarding the power and authority of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, no new opinion is introduced, but the old and uniform faith of all ages is asserted. Nor, indeed, does the fact that the same (bishops) are subordinate to a twofold power cause any confusion in administration. In the first place, we are prohibited from suspecting any such thing by God’s wisdom, by whose counsel that very form of government was established. Secondly, we should note that the order of things and their mutual relations are confused, if there are two magistrates of the same rank among the people, neither of them responsible to the other. But the power of the Roman Pontiff is supreme, universal, and definitely peculiar to itself; but that of the bishops is circumscribed by definite limits, and definitely peculiar to themselves”   ~Pope Leo XIII, “Satis Cognitum”, June 29, 1897

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