Why do non-Catholics say the Creed? What's up with that?
I couldn’t figure it out. It happened at least once a week. There I was in class, teaching, and my dog would walk in. I keep her in the office with the door shut while I teach, and I couldn’t figure out how she got out and knew where I was. I couldn’t figure out who was doing it. Then I saw it. No kidding folks, my dog can open doors. She uses her paws and opens the door. Now, how she always manages to go right to the room I am in still remains a mystery to me. Allow me to assure you, I DO shower, so it can’t be that ... sigh. Open and shut doors. I thought about that as I read the following questions for this month.
Fr Joe, why can I go to communion at some churches and not at others? Is there a rule here?
Well, if you hearken back to my award-winning, earth-shattering answer about communion and divorce, you will see my humble response there talks largely of the concept of “communion.” Not the consecrated host, but rather our communion with other churches. What does it mean?
Well, as Roman Catholics, there are churches with whom we are in communion and some with whom we are not in communion. What determines communion? Communion is unity of belief and purpose. Usually issues of our communion with other churches have to do with authority and doctrine. When we say “authority,” we usually mean the structure of the Church, and when we say “doctrine,” it has to do with what we believe. For example, as Roman Catholics, we believe that the pope is our spiritual head. He is the one who defines what is authentic theology and what is not. He always does this in union with Sacred Scripture and Tradition; this is not something he can or does abuse. Any church that recognizes his supreme authority in matters of faith and morals, then, is in communion with us on issues of authority, and therefore on issues of doctrine. Because of that, you could probably receive communion at those churches. Get it?
Now, walking down the via negativa path, there are other churches with whom we are not in communion. Maybe they disagree with our system of authority, maybe they disagree with our theology; whatever it is, while we are one in Christ, we are not one in practice. Because of that, we do not pretend we are by receiving the sign of our unity. If we did, it would be like a single person wearing a wedding ring – it just isn’t true!
Father, I recently attended a non-Catholic worship service where they recited the Creed! What is up with that? They even said “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” I don’t get it. Help!
Fear not, oh distressed one, I shall come to your aid on this. The Creed is a statement of what we hold as true, and you will find little dispute on some of the issues in many Christian churches over whom Jesus was and is, the role of the Trinity, etc. The church you were at would obviously then agree with the Roman Catholic Church on theological issues, and probably disagree over authority issues, the role of the pope, the need for a hierarchy, etc. So, they say the Creed because they agree with it.
The phrase, “one, holy, catholic and apostolic,” is a little more simple. The word “catholic” (lower case ‘c’) literally means “universal,” or “all-encompassing.” Those who say that phrase, then, agree with us on the issue of being “one, holy, universal and apostolic.” So, just like us, they say what they believe! Find out more on page 18.
Enjoy another day in God’s presence.