What exactly is the Catholic Church?
For a lengthy treatment on the question, read the document Lumen Gentium. Here is an excerpt from paragraph 6:*6. In the old Testament the revelation of the Kingdom is often conveyed by means of metaphors. In the same way the inner nature of the Church is now made known to us in different images taken either from tending sheep or cultivating the land, from building or even from family life and betrothals, the images receive preparatory shaping in the books of the Prophets.
The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ.(26) It is a flock of which God Himself foretold He would be the shepherd,(27) and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds; are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds,(28) who gave His life for the sheep.(29)
The Church is a piece of land to be cultivated, the village of God.(30) On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the Prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about.(31) That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly Husbandman.(32) The true vine is Christ who gives life and the power to bear abundant fruit to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ without whom we can do nothing.(33)
Often the Church has also been called the building of God.(34) The Lord Himself compared Himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the cornerstone.(35) On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles,(36) and from it the Church receives durability and consolidation. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God (37) in which dwells His family; the household of God in the Spirit;(38) the dwelling place of God among men;(39) and, especially, the holy temple. This Temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Holy Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem (5*). As living stones we here on earth are built into it.(40) John contemplates this holy city coming down from heaven at the renewal of the world as a bride made ready and adorned for her husband.(41)
The Church, further, “that Jerusalem which is above” is also called “our mother”.(42) It is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless Lamb,(43) whom Christ “loved and for whom He delivered Himself up that He might sanctify her”,(44) whom He unites to Himself by an unbreakable covenant, and whom He unceasingly “nourishes and cherishes”,(45) and whom, once purified, He willed to be cleansed and joined to Himself, subject to Him in love and fidelity,(46) and whom, finally, He filled with heavenly gifts for all eternity, in order that we may know the love of God and of Christ for us, a love which surpasses all knowledge.(47) The Church, while on earth it journeys in a foreign land away from the Lord,(48) is life an exile. It seeks and experiences those things which are above, where Christ is seated at the right-hand of God, where the life of the Church is hidden with Christ in God until it appears in glory with its Spouse.*Consider also paragraphs in the Catechism with keywords “Church” and “is”.
It is the Church that Jesus Christ established. Jesus established one Church, not thousands.
Unfortunately, that one Church has experienced some degree of disunity. The schism (in 1054 AD) between East (Greece, ie, Orthodox) and West (Rome) is the most prevalent example. But the disunity is a dispute over leadership, not doctrine. Both East and West have valid Apostolic Bishops and validly celebrate all seven Sacraments, and recognize this validity in each other. We agree on Doctrine (but sometimes have slightly different interpretations, such as the doctrine of purgatory).
This is not to be compared to the many protestant religions, all invented by men, which outright reject Catholic doctrine. The Catholic Church(es) (mostly) recognize these protestant faiths as Christian because they (mostly) practice valid Christian Baptism, even if they don’t understand the Sacramental nature of this act.
The (Roman) Catholic Church is the world’s largest Christian Church. The Orthodox (Greek) Church is the world’s second largest Christian Church.
There really is no brief answer to this. As someone suggested above, read Lumen Gentium. That is a good start.
Catholic is from the Greek meaning universal. The Catholic Church is the original Christian Church Christ founded on the Apostles and their successors. The name “Catholic Church” is really more of a descriptive term than a name.
All other Christian groups have their origins in her.
She is the most biblical Church.
She holds the fullness of Truth in the Gospel.
She administers the Sacraments - that is - the gifts given us by God directly through Jesus Christ.
She is the office and structure through which we resolve conflicts among the faithful on matters of faith and teaching - She is the one we “tell it to” and “listen to” (Mt 18:17).
She is the one who holds the authority from Christ to bind and loose (Mt 18:18).
So much more…
hope the above helps a bit.
The church founded by Jesus Christ. Where he gives the Sacrament through his minister. Especially the holy Eucharist.
The Song of Solomon best expresses what exactly the Catholic Church is: the beloved of God whose sole desire is the consummation of all things in Christ, her Spouse.
Do a little search online to see what happens when a person becomes a naturalized US Citizen - look at the contents of the naturalization ceremony, the words that the new citizen swears to.
Then look at the rites of Baptism and Confirmation, and the words spoken and the oaths sworn.
Becoming Catholic is becoming a Citizen of the Kingdom established by God, being granted citizenship, identity, in a New People that is in the world, but a People not established by the world. If you know that, you will understand Peter’s description of us as aliens and sojourners, and all of St Paul’s references to the Kingdom and his faithfulness in proclaiming it, and his references to our “inheritance in the Kingdom”
The Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ
by Fr. William G. Most
[quote=Randy Carson;12426423"For an Evangelical Christian to become a Catholic is not to deny all that is good within his non-Catholic faith, but to embrace more." Fr. Dwight Longenecker
As a converted Presbyterian my feelings for all protestants is now sorrow that they do not know the fullness of God’s true Church.
Pray. And share your testimony about all that God has done for you!
The Catholic Church is that church Jesus Christ was referring to when he said “I will build my Church.”
Irenaeus in ~180 a.d. answered that question as follows
Bk 3 Chapter 3 v 2-3 “Against Heresies”
2. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Churchshould agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, inasmuch as the apostolic tradition has been preserved continuously by those faithful men] who exist everywhere.
3. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes"
a few observations so far
*]does Irenaeus say EVERY Church is to agree with Smyrna? Antioch? Alexandria? Jerusalem etc ? No. He writes, every Church EVERYWHERE is to agree with the bishop of Rome. And he names bishops of Rome in succession from Peter, down to his day,
*]Those who follow this follow apostolic tradition.Ergo those who don’t keep to this understanding, are unfaithful because they don’t preserve the apostolic tradition, and they are the ones Irenaeus is writing against as heretics
*]Who is Irenaeus? He is a Bishop, originally from Smyrna, which is today in Turkey. He was taught by Bp Polycarp of Smyrna, who WAS a disciple of St John. Irenaeus was made Bp of Lyon, which is today in France.
*]Who is it that Irenaeus says taught him, what he teaches here? He says it came directly from the apostles through bishops in succession from Peter and Paul, and faithful men, who preserved the apostolic tradition FAITHFULLY down to his time.
*]refutes opponants who argue the papacy is a later invention.
*]refutes the notion that every Church EVERYWHERE agreeing with the bishop of Rome is a novelty of later invention.
[/LIST]concluding vs 3, Irenaeus finishes naming bishops down to his day in succession to Peter.
" Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome dispatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, andby this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth."
Just in case one observes, he doesn’t mention “Catholic Church” here, Irenaeus has already identified what Church he is defending.
Bk 1 ch 10 v 3
Bk 3 ch 4 (opening to ch 4)