What is the Catholic Teaching on the Invisible Church?


#1

Can someone explain what the “invisible church” is as taught by the Catholic Church?

I"d never heard of an “invisible” church until I came on CAF. After asking about it on another thread (discussing being saved and altar calls in non-Catholic churches), the answer led me to believe that the “invisible” church is a “protestant” belief.

And I was always taught that one must be a member of the “visible” Catholic Church, apart from which there is no salvation.

Lately, I’ve been seeing references to the “invisible” church in Catholic apologetics here on CAF and tried to find it in the Catechism and couldn’t. Perhaps it’s called something else in the CCC?

Can anyone tell me where the “invisible” church is taught in the Catechism or in any official Church document? It must be a Vatican II or post-Vat II belief, but I really don’t know. This really interests me.

Thank you!


#2

I dunno, the way someone tried to describe it it almost sounded like the “anonymous Christian” idea, which is not Orthodox Church teaching.

But the Church surely is visible as the Incarnation was visible.


#3

What the Catholic Church means by “invisible church” and what your Protestant theologian friends mean by the exact same phrase are not quite the same.

For Catholics, it’s just the workings of Christ outside the confines of the visible, observable Church. I forgot which person said it, but a quote pretty well sums it up: “We know where the Church is (visible Church). We don’t know where it isn’t (invisible Church).”

For most Protestants (particularly Evangelicals), it IS the “church”. It lacks formal hierarchy and visible structure (obviously leading to disagreements about how the broader “church” should be structured). Apropos, you’ll often find Protestant congregations where the local pastor is the highest formal authority and declarations from their conventions or associations aren’t really binding in any authoritative way as they’re essentially free to come and go and still retain their status as a “church”.


#4

https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/is-the-church-visible-or-invisible


#5

I agree Kei! It’s not orthodox teaching and (as I found out), the Catholic Church does not believe or teach an “invisible” church.


#6

Thank you @Vonsalza, your answer is very helpful, especially when trying to understand what non-Catholics believe.

I went to another Christian forum I frequent (not CARM :roll_eyes:) which has a fantastic Theology debate section and googled “invisible church” and my question immediately came up as a recent question from a Presbyterian to Catholics and now I have the answer from Catholics.

To put it simply, the Catholic Church does not and never has taught the concept of “the invisible church”. That’s exactly what I thought but wasn’t 100% sure.

A Catholic there posted links to Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis Christi

http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi.html

and also Lumen gentium from Vatican II

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

Thinking about the “visible” and “invisible” Church had me thinking about the Body of Christ, Baptism, etc. and how to connect everything. I remember years ago reading about the Mystical Body of Christ in an old book called “This Tremendous Lover” by Eugene Boylen and have never forgotten it and should have known to look to the Body of Christ for my answer.

The linked documents describe what the Church does teach and will help me figure out how to tie everything together so I can understand what Catholic apologists might mean when they use “invisible church” in connection with the Catholic Church.

Thank you @paulfromIowa for the article, which helped lead me in the right direction.


#7

The entire Church consists of the Church Militant (i.e. us), the Church Glorified (heaven) and the Church Suffering (Purgatory).

The Catholic Church Teaches that the Church Militant, is visible. But the rest of the Church is invisible (Spiritual).

Protestants teach that the entire Church is invisible and that there is no Church suffering.

I"d never heard of an “invisible” church until I came on CAF. After asking about it on another thread (discussing being saved and altar calls in non-Catholic churches), the answer led me to believe that the “invisible” church is a “protestant” belief.

Correct. That is one of the reasons they deny the authority of the Magisterium and the Pope.

And I was always taught that one must be a member of the “visible” Catholic Church, apart from which there is no salvation.

On earth, true.

Lately, I’ve been seeing references to the “invisible” church in Catholic apologetics here on CAF and tried to find it in the Catechism and couldn’t. Perhaps it’s called something else in the CCC?

The “Mystical” body of Christ?

779 The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical Body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept.

Can anyone tell me where the “invisible” church is taught in the Catechism or in any official Church document? It must be a Vatican II or post-Vat II belief, but I really don’t know. This really interests me.

The Church - both visible and spiritual

771 "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."184 The Church is at the same time:

  • a "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."185

These dimensions together constitute “one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element”:186

The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest.187
O humility! O sublimity! Both tabernacle of cedar and sanctuary of God; earthly dwelling and celestial palace; house of clay and royal hall; body of death and temple of light; and at last both object of scorn to the proud and bride of Christ! She is black but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, for even if the labor and pain of her long exile may have discolored her, yet heaven’s beauty has adorned her.188

Thank you!
[/quote]

I hope that helps!


#8

When she says spiritual, wouldn’t that mean the faithful in Heaven?


#9

Historic Protestants, by “invisible Church” mean only the elect (its invisible since we can’t tell who is going to be saved and who won’t be). Catholics, on the other hand, believe the Church can be made of both the elect and the reprobate (ie those that will ultimately be saved and those that won’t) and is rather a visible society defined by baptism, the public profession of the same faith, and hierarchical communion.

Also, from the Catholic perspective, we do not say the Church is bigger than the visible Catholic Church. The Church of Christ on earth cannot be said to subsist anywhere else but in the Catholic Church alone. (see below)

That being said, certain non-Catholic communities certainly possess elements of the Church (that properly belong to the Catholic Church) that, if a particular member is in good faith, can be sanctifying and such a person’s “partial communion” with the Church may even be salvific. Having a relationship or bond with the Church and being the Church or a part of the Church is a fine, but important distinction.

Dominus Iesus

The interpretation of those who would derive from the formula subsistit in the thesis that the one Church of Christ could subsist also in non-Catholic Churches and ecclesial communities is therefore contrary to the authentic meaning of Lumen gentium. “The Council instead chose the word subsistit precisely to clarify that there exists only one ‘subsistence’ of the true Church, while outside her visible structure there only exist elementa Ecclesiae, which — being elements of that same Church — tend and lead toward the Catholic Church”


#10

Yes, but remember that we walk amongst them:

Hebrews 12:17-23New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

17 For you know that later, when he wanted to inherit his father’s blessing, he was rejected because he found no opportunity to change his mind, even though he sought the blessing with tears.

18 [a]You have not approached that which could be touched[b] and a blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm 19 and a trumpet blast and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that no message be further addressed to them, 20 for they could not bear to hear the command: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so fearful was the spectacle that Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.” 22 No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, 23 and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven,[c] and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect,24 and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently[d] than that of Abel.


#11

Shut it down;

no need to further discuss after this answer.

@Vonsalza wins this thread


#12

As the OP, I’m happy with everyone’s responses to my question. My question is answered and if you think it’s best, I’m OK with closing this thread.

Thank you @Vonsalza, @De_Maria, @Genesis315 and @Kei for your explanations! There’s a lot here for me to read and meditate on . . . :smiley:


#13

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.


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