I believe we should all adopt a more exact and adequate language in speaking about the Church. The word ‘Church’ refers to the Holy Bride of Christ, without wrinkles and without stains, the pillar and foundation of Truth (1 Tim. 3-15), the depository of the plenitude of Christian revelation. She was born on Calvary. She was founded by Christ Himself. She, who alone among all Christian denominations, has been given the keys through Peter. The Church who, although a community, is also a supernatural person whose beauty is visible to the eyes of Faith. The fullness of revelation is confided to Her. She is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, opened to all and transmitting Christ’s message in all its purity. She is infallible in her dogmatic and moral teaching.
We need only watch TV or follow the news media to find out that they have no clue as to the true meaning of the word ‘Church’. When they speak about the Catholic Church, either they refer to the actions (or omissions) and declarations of certain individual members of the clergy whose behaviour is often in sharp contrast with the teaching of Holy Church, or they refer to decisions of assemblies of bishops, of congregations, of members of the Curia which certainly do not deserve our commendation. Collegiality is not necessarily a blessing.
No individual Catholic can ever say that he is an exemplary Catholic – the greatest saints always declared themselves to be sinners. The reason is clear: Catholicism is not just a set of laws and rules to be obeyed, but it commands us ‘to be perfect as our Father in Heaven is perfect’. This is something that no human being can achieve without divine help, that is grace.
Those who hate the Church, for whatever reason, have a field day pointing to the sins and errors committed by members of the Church in the course of the centuries. But every sin committed by Her members, including Popes, is an explicit betrayal of the Gospel.
We live in a world in which religious and historical ignorance is endemic. People superbly ignorant of the history of the Church on most issues are, thanks to the news media, constantly reminded of the horrors caused by the Crusades, of the cruelty of the Inquisition, of the ruthless eradication of heretics. The most ignorant among us knows the name of Galileo, even though he would be hard put to explain why he was condemned. The conclusion drawn by the slaves of the news media is that the Church is opposed to both science and progress, imprisoned as She is in the choking narrowness of Her dogmas (!).
How right Chesterton was when he wrote, in his autobiography, ‘… a large section of the intelligentsia seems wholly devoid of intelligence – the dangerous criminal is the educated criminal … the entirely lawless modern philosopher’. The man called ‘The Apostle of Common Sense’ certainly hit the bull’s eye!