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Arrow Question / Issue:

"What do people mean when they say a Roman Catholic church is not recognized by the diocese which makes it fake?"

 

Arrow Answer / Resources:

[click link(s) below, as applicable]

For a church to be genuinely Catholic, it must be under the bishop (e.g. part of the diocese, under the bishop's control, under the pope). Any 'church' not under the bishop of the diocese cannot rightly be considered Catholic. It may help you understand better if you remember that each bishop is a direct successor to an Apostle (remember that one of the "Marks" of the Church is "Apostolic" - see here). As the 1917 Code of Canon Law stated...

"Can. 329 §1 Bishops are the successors of the apostles and by divine institution are placed over particular churches which they govern with ordinary jurisdiction under the authority of the Roman pontiff."

The hierarchical nature of the Church and the duty of obedience due to the hierarchy is clearly biblical. It is also clearly expressed by the Early Church Fathers (including those who personally knew the Apostles). For example, consider the following quotation which dates back to about 110 A.D. ...

"You must all follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery as you would the Apostles. Reverence the deacons as you would the command of God. Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by one whom he appoints. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." (St. Ignatius of Antioch, c. 110 A.D.) [Note: The above has been considered the earliest known written use of the term "Catholic Church". St. Ignatius was a hearer of the Apostle St. John, and the third bishop of Antioch.]

Clearly, a non-diocesan 'church' is not obedient to the bishop. They do not recognize/submit to lawful authority. By way of comparison (poor though it be), think of a group of people who – on their own authority – set up an organization in your town and called themselves the IRS. Just because they call themselves the "IRS", doesn't mean they really are. Certainly you wouldn't send them your taxes! Even if you did do such a thing, that would never make them part of the IRS – rather they would be imposters.

Further, it may also help you to remember that only those men ordained by the Catholic Church have true, lawful power from God (e.g. to confect the Eucharist, to forgive sins). This power is passed on from man to man and any man who has this power got it from the Catholic Church. Anyone outside the Church either does not have this power or has this power (directly from the Catholic Church) but uses it unlawfully (as a poor comparison, think of a doctor who had his license revoked – he still can do a surgery, but it is not lawful for him to do so).

There are many resources on our site that I think would be helpful if you would like a better understanding of this issue. I will provide some links below that you might find useful. You may not have wanted to spend a lot of time on this matter, but I would encourage you to at least briefly go over some of these resources. I think they might be beneficial for you and they may also help you defend the Church to those outside her pale. Although your question may seem simple, it is tied to the foundation/structure of the Church so it would be a good idea to have a very firm understanding of these issues.

Resources that may be helpful... (click links to view)

* Selections from the Baltimore Catechism (especially see lessons 11 & 12 - To use this page, select "11" from list, then press the search button, then scroll down to view results...repeat for lesson 12)

* Authority of the Church / Obedience to Hierarchy (apologetics)

* Visible / Hierarchical Church (apologetics)

* The Catholic Church (apologetics)

* Bishops (reflections)

* Papal Primacy (reflections)

* Priests/Vocations Facts (see "Bishop")

* Those Outside the Church (reflections)

* Sacraments Section (e.g. for Holy Eucharist, Sacrament of Penance, Holy Orders, etc.)


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