Is the Church Holy?

I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. (I put all the adjectives AND the noun in capitals just to ward off any reading this blog who might quibble about “big C” and “little c”). We talk a lot on this blog about what it means to be “One” and “Catholic” and “Apostolic”, but what about “Holy”?

Well, Zenit recently askd the question of Fr Miguel De Salis: “Is the Church holy?” – a challenging question in the light of current revelations.

Two of Fr Miguel’s responses are worth emphasising:

1) The Church is objectively holy because the Holy Things of God are to be found in her: “the Sacraments, the Word of God, the Presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit, the moral law an all the other gifts that God has given her to carry out the mission he has entrusted to her.” Thus, the holiness of the Church depends upon God, not upon the holiness (or otherwise) of her members. This objective grounding of the Holiness of the Church in a sure and certain reality beyond us is of utmost importance – in effect, to say that the Church is holy is to say that Christ – God – is holy. The Church’s Holiness is entirely derivative.

2) While we are used to likening sin in human society as a “disease”, sin in the “visible society” of the Church is more to be likened to a “wound”. For a disease affects the whole body; when one has a disease, no part of the body is healthy. That is what the human race is like. However, sin in the Church is like a wound – the part that has committed the sin is sick, but this does not preclude other parts of the body being healthy. Of course, the whole body suffers from the sin of the member, and needs to work hard to effect the healing of that member for the sake of the health of the whole boy, but the sin of a member is not a negation of the health of the body as a whole.

Both thoughts are very encouraging and worth keeping in mind.

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2 responses to “Is the Church Holy?

  1. Christine

    Thus, the holiness of the Church depends upon God, not upon the holiness (or otherwise) of her members. This objective grounding of the Holiness of the Church in a sure and certain reality beyond us is of utmost importance – in effect, to say that the Church is holy is to say that Christ – God – is holy. The Church’s Holiness is entirely derivative.

    That is what I was taught.

    Christine

  2. Indeed: the Church, as Bride of Christ, is not holy of herself, but shines illuminated by the Light that enlighteneth every man, as the Moon reflects the Sun.

    Because she has been espoused to the Holy One, Christ, she is graced and elevated to a supernatural level. Her members, after all, are very largely derived from “sinners of the Gentiles”, filthy Goyim, as St Paul rather bluntly puts it; while as he hastened to add, her Jewish members are pretty bloody ordinary too.

    St Ambrose rightly terms Holy Mother Church to be Casta Meretrix, a Chaste Whore: for, like Rahab, who alone of all her city was saved (she and her household), she was enmeshed in whoredom (which is idolatry, and a lurid image of the utter impurity of sin), but, trusting to the Blood of Christ (as Rahab bound the scarlet cord to her window), she has been washed clean.

    What is true mystically of the Church personified is true in due measure of her members: each one, when not purified of sin by faith in Christ, is but a foul sinner, but when “in Christ” is a saint. The danger ever-present is to fall back into sin and to wallow in it, like a sow gone back to the mire, or a dog lapping up its own vomit.