Catholic vs catholic

Michael Spencer at internetmonk.com has an interesting post, Personal Update and Questions For Roman Catholics. It includes a number of questions for us Romans (sigh!!) to answer. Dialogue is good and I am completely unqualified to answer any of them but I will offer a public answer to the following:

3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?

The question shows again a number of issues which I have struggled with continually. Firstly terminology: Catholic faith would suggest the faith which the (Roman) Catholic Church proclaims and believes. As such, one cannot (logically) be convinced of the faith which the Roman Church proclaims yet not be united with her! This point is further illustrated by the use of the noun Catholicism rather than a more general catholicism. So to answer the question with another question: is one really convinced of the Catholic faith if one is not joined to the Catholic Church? (Sorry, Mum!)

Yet (me thinks) the question assumes there is a generic catholic faith. (And in fact, that is true for any person who holds the Athanasian Creed who finds themselves outside of communion with the Church.) That is a catholic faith which can be validly and consistently (logically) held by people not in full visible communion with the Holy See. I think that establishing (not to say, codifying) such a generic expression of catholicism would be extremely hard. Where do you start? Where do you stop? Who has authority in this context? How do I know (outside of myself) if I am on the right track? When do I know that I have found it? Along with the generic catholic faith comes the idea that the Church is fundamentally invisible! The assumption that I can validly chose to be outside of the visible Catholic Church is based on the idea that one is already a member of the invisible Church.

The question is a great thought starter (as are the others in the post)! Maybe I have read too much Aristotle and his definitions but I think that a clear idea where the question is coming from before an answer is offered is essential. One would need to explore the nature of sin to fully answer the question.

So there is my uneducated response. Anyone else?

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