The following learned opinion was offered by Dr William Tighe in a com-box of a previous posting. It is such a useful and well worded statement that I wish it to be recorded here for all posterity. In the future, when Past Elder spouts his pseudo-historical argument that the Catholic Church of the present time is neither the “catholic church” nor “true Catholicism”, I will simply say: “I refer you to the learned opinion of Dr William Tighe”, and be done with.
PE’s argument [against the Catholic Church], insofar as it is historical, is a lot of nonsense. In making a distinction between “the catholic church” and “the Catholic Church” he is postulating a “catholic church” unknown to both History and to Christians before the Reformation, and in which “before the Reformation” also comprehnds “before Constantine.”
His argument seems to be based on the premise that there exists a “catholic church” which, if it is not the fictitious “invisible church” of most of the Reformers, seems to be a “catholic church” that includes more than one “visible communion.” This may well be good Lutheran ecclesiology, but it is imcompatibe with the ecclesiology, so far as we can discern it, of that visible communion that5 condemned and excummunicated the various Gnostic terchers and their followers, the “reformed church” of Marcion, the “spiritual church” of Montanus, and the “pure church” of Novatus and the Novatianists. In other words, that body which did all of these things, at the same time regarded it self as solely, uniquely and visibly “the Catholic Church” — both “Catholic” and “catholic.”
It seems an idle and rather ridiculous waste of time and mental energy to construct a theory about how the claim of both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church to be THE Catholic Church is a function of their post-Constantinian status as the “Western Roman” and the “Eastern Roman” Empires’ “State Religions” when the pre-Constantinian Catholic church of which the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each claim to be the authentic representative today, made the same claims about itself, as they make. In other words, it knew nothing of the kind of catholic church of which PE is the protagonist, and no doubt would have rejected the notion of such a “catholic church” as a strange and heretical conceit, had it been presented with it.
Much more honest to acknowledge that such an ecclesiology has no foundation in the Fathers’ teaching, no more than does that other pet idea of sola fide.