My friend Julie (a convert) shared this chart of the Rites of the Catholic Church.
I find it interesting when people outside the Catholic Church, if confronted with the divisions among Protestantism, will use something like this chart to say that even the Catholic Church is divided. They truly do not understand how to read this chart. Nor do they understand history and doctrine.
The Catholic Church in this chart is not divided. The reason is that there is one authority over all of these branches, and that is Rome. There is one set of doctrines and dogmas accepted by all and which has been part of their theology since the 1st century. So there is no real division, other than the branches serve different areas and under distinct Rites.
That cannot be said about the initial division during the so-called reformation, and the subsequent divisions that have been reported as 40,000 to 50,000 since the time of the reformation. Even Doctor Scott Hahn, who is an expert theologian and professor at Franciscan University, attests to that figure. So does the World Christian Encyclopedia. And although the number has been debated because it is so difficult to count all the splinterings, one thing that is not debatable is that there have been countless thousands of various sects since the time of Martin Luther…which began during his life and distressed him greatly.
So how do post-Reformation sects differ from the true unity represented in this chart? Within all ‘reformed’ denominations and sects, there is no central authority. Some will claim that it is The Bible itself, but with questions of doctrine such as baptism and salvation, there are many variances that are contradictory to each other. That in and of itself is problematic for the concept of unity under Christ.
In contrast, Catholicism is not a de-nomination. It was the first Christian faith, and as such did not branch off and away from any other. Within Catholicism there is and has been consistent unity under Christ, with one authoritative teaching body to maintain that unity.
Christ established One Church, not many churches all with different understandings of theology and doctrine. It is God’s desire that his people are unified. Unity is impossible under the reformation blueprint of personal interpretation & revelation. That has been the recipe for disunity for 500+ years.
We are in the second half of Advent. Perhaps now is a good time to ponder and consider coming home to the Catholic Church.