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."
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.]
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)
Papal Primacy (reflections)
Priests/Vocations Facts (see "Bishop")
Those Outside the Church (reflections)
Sacraments Section (e.g. for Holy Eucharist, Sacrament of Penance, Holy
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