115 Q. What is the Church?
A. The Church is the congregation of all those who profess the faith of Christ, partake of the same Sacraments, and are governed by their lawful pastors under one visible head.
“All those who profess the faith,” etc. The Pope, bishops, priests, and people all taken together are the Church, and each congregation or parish is only a part of the Church.
“Partake”–that is, receive. “Lawful pastors”–that is, each priest in his own parish, each bishop in his own diocese, and the Pope throughout the world. “Visible head”–that is, one who can be seen, for invisible means cannot be seen.
402 Q. Are we obliged to contribute to the support of our pastors?
A. We are obliged to contribute to the support of our pastors, and to bear our share in the expenses of the Church and school.
On Heresy and Schism And the Profession of Faith
323 Q. Who are they who do not believe all that God has taught?
A. They who do not believe all that God has taught are the heretics and infidels.
There are many kinds of unbelievers: atheists, deists, infidels, heretics, apostates, and schismatics. An atheist is one who denies the existence of God, saying there is no God. A deist is one who says he believes God exists, but denies that God ever revealed any religion. These are also called freethinkers. An infidel properly means one who has never been baptized–one who is not of the number of the faithful; that is, those believing in Christ. Sometimes atheists are called infidels. Heretics are those who were baptized and who claim to be Christians, but do not believe all the truths that Our Lord has taught. They accept only a portion of the doctrine of Christ and reject the remainder, and hence they become rebellious children of the Church. They belong to the true Church by being baptized, but do not submit to its teaching and are therefore outcast children, disinherited till they return to the true faith. A schismatic is one who believes everything the Church teaches, but will not submit to the authority of its head–the Holy Father. Such persons do not long remain only schismatics; for once they rise up against the authority of the Church, they soon reject some of its doctrines and thus become heretics; and indeed, since Vatican Council I, all schismatics are heretics.
325 Q. Can they who fail to profess their faith in the true Church in which they believe expect to be saved while in that state?
A. They who fail to profess their faith in the true Church in which they believe cannot expect to be saved while in that state, for Christ has said: “Whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in Heaven.”
326 Q. Are we obliged to make open profession of our faith?
A. We are obliged to make open profession of our faith as often as God’s honor, our neighbor’s spiritual good, or our own requires it.
“Whosoever,” says Christ, “shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in Heaven.”
It is not necessary for us to proclaim in the streets that we are Catholics; neither need we tell our religion to impudent people that may ask us only to insult us; but when a real need of professing our faith presents itself, then we must profess it. Suppose you are stopping in a hotel in which you are the only Catholic. If flesh-meat is placed before you on a Friday in Lent you must quietly push it aside and ask for fish or other food; although by so doing you will show that you are a Catholic and make a silent profession of your faith. God’s honor and your own good require it, for you must keep the laws of God and of His Church on every possible occasion. Suppose again there were in the same hotel some indifferent Catholics, socially your equals or inferiors, who through human respect were ashamed to go to Mass on Sunday; then you should publicly go to Mass and even declare that you must go, for by so doing you would encourage these indifferent Catholics to follow your example. In that case your neighbor’s good requires that you profess your faith. In a word, you must keep up the practice of your religion even if by so doing you have to make an open profession of your faith and suffer for it. But suppose it is something that God or the Church does not command you to do but only recommends, such as blessing yourself before meals or some pious practice, you could in public omit such an action if you pleased without any sin or denial of faith, because you violate no law.