St. Edmund Campion Catechism Group - Series 4 Lesson 13

Theology for Beginners: Chp 13. The Visible Church
Theology for Beginners: All chapters
Magisterium: Pius XII Mystici Corporis
Penny Catechism: Q83-109
Catechism of the Council of Trent (The Roman Catechism): The Creed Art. 9
Slides: The Church
Catholic Encyclopedia: Mystical body of the Church
Aquinas 101:
Summa Theologica: 
Companion to the Summa
Ite Missa Est article: Paradigms To Order

The Visible Church


  1. Recap:

    Chapter 1: Why study theology?

    - Theology is wisdom which is the knowledge of all things in relation to their highest cause.

    - Theology is the greatest of all sciences by the sublimity of its object: God; and by the certitude of its conclusions: the certitude of faith.

    - Theology teaches us our finality: the finality of man is the supernatural perfection of all his faculties - the greatest among these are his intellect and will.

    - Theology helps us attain our finality in respect of ourselves by the perfect love of God.

    - Theology helps us attain our finality in respect of our neighbour: if we love God, then we love everything He loves.

    Chapter 2: Spirit

    - A spirit is an immaterial intelligent living being (types: God, the angels and the souls of men)

    - A soul is defined as the first principle of life of those material things which live (plants, animals and men). Plants, animals and men have souls, but only the souls of men are spirits.

    - Properties: a spirit does not change in its being, does not corrupt, does not die (and is therefore eternal), has no mass, no shape, and no place e say that spirits are subsistent, which means that they have all they need to exist - they do not need a body to exist (like a plant or animal soul).

    Acts: to know and love. No material organ is required for these activities.

    Chapter 3: The Infinite Spirit

    God is the Infinite Spirit. 

    - God is all knowing, all loving, all powerful

    - God is His own existence

    - God was not created, He does not change, He has no past and future, God perpeturally in the present.

    - God is naturally everywhere: by His essence (per essentiam), by His power (per potentiam), by His knowing (per scientiam)

    God is Actus Purus, He cannot ever be in potency to doing anything; He is His action.  St. Thomas says that He is Actus Purus – one , simple, infinite and perfect action which is always in the present.

    Chapter 4: The Blessed Trinity

    The Blessed Trinity is the term used to express the central doctrine on the Christian religion: the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, these Three Persons being truly distinct from one another. There is one being, with one nature and there are Three Persons. The Blessed Trinity is known only by revelation, but can subsequently be explored by reason.

    Chapter 5: The Three Persons

    In an attempt to understand as much as possible about the Blessed Trinity using revelation and our knowledge of the intellect and being (by the science of metaphysics), St. Thomas, building on theologians before him, makes a best attempt to reconcile the unity of God and the distinction of the Three Persons in God. God has one nature by which the Three Persons operate. The distinction of the Three Persons is discerned in the mutually opposed relations resulting from the act of God knowing Himself and loving Himself. The Persons, are distinguished as the subsistant relations or Paternity, Filiation and Passive Spiration.

    Most of us, however, do not have a sufficient grasp of metaphysics to understand this complex theory and so a simpler one is proposed: In the act of knowing Himself, God generates a mental Word which is identical to the Generator. In the generator we discern the Father, in the generated, we discern the Son. These are Persons Who will naturally love each other, this love being personified in the Holy Ghost

    Chapter 6: Making the doctrine of the Trinity a living and loved reality

    For most people something like that happens when they embrace a mystery of the faith revealed to them by the Church:

     - first there is an intellectual response as they grasp the theological exposition of the mystery

     - then a vital response as the wonder and beauty of the mystery draws the observer in

     - then a loving response as the mystery becomes a light and a power in our lives.

    Chapter 7: Creation

    God created all things from nothing and sustains all things in existence from moment to moment - all for His glory. 

    Chapter 8: The nature of man

    Man is made in the image and likeness of God, possessing an intellect and a will. He is different from the animals because he loves the things he knows whereas animals are attracted to the thing they sense; and he can choose what to love whereas animals are attracted to things by nature. Man is capable of moral good or evil, whereas animals always act according to their nature. The ultimate purpose of man is to know and love God. The ultimate purpose of non-intelligent creatures is to adorn creation for the glory of God.

    Chapter 9: The Supernatural Life

    Man is made for the Beatific Vision (that perfect possesion of God in heaven) but with his fallen nature he is radically incapable both of attaining this end and remaining in this state of perfect happiness. By sanctifying grace, man begins a supernatural life here below. He is transformed by grace and receives supernatural virtues and the Gift of the Holy Ghost with grace. He begins to live and act with the life and actions of God. He enters on to the path to heaven and progresses towards it. If he die in a state of grace, then the supernatural life within him is perfected to the point of perfect bliss in union with God.

    Chapter 10: The Fall

    Despite sanctifying grace, supernatural virtues, Gifts of the Holy Ghost, and the praternatural gifts, Adam fell for the temptation to become like God. This was the sin of pride. He was left bereft of everything supernatural and praeternatural, and therefore incapble of attaining that for which he was made: the Beatific Vision. The act against the injunction of God is called Original Sin, the consequence of this act (the deprivation of grace and gifts) is also called Original Sin. The Divine Will ordained that the Original Sin (consequence) be suffered by all the offspring of Adam. 

    Chapter 11: The Redeemer

    Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity Who operates through a divine nature as God, and through a human nature as man. The two natures are hypostatically united in the Person which allow him to act as a man but with acts of infinite value because His Person is divine. By taking to himself his human nature at the Incarnation, Jesus Christ was able to redeem mankind.

    Chapter 12: The Redemption

    The Redemption is the (a) freeing of man from the debt (in justice to God) of sin, and (b) the restoration of man's supernatural union with God. Our Lord Jesus Christ objectively redeemed all mankind by His Incarnation, Life, Passion & Death, Resurrection and Ascension into heaven. It is for man to participate in this act of redemption by living a life of faith, hope and charity through the means that the Church provides (teaching, laws and liturgy). Such a life constitutes mans subjective redemption.

  2. Definition of the Church

    The assembly of the all the faithful under one head (OLJC).


    A. Material Cause:

        - Visible Church: 
    The assembly of the all the faithful under one head (OLJC) (excludes infidels, the schismatics & heretics, and the excommunicated).

        - Other: all baptised/unbaptised souls in a state of grace, all the angels (except the demons).

    B. Formal Cause:

    The Mystical body of Christ

    C. Efficient Cause: The Church came into being at the death of Jesus, or at Pentecost. It was founded by God .

    D. Final Cause: Ultimate finality is AMDG; Immediate finality is to be the unique ark of salvation of souls by

        - teaching the doctrine of Christ,

        - governing the faithful according to God's law, and

        - sanctifying the faithful by her Sacrifice, sacraments, and sacramentals.

  3. Becoming a member of the Church

    - Sacramentally: by baptism which imprints a character on the soul

    Practically: by professing the Catholic faith, by obedience to the Church's laws and governance, and by worshipping with her liturgy.

    Formally: by sanctifying grace.

  4. Different types of members

    (a) According to place: 

    - Church Militant on earth

    - Church Suffering in purgatory

    - Church Triumphant in heaven

    (b) According to visibility (Church Militant):

    - Visible members:
    baptised, adheres to Catholic faith, laws & worship

    Member of the "soul" of the Church, but not the body: other souls in a state of sanctifying grace

    (c) According to supernatural life (Church Militant)

    - Living member: 
    anyone in a state of grace

    Dead member: baptised and in a state of mortal sin

  5. What souls are saved?

    Only souls who die in a state of sanctifying grace are saved. That is, all living members of the Church (living members of the Mystical Body of Christ). Some of these are visible members, but not all.

    It is important to understand that the state of grace is not a ticket or a passport to get into heaven, but it is the essence of heavenwhich is a state of union with God. St. Augustine: Grace is the beginning of glory, and glory is the consummation of grace.

  6. What about those souls who have never been baptised through no fault of their own: can these be saved?

    If they die in sanctifying grace, then these are saved too.

  7. If souls can be saved without sacramental baptism or without adhering to Catholic faith, laws, and worship, why should they be converted?

    The surest path to salvation is by the teaching, governance, and sanctification of the Catholic Church. It is the expressed will of God that all nations be taught and baptised. We have been instructed to go out, teach all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

  8. Notes on false religions, ignorance, truth & salvation

    The following distinction is important to remember:

    (a) Worshipping the TRUE GOD in the TRUE RELIGION (Catholic Religion) and

    (b) Worshipping the TRUE GOD in a FALSE RELIGION.

    - A false religion, even in which the true God is worshipped, will never lead a soul to heaven of itself. A soul practicing a false religion in invincible ignorance AND with a good heart may attain heaven, but not because of the false religion.

    - One is never saved "by ignorance", at most "with ignorance". Every false religion mixes truths and errors, some more some less. Such a mixture cannot save; only truth can save. Therefore, any false religion cannot save.

    - Only the grace of God can save; the grace of God never impels someone to adhere to error, only to truth; nay, one should say that the grace of God removes from error (though not always from all errors at once).

    - Moreover, salvation requires an act of Faith (and Hope and Charity), i.e. supernatural adhesion to a revealed truth. God will provide to everyone (reaching the age of reason) the occasion for such an act of Faith. The salvation of a soul depends on how it cooperates with that offer of the grace of Faith: if it accepts it or if it refuses it.

    - The error of the modernists is to suppose that if a soul worships the true God, then it will be saved. They forget that a soul is only saved by worshiping the true God with supernatural Faith, Hope and Charity in the Church. This fact is conspicuously absent from Pope Paul VI's Declaration, Nostra Aetate.