From a reader…
Why MUST one be in communion with Rome? The Eastern Church has celebrated the sacraments without communion with Rome for 1000 years, but still they have wonderworking Saints.
GUEST “ASK FATHER” ANSWER from a priest who participates here:
Why MUST one be in communion with Rome? Well, I suppose, on one level, one need not be in communion with Rome. Some perfectly wonderful people have lived wonderful lives without being in communion with Rome. God’s grace and mercy is beyond our comprehension, and it is entirely possible that He may welcome into heaven some of those who have lived their lives outside of the visible bonds of communion with Rome. As you note, there are elements of sanctification and truth found outside the visible structure of the Roman Catholic Church. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council affirmed this as well, while noting that these elements of sanctification and truth that can be found outside the visible structure of the Church are also found within the Church and are elements that impel towards Catholic unity (Lumen Gentium, 8).
Jesus Christ clearly wanted His followers to be united. John 17:21 was not just a fond, impossible wish of Our Lord, but was a fervent prayer He uttered as He entered into the most solemn moments of His life. He offered no exception either. He did not pray, “…that they may be One as Thou, Father, in me, and I in Thee, except when being One causes hardship, stress, confusion, or difficulties. Then, forsooth, mayest they be not more than two thousand or so, depending on the varied and sundry interpretations of Thy Holy Word that may perchance arise.”
No other Church, or denomination, or ecclesiastical gathering expresses the unity which Christ willed for His Church more effectively than the Roman Catholic Church. No stronger principle ensures unity of the faithful in this world than the visible successor of St. Peter, to whom Christ entrusted the task of confirming the faith of the brethren. For some 1,983 years, despite the sometimes motley characters that have sat on the throne of St. Peter, and even occasional confusion about who was, truly, the Pope, the papacy has served that role of a principle of unity and a beacon drawing attention to that fervent prayer of Our Lord on the night before He died.
Why MUST one be in communion with Rome? Well, if one truly loves the Lord Jesus Christ, and takes His words seriously, and strives to do what He has told us, I can’t see how one could not wish to be in communion with Rome.