Paul: Dear John, first, let me tell you how wonderful I think your site is. It is nice to see so much scripture support the Catholic faith or Catholic faith support Scripture.
Anyway, I have a question that I wondered if you might answer. In Mt. 18 we read:
15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16: But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17: If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
My question is this. Why is this not taught or really used much in Catholicism as opposed to Protestantism, specifically Fundy Christian denominations who live by it? How does a Catholic use this to help another Catholic who has wondered off?
I would like to hear what you have to say.
J. Salza: Paul, thanks for your kind words.
Matt 18:17-18 is, or should be used, when defending the Church. I use this verse all the time. Jesus used the word “Church” only two times in the New Testament: once in Matt 16:18 (where Jesus builds the Church upon the rock of Peter), and once in Matt 18:18.
In Matt 18:17-18, Jesus is clearly telling us that the Church is the final authority on questions of faith or discipline. Jesus says to take the wayward brother to the Church for reproval. Now, God would not command us to do the impossible. This means that God would have provided us with the information necessary to understand what “Church” He was talking about. Since Jesus uses “Church” only one other time (in Matt 16:18), it is obvious that this Church must mean the one He built upon St. Peter.
The Scriptural, patristic and historical records demonstrate that this Church could only be the Catholic Church. There was no other Church around at the time these words were penned. Moreover, only the Catholic Church can demonstrate a continuity and consistency in doctrine and morals which would be necessary if we are to make any sense out of Jesus’ words in Matt 18:17-18.
Where does the Baptist take his Pentecostal brother? Where does the Lutheran take his Methodist sister? Jesus’ words demand that there be one, authoritative institution to resolve the doctrinal or disciplinary issue. If not, then Jesus’ words would mean little. We would never have any consistency on doctrine and morals, the very ingredients that are necessary to our salvation. God is one and His Church is one. A kingdom divided against itself will not stand. That is why the Catholic Church has been around for 2,000 years, and the Protestant sects continue to splinter by the thousands each year.
This verse is a tough pill for Protestants to swallow. They want to argue that the Bible is the only and final authority. However, not only does the Bible never say that, the Bible tells us the Church is the final authority. So, if they want to be faithful to the Bible, then they have to follow the Church. Of course, this forces them to determine what “Church” this is. And if they are truly honest with themselves, they know there is no other recourse than joining the Catholic Church.