Yesterday this post was made at Principium Unitatis regarding division and unity in the Church. It describes the differences of what Catholics consider unity to be and what Protestants consider unity to be.
In the general Protestant mindset, anyone who has faith in Christ is a member of the one church that Christ founded. Protestants generally do not believe that Christ founded a visible, hierarchically organized Body, or that if He did, such a Body is still around. This Protestant conception of the church as invisible arose in the 16th century. It does away with the very possibility of schism.
The Catholic Church for two thousand years has believed and taught that Christ founded a visible, hierarchically organized Body. This notion of the Church as a visible, hierarchically organized Body has implications for what it means to be in unity.
I think that this serves as a starting point for discussing Catholicism with Protestants and Evangelicals. It is very true that it is common for Protestants to believe unity is a spiritual thing only. I remember in my Cru Bible Study last year, we discussed the Nicene Creed. Even though it is remarkably Catholic, we tried to explain to our Bible Study that even though it says “one holy Catholic and apostolic Church” it did not mean the Catholic Church, but meant those who believe in Christ. Of course, now I see that it is ridiculous to take that statement and try to turn it into anything else. During Lent one of my Bible Study students this year told me that he thought it was weird that Catholics were not able to take Communion in another Church or allow non-Catholics to take Communion in a Catholic Church. Principium explains:
I explain that the Eucharist is a sign of unity, and so because from the point of view of the Catholic Church, Protestants are in schism from the Church, therefore for Protestants to receive the Eucharist in the Catholic Church, or for Catholics to receive communion with Protestants, would be a lie.
There is a disunity in Christianity today and if evident in nothing else, is clear simply because there is a disunity in our definition of unity itself. And so we must not mistake the division in Christianity today as unity. But also do not be quick to think that the Body of Christ is divided, because it is not. The Body of Christ is full and whole within the Catholic Church.