Q – Aren’t there a bunch of different Catholic rites? I mean, you have the Roman, Byzantine, Carmelite, Dominican, and a whole bunch of other different titles. What happened? Why the split? What makes us different, and what makes us all Catholic? What makes our church the ‘right one’/the one to be in? Can we recieve their communion and can they recieve ours?
And what makes this split different than the one Luther made? What makes the difference between one rite and another different than the difference between the catholics and the lutherans or the catholics and the baptists? Is the catholic church just as screwed up and separated as all of the protestant churches?
A – Thanks for the questions, I hope I can help straighten some of this out for you. I will break up the questions below to see if I can answer them all for you. Also, I have provided links that can answer the questions with more depth.
1 – Aren’t there a bunch of different Catholic rites?
Yes there are. Most Catholics are ignorant of this fact. There are more than just Latin-rite Catholics, which 99% of us are. In fact, there are dozens of other rites, you can read about all of them here.
A Rite = A way to pray liturgy and worship God which comes from a certain ecclesiastical (church) tradition.
2 – I mean, you have the Roman, Byzantine, Carmelite, Dominican, and a whole bunch of other different titles. What happened?
What happened is that each of the prayers and ways of worshiping God developed in different places in different ways over many years. The Church has never believed that every catholic rite has to have the exact same prayers or ways of having the liturgy, as long as the essential elements of each liturgy are there.
3 – Why the split?
There is no split. There is still unity. A different Catholic rite is still Catholic. They are still in union with Rome. It might be the Eastern Orthodox you are thinking of here. They are not Catholic, but this is a different story that you can read about here.
4 – What makes our church the ‘right one’/the one to be in?
There is no “right” rite, but there is a “right” Church – which is the one true Church Jesus established = the Catholic Church. You can read more about it here and here.
5 – And what makes this split different than the one Luther made? What makes the difference between one rite and another different than the difference between the catholics and the lutherans or the catholics and the baptists?
Again, between the differing Catholic rites there is unity in diversity, not disunity. Between Catholics and Protestants we have much bigger doctrinal issues, the preeminent issue being authority. Luther rejected the Catholic Church’s authority and set himself up as an authority of one. This opened the door to the doctrinal chaos we see in Christianity today.
The different Catholic rites developed different ways of praying, different doctrinal emphases, etc. But, there is always unity.
6 – Is the catholic church just as screwed up and separated as all of the protestant churches?
No. We can see this because we have the Pope who is the visible sign of unity for all Catholics. To illustrate my point, a prominent Protestant theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, recently preached about Reformation Sunday (celebrated in some Protestant churches) about how that particular celebration was scandalous and what Protestants can learn from Catholic unity. I recommend you read all of the article, but here is a snip:
Catholics do not begin with the question of “How much do we need to believe?” but with the attitude “Look at all the wonderful stuff we get to believe!” Isn’t it wonderful to know that Mary was immaculately conceived in order to be the faithful servant of God’s new creation in Jesus Christ! She therefore becomes the firstborn of God’s new creation, our mother, the first member of God’s new community we call church. Isn’t it wonderful that God continued to act in the world through the appearances of Mary at Guadalupe! Mary must know something because she seems to always appear to peasants and, in particular, to peasant women who have the ability to see her. Most of us would not have the ability to see Mary because we’d be far too embarrassed by our vision.
Therefore Catholics understand the church’s unity as grounded in reality more determinative than our good feelings for one another. The office of Rome matters. For at least that office is a judgment on the church for our disunity. Surely it is the clear indication of the sin of the Reformation that we Protestants have not been able to resist nationalistic identifications. So we become German Lutherans, American Lutherans, Norwegian Lutherans. You are Dutch Calvinist, American Presbyterians, Church of Scotland. I am an American Methodist, which has precious little to do with my sisters and brothers in English Methodism. And so we Protestant Christians go to war killing one another in the name of being American, German, Japanese, and so on.
At least it becomes the sin of Rome when Italian Catholics think they can kill Irish Catholics in the name of being Italian. Such divisions distort the unity of the Gospel found in the Eucharist and, thus, become judgments against the church of Rome. Of course, the Papacy has often been unfaithful and corrupt, but at least Catholics preserved an office God can use to remind us that we have been and may yet prove unfaithful. In contrast, Protestants don’t even know we’re being judged for our disunity.
I hope this helps. Peace to you. Pray for Christian unity.