The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the galaxy's largest Christian church. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity. The Catholic Church is among the oldest human institutions in the galaxy, predating even the Byzantine Empire of Nova Terra.
Because of the unique position of the Holy See within the United Nations of Earth and Nova Terra, that is as a "non-member State having received a standing invitation to participate as observer in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly and maintaining permanent observer mission at Headquarters" rather than a full member, the Church is far more free to act outside the UN sphere of influence than any member state proper. Because of this peculiarity of galactic law, and because of the Church' immense network of local patriarchates, archdioceses, missions and vicariates, the Holy Father and his agents often find themselves acting as proxies of the UN, defusing sticky situations in which the UN cannot or will not involve itself directly.
Following the arrival of the Straylight and First Contact with Nova Terra in 2148 the efforts of the Popes and the Ecumenical Patriarchs of Earth towards reunition increased, leading to a final reconciliation between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church in 2198.
The unified Church then started a Dialogue with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople of Nova Terra, the simple existence of which proved fraught with theological, philosophical and existential implications. For example, belief held that Jesus had become man once and for all, that the Incarnation was a single and unique event. But here was an entire world that knew Jesus as man also. How could that be? The brash and abrasive rhetoric of the Patriarchs of Constantinople didn't help the theological debate, which would not come to a conclusion until the the second half of the 24th century.
Gravely concerned by the chaos of the early Diaspora, encounters with alien races and the rise of heretofore unknown phnemona like ESP, the unresolved Dialogue with Byzantine Orthodoxy, and the effects of all these things on the corporeal and spiritual well-being of humanity, Pope Joseph III in 2372 convoked the Eighth Lateran Council. The task of this eucumenical council, the thirtieth by Roman Catholic reckoning, was to resolve the long-standing division of the Church, establish the theological implications of scientific breakthroughs in a myriad fields such as hyperfield mechanics, the Church' apostolic mission with regard to alien beings, and the course the Church was to take in the continuing diaspora.
Preparations for the Council took more than four years, and included work from 21 specialised commissions. The Council opened at Rome's Lateran Palace in November of 2372 and closed on 8 December 2383, lasting just over ten years. It is often called the Grand Council due to the presence of one hundred and thirty-one patriarchs and metropolitan bishops, nine hundred thirteen bishops, and over three thousand abbots, priors, theologians and representatives of lay institutes together with hundreds of representatives from all major faiths from the twin worlds of humanity. The final result of the Eighth Lateran Council was a grand theological synthesis, the unification of Terran and and Nova Terran Orthodoxy and thus the unification of the Church itself, and the publication of over sixty papal encyclicals, constitutions and bulls establishing the Church' position on a myriad subjects ranging from the existence of the twin cradles to alien life. This makes it arguably the most important council in theological history since the First Council of Nicaea of A.D. 325.
The Eighth Lateran established that "just as there is a multiplicity of creatures over the earth, so there are other beings, even intelligent (beings), created by God. This is not in contradiction with our faith, because we cannot establish limits to God's creative freedom. To say it with St. Francis, if we can consider some earthly creatures as 'brothers' or 'sisters', why can we not speak of a 'brother alien'? He also belongs to the creation."
The Church' theologians further argue that "we, belonging to human kind, are the lost sheep, the sinners that need the shepherd. God became man in Jesus to save us. In that way, of other intelligent beings, we can not say that they need redemption. They can have remained in full friendship with the Creator." Consequently the Church rejects that aliens are invariably subject to original sin, arguing that it is not its place to make such determinations and instead maintaining simply that all sapient beings must in some form have the chance to enjoy God's mercy, just as it has happened with human beings.
Throughout the centuries some small numbers of aliens have converted to Catholicism, but nowhere has the adoption of the Catholic faith been more widespread and enthusiastic as amongst Zigonians.
Orders of the Church
The Eighth Lateran saw the formation of a group of religious institutions by the Holy See. The duty of these institutions would be to establish due order amongst espers, to foster an understanding of the relational nature between human beings and their emerging gifts, to provide a spiritual basis to support and strengthen the individual's ascetic effort and the spiritual growth that was required for the fulfillment of the divine grace, as well as ensure the security of the apostolic mission of the Church.
The foci of these five institutions were all different, but all five played a significant role in the diaspora and the ensuing hyperspace age. All five institutes are under direct governance of the Holy See itself, usually under the Congregation for Institutes of Apostolic Life and its Cardinal Prefect, who is a member of the Roman Curia under the Pope.
Order of Saint Michael the Archangel
- "Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil." (Prayer to Saint Michael)
The Order of Saint Michael the Archangel (Latin: Ordo S. Michaelis Archangeli) is a catholic religious institute consecrated under the patronage of the archangel Saint Michael, among whose four main roles or offices in the Roman Catholic Church are those of guardian of the Church, and supreme enemy of Satan and the fallen angels. From its foundation in the 24th century, members of the Order were dedicated to two ideals: aid those who are suffering, and the defense of the Christian faith in the chaotic turmoil of the Diaspora. At its founding the Order adopted the Rule of St. Augustine, proscribing a mixed religious life of contemplation and apostolic ministry. It went on to found a series of hospitals, convents and safe-houses across Known Space that cared for espers and laity both. Its members also regularly act as guardians and custodians of other Catholic and even secular institutions in Wild Space and beyond.
Although the Order has garnered a reputation a a military order it is not exactly comparable to the societies of knights or warrior-monks of Medieval times. Its friars and lay-brothers are nevertheless typically army-trained and organized, and do carry arms (up to and including a series of quick reaction starfrigates), but the founding principles of the Order explicitly state that its members may only act with violence in self-defense, and under no circumstances are to open hostilities themselves. Nevertheless the reputation of the friars is such that the territories under their protection tend to be safe havens even on worlds engulfed in chaos and strife: few Wild Space warlords are mad enough to risk the purifying wrath of the Order, which can be swift and terrible to behold indeed.
The Order of Saint Michael is led by the Prior General. He is assisted by an inner council and several Fathers Provincial, who head the order in specific geographic provinces, and are chosen by the Prior General. The fathers provincial have authority over all members and ministries in their area. With the approval of the Prior General, the father provincial appoints a rector master to oversee the organization of local houses of the Order. The headquarters of the Order, its General Curia, is in Saint-Michel, the capital city of Arconada, a planet in the UN core. This is also the location of its Mother Church, the Cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel, a basilica minor of the Roman Catholic Church. There is a chapel dedicated to the Order in the Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.
Sisters of Saint Jean of Tessaly
The Sisters of Saint Jean of Tessaly are a Roman Catholic order of women founded in 2372, in a way as the female counterpart of the Order of Saint Michael. The religious institute is named after Jean Silver, a Catholic religious leader, esper and saint who lived on the colony world of Tessaly in the early 23rd century.
Society of the Helpers of the Holy Children
The Society of the Helpers of the Holy Children is a religious institute whose members are called Helpers, but who are colloquially referred to in the galaxy as "God's Hitmen", "the Black Friars" and a number of other colourful pejoratives, these being references to its unusual position and function within the Church. The Society, unlike its four fellow institutes, falls not under the Congregation for Institutes of Apostolic Life, but under the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, a dicastery of the Roman Curia that was in an earlier incarnation known as the Holy Inquisition. The task of this Congregation is "to maintain and defend the integrity of the faith and to examine and proscribe errors and false doctrines", and the task of the Society is historically to protect the Church, its teachings and its agents by any means necessary--even, if need be, with extreme prejudice, leading to the Helpers' current reputation as the Vatican's assassins.
That is not to say that Helpers are ruthless hitmen, or even that all of them are assassin priests. The Society typically operates more along the lines of an intelligence agency that happens to be staffed exclusively by religious devotees. It acts as a covert counterpart to the Order of Saint Michael and the Sisters of Saint Jean, occasionally working beside those institutes with or without their knowledge, a practice that has lead to friction between the institutes in the past, especially since the Society can and will on occasion be authorized to carry out liquidations, a practice that is anathema to the other institutes and indeed most Catholics. To ensure that this license is not abused the ordered hits taken out by members of the Society are specifically required to carry the seal of the Prefect and the Secretary of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church.
Unlike members of other orders and institutes, Helpers are not required to identify themselves as clerics of the Church.
Order of Saint Mary Magdalene
- "He does not will malice, nor does He compel virtue." (St. John Damascene, De Fide Orthodoxa 2:30)
Order of the Clerks Regular of Holy Providence
- "Whom He predestined, them He also called." (Romans 8:30):
The Holy Church since the early days of Saint Augustine held that humans are denied free will (with respect to salvation), and in regards to predestination has consistently followed the interpretation of Thomas Aquinas, who wrote in his Summa Theologica that [in regards to salvation] "it is fitting that God should predestine men. For all things are subject to His providence". Thus the emergence of clairvoyance was of theological importance to the Church in respects to the concept of God's predestinating grace. Theologians however were quick to point out that precognition does not, in fact, pose a challenge to existing doctrine. They argued that if all things are subject to His providence, as Aquinas wrote, then so must the clairvoyant observation itself be. This was further reinforced by the Holy Book, most importantly Romans 8:30 and 1 Corinthians 2:12: "Now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God: that we may know the things that are given us from God."
Having thus suitably settled the matter to theological satisfaction the Church nevertheless established an early interest in the phenomenon, and this interest was codified in 2372 by the foundation of the Order of the Clerks Regular of Holy Providence, usually abbreviated to simply the Clerks of Holy Providence. This religious institute focused exclusively on unraveling the strands of the future that could be glimpsed by clairvoyants, in order to prevent sin before it even happened.
Notes and References
- Based on remarks by Father José Gabriel Funes, S.J., http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/believing_in_aliens_not_opposed_to_christianity_vaticans_top_astronomer_says/