The word Catholic means universal, and it was chosen to signify that the church is open to all humankind, whatever their colour, race, sex, class, intelligence or talent, on an equal basis. By baptism the pope and I are equals, though he has a job far more responsible than mine and a great deal harder. People have different roles within the church, but these differences are not considered to make anyone more of a Catholic than anyone else. Thus the pope is no more of a Catholic than any ordinary worshipper in a parish church.
Moreover, the church exists for forgiveness, and no one is deemed unforgivable. At the end of the war the Catholic Church accepted back some ex-Nazis. The state still insisted on executing them, but the church restored them to fellowship. Obviously, when someone becomes a Catholic they may have to make adjustments to their lifestyle, but the church will be aware of this and will forgive their errors as long as they are genuinely penitent and making an effort.
But the church does not simply exist for saving souls, but for doing God's work in the world, transforming the world into the place that God wants it to be, being the instrument through which Christ works.Thus educational, medical and pastoral work are the daily work of the church. In certain parts of the world it is the church that provides most of the educational and medical services, such as parts of Africa. Cafod is the Catholic Church's relief arm, providing emergency and development aid in areas where it is needed. In recent years the Catholic Church has committed itself against human trafficking and there are many brave nuns who work with trafficked women. This work is deliberately kept low key for the protection of all involved, but we all know that it goes on.
Work for peace is a vital part of the church's role. In 1945 Pope Pius the Twelfth ordered the papal diplomatic service to commit itself to working to prevent war, especially nuclear war, and this has been happening ever since, with Vatican diplomats trying to mediate between warring parties. Over the last few centuries the popes have developed a comprehensive Catholic social teaching that attempts to do justice to society as a whole, not merely to favoured or privileged sections of it, and this development still goes on, with Pope Francis intervention in the global warming debate through his encyclical letter, Laudato Sii.
The church is essentially a missionary church, whose mission stretches to the whole human race and will continue until the second coming of Christ.Mission does not just mean going abroad, for it can be anywhere. Currently I am chairman of my parish refugee project, using my experience as a chair to run meetings. This at the moment is what I can do for the refugees, that's part of my mission, just as gardening, writing articles and exam marking are. Maureen, my wife, wants to come in later to help the refugees with educational issues. This work will be her mission at the right time.
I have given the ideal, but it must be acknowledged that the church is a lamp with stains on it that sully its light. I hope that you can see that the ideal is high, but we fall away from it at times, all of us, but we try and we pick ourselves up with God's help and carry on.