“Since their inception, Free Churches have represented for both the Catholic and the Orthodox Church the quintessence of what is uncatholic. Because catholicity qualifies all other essential attributes of the church, all the ecclesiological capital sins of Free Churches can be understood as transgressions against catholicity. The Free Church understanding of unity, of holiness, and of apostolicity is problematic because it is uncatholic. The unity of Free Churches in uncatholic because it lacks concrete forms of communion with all other churches, that is, with the whole church. Their holiness is uncatholic because it is exclusive; according to the Free Church idea, all who do not consciously believe and live commensurately are to be excluded from the church. The apostolicity of Free Churches is uncatholic because it lacks connection to the whole church in its history, which is assured by the successio apostolica. Moreover, the specific ecclesiological characteristic of Free Churches resides precisely in their understanding of unity, holiness, and apostolicity. Were they to become catholic, they would, according to the argumentation of the episcopal churches, have to surrender their very identity. A catholic Free Church is a contradiction in terms; it understands itself as free precisely with regard to those relationships that would tie it to the whole and thus make it catholic in the fist place.
“This picture changes significantly from the Free Church perspective. Together with other churches deriving from the Reformation, Free Churches have from the very outset subscribed to catholicity and have simultaneously denied this attribute to the Catholic Church. The unity of the Catholic Church is uncatholic because the Pope (or bishop), to use Luther’s words ‘declares that his court alone is the Christian church.’ Its holiness is uncatholic because it maintains a distance from its sinful members (casta meretrix) and is never willing to pray for the forgiveness of its own sins (ecclesial sancta et immaculata). The apostolicity of the Catholic Church is uncatholic because it insists too much on the form of preserving apostolicity (succesio apostolica), binds church doctrine to certain formulations from the past, and in this way renders them uniform. According to Free Church argumentation, the Catholic (and implicitly, Orthodox) Church refuses to accept its own particularity, and thus denies (full?) catholicity to other churches. This sort of exclusive claim to catholicity is from the Free Church perspective narrow, intolerant, and thus profoundly uncatholic. To be catholic, the Catholic and Orthodox churches would have to understand themselves as churches among other churches. But by doing so would they not surrender their own identities?”
–Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 259-61.