Let us look at the historical character of Catholicism first. It is convenient, no doubt, to call oneself a Christian, and even (by a modern metaphor) to call oneself "a Catholic", without feeling responsible for the whole chequered past of Christendom; without making oneself an accessory to the fires of Smithfield, or being tarred with the brush of Torquemada. Happy is the nation (it has been said) which has no past; and a Church of yesterday enjoys the advantages which that dictum implies. To be tied to no dead hand of tradition, bowed down by no cumbrous legacies of antiquity, leaves the mind more free for speculation, and the heart for adventure. But in disclaiming the dead, you are yourself disclaimed by the dead. If you are not prepared to blush for Alexander the Sixth, it is childishly inconsistent to take pride in the memory of Saint Francis. You may claim a kind of sentimental connection with the Christianity of earlier ages, but not a historic, not a vital continuity. The Fathers of the early Church may be your models and your heroes, but they are no genuine part of your ancestry.
---------------Ronald Knox, The Belief of Catholics