Why the Church is the Pillar and Ground of Truth, and Why She Shall Always Continue Such, by Father Richard Brennan, LL.D.


“The house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 3:15

It is beyond all doubt that our divine Founder en trusted to the Apostles and their successors the duty and the power of directing his holy Church in sanctity and truth, and of leading all men into her fold. They had a very difficult and onerous duty to perform. The work was far above human strength and sagacity, while the Apostles themselves, as well as their successors, the bishops and priests of the Church, were mere men, liable to death and sin, and exposed to error and changes. How could such incapable men accomplish this superhuman task? And granting that the Apostles had been confirmed in their faith, in sanctity of life, in zeal for God’s kingdom upon earth, by Jesus Christ himself, and hence succeeded in preserving pure and unchanged his sacred legacy of truth and holiness among the nations of their times, how could their successors in the course of centuries be expected to enjoy similar strength and holiness? Whence were they to draw it? Alas, poor human nature is sadly prone to whims, to passion, to instability and change. And will not this corruption of human nature so effect the leaders in God’s Church that in a few years after the death of the Apostles the work of Christ will languish, die, and be forgotten?

How many societies have been established within the lapse of eighteen hundred years, many with the very best and most laudable ends in view; founded, too, in the wisdom and experience of wise men, and carried on with prudence and sagacity! Yet in the course of time evil crept in, they changed, became corrupt, fell to pieces, and have long since been forgotten even in history. Will not the society of the Church encounter a similar fate?

Certainly not; for, glory, honor, and praise be to God, this society has not only been founded by Christ, but he has moreover infused into it for all time a divine vital power. He has sent truly his own Holy Spirit, as is related in the Acts of the Apostles in the following words of the Evangelist Saint Luke:

The Descent of the Holy Ghost“And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak. Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. And when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded in mind, because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue. And they were all amazed, and wondered, saying: Behold, are not all these that speak Galileans, and how have we heard every man our own tongue wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphilia, Egypt and the parts of Libya about Gyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews also, and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians; we have heard them speak in our own tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all astonished, and wondered, saying one to another, What means this? But others mocking, said: These men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and spoke to them: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and with your ears receive my words; for these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass, in the last days (saith the Lord), I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed, and upon my handmaids, will I pour out in those days of my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as you also know; this same, being delivered up, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you, by the hands of wicked men, have crucified and slain. This Jesus hath God raised again, whereof all we are witnesses. Being exalted there fore by the right hand of God, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath poured forth this which you see and hear.”

From all this, we can understand why the Catholic Church is the only one among all the institutions upon the earth that remains unchanged and unchangeable; why, with her, truth has never been adulterated or obscured, even in the ages of darkest ignorance in the world; why her saving graces, amid all the corruptions of men, have never been weakened nor diminished. She was made immortal for all time by the infusion of God’s breath, the Holy Ghost, on the day of Pentecost. Yes, the Holy Ghost dwells really and truly within her; that Spirit which renews the face of the earth as the Psalmist sings; that good and comforting Spirit mentioned in the book of Wisdom; that Spirit of wisdom and under standing, of counsel and fortitude, of knowledge and piety, foretold by Isaias; that Spirit which comes to aid us in our weakness, as Saint Paul writes to the Romans; that Spirit promised by Christ to his Apostles, who was to teach them all things and to lead them to all truth.

Since the Catholic Church has really received this Holy Spirit as her own peculiar life and soul and strength, the personal faults and failures of her visible rulers and leaders can do her no real harm.

Although some few weak, unhappy priests may have gone astray, although even in remote ages of the Church bishops themselves may have fallen into error and false opinions, although a few Popes have made lamentable mistakes individually, nevertheless no general Council of the Church has ever erred, never has any Pope when speaking officially contradicted any Council or any previous decision of his predecessors in the chair of Peter. Never has any Pope uttered heresy. The divine power, which dwells and acts in the Church with mysterious and miraculous force and wisdom, is able and knows how to overcome, at all times, decay, error, and vice.1

No! Christ did not wish by any means to extinguish and annihilate the human in the bosom of his Church. As by the sending of the Holy Ghost he did not intend to dispense and free the Heads of the Church from the duty of employing the human means of prudence and reflection, of study and of worldly cleverness, in order to settle and fix and decide truth, and guide the Church; so, too, he did not see fit to make it impossible for any one individual person to fall into sin and error. But the Church herself is always intact, pure, blameless, and immortal, even if some few individual members perish of error and wickedness. She remains the pillar and ground of truth, as Saint Paul styles her; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.

MLA Citation

  • Father Richard Brennan, LL.D. “Why the Church is the Pillar and Ground of Truth, and Why She Shall Always Continue Such”. Christ in His Church: A Catholic Church History, 1881. CatholicSaints.Info. 31 May 2018. Web. 18 January 2019. <>

  1. That such corruption may taint not only laymen, but even ecclesiastics, has never been denied. Thus, in the year 1521, at the assembly, in Worms, of the German princes, Aleandri, the papal nuncio, exclaimed plainly: “In Rome itself there have been abuses, even among prelates. Some of the earlier Popes made mistakes, some were culpable, some were even wicked. All this is admitted, not with pride, but with sentiments of humiliation.” Then he adds: “And yet this Rome it was which a few centuries ago declared the great Saint Bernard to be a saint, although in his writings he had rebuked and reproved these same vices.”