An Explanation of the Apostle’s Creed – Ninth Article of the Creed

“The Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints.”

The Holy Catholic Church, The Church of Christ

Establishment of the Church – The Apostles and Bishops – Primacy of Saint Peter and his Successors, the Popes

True to the commission entrusted to them by their blessed Master, the apostles went forth into all the world to proclaim the glad tidings of the Gospel and to receive by baptism into the kingdom of Christ those who hearkened and believed. They found everywhere souls willing to believe, for He who had sent these messengers of peace stood near them, and the Spirit of God who had come down upon them at Pentecost dwelt in their hearts. Saint Peter went to Antioch, where his converts received for the first time the title of Christians (Acts 11:26). Leaving Antioch he preached the Gospel in Asia and parts of Greece; and then, led by the providence of God, he came to Rome, which was destined to become the chief seat of Christianity, as it had been the focus of heathenism. There, in the year 67 after Christ, during a persecution of the Christians under the cruel Emperor Nero, he died a martyr’s death on the cross.

It is related that when he heard that he was to die like his Master, he begged, out of humility, to be crucified with his head downward. Thus was verified in his case the prediction made by Jesus, “When thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not” (John 21:18). Saint Paul, who was miraculously converted, and was numbered among the apostles after Christ’s ascension into heaven, made three great missionary voyages to Asia, Greece, and the Grecian archipelago, and then was made prisoner and brought to Rome, where, after a detention of two years in jail, he met a martyr’s death in the same persecution as Saint Peter. Saint James the Less remained with the newly-converted Christians in Jerusalem and met a martyr’s death at the hands of the Jews, who hurled him down from the pinnacle of the Temple. Saint John lived to an advanced age and died peacefully as Bishop of Ephesus. The other apostles penetrated to the most distant countries, even as far as India. All laid down their lives in the defense of the faith except Saint John, who, by the special favor of heaven, came from the executioner’s hands unharmed.

Thus in many different and distant points of the earth sprang up at the same time distinct Christian congregations, over which the apostles presided. The most suitable among their converts they ordained to the priesthood to be their assistants in the functions of the holy ministry. If called away from their flocks by duties elsewhere, or if they wished to send chief pastors to distant congregations, they communicated the fulness of their apostolic power to one and consecrated him bishop. Thus we read of Saint Paul and Saint Barnabas that, over all the congregations visited by them, they placed bishops. “And when they had ordained to them priests in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, in whom they believed” (Acts 14:22). These bishops, as the necessities arose and increased, appointed other bishops, as Saint Paul charged Titus, whom he had converted, when he wrote, “I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and shouldst ordain priests in every city, as I also appointed thee” (Titus 1:5).

These apostolically appointed bishops were the guardians of the apostolic traditions. The fact that in the most distant lands, and at the most widely separated points, Christian congregations had arisen so rapidly, all owing their origin to the apostles and their disciples, is one of the strongest proofs of the unfailing nature of the doctrines of the Church. For as the most ancient churches appealed to what their founders, the apostles, had taught them, it would have been impossible to spread any error, as every opinion differing from the teachings of the apostles would have been detected as heresy and marked as such. Similarity of doctrine, therefore, was a great band that united them all together.

Among these distinct congregations there existed still another and a closer bond of union, which contributed to the maintenance of pure doctrine. The apostles all preached and taught and acted under the leadership of Saint Peter, the Prince of the apostles. Thus through the same apostles were established and maintained a union and communion among the different congregations, all of which together formed one great congregation which, is the Catholic Church itself, that is to say, the one universal Church which is destined by God to unite all nations within its pale.

Thus, when we speak of the Church, we must be understood to mean one body of Christians in the world, not, indeed, as existing in separate branches in different nations, but as subject to their pastors and, above all, to their chief pastor, the Pope. All congregations thus form together but one body, each congregation being a member of that body, and all together represented through their pastors and, finally, through the chief pastor, the Pope.

This organization may well challenge our admiration. An association spread out over the whole earth, composed of peoples with the most opposite manners and customs, institutions, and forms of government, differing in language and race, is one and undivided on the point that is most important for man, namely, belief. The forms of their civil and political institutions may be different, but one thing is common to all – their form of religion. The Church has one system of customs and precepts, celebrates one set of festivals, and practises one form of worship. Her authorities govern according to the same laws, all direct their gaze toward the Supreme Pastor. When he speaks the whole earth listens to his voice. When he commands, all his subjects obey. Surely such an association, even if it were but a human organization, would command the praises of all as a model of consummate wisdom. But what distinguishes this institution above all others, and lifts it away above all human organizations is this: this institution carries the stamp and seal of divine origin. The Church has this unity from Christ, her Founder; the apostles were only the executors of His will.

Christ established the episcopal authority as well as the pontifical. Episcopal authority is the outcome of the authority of Christ, who said to His apostles, “As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21) Thus the apostles were to do precisely what their blessed Master had done. To them was transmitted the commission which He had fulfilled. He had taught – consequently the bishops were to teach, and received the teaching office. On the evening before His death He offered Himself up in a bloodless form as a victim of sacrifice, and commanded His apostles to do the same in future in memory of Him – “Do this in commemoration of Me.” He also charged them plainly to go forth and to baptize all nations (Matthew 28:19). Then He gave them power to forgive sins and to retain them, saying, “Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18) Consequently He delivered to them the office of dispensing the sacraments. He said to them furthermore, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20), thus conferring upon them the authority to keep the faithful to the right, and to restrain them from the wrong, to admonish them and to warn them. Hence arises ecclesiastical government, in which all their commands are to be accepted as the commands of God. To despise them is to despise Christ, for “he that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me.” (Luke 10:16) From all this it clearly appears that the apostles were the representatives of Christ.

Now, the office of Christ could not be confined to His own immediate apostles. They were to die, but the office was to remain. Hence there must be successors who would carry on the work of the apostles. The teaching office, the shepherd’s office, and the priestly office were to be continued in the Church through all ages for the sanctification and salvation of the faithful. Are not the same spiritual wants ever present in the Church? Can instruction be suspended even for a generation? Do we not all stand in need of the sacraments for our salvation? Must not the weaknesses of the members be strengthened continually by laws and ordinances, by discipline and penalties? Yes, it follows necessarily that there must be always apostles, and these apostles are the bishops. The bishops are the successors of the apostles. By lawful appointment and consecration, one of another, they keep up an unbroken chain that reaches from the time of Christ to our own. There is not in the whole Catholic Church one bishop who is not a successor of one of the apostles. Otherwise the words of Christ in the twentieth verse of the twenty-eighth chapter of Saint Matthew would have neither sense nor meaning. The apostles might well be dismayed at the mere thought of the duties that were imposed upon them. But their divine Master encouraged them, saying, “You need not fear, I am with you all days.” How long? Till the consummation of the world. As much as to say, “As long as these duties are to be fulfilled, until the goal is reached, I shall remain with you, who will continue your mission till the end of time, by transmitting your office and authority to your lawful successors.” By virtue of these words of Christ the apostles and their successors are His representatives, with the same authority and power. Their authority is an outcome of the authority of the Son of God.

We may compare the living Church of Christ with a church edifice of stone* Like the latter it has a corner-stone, which is Christ As the edifice rests on pillars, the Church of Christ is carried and held up by the bishops, who are its living pillars. That the comparison may not end here we can proceed and say that as the stone building has its keystone, so has the living Church of Christ its keystone, who is the Pope, the visible chief head of all.

To secure unity and harmony Christ gave to Peter a preference above the other apostles. He appointed him to be their common head. Peter was to be the Vicarius Christi, the vicar of Christ on earth, and His representative. As Christ was supreme Teacher, Priest, and Shepherd among His apostles, so does the rank of Peter and his successors rank first and highest in the teaching office, priestly office, and the office of the good shepherd. This supremacy of Saint Peter is clearly established by the Scriptures.

Thus, according to the sacred writers, Saint Peter was the first in the list of the apostles (Mark 3:16), and, according to Matthew 10:2, was named the first. He was not the first that Our Saviour called, for Andrew was called before him (John 1:40), and hence he must have been first in rank. He was the first, too, to receive divine inspiration even in the lifetime of his blessed Master. Responding to the question of the Saviour he made a profession of faith, saying, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God,” and then he received the answer and promise, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jona; because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-19)

Saint Peter is, then, as his name imports, the rock on which the Lord was to build His Church. Our Lord gave the power of the keys of heaven to the apostles (Matthew 18:18), but to Saint Peter in a special manner. To him He also gave a more extended power. Peter had denied his Lord three times. Hence it was becoming that he should make a triple profession that he loved his Master more than did the other apostles, and then he received the triple commission, “Feed My lambs, feed My sheep” (John 21:15-18). By the sheep we are to understand the bishops; the lambs are the laity. Thus Saint Peter is the shepherd who feeds the whole flock. He is the key-bearer of the kingdom of heaven. Yes, and even more, Peter has the charge and authority to strengthen the others in the faith. To him Our Lord said, “Thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren.” (Luke 22:32). And in order that Saint Peter might be fitted for this duty Our Lord assures him, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” Thus our blessed Lord was pleased to pray in a special manner for the establishment of this teaching office in His Church in the person of this apostle.

Saint Peter always showed himself to be the chief among the apostles. Rising up in the midst of the brethren, he proposed to them that they should elect another apostle in place of Judas (Acts 1:15). On the first Christian Pentecost he spoke in the name of the other apostles. To him it was specially revealed that the Gentiles were called to Christianity (Acts 10), and again, when he spoke, the disputed question about baptizing converts who had been circumcised, was finally settled (Acts 11:18). He moreover occupied the highest seat at the first Church council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:7). Finally it was to Saint Peter that Saint Paul went after having passed in Arabia the three years subsequent to his conversion, in order to converse with Peter, to work and to teach in accord with him, and to have the lawfulness and validity of his ministry established and confirmed (Galatians 1:18). Thus the Scriptures speak in such clear terms of the sublime dignity of Peter that it would be the sheerest folly to deny his supremacy.

But as the apostolate was established to endure for all ages, so, too, was the Primacy. The unity of the Church had to be preserved, not so much on account of the apostles themselves, as of their successors. In order that any one of these falling into doubt or even error might have no excuse for remaining in either, a central point of truth was established to which he might apply for a decision. This court of appeals is the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, the father of Christendom, the Holy Father, the chief shepherd. As the apostles transmitted their power and authority to their successors, the bishops, so Peter handed down the Primacy to his special successor. He did not take the keys of heaven with him to the grave, but placed them in the hands of the second Pope, to be held by him for a while and then to be transmitted to his successor, and to be so handed down through unbroken succession until they would reach the hands of the present Sovereign Pontiff, Leo XIII, who will in his turn deliver them to his successor, and so on till the Day of Judgment. Today, as in Judea by Peter near two thousand years ago, the Church is ruled by one visible head, who teaches and governs in union with all properly consecrated bishops. For that, of course, is an essential condition in the apostolate, that the bishop be in union with the Pope and be duly consecrated by duly consecrated bishops.

Under the guidance of the bishops the priests discharge the duties of their calling. They are the followers of the disciples of Our Lord, and have been entrusted with the right and power to preach, to administer the sacraments, and to direct the laity. The priests with the bishops, and all in union with the Pope, constitute the Church teaching. The laity, who are without orders, are the Church hearing. All combined together compose the Catholic Church, whose unity and order and well-being are maintained by the ready obedience of the laity to their priests, of the priests to their bishops, and of the bishops to the Pope. The fundamental virtue, therefore, of the Catholic Christian is obedience to superiors. This obedience is not a state of oppression arbitrarily imposed by the Church, but a commandment of Christ uttered for the glory of God, and the salvation of those who are bound to obey. The Church desires to lead to their salvation the souls entrusted to her charge; this can be done only through obedience to God’s commandments. The Church is the monitor and keeper. The Christian stands in need of divine grace, and the dispenser of such grace is the Church. For his spiritual life the Christian needs instruction and guidance. The Church is the guide of all peoples, and the common mother of all men. When Saint Clement of Rome, of whom Saint Paul said that his name was in the book of life (Philippians), who was the disciple and successor of Saint Peter, says that the Church may be compared to an army in which the rank and file are subject to their captains, the captains to their generals, and the generals to the commander-in-chief, we must remember that the faithful are battling for heaven. They are soldiers who enlisted of their own free will under the banner of Christ, which is the cross. They are resolved and ready to march forward to gain heaven, a contest in which they need leaders. Their very obedience leads them to victory, the fruit of obedience. By obedience alone do they conquer. When they shall have overcome their enemies, and triumphantly entered the kingdom of heaven, each combatant shall receive a crown for his reward.

On the heart of the Catholic Christian, from his youth upward, the following precepts are imprinted: “Always cherish in your heart a profound reverence for and submission to our Holy Father, the Pope, and for the bishops and priests in communion with him, for they stand in the place of God, are appointed to instruct you in the name of God, to impart to you the treasures of grace, and to lead you to eternal happiness.” All this is no yoke. The Catholic clergy preach no other yoke but that which they themselves have assumed for the love of Christ and the saving of their souls. The priest who demands obedience from his flock renders obedience to the bishop easily and cheerfully. Besides, the bishop sees to it that the priests do not ask any obedience but that required by Jesus Christ. The bishop himself owes the strictest obedience to the Vicar of Christ.

The Pope is the guardian of the law, and for that very reason he is the most faithful follower of it. From his example bishops, priests and laity draw strength and courage for their obedience. But in the Church obedience is not arbitrary – it is an obedience resulting from charity. While no one is completely free, no one is unduly trammeled. No one carries any other yoke but that of which it is written, “My yoke is sweet and My burden light.” (Matthew 11:30)

This yoke is light, really and truly, for it secures to its bearer peace and contentment of mind. The Catholic believes firmly that his Church is infallible, and therefore places his entire and unqualified faith in her and finds thereby complete and perfect peace. The Protestants, on the other hand, having shaken off this yoke, recognize no infallible teaching office on earth and consequently believe, for they must believe it, that their Church can err. Hence in regard to the most vitally important question of life and eternity they can have no security or peace of mind. The yoke of faith and obedience is quite natural. He who carries it moves securely, never fails, never strays into labyrinths, the exits of which are impossible to find, and in which those necessarily lose themselves who are left to themselves. The child is early accustomed to faith in, and obedience toward, its parents and teachers. Faith and obedience are the foundation-stones on which rests the whole fabric of human society. To Catholics, therefore, nothing is more reasonable than that God has established a teaching office. Whoever asserts his belief on this point does so most naturally, and by complying with the laws of the Church he acts logically. Whoever admits the rights of authority in other circumstances of life and denies them to religion, acts unnaturally. As often as he confides in the doctrine of a preacher, he acts illogically, for he must convince himself of all by private examination, and believe only the Holy Ghost when speaking to him interiorly. Does not this lead into endless pitfalls and labyrinths? How happy the Catholic is with his obedience! He knows whom he obeys and he knows that this obedience will lead him to salvation.

Christ Has Founded A Church

Passages from the Scriptures and from the Fathers

“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church.” (Matthew 16:18)

“If he will not hear them, tell the Church; and if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.” (Matthew 18:17)

“Other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10:16)

“God hath subjected all things under Christ’s feet: and hath made Him head over all the Church, which is His body, and the fulness of Him, who is filled all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23)

“To God be glory in the Church.” (Ephesians 3:21)

“Christ is the head of the body, the Church.” (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 5:23)

“The Church shines from the rising to the setting of the sun.” (Origen)

“The Church, beaming all through with the light of the Lord, sheds her rays over the whole earth.” (Saint Cyprian)

“It would be easier to extinguish the sun than to destroy the Church.” (Saint Chrysostom)

“The Church is the body of Christ, of which body you are a member.” (Saint Augustine)

Reason Teaches that Christ must have Founded a Church

Christ the Lord, not wishing to remain forever on this earth, ascended into heaven. What then was to become of His work of redemption? He came to save men during all time. Whoever would be saved must accept and believe the doctrines preached by Christ, make use of the methods of grace established by Him, and keep His commandments. It was thus that Christ ordained, and thus it will remain for all time. There is no other way by which man can obtain eternal salvation, for there is no other name given to us by which we can be saved, but the name of Jesus. But since Jesus returned to heaven He must have established certain institutions in order that His truth might be transmitted pure and unchanged, His means of grace be dispensed in full strength, and His laws be observed with unimpaired strictness.

If Christ desired the end, namely, the eternal happiness of men, He must have placed within the reach of all men the means enabling them to reach such happiness. This institution necessarily desired and established by Christ, and which places within our reach such means for eternal happiness, we call the Church. This Church never ceases to discharge the duty committed to it by its divine Founder. Hence it follows that as sure as Christ wished to redeem and to save all men, so surely must He have founded a Church in which and through which all men could find true happiness.

The Bishops

Passages from the Scriptures and from the Fathers

“And going up into a mountain, He called unto Him whom He would Himself: and they came to Him. And He made that twelve should be with Him: and that He might send them to preach.” (Mark 3:13,14)

“Paul and Barnabas ordained to them priests in every church.” (Acts 14:22)

“Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the Church of God.” (Acts 20:28)

“If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. It behooveth, therefore, a bishop to be blameless.” (1 Timothy 3:1)

“For this cause I left thee, Titus, in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and shouldst ordain priests in every city.” (Titus 1:5)

“Show all due reverence to your bishop, though it be not so much to him as to Jesus Christ, the Father, who is the bishop of all. It is becoming, then, to render obedience and honor without hypocrisy, for we would not only wrong the visible bishop, but also mock the invisible.” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch, in his letter to the Magnesians)

“Wherever the bishop shows himself, there let the people be, just as where Christ is, for there is the Catholic Church.” (The same, in a letter to the Smyrnians)

“Among us the bishops occupy the place of the apostles.” (Saint Jerome)

“The bishops are all followers of the apostles.” (Saint Augustine)

“The places of the apostles are taken by the bishops.” (Saint Gregory the Great)

Priests and Bishops are Different in Rank

In his book of the Apocalypse Saint John writes that he had seen the Son of man with seven stars in His hand and seven candlesticks about Him. This picture is explained as follows: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches of Asia and the seven candlesticks are the seven churches themselves (Apocalypse 1:12,16 and 20). Then he imparts to each one of the churches what God said to him for them. These seven angels, as appears from the import of the given proofs, as well as from common tradition, were the seven bishops. Naturally one can not conceive of civic heads of churches, nor admit that in each church there was but one priest Saint Ignatius writes, in his epistle to the Smyrnians, “You shall all obey the bishop as if he were Jesus Christ your Father, and also the priests, as if apostles.” He thus places the bishop before the priests, making him the head of the priests. In his letter to the Ephesians, while praising the priests for being so united with their bishop, he says, “Your praiseworthy clergy are as intimately united to your bishop as are the chords to the lyre.” He distinguishes priest from bishop. In his epistle to the Tralliers he draws a clear-cut line of their respective powers, saying, “What else is a bishop but the one who has rank and power above all the others? What is the priesthood but a sacred association, the advisers and assessors of the bishop? ” The fact that in the Sacred Scriptures the apostles are in some places called priests, while in other places the subordinates or elders are called bishops, can be easily explained, for the bishops cared for the guidance of the congregation itself, while the priests were the local guardians and administrators.

The distinction could not be so sharply brought out because even the apostles themselves could and must have considered the bishops appointed by themselves as their subordinates. The fact that the first disciple of the apostles, even in his time, made such a decided distinction between bishop and presbyter proves that difference in rank was not a late innovation, but a distinction established by God, for Saint Ignatius must have possessed the apostolic tradition. From that time forward all the Church Fathers are found to hold as a principle that the bishops are the successors of the apostles, as we have shown above.

This is nowhere affirmed of the priests. The bishops are called successors of the apostles, fathers, princes of the people, chiefs of the people, high priests, Popes, Fathers of the Church, all of these titles having a reference to the special authority they possessed in the Church. The synod of Antioch, held in the year of Our Lord 341, says that it is an ancient rule, established by the Fathers, for the bishops to do only those things that concerned their dioceses. Now, a diocese is nowhere mentioned as being directed by a priest. It is remarkable that we have still catalogues of ancient ordinations of bishops who were chosen by the apostles, and from which may be clearly seen the importance that was attached to the proper consecration of bishops, as well as to their lawful succession. The Council of Trent threatens with exclusion from the Church any person who would affirm that the bishops have no higher power than the priests. (Session 13, Canon 7)

The Rights of Bishops

The bishop alone, and first of all, possesses in his diocese the right to teach. Priests exercising this function, if they preach from the pulpit, in the schools, or in any important position, must obtain their commission from the bishop and have received his approbation. Furthermore the bishop enjoys the right of ministry throughout the length and breadth of his diocese, that is, the right to exercise all holy functions, while the priest has but the power to administer the Sacraments of Baptism, of the Altar, of Penance, of Extreme Unction and of Matrimony, to impart various blessings, to preach the word of God, and this only in such places as his bishop may have assigned to him, and within appointed limits. Finally, the bishop has the management of the church and, as chief judge, he has the right –

(1) to decide current questions on faith;

(2) to order the public worship;

(3) to enforce Church discipline;

(4) to grant certain privileges;

(5) to grant certain dispensations;

(6) to direct the proper disposing of church funds and revenues;

(7) to erect ecclesiastical places, to regulate them or to abolish them;

(8) to decide ecclesiastical disputes;

(9) to dispense from the diocesan statutes;

(10) to absolve from certain vows;

(11) to grant certain indulgences.

Reverence due to Bishops

The honorable marks of distinction paid to bishops belong rather to the honorable position which they take at the head of the faithful and in the vicariate of Christ As they are men called to bear the burden of church government they are entitled, before every one else, to the church prayers that occur in the Mass and litany of the saints. In their written communications they make use of the plural pronouns “we” and “us,” for in a certain sense they are the embodiment of all the faithful. As a sign that they are, like Christ, the shepherds of the flock, they carry a pastoral staff called a crosier, a custom that was practised by the bishops in the earliest ages of the Church, The miter, too, or head-covering of the bishop, is of very ancient origin, the present form being about one thousand years old. As a sign that they have contracted a spiritual marriage with the Church they wear a ring. The custom once general among Christians of carrying, a cross about the neck, is especially proper to bishops, whose breast is adorned with a cross. Besides the miter and crosier they wear at solemn functions episcopal sandals or slippers, gloves, the tunic, dalmatic, and some other garments differing slightly from the vestments of the priest.

When they are simply present at public worship they occupy the episcopal throne. The archbishops wear, besides, the pallium, a distinguishing mark not worn by bishops, and which they receive directly from the Pope. It is a band composed of white wool with crosses inwrought in black. The material in this insignia is taken from a lamb sacrificed in a church at Rome on Saint Agnes’ day, the 21st of January of each year. The origin of the pallium may be traced to the Oriental Church. It represents a mantle with which the emperors sometimes decorated bishops as a mark of favor and distinction.

The Primacy of Saint Peter

The Power of the Keys – The Gates of Hell – Matthew 16, 18, 19

It is a peculiarity of Eastern language to use a part to signify the whole; for example, Orientals use the word “gates” to signify the capital city, and sometimes the whole country. Thus the angel in delivering to Abraham the message of the Lord, said, “Thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies.” (Genesis 22:17) The brothers of Rebecca wished the same to their sister, saying, “Thou art our sister; mayest thou increase to thousands of thousands, and may thy seed possess the gates of their enemies.” (Genesis 24:60) Again, the word “gates” signifies the highest authority, because in Eastern lands the business of the supreme court was often transacted beneath the great gate of the city. The expression, “the gates have so decided,” was equivalent to “the highest authority has so decided.”

Thus, then, “the gates of hell” mean that kingdom which all through the history of the Church will oppose the kingdom of God, till the very day on which the Lord will send aid to His Church and help her to win the victory. It is that kingdom whose numbers, although attacking God’s work with violent force, will be repelled by the firmness of the rock on which that work rests. On the other hand, “the keys” signify that power given to Saint Peter in the Church which is called the kingdom of heaven, because in her and through her the kingdom of heaven is obtained for men, and because, too, although it has lived on the earth, it will reach its complete perfection in heaven, after the earth shall be destroyed.

Among the Israelites the keys were an emblem of the highest authority in the land. The representative of the king carried the keys attached to a band thrown over his shoulders. This explains the words that the Lord, when about to depose the treasurer Sobna, spoke through the mouth of the prophet Isaias, “I will drive thee out from thy station, and depose thee from thy ministry. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call My servant Eliacim, the son of Helcias, and I will clothe him with thy robe, and will strengthen him with thy girdle, and will give thy poorer into his hand; and he shall be as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Juda. And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder; and he shall open and none shall shut; and he shall shut and none shall open.” (Isaias 22:19-22)

In this description the threefold power of Saint Peter is strikingly foreshadowed. Any person thus set over the house of the Lord by the Lord Himself, with no restrictions, must have the right and the competency to declare the will of the Lord, to rule and to command in His name, to receive into, and to exclude from, that house whomsoever he will. In plain words, he has and enjoys authoritatively the teaching office and the function of the Good Shepherd. He must have, moreover, the right to dispense the treasures of that house according to his own judgment, exercising judiciously, and as it may please the Lord, the office of high priest and the authority to grant indulgences.

Historical Proofs of the Primacy

The necessity for the ever-living and unbroken existence of the Primacy in the Church is consonant with common sense and reason. As no State, no society, no family, can exist without a head, neither can the Church, the grandest society in the world. Hence in the beginning Christ gave to the incipient Church a supreme headship, which was no more to cease than the Church itself, which has existed, grown, and increased its numbers.

Yet to the proofs of reason we shall add the following historical testimonies.

1. From the Fathers of the first three centuries:

We introduce first Saint Ignatius, who died in the year 107. He speaks of the Roman Church as the one that leads in precedence, as the head of the covenant of love, by which covenant Saint Ignatius understands the whole Catholic Church.

Saint Irenaeus, who died in the year 202, refutes the heretics of that period especially by pointing to the unbroken succession of the bishops in the Catholic Church. “But,” he writes emphatically, “as it would be too long a task to recount the episcopal succession in all the different churches, let us select the Church which is the greatest, most ancient, and best-known, founded, too, by the two most distinguished apostles, Peter and Paul, the Church of Rome. Within her we find a faith, and we have traditions, dating back to her founders. All other churches, that is to say, all the faithful, must agree with this Church on account of her higher rank.”

The Roman Church possesses and enjoys this foremost rank because of her bishops, who, being the official successors of the chief among the apostles, especially Saint Peter, teach and decide throughout the whole Church. On this account, too, the episcopal throne at Rome has been called the Chair of Saint Peter from the earliest times.

We have the further testimony of Tertullian, who died in the year 240, and who, even while a Montanist, writes thus concerning the Bishop of Rome, “I hear that a decision has been rendered, and a definite one. The chief priest, that is, the bishop of bishops, speaks, ‘I remit the sins of the penitent'”

Saint Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, in the middle of the third century, can not sufficiently exalt the rank and dignity of the Roman Church and the Chair of Saint Peter. To him it is “the Mother Church, the foundation and well-spring of truth, the sun whose rays are diffused in all directions.” In his opinion, “he who adheres to the Bishop of Rome thereby adheres to the Catholic Church.” Equally strong and clear is the saying of Saint Augustine, who died in the year 430, “Rome hath spoken, the cause is decided.”

2. The supremacy of the Bishop of Rome has always been practically admitted.

From the beginning Rome was the heart, the central point of all ecclesiastical life. Thither the apostolic Fathers and bishops resorted to submit church questions to the Bishop of Rome for his decision, among others Saint Polycarp and Saint Irenaeus and, later, Saint Justin, Origen, and Tertullian. Even the early heretics and founders of sects used every effort to obtain for their new teachings the approbation of the Bishop of Rome. For this purpose they went personally to Rome and made their appeals there, so that even in his time Saint Cyprian could declare that “the heretics have the presumption to cross the sea to the Chair of Saint Peter, and to the chief Church, from which priestly unity took its rise.” From the earliest ages the Popes, either in person or by their delegates, took the foremost seat in all the general Councils, a privilege that was never disputed. It was not till as late as the ninth century that the schismatic patriarchs of the East became enemies of the Pope and accused him of wrongfully usurping the supremacy.

3. The Popes have at all times actually exercised the office of Primate.

When in the very first century ecclesiastical disputes arose amid the Christian congregations of Corinth, recourse was not had to Saint John the Apostle, who was still living as Bishop of Ephesus in the near vicinity, to have him solve the difficulties as judge or umpire, but to the far distant Bishop of Rome, Saint Clement, who examined the cause and gave his decision.

Pope Victor, who ruled the Church between the years 192 and 202, commanded the churches of the East to conform with the Western churches in the manner of celebrating Easter, and threatened with excommunication those who at first were unwilling to obey. Not one bishop in the Eastern churches found fault with this threatening order, showing how generally admitted and received was the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome. In a similar way did Pope Stephen act with the celebrated bishop, Saint Cyprian, in what was called the heretical conflict. Pope Dionysius called to account his namesake, the Bishop of Alexandria. Bishops who were unlawfully deprived of their sees and in exile had recourse to Rome with their grievances, as, for instance, Saint Athanasius, Saint Chrysostom, Flavian, and others. Ancient Church history always speaks clearly of the Roman Bishop as the recognized head of the universal Church and as always acting and deciding as such.

4. The right of the Bishop of Rome to the Primacy results, too, from his being the successor of Saint Peter.

Saint Peter was the Prince of the apostles and, therefore, of the whole Church. Furthermore he was Bishop of Rome. The Roman Bishop, therefore, is his regular successor in office, and as such is necessarily the Primate of the whole Church.

The Titles of the Popes

The very titles that were given to the Bishop of Rome show that he was the recognized head of the Church. Thus, in the Council of Chalcedon, he is styled “the bishop of bishops.” A Council of Carthage calls him the chief steward in the house of God and overseer of His vineyard. Saint Jerome calls him the “Confirmer of the faith.” A Council of Rome describes him as “the safest refuge of all Catholic communities.” The Council of Sardica, held in the year 347, calls him simply “the Judge” and refers all bishops to him.

The Rights of the Popes

The rights of the Popes are official rights and rights of honor. To the rights of office belong:

(1) the right of supervision over the entire Church, hence the right to take cognizance of the condition of the Church all over the world and to send out his representatives everywhere to oversee the churches;

(2) the right to admonish, to command, to threaten with ecclesiastical punishment and to inflict it on all persons who do not observe whatever is ordained by the Church, whether in matters of faith, morals, church discipline, or ceremonial;

(3) the right to assemble Councils and to occupy the foremost place at them, and to order their closing, without these conditions the decrees would not have general force or validity;

(4) the right to have done, of his own fullness of power, whatever is neglected by those who ought to do it;

(5) the right of deciding in church disputes, and from which decision no appeal can be made to church council;

(6) the right of selecting bishops and of confirming those otherwise selected, or, if they be not chosen in accordance with the laws of the Church, to reject them, and to supply of his own plenitude of power whatever is wanting, to erect new bishoprics, to unite them, or to abolish them;

(7) the right to enact laws, which are binding on all, in matters of church discipline and public worship;

(8) the right to dispense from all church laws, and from all vows, to remit all church penalties, and the unrestricted right to grant indulgences;

(9) the right to canonize saints, to beatify, and to declare venerable.

To the Pope’s rights of honor belong:

(1) the titles by which he is distinguished, namely, “Holy Father,” “Your Holiness,” by which Catholics do not mean that the Pope is holy of himself, but rather that he is the representative of the sacred covenant, or Church of God, in which each member is called to holiness of life;

(2) the tiara, which consists of three gold crowns one above the other, with a cross on top and two bands hanging down (Alexander III was the first to add a crown to the miter, as a sign of the temporal power; Boniface VIII added a second crown and, according to some, Benedict III, according to others, Urban V, added the third); and

(3) the kissing of the foot.

The people of Eastern countries showed their reverence for their emperors and bishops by prostrating themselves before them. This custom remained as a sign of reverence for the Bishops of Rome and is practised yet on various occasions. But as the Pope is reverenced not as man, but as the representative of Christ, he has a gold cross embroidered on his slipper, which cross is kissed.

The Marks of the Church of Christ

Christ Established but One Church, and it Must be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

When the Sacred Scriptures, or the holy Fathers, mention the institution founded by Christ for our salvation, they style it “the Church,” never the churches. Not one true teacher has held that there are more churches than one. Christ founded but one Church, as He also taught but one faith. Saint Paul says emphatically, ” One Lord, one faith, one baptism ” (Ephesians 4:5). Now, when there is but one faith, how can there be many churches? Christ said, “Upon this rock I shall build My Church.” (Matthew 16:18) He never said that He would establish several churches.

When we look abroad through the land we find not only one church, but several other organized communities, all calling themselves churches, although they are widely diverse in their teachings concerning the important affair of salvation. Into these denominations the members are born for the most part, and can not answer for their several creeds. But it is impossible for one man to be saved by believing and observing one system of teaching, and the next man to be saved also by believing and observing the very contrary doctrines. Hence millions are lost because they are not in the true Church of God. Neither can these myriads, who are perishing outside the true Church, excuse themselves on the plea that the accident of birth made them unbelievers. They are lost, not because they are born in heretical churches, but because they persist in remaining away from truth, so easily accessible in the one true Church. They are bound to find the true Church, to enter into it, and to walk in the ways of salvation. If they say they have not found any other road, it is because they have not looked for it. The very indifference they indulge in as to the religion to which they belong is their condemnation.

For the Church of God is not invisible, nor one that can not easily be distinguished from the others, for she is a flock directed by a visible shepherd (1 Peter 5:1-4). She is a sheepfold into which all must be gathered (John 10:1,16); she is a field in which grow the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24); she is a city on a mountain that can be seen from afar. (Matthew 5:14)

Although human hands, misled by human folly, have built other houses beside the temple of God and called them churches, the Church of God has several distinguishing marks by which it can be discerned from all the others. One has but to put to himself the question, “What marks should the true Church of God possess?” This question he himself can answer as follows: The Church of God must be one and undivided. There can be no division, no strife, no contradiction in it, for there is no division or contradiction in God. How often Gur Saviour exhorted His disciples to unity and charity I He wished to establish one Church, to form one sheepfold, for there is but one baptism, one faith, one Lord, one God and Father of all.

The Church of God must be holy. It was established to save our souls. But unholiness can not lead souls to happiness. It was established, further, by an all-holy God. An all-holy God can not institute anything unholy. It must also be holy in its doctrines, in its aims and objects; in its means, in its members, and in its Founder.

The true Church must be Catholic or universal. All men are called to heaven who do not shut themselves out from it. Hence the true Church must be a Church for all, that is to say, suited for all nations, conditions, races, and times.

The true Church must be apostolic, for the apostles are the messengers of Christ. Whoever does not share in the faith taught by the apostles does not participate in the faith of Christ The faith of the apostles is an entrusted legacy or inheritance (1 Timothy 6:20) bequeathed by them to their lawful followers and successors. Whoever is not united with the successors of the apostles is not united with the apostles themselves, nor yet with Christ.

Now, which of the many churches has these distinguishing marks? None other but the Roman Catholic Church, that is to say, that Church which acknowledges the Pope at Rome for its chief pastor. Hence it is the only Church of Christ, the only true Church, to seek which is the most imperative and the holiest duty of man, and which man can not miss finding if he seek in good faith.

The Church of God must be One – Passages from the Scriptures

“The glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given to them: that they may be one, as we also are one.” (John 17:22)

“As in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5)

“I beseech you, brethren, by the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ: that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

“In one spirit were we all baptized into one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)

“One body and one spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)

The Church of Christ must be Holy – Passages from the Scriptures

“Holiness becometh Thy house, O Lord, unto length of days.” (Psalm 92:5)

“The kingdom of God is not meat and drink: but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life, that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

“Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and might cleanse to Himself a people acceptable, a pursuer of good works.” (Titus 2:14)

“Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. As Thou hast sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for them do I sanctify Myself: that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:17-19)

“Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who, according to God, is created in justice and holiness of truth.” (Ephesians 4:23-24)

“According to Him, that hath called you, who is holy: be you also in all manner of conversation holy.” (1 Peter 1:15)

The Church of Christ must be Catholic – Passages from the Scriptures

“I have given Thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation even to the farthest part of the earth.” (Isaias 49:6)

“The earth shall be filled, that men may know the glory of the Lord, as waters covering the sea.” (Habacuc 2:14)

“From the rising of the sun even to the going down, My name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to My name a clean offering.” (Malachias 1:11)

“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, for a testimony to all nations.” (Matthew 24:14)

“You shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming down upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me, even to the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The Church of Christ must be Apostolic – Passages from the Scriptures

You are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building being framed together, groweth up into an holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are built together into an habitation of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:20-22)

“The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them, the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Apocalypse 21:14)

The Roman Catholic Church Has These Marks, Hence It Is The True Church of Christ

The Roman Catholic Church is One

The Catholic Church lays before her members a system of doctrine which is nothing more than the development of the Apostles’ Creed. These teachings of faith each one must admit in order to be a Catholic. Whoever does not acknowledge these doctrines does not belong to the Church. Thus Rome cut off from her communion the Greek Church, although it differs from the true Church in two points only, and receives the seven sacraments. Such can not be the policy of non-Catholic sects, for in them every member is free to draw his belief from the Bible, no matter what absurdities he may think he finds there. Protestant confessions are one on one point only, namely, opposition to the Catholic Church, yet differing from each other like day and night on the most essential dogmas. But it is not only the written forms of belief among Protestants that differ from each other. The individual members of one and the same church are far from being one in their belief, though they still claim to belong to their respective creeds. One clergyman mounts the pulpit and teaches that Christ is God; another follows him to teach the contrary. One teaches the resurrection of Christ from the dead, another teaches that He arose, but in the sense that He had never died. One teaches that man is but a clod of earth on whom God operates as He wills, another teaches that man alone is the source of all his strength and action. If asked who they are, these men will reply that they are authorized ministers in one and the same church. They are continued in office though they contradict each other. In their very meeting-houses this want of unity is shown in their symbols. In one a cross may be seen, some flowers, a kind of altar, candles, priestly dress. Within hearing distance stands another temple where the members sit between naked walls and, with hats on, listen to the teachings of a man dressed as if for a dinner-party.

In one church one clergyman is appointed to study and to preach the supposed word of God; in another every one believes himself called to preach, and acts accordingly; even the women preach, of whom Saint Paul says, “Let women keep silence in the churches.” (1 Corinthians 14:34) The doctrine on which the whole Christian liturgy, or order of public worship, is founded, namely, the doctrine concerning the Lord’s Supper, shows this want of union most plainly. While in Wittemberg, the cradle of the sham reformation, the Lord’s supper is dispensed every Friday and the belief professed that in the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ are present, as wine is present in a bottle, in other parts of Germany those who believe and those who do not believe approach the same table. In France and Switzerland it is held to be a memorial supper with ordinary bread. In England and America there are to be found congregations who observe the Lord’s Supper as a mere friendly social reunion. But, on the contrary, if the Catholic Christian be in farther India, in the forests of America, in China, or any other part of the globe, and enter a Catholic chapel, he hears the same word of God. The same holy sacrifice is offered; there are the same church ceremonies, even the same liturgical language. Then the Catholic feels that he belongs to a Church that is one. Making the sign of the cross he is recognized by all as a Catholic, and is welcomed as a brother. If the Father of Christendom has spoken and made known his will, all submit and acknowledge in the Bishop of Rome their chief pastor. Such is the unity of the Catholic Church, which has the same faith, the same sacraments, the same sacrifice and the same common headship.

The Roman Catholic Church is Holy

The Founder of the Catholic Church is the One of whom the devil himself gave trembling testimony when he said, “I know Thee who Thou art, the holy One of God.” (Luke 4:34) As the Founder is holy, so is His doctrine holy, and those who follow it become holy.

No man has ever yet ventured to assert that, if one does and follows what the Catholic Church requires and what her ministers teach, he will not become a model of perfection, or will fail to save his soul. The Church teaches and inculcates only faith, hope, charity, purity in heart and action, peace, mildness, meekness, love of enemies, mercy, humility, self-denial, mortification, obedience, all bright virtues that lighten the burden of life, beautify the earth, and win heaven; the absence of which, on the contrary, would make earth a vale of woe – a very hell.

Thus the doctrine of the Catholic Church is the safest guide to virtue, to perfection, and to heaven. With Protestant doctrine the reverse is true. By the first originators of the sham reformation it was held and taught that God is the only cause of sin, that man is merely His tool, that a man may sin as much as he please, if he only believe firmly that one portion of mankind is irrevocably destined for heaven, the other hopelessly condemned to perdition, let them live as they may. The indissolubility of marriage was brushed aside, the excellence of virginity disputed, the fasts abolished, and so on. Are such teachings calculated to make men virtuous? Were they carried out in practise would they not lead to vice? Providentially, God, in His mercy to men, has not allowed these heretics to bring their disastrous theories into full play in society. On the other hand, how devoutly to be desired it is that Catholics would lead lives in accordance with their doctrines! How perfectly, then, would be accomplished all duties to God, to themselves and to their fellow-men!

But it is not only the doctrines of the Church that are holy: her means are holy. She not only commands us to strive for perfection, but she places at our hand the means whereby we may secure it.

The Church possesses means to salvation, that is to say, means so effective and powerful that if men make use of them they can succeed in securing salvation, which is sanctification. These means of sanctification and salvation are not merely one or two; the Church has them for all cases, for all spiritual needs, and she dispenses them bountifully, and neglects no one man. She distributes her graces without distinction of condition, of age or race. She takes the child in her arms at its birth and carries it to its grave. If the body is sick she assists it, if the soul is sick she comes to its relief. She strengthens the soul not only once or twice, and when it encounters the temptations of youth, but at all times, till the day of dissolution. She imparts to it the blessing for its vocation in life, and graces to fulfil its duties. After death she does not abandon it, but renders the soul aid and comfort by her means of grace. These means of salvation in the Church are the seven sacraments, by virtue of which men are sanctified, and by which, too, if they happen to fall from grace, they are brought back to reconciliation.

Hence it is that in the Catholic Church, and in her alone, many saints have been produced. It is not to be denied that among non-Catholic Christians, by virtue of a special and preventive grace of God, good citizens are to be found, men of integrity and honesty. But God has impressed the seal of His holiness only on the Catholic Church. The best non-Catholics are simply good members of society, possessed of truthfulness, honesty and benevolence. But they are wanting in all those characteristics of extraordinary endowments of grace, of supernatural virtue. In the Catholic Church the words of David are always true, “God is wonderful in His saints” (Psalms 67:36) In the Catholic Church we meet not only good children but also God-fearing young men and young women, faithful fathers and devout mothers, and gray-haired sires who have left behind them a long and stainless life – in the Catholic Church we find real miracles of divine grace.

The Roman Catholic Church is Universal

The Roman Church, namely, that one which is in communion with the Holy See, is the only Catholic or universal Church. The true Church must be universal, since Christ the Lord commanded that the Gospel be preached to all nations (Matthew 24:14). That her children might be enabled to receive and to retain all that He confided to His Church He also promised to be with her for all time. These conditions are fulfilled in the Catholic Church alone. For, as we shall see farther on, she traces her origin to Christ, while all other denominations have originated with men at well-known later periods. Hence she stands alone in Catholicity, as far as time is concerned, and has never been known under any other name. Saint Ignatius, in his early day, said of the Catholic Church, “Where Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” In all the Church councils, in the writings of the Fathers, wherever there is question of the Catholic Church, that Church is always meant which has the Bishop of Rome for its chief pastor. The doctrines of this Church have been diffused everywhere throughout the globe, for, although other denominations have their missionaries scattered abroad, the Catholic Church has more believers than all the other sects taken together. Thus, in her regard, is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaias, “Behold I have given thee to be the light of the Gentiles, that thou mayest be My salvation even to the farthest part of the earth.” (Isaias 49:6) It is true God has suffered whole nations as well as individuals to fall away from the Church in order to show to the world that faith is a free gift of heaven, and that men can lose its light when they have permitted it for a long time to shine in vain for them. But whenever the Church suffers a loss in one direction God grants her as compensation grand acquisitions in other quarters.

So it has been from the beginning. When Mahomet arose, and with fire and sword compelled multitudes to embrace his belief, tearing away large branches from the tree of Christ, the Church was consoled and compensated by the conversion of the Danes, Hollanders and some of the provinces of Germany. When the Greeks fell away, the Russians, Swedes, Poles and Hungarians embraced the faith of Christ. While Huss, Luther, Calvin and Zwingli were leading thousands of people astray, millions of souls were won to the Church in Asia, Africa, and America. Saint Francis Xavier, with his companions of the Society of Jesus, baptized in India and Japan as many souls as the heresiarchs in Europe decoyed from the true Church. Today the Catholic missions are flourishing and progressing, while the Protestant missions have degenerated into trading-stations. Conversions to the Catholic Church in Protestant lands, such as England and America, are frequent and important, giving great uneasiness to the enemies of the truth. The Church, although assailed on all sides, is winning glorious victories over her opponents, while these are degenerating into total unbelief. The day is drawing nearer and nearer when there shall be but one fold and one shepherd. (John 10:16)

The Roman Catholic Church is Apostolic

As it was the apostles who heard personally the doctrines of their blessed Master, as it was to them that the commission was given to teach all nations, so it is only that Church which comes down from the apostles and teaches their doctrines that can be the true Church. But such is the Roman Catholic Church, for it is well proven that the successors of Saint Peter at Rome have followed one another without break or interruption. Besides, she teaches their doctrine today, unchanged and unchangeable.

The Catholic Church teaches no one article of faith the beginning of which the enemies of the Church can not find in the earliest teachings of Christianity. For all her dogmas we find proofs in the writings of the apostles and of their disciples. No one can tell her founder’s name, if it is not Christ. No one can name the day of her birth, if it is not the first Pentecost. Other systems of doctrine have sprung up from time to time, at dates which we know, originated by human authors whom we know and can name. In the Catholic Church we must go back to the apostles of Christ. We know that Saint Irenaeus wrote, “We must regard the bishops, for they are the successors of the apostles,” and that Saint Ignatius of Antioch likewise wrote, “All who are of God and Jesus Christ adhere to the bishop.” Again he says, “Without the bishop let no one undertake anything that pertains to the Church. Only such Eucharist will be considered valid as is under the hand of the bishop or of one who duly represents him. Without the bishop it is not allowed to baptize, nor to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, but whatever he commends is pleasing to God, and is therefore safe and valid, whatever is done.” Thus the bishops are of apostolic succession, what they teach is apostolic teaching – the contrary is not. Now, all sects began by breaking the line of apostolic succession. Some of them have indeed retained, in name only, the office of bishop, but though they keep the shadow, there is no substance, for there is no valid consecration. No church but the Catholic Church can call itself apostolic.

No System of Religion Possesses These Distinguishing Marks But The Catholic Church

No Other has Unity

All the various sects that arose in the course of centuries, in rejecting the Catholic Church rejected also the chief pastor, the Pope, and thereby lost the keystone and center of unity. How can their doctrine be one and undivided when there no longer exists an authority in doctrine? Christ founded oneness of doctrine and life essentially on Peter, therefore on the Primacy. Even the authorized body of teachers in the Church, namely, the bishops, must, according to the will of the Lord, exercise their functions only in subjection to, and by the guidance of, Saint Peter and his successors – who are the Popes. The Papacy, therefore, is really the keystone in the arch of the teaching Church, holding up all others and keeping them in symmetry and firmness. Whoever rejects the supremacy destroys the whole symmetry, destroys the unity, and throws the whole ecclesiastical structure out of shape. What would become of the State, or of the family, if there were no supreme and final deciding authority? How can the unity of a religion be upheld from which the unity of teaching has disappeared?

Equally disastrous for unity is the principle of private interpretation of the Scriptures, as adopted by the sects that severed themselves from the Catholic Church. It is clear as noonday sun that the unity of faith must perish as soon as that is admitted. Every child in non-Catholic communions can choose and follow the religion which he fancies he finds in the Bible. So many heads, so many opinions. Their history shows the sad consequences. Hardly was the principle of private judgment set up, when the new religion had to be divided into three conflicting and opposing sects, Lutherans, Zwinglians, and Calvinists. Even these were again subdivided among themselves, so that today the different conflicting religious sects are beyond computation. Calvin wrote to Melanchthon, “We must take care that future centuries shall not know our divisions, for it is ridiculous beyond all measure that from the beginning of the reformation, when we broke with the whole world, we have never agreed together.”

Similar complaints came from all the so-called reformers. In such a medley where is the Holy Ghost, where the truth? Still more deplorable was the case when men assailed the Bible and denied its truthfulness: then was the last hope of a united faith put out forever and Protestants steered wildly and recklessly, without either rudder or compass, over a waste of unbelief.

No Religion but the Catholic is Holy

Not one of the new religious sects can point to its founder and call him holy. How can a man who does not possess holiness impart the character of holiness to his own creation, to a religion of his own heart and brain? If we look carefully at the doctrines and lives of the founders of the new religions we shall discover in both nothing but what is merely human, and very often savoring of human passions. Luther wrote, “Those pious persons who do good in order to secure the kingdom of heaven will never succeed. They belong rather to the impious, and we must be more careful to refrain from good works than from sin.” Further, he also denied the sacramental dignity of the Sacrament of Matrimony and other sacraments. Calvin taught that one portion of mankind was irrevocably condemned to hell, and another predestined for heaven. How could we hope to find holiness in such a religion, when the founders of the religion teach such unholy doctrine? We shall not here tell how these reformers described one another’s qualities; they did it so effectually as to preclude all hope of finding holiness.

Hence it follows that the holiness of their adherents can in no way be the fruit of their uncatholic doctrines. By the fruits we can judge the tree. Where is the sect that ever possessed the gift of miracles, or that ever produced a saint? There may be among them upright and even virtuous men, ‘but there has never been a saint among them, nor will there ever be one.

A religion that does not itself possess holiness will never be able to make one of its members holy. The religions outside of the Catholic Church do not bear the character of holiness, for they not only had not saints for their founders, but they have rejected the doctrines and means of grace established by Christ that men might be made holy therewith; for example, the sacrifice of the Mass, confirmation, confession, and others.

No Church but the Catholic is Universal

No Church but the Catholic Church is universal, whether in regard to time, place, or doctrine. Certainly not according to time, for it can be easily shown in what year, on what day, each sect came into existence. Previous to that date they were not known in the world, and hence they are unable to say that they can prove their existence through the preceding centuries. As prior to the fourth century there were no Arians, so, previous to the fifteenth century, there were no Hussites, and, before the time of Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, there were no Lutherans, Zwinglians, or Calvinists. But Christ established His Church for all times. Men were to be saved in all ages by it, consequently any church that is deprived of universality in time, that is to say, which did not live and act visibly in all ages, can not be the true Church of Christ.

The Catholic Church is universal as to place, because during her existence, in obedience to the commission delivered to her by Christ, she has spread herself everywhere and will continue to do so. until there shall be but one fold and one shepherd. But wherever she diffuses herself she is ever the one and the same Catholic Church. The faithful of Australia, as well as the native Indians of America, recognize the Pope as her head, just as the people of Europe do. The Catholic of Africa recognizes his brother in Christ by the sign of the cross, whether he travel to China or to an island in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Catholic Church there are in all lands but one faith, one baptism, one doctrine, one Christ, one God and Father of all.

It is not so with other denominations, though they try to spread their systems. They send out their married missionaries, found their establishments, with senseless zeal scatter their tracts and Bibles. But as is the case with their unity, their local adhesiveness or catholicity is nowhere to be found. The more they are diffused, the more they split up into sects, not one of which succeeds in winning a permanent foothold. Indeed there is no large city which one single sect can claim as belonging exclusively to itself, and where Lutherans, both orthodox and modern, Zwinglians, Calvinists, Methodists, Quakers, Mormons, Baptists, Pietists, Herrnhuters, Swedenborgians, and others are not to be found in greater or less numbers. How, in all this chaos can any one of these religions affirm itself to be universal as to place, and to be appointed to teach and to save all men?

With just as little right can the sects ascribe to themselves catholicity of doctrine, such as the Catholic Church claims and possesses, while she can prove that she has preserved to this day all the doctrines preached by Christ and His apostles. The apostles knew seven sacraments; these the Catholic Church has preserved in their entirety and number till the present time. The apostles knew the doctrines of the Church, of her Primacy, episcopacy, priesthood, and all others, and these may be found unchanged in the Church at the present time. Hence the Catholic Church with truth and right can say of herself that she is universal in doctrine, that is to say, she has preserved through all ages the doctrines, means of grace, and traditions of the apostles, faithfully, fully, and unchanged down to our time.

How can any religious denomination ascribe to itself such a characteristic, or say that it is Catholic in doctrine, when it has rejected more or less of what can be shown to be the teaching of Christ and His apostles? They reject the necessity of good works so plainly and emphatically taught by Saint James, Saint Paul, and others. They reject the doctrine of free will in man, the Sacraments of Confirmation, Penance, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. They reject the supremacy of the Pope, even the episcopacy and priesthood, and yet presume to say that they are universal in doctrine and possess all the apostolic traditions. How is that possible? Only that is the truly Catholic or universal Church which can prove that she has kept all the doctrines of the apostles faithfully. The only Church that can do this is the Roman Catholic Church.

No Church but the Catholic Church is Apostolic

Outside of the Catholic Church no other can be apostolic, that is to say, established by the apostles and coming down from them in perpetual succession. Non-Catholic denominations came into succession centuries too late to be called apostolic. How, for instance, can it be proved that the doctrines of the sham reformers have unbroken connection with the apostles, or were preached by them, since they were first broached in the sixteenth century?

Where was the doctrine previous to that date, and who knew of it? It is the same with all other new religions. We know the times when they took their rise and departed far from the apostolic teachings of the Catholic Church. We know their founders, who certainly had very little in common with Christ’s apostles. We know the causes that gave rise to these new systems of teaching. We know the countries where they first appeared. And, while knowing all this about them, there is one thing we do not know, and no one knows, namely, the union of all these various systems with the one system preached by Christ and His apostles. In fact and truth there is none, and hence not one of these churches can style itself apostolic.

One reason why the sects are not apostolic in their teachings is because they no longer retain the whole doctrine taught by the apostles. They have rejected the Pope as successor of Saint Peter, and the bishops as successors of the apostles. They have denied the authority of the Church, and free will in man, and many other essential dogmas. How could the propagators of these negations possess at the same time the entirety of apostolic doctrine? Again, why do they contradict each other so violently and on such essential questions? Why are they so changeable, denying today what they believed yesterday?

Still less are the sects apostolic in the matter of their leaders. Christ our Lord founded the apostolate to last through all ages. The apostles were to consecrate and to set in their places as their successors their immediate disciples. These were in turn to appoint their lawful successors, that thus, by an uninterrupted succession, Our Lord might be perpetuated in His work of sanctifying and saving mankind. Now, he only is a regularly appointed shepherd in the Church who can demonstrate his union with the episcopate and through it with Saint Peter. Only such a one is an apostolic pastor. How can one standing outside the ranks of this united episcopacy prove his apostolic mission and authority? If he has not been regularly consecrated by a successor of Saint Peter, or of the other apostles, then, in order to be a true shepherd, he must have been called directly by Christ Himself. But where are the ministers of the modern sects who can prove their immediate calling and appointment by Christ? They can adduce neither the one nor the other to prove that they stand in the ranks of the regular apostolic episcopate, and hence they are not apostolic shepherds.

As it has been proved, therefore, that the Catholic Church, and she alone, possesses the essential marks of the true Church of Christ, it follows necessarily that the Catholic Church can be the only true Church of Christ. She alone is the true Church in her doctrine, in her means of grace, and in her heads. In as far as the other churches agree with the Catholic Church there they possess some truth which they have carried away with them from the mother Church. In no other respect have they truth, or the right means of salvation.

The conscious certainty that we are children of the only true Church should fill us with holy joy. It should strengthen us in our determination to remain faithful and constant to that Church and her lawful authorities. Although this Church by word and writing be abused and misrepresented in her life, her precepts, and her ministers, we can console ourselves with the recollection that Christ foretold such persecutions and at the same time warned us against these false prophets. “If therefore,” said He, “they shall say to you: Behold He is in the desert, go ye not out: Behold He is in the closets, believe it not.” (Matthew 24:26)

Does it not seem that our divine Saviour wished to forewarn His followers against those sects that separate themselves from the universal Church and perform their so-called worship in detached private assemblages or “closets”? Fly from these false teachers of modern unbelief, when with honied words they invite you to their New Jerusalem, to their new kingdom of God on Mount Sion. You would suffer shipwreck in your peace of mind, a peace that is to be found only in truth and in those saving means established by Christ for securing eternal happiness, Like Christ, the Church is for you the way, the truth, and the life.

The Truth of the Catholic Church Proved from her own History

The Church has been in existence for almost twenty centuries. Not a century has elapsed that did not hear the cry, “The Catholic Church is old and superannuated, her time is past!” Unbelievers, heretics, and founders of sects, in all ages, have imagined that the great day had come on which the Catholic Church was to be flattened to the ground. Each one of them fancied that he was chosen and destined to sing the dirge of the Papacy, of the Catholic priesthood, of the Mass, of the whole system of Catholic doctrine. Not one of them has done it so far.

Thus in the very first century of Christianity a governor under the Roman Emperor Trajan wrote, “By means of this persecution, now ordered, this sect will be stamped out in short time, and we will hear no more talk of this crucified God.” Trajan has been dead a long time and the crucified God still rules the world.

Three hundred years later another emperor, Julian the Apostate, boasted that he was making the coffin of the Galilean, meaning that he would destroy His Church and doctrines. Julian died soon after; the Galilean and His Church still live.

In the sixteenth century Luther spoke of the Pope as of an old worn-out article: “Pope, pope,” he exclaimed, “in my lifetime I have been a plague to thee, after my death I will be thy destruction.” Luther is dead, and while his sect is torn into endless divisions, the Papacy survives, more flourishing, more full of life, more honored, and better obeyed than ever before.

Voltaire, who made himself a personal enemy of Christ, used to add to his signature, at the end of a letter or other writing the blasphemous words, “who makes himself merry over Christ,” and used as his motto, “Let us crush the infamous being,” meaning Jesus Christ and His doctrines. In a similar strain he wrote to a friend, “I am tired of hearing that twelve men sufficed to establish the Catholic Church; I shall prove that one is sufficient to destroy it;” and to another wrote, “In twenty years the Galilean will be destroyed.” Just twenty years later, to the very day of the month, Voltaire lay on his death-bed, with the fear of eternal damnation in his heart, asking for the comforts of religion which his friends would not let him have (Segur).

In the year 1798 Pope Pius VI was taken prisoner by the French republican army and carried to the south of France, where he died on the 29th of August, 1799. Deeply profound as was the sympathy shown to the venerable Pontiff by the inhabitants of Valence, they did not dare to offer suitable and solemn burial to his body, and it was only at the command of Napoleon, given on the 30th of the following December, that the remains of the chief pastor of Christendom were finally laid away to rest, fully four months after his death.

On the 6th of July, 1809, by order of the same Emperor Napoleon, Pius VII was taken prisoner in his own palace at Rome and hurried off to different points in France, until at last he was immured in the Castle of Fontainebleau and held a prisoner, because he refused to sanction a decree of the Emperor whereby the States of the Church were to be incorporated into the French empire. He was subjected to deep disgrace and hardship in his imprisonment, and to all human appearances the patrimony of Saint Peter was forever lost to the Church. But, on the 24th of May, 1814, Austrian, English, and Russian troops conducted the Holy Father back to Rome in triumph, while Napoleon was in exile at Elba.

On the 24th of November, 1848, Pope Pius IX was compelled to flee from a people whom he overwhelmed with favors. On the 12th of April, 1850, French soldiers conducted him back to Rome. During the exile of the Pontiff the enemies fancied that the Church had received its final death-blow, for revolution was master in all countries. We know how grievously they were disappointed. Of all the institutions assailed the Church emerged safest and strongest from the confusion of the times. Who is not familiar with the unceasing troubles that have come upon the Church in all lands, especially upon the Supreme Pontiff, during the last fifty years? The whole history of the Church can hardly show a period in which such incessant and mighty efforts have been made, and with such apparently effective results, to destroy the Church and its institutions, as during the last three decades. Hatred, falsehood, violence, unbelief, and the trickery of diplomacy have all been employed to overthrow her who today stands unconquered and uninjured.

The whole life of the Church has been transformed into one uninterrupted Holy Week. Yet shall we doubt the hand of God? On the contrary. It is just in afflictions like these that the Catholic Church proves herself to be the Church of Christ It is her fate to be the persecuted one, and herein lies plainly before us the proof that she is a divine Church, protected by the hand of God. Everything that the world can command is employed to ruin the Church, but amid the roaring of the wild winds and of the heaving billows the promise is heard, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her.” The ancient God still lives, and He is our refuge and consolation.

The Object of the Church – Its Internal Characteristics

Christ established His Church in order to lead men to happiness. To redeem mankind He came, taught, suffered, and died. To bestow on men the fruit of His atonement He established His Church. In that Church the work of salvation is continued.

Every one of us, though redeemed by the blood of Christ and regenerated by baptism, must lead upon earth a long pilgrimage, during which we are to do the will of God in all things. We must, therefore, first of all be instructed, for we need guidance and strength on this journey of life. We can not live without doctrines, without means of grace, without appointed commandments. All this supposes dispensers of graces, teachers, and shepherds to act the part of Christ. But the Word of God, the imparting of the means of grace, the office of shepherd can not be entrusted to every one, but only to such as are specially chosen and appointed and clothed with the required power and authority. We must be sure and really convinced that he who is to lead and to guide us must, on his part, have a regular vocation and commission. Therefore, Christ established not a mere invisible Church, but one really visible and tangible, to which, in the first place, He entrusted His doctrines, His means of grace, and His authority; and to which, in the second place, He granted the assistance of the Holy Spirit, that such Church might preserve the divine teachings unimpaired, dispense the means of grace properly, and exercise authority to the salvation of men.

Thus no one can be in error. Each one of us knows to whom we have to apply in order to receive what is conducive and necessary to our happiness. We run no danger of drinking from broken cisterns, dug by the hands of men, instead of from the fountain of living waters. The Church becomes a city on a mountain, to which all peoples should endeavor to approach, as Isaias says, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall come forth from Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isaias 2:3)

Not to individual men, then, is the teaching office committed, but to the Church teaching. He only is a teacher in the Church who receives his appointment from the Church, and he retains his right only as long as he fulfils the commission of the Church, and teaches what she teaches. If God had entrusted the teaching office to individual persons, it would be only on condition that they all would teach the same doctrines, for God’s truth is but one truth. But the differences of doctrine into which all those fell who separated themselves from the Church, furnish the best proof that the infallible teaching office dwells not in men, but in the Church. Infallible, certainly, must be the teaching office established by God, for He could not permit His people to be led into soul-destroying errors; He could not allow the truth, which He brought with Him, for which He sacrificed Himself on the cross, and which is necessary to salvation, to be perverted and destroyed.

Now, the holders of this infallible teaching office are the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him, and the Pope may exercise this office alone as well as together with the bishops. They decide what the Catholic Christian is to believe, and what he has to do in order to be saved. When we follow these we may be at rest concerning the salvation of our souls, for so Christ has assured us in the following threefold promise. From Him we have, first, the promise of the divine presence; secondly, the promise of the Holy Ghost; and, thirdly, the promise of the invincibility of the Church.

1. Just previous to His ascension Our Lord said to His disciples, “Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) Now, this promise could not be restricted to the apostles only, for no one of them lived much beyond the natural period of time allotted to man here below. The words of promise were intended for their successors and for the Christian Church which these were to guide, and which was to last till the end of time, and which consists of the several churches or congregations founded directly by the apostles themselves or indirectly by their disciples.

2. Our Saviour promised further, “And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16,17). This Spirit of truth was to guard them against error. But as this promise, too, as well as the first, was to be realized and prolonged beyond the term of one mortal life, and to be extended into eternity, it was spoken not only for the apostles, but also for their successors in the sacred office.

3. Lastly, Our Saviour said of the Church that He was about to found, ” The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) Hence she is unconquerable, for the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, is with her; she is superior to error, falsehood, force, and treachery.

Hence Saint Paul styles the Church “the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15) To say that the Church errs is equivalent to saying “Either Christ has not been able to protect His Church or He did not choose to do so.” If He was unable to protect her, where is the power of His divinity? If He did not choose to do so, what truth was there in His solemn promise? With the belief in an infallible teaching office stands or falls all belief in Christ, the Son of God.

Whenever, therefore, disputes arise concerning matters of faith and morals, whenever anything is presented to us, in writing or in speech, which seems to diverge from the ordinary straight line of truth, we should turn to the chief pastors of the Church, to those who have the care of souls, and . submit it to their judgment as to whether it is true Catholic faith or not. For Christ Himself called ” some apostles, and some prophets, . . . and other some pastors and doctors, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: . . . that henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive.” (Ephesians 4:11-14) Thus, to secure a firm faith, we are sent to the pastors and the doctors. We are commended to them, that we may not be misled by false teachers who preach what, indeed, flatters our ears, pleases our senses, and destroys our souls. Such false teachers arose even in the time of the apostles, and such there have been from Simon Magus down to the most recent apostles of unbelief and godlessness who overturn Mount Sinai and substitute disobedience and disorder for obedience and peace.

As we have already heard, our salvation depends on the true faith, and it depends also on divine grace, which we stand in need of, and also on our compliance with the divine will. Now, all this is to be found only in the Church founded by Christ, and hence, in order to be saved, we are in duty bound ever to be obedient children of the holy Catholic Church – that is, we must believe her teachings, make use of her means of grace, and observe her commandments.

There is one sure test of the Catholic Christian, and that test is obedience to the Church. Without this there can be no Catholicity in him. Although in these days we hear many a one say, “I am a Catholic and a Christian, although I do not believe all that I hear preached and do not do all that I am commanded to do,” we can tell him to his face that for these very reasons he is no Catholic, for he is wanting in the necessary submission and obedience. With such people we should have no further intercourse than that which Christian charity necessarily imposes on us. We should show them that they are not deserving of our friendship or our confidence, and that we have dealings with them only so far as necessity demands. We should not fail to practise toward them all the duties of Christian charity, yet we must keep them far from us, for, according to the words of Our Lord, “if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.” (Matthew 18:17)

Hence, when we say, “I believe in one holy Catholic Church,” we mean to say, “We confess that Christ has established a Church, which we must believe and obey unconditionally if we wish to obtain eternal salvation, and that such Church is no other than the Roman Catholic.” Or we profess in other words, “The Catholic Church is the only saving Church. She is the ark sent by God, in which every one must find himself if he would escape destruction.” Outside of her there is no salvation. We enunciate nothing more than what the great and learned Saint Athanasius asserts in strong and positive words at the close of his Creed, “There is no doubt that he who does not preserve this belief entire and unimpaired will be eternally lost.”

Apparently this is a hard saying for Catholics to utter, but it is only apparently so, for every sect, when taken at its word, says the same of itself, that it alone has the truth and the true way to heaven. That is the main issue of their conflicts and different professions and confessions, to know which has the right one and the true system of belief. Each one is convinced that it is the only true, way to salvation. And, in fact, since true faith is a virtue, as shown above, it is certain that it only can .lead to happiness and salvation. The adherents of other denominations hold and teach that he who dies in a state of hatred, anger, dishonesty, unrighteousness, or unchastity is eternally lost, which is the same as saying that the virtues of charity, meekness, modesty, justice, and chastity are saving virtues, and that the opposite vices lead to everlasting perdition. Hence it must be admitted that the true faith alone can save us, and not unbelief, error, or superstition.

With regard to Protestants, who in their beginning went too far on this point, holding, as they did, that faith alone could save us, let the works be what they may, we have only to prove that our faith is the true faith. This we do by showing that our faith is the same as that held by the apostles and their first disciples, that our bishops come down in unbroken succession from the apostles, and that the fruits of our faith are the same as those of the apostles and as foretold by Christ.

Later on there were Protestants who, in order to extricate themselves from this false position, invented a theory which held that there are in Christianity primary and secondary truths, that the latter are indifferent, while, to secure salvation, it is necessary to have faith in the former. But who among men would presume to decide what is of importance and what is of little import when God speaks? Who would presume to say that this commandment is to be observed, the other one not; that Baptism is not necessary, Holy Orders are superfluous, the Eucharist may be rejected, and Penance disregarded? Would such teaching be becoming to any reasonable man? Moreover, it is easy to perceive that even these few points mentioned differ in degree and importance one from the other.

How absurd and false this theory is, is best proven by the fact that these very Protestants have never yet been able to settle among themselves which truths are primary and important, and which are secondary and indifferent.

In our days there are those who have no faith at all. For it may be said that they doubt, for the most part, whether their belief leads to salvation or not, teaching rather that good works alone will save us, and if we do those we may believe what we choose. This opinion, as shown in another place, is altogether false. It must be met boldly by the Catholic believer, who has but to reply as follows, “Granted that the principle were true, which it is not, yet the Catholic Church must be the saving Church, for she possesses all these good and God-pleasing works. She is in possession of them, because her faith impels and inflames to all good.”

Man is endowed with tendencies to certain virtues, but that these tendencies may be brought into action and effect, a motive-power is needed, as in the case of a machine water-power is needed, or the force and power of wind or steam, in order that the wheels may move and the work be accomplished. Now, the motive-power which puts a man’s leanings into motion is faith. Hence it is taught, “The just man liveth by faith,” that is, faith is the motive-power to a Christian life for a just man. Very aptly Saint Paul says: “Faith worketh by charity,” and not charity by faith, for charity is, as it were, the medium through which faith works. Although the faith of the Catholic Church incites us to the practise of virtue, this mere incitement is not sufficient; some efficacious means are required in order to attain to such virtue. These means the Catholic Church affords us in the holy sacraments and other means of grace. Hence it is that our holy Church has at all times supplied so many and such great models of every virtue in all lands and climes, and amid persons of every rank and condition in life, while all the other churches, which are false, are unable to point to one saint among themselves.

Still more, the apostles and the early Fathers of the Church teach expressly that such works only are pleasing to God, and deserving of merit in His eyes, as have been done in a spirit of true faith and bear the impress of Jesus Christ Himself. “As a piece of gold,” says Saint Chrysostom, “will not pass current as money unless it is stamped with the image of the emperor, so are good works without merit before God if the image of the Crucified is not stamped upon them.” But it is only the Catholic Church that possesses this true faith. Hence she alone is the saving Church, even from the point of view of good works.

This doctrine, that the Catholic Church is the only saving one, is neither unjust nor cruel. She did not invent this doctrine. It arises necessarily from the nature of things, for virtue and not vice leads men to salvation. It was plainly taught by Christ and His apostles that “he who believeth not is already judged.” Nor is this doctrine cruel. We say that the Catholic Church is the only saving institution established by Christ, and that if we wish to be saved we must be in communion with her. This connection may be visible or invisible. Saint Augustine, and indeed the whole Catholic Church, distinguishes between the body of the Church and its soul. To the body belong all those who, being baptized, openly profess adherence to her, be they just or wicked. To the soul of the Church belong, before all others, those rightly believing Christians who are in a state of grace, and, secondly, also those persons who believe falsely or not at all, but are in error through no fault of their own. Nor need they be persons of perfect life, as is sometimes erroneously stated, but all those who have a just and sincere wish to know God and to serve Him – all those, therefore, says Saint Chrysostom, who are on the way, in via, to God and consequently stand in some union with Him. Is this a hard saying? Would Protestants have us to believe and to teach that those persons will see God who do not wish to know Him, who do not wish to serve Him, and do not desire to obtain heaven?

The Church does not decide what individuals among dissenting sects belong to the soul of the Church, or who do not. For, before being competent to pronounce such a judgment, she must know what favorable circumstances surround the person, helping him to discover the truth, and what use he makes of these opportunities, and also the hindrances that may stand in his way and the efforts he makes to remove them. All these things are known to God alone. But it is certain that the number of those who are in error by their own fault, and who for that reason are lost, is greater than many suppose. For when we remember how many there are in the world who are indifferent as to what religion they live in; when we remember how little concerned they are about finding out the truth; when we remember that the Catholic Church has existed for nineteen hundred years, and that her doctrines are preached from all her pulpits; that her Catechisms and doctrinal works lie open before all; when we remember the fact that the disunion prevailing among all the sects detached from the Church should lead the non-Catholic to reflect; when we remember that the finger of God, in guiding the destinies of the Catholic Church, must be plainly visible to all, how can we venture to believe that very many of our separated brethren are not culpably and wilfully ignorant of the truth?

In his work on the unity of the Church, Saint Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, writes, “Whosoever separates himself from the Church shuts himself out from the promises of the Church, and he will not obtain the rewards of Christ who leaves the Church of Christ. He becomes a stranger, an unholy person, an enemy. He can not have God for his Father who has not the Church for his Mother. As no one not enclosed within the ark of Noe could escape destruction, so can no one who is outside of the Church escape perdition.” What was true in those early days is still true in our own, for, although heaven and earth should pass away, the promises made by God to His Church shall not pass away.

The same saint goes still farther, “The Lord gives warning: ‘He that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth.'” Whoever rends the peace and unity of Christ acts against Christ. Whoever gathereth anywhere outside of the Church scattereth the Church of Christ. The Lord says, “I and the Father are one.”

The Infallibility of the Church

Grounds for Infallibility

Christ established His Church on earth to be the teacher of all truth. A knowledge of this divinely revealed truth, and a firm belief in it, is one of the first methods for all people to obtain eternal happiness. Hence Christ took care that this truth should be proclaimed pure and unadulterated at all times to all men. It is not error, but truth, that leads to happiness.

Since the teaching function of the Church was to repose in men who are all liable to err, and the more so in proportion as the truths transcend the sensible faculties of perception and understanding, the question arises, How did Christ provide for the safe maintenance of divine truth in the Church? This charge He could not entrust to men as mere men, and hence this extraordinary effect must be brought about by extraordinary means. This means, whereby the infallible teaching function is preserved in the Church, is the supernatural grace and assistance of the Holy Ghost. It is only with this, and by virtue of this divine aid, that the teachers in the Church are infallible on matters of divine truth, and never of themselves.

That Christ promised and granted and sent the Holy Ghost to His Church, that is, to its teachers, is easily proved from the Holy Scriptures. “Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world,” is the promise of Christ in Matthew 28:20; and again, “And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world can not re- ceive, because it seeth Him not nor knoweth Him; but you shall know Him; because He shall abide with you and shall be in you.” (John 14:16-17) “But when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth.” (John 16:13)

What Christ promised to His apostles He fulfilled on Whitsunday by really sending the Holy Spirit. Hence from that date the Church in her teaching office could be truly called “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), while at the Council of the Apostles Saint Peter could proclaim the decrees of the assembly in the words, “It hath pleased the Holy Ghost and us.” to ordain so and so.

At all times a decision of the teaching authority in the Church, concerning matters of faith and divinely revealed morals, was considered as infallible, or, as Saint Ignatius tersely and appropriately describes it, “a God-spoken word.”

Object of Infallibility

The infallibility of the Church extends only to divinely revealed doctrines of faith and morals. The Church was established in order to make men eternally happy, hence her teaching function can extend but to those truths a belief in which is necessary to obtain salvation. These doctrines are termed essential to salvation because on their acceptance depends man’s eternal salvation. To them are applicable the words of Christ, ” He who believeth not is already judged.” Consequently it is twofold. The teaching power in the Church can decide what is the subject of divine teachings, and then what doctrines, propositions, etc., are opposed to them and, consequently, to be considered errors. Therefore, no matter what nature seems to teach, or other false teachers proclaim, the Church does not trouble herself about the matter as long as they do not invade her teaching province. The astronomer may teach that the earth revolves about the sun, or the sun about the earth; the Church is indifferent, for man’s eternal salvation does hot depend on belief in either one or the other of the theories. But if the astronomer presume in any way to deny that God is the Creator of the universe, then, indeed, the teaching authority of the Church must, and always does, protest against the false teaching and condemn it.

In this sense, and only in this, has the Catholic Church exercised her infallible teaching authority. She has never put forth her infallibility as a personal prerogative, in a personal matter, or on any other subjects than the divinely revealed truths of salvation. Even her disciplinary statutes are not rated among those teachings which the Church proclaims with the prerogative of her infallibility.

Where is Infallibility?

Only such persons can possess and exercise the prerogative of infallibility as have been appointed by Jesus Christ, and to whom He has promised and granted the necessary aiding graces. In the first rank of such are the apostles. To them only, that is, to the apostolate, did He entrust the function of teachers; to them only did He give the Holy Ghost. By the apostles is understood the whole apostolate, hence also the successors of the apostles, that is to say, the bishops. For, as the Church was to endure for all time, it was requisite that her infallible teaching office should not cease with the apostles’ death. Hence Christ promised to the apostles that the Holy Ghost should abide with the apostolate, not only till the time of their death, but till the end of the world; hence the united and continued successors of the apostles through all ages were necessarily meant.

The Catholic Church exercises this teaching authority in her general councils, in her decrees of bishops even when these are not assembled together in one place, but are merely asked their opinions, and finally in the decisions of the Popes.

The General Councils

A general council takes place when the Pope has summoned all the bishops of the Catholic Church to a meeting at which he presides in person or through his delegated representative, and when he confirms the decrees.

The decrees of such a council, in as far as they affect the teachings of divine revelation, have a claim to infallibility, because in such a council the teaching authorities are assembled, namely, the bishops.

This character of the above described council decrees has been acknowledged in all ages. By them all strife and contention on points of faith and morals are avoided, and the faithful laity are assured of what is truth and what is error. If a general council could err the whole teaching body of the Church would err, the laity would be led astray, the promises made by Christ to His Church would be falsified, and the true road to salvation would be lost to the adherents of the Church.

Beside general councils there are provincial councils and diocesan synods. The first take place when an archbishop assembles about him the suffragan bishops of the dioceses within the province. Their decrees have force only within that province, and must receive the approbation of the Pope, who can also declare these decrees binding on the whole Church. The diocesan synod is the meeting of the clergy of one diocese under the presidency of their bishop. Such a synod is competent to treat of points of discipline, never of doctrine, because not the priests, but only the bishops, are the teachers appointed by Christ in His Church.

Doctrinal Decisions of Bishops out of Council

The Church can also exercise her teaching authority in another way. The united bishops of the Church, in union with the Pope, although not assembled together, can decide upon a point of doctrine when, after being consulted by the Pope, each one gives his own individual opinion. It is clear that in such a case the teaching authority of the Church is legitimately and competently exercised, for the physical meeting of the bishops is not necessary in order to establish a doctrine of the Church – only their concurrence with the Pope, whether expressed orally or in writing. During the course of centuries many errors were in this way condemned by the Church, and especially were the decisions of provincial synods • made binding on the whole Church. In our time the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin was pronounced a dogma of faith by this method.

Papal Infallibility

When we say that the Pope is infallible, we mean that all the decisions rendered by the Pontiff, when speaking ex cathedra, as Pope, are to be accepted as true by all Catholics, because such decisions have been reached through the assistance of the Holy Ghost. Hence the Vatican Council prescribed the teaching of faith in the following form of words: “Since we have always adhered firmly to the traditions dating from the beginning of Christian belief, we teach with the consent of this Holy Council, for the glory of God, Our Saviour, for the elevation of the Catholic religion, and the sanctification of Christian people, and we declare it to be an article of faith, revealed by God, that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks officially and ex cathedra, that is, when he speaks in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his sublime apostolic authority, and decides a doctrine (which affects faith and morals) to be held by the Church, by virtue of the power and assistance promised to Peter, possesses that infallibility which the divine Redeemer imparted to His Church when deciding a question of faith and morals; and that such decision is unalterable, not because of the consent of the Church, but of itself. If any one, which God forbid, shall presume to contradict this definition, let him be anathema.”

Here it is of importance to understand the term “ex cathedra” if we would have a safe and correct notion of the infallibility of the Pope.

The Pope speaks ex cathedra (1) when he utters a decision in a question of divinely revealed doctrine, whether in faith or morals. The Church predicates the infallibility of the Pope within this scope of doctrine because it was for such only that the Holy Ghost was given to the apostles, and it is only such doctrines that constitute the means of obtaining eternal salvation. The universal teaching Church does not extend its infallibility to any wider sphere, neither does the Pope. Papal infallibility can not and should not be extended to the region of other sciences, such as natural sciences, political questions, and others. Even the Pope can err in his opinions and decisions on the inward dispositions of persons, for such is not a question of divine revelation and the Pope is not omniscient.

It seems hardly necessary to observe that the infallibility of the Pope should not be confounded with his impeccability. If the Pope commit a sin, for he is human and always remains such, it does not affect the justness of those teachings which he pronounces as head of the teaching Church guided by the Holy Ghost. All this happens continually in every-day life. Even the most wicked man is capable of uttering the truth, and whether the pure water from the fountain-head come to us through a conduit of silver or gold or iron, it is always the same water. The Holy Ghost has been bestowed on the persons composing the teaching office of Christ, only that they may not go astray in matters of divine saving doctrines and may not proclaim error; and not that each person, even the Pope himself, may be preserved from faults and sins.

To the genuineness of ex cathedra decisions it is requisite also (2) that the Pope speak without any restraint upon his freedom, in a solemn way to the whole Church, and with the expressed purpose of binding the whole Catholic Church to a belief in his opinion.

Hence not all that the Pope speaks or writes belongs to the sphere of infallibility, not even those decrees, such as briefs and bulls, which he often addresses, even on dogmatic questions, to individual bishops, without, however, the intention of compelling all the faithful to accept them. But it is otherwise when the Pope publicly and for the whole Church solemnly condemns this or that error and threatens all those who adhere to it with excommunication from the Catholic Church.

And (3) it is almost self-evident, and yet how frequently overlooked, that the decisions of the Popes can not be in contradiction with the Holy Scriptures or with Tradition.

Since (4) the ex cathedra decisions of the Pope are given with the guidance and assistance of the Holy Ghost, they are, in and for themselves, like the decrees of a general council, irrevocable, and do not need to be accepted and ratified by a subsequent adherence of the bishops in order to be declared universally binding. Hence could Saint Augustine truthfully say “the Pope, has spoken, therefore the case is decided.”

Thus the Pope speaks ex cathedra when, as supreme teacher, and as such under the direction of the Holy Ghost, with perfect freedom from duress and in a solemn manner, he utters a decision regarding a question of divine revelation as contained in Scripture and revelation. Such decision addressed to the universal Church becomes obligatory everywhere.

It is only when all these conditions are fulfilled that the Pope has spoken as infallible teacher. If one only of these conditions be wanting the character of infallibility lapses.

Infallibility and the Sacred Scriptures

Like every other article of faith, that of infallibility must have its foundation in Holy Scriptures and Tradition.

In Holy Scriptures there are three passages especially that can receive their full explanation and application only through the light of infallibility.

1. Once when Jesus asked His apostles who men said He was, Saint Peter made answer and said, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) In response to this profession of faith by Peter, Christ said to him: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee, That thou art Peter, [that is, rock] and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17-19)

In the first place Saint Peter, who had at the time of his calling been named “rock” by Christ, is here designated as the person who, by virtue of Christ’s commission and power, was to serve as the foundation of His Church. The words, “Thou art Peter,” or rock, “and on this rock I will build My Church,” can not be understood in any other sense; nor has any other meaning been successfully assigned to them till the present day. But for what purpose is the Church established on this rock? Christ tells us plainly that the Church shall resist the gates of hell successfully: they shall not prevail against her. But if the entire force of the gates of hell shall not overpower the Church, it is self-evident that the foundation of the Church can not be overturned. It is precisely from this foundation that the Church receives its firmness and stability, as every house is dependent for its very existence mainly on the durability of its ground foundations.

But, now, how has the conflict of hell, that is, of evil, been waged against the Church? History teaches us that this combat has been waged chiefly against divine truth, which dwells in the Church. And this is quite natural. For it is the vital characteristic of the Church that she proclaims the truth to the world. Could she be conquered by error she would cease to be the Church of Christ. But as the Church, invincible in truth, derives her stability from the foundation that Christ gave to her in the person of Saint Peter, it follows as a consequence that this foundation, that is to say, Saint Peter, would never be overthrown by error after he had been appointed the foundation of the teaching Church and thus her chief head and supreme teacher. The Church and her chief teacher are both infallible, because through the design and the grace of God she has never been seduced into error and has never been conquered by it.

In a similar manner Christ delivered to Saint Peter specially and personally the sublime power of binding and loosing in His Church. This is a right of acting authoritatively in the Church of Christ as signified by the power of the keys. This right to act authoritatively in the Church, since it extends to the whole Church, must also include the right and authority to teach. Here, too, were the teachers of the Church of Christ to be at all times bound to defined articles of belief, to a defined body of truths, that thus, while knowing the truth, they would discover any error and condemn it But as only the pure and undiminished truth can lead men to heaven, Christ could not and did not permit that the chief guardian and expounder of truth should fall into error, and thus, as chief teacher of the Church, force her adherents to the acceptance of such error. Thus Saint Peter would have lost the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever he would bind on earth could not any longer be bound in heaven.

2. In the most intimate connection with the foregoing passage just explained, aye, even as its full completion, another deduction should be drawn from Saint Luke’s gospel (22:31-32). According to the account of this Evangelist, Jesus, after His Last Supper, said to Saint Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not: and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren.”

By this sifting, to which Satan desired to subject Saint Peter, nothing else can be meant than that Satan wished to mislead the apostles into a wavering of their faith in Christ It is only thus that the succeeding words of Christ can have any meaning, when He says that He prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail.

Christ then prayed for Saint Peter that his faith might not fail. Herein lies the explanation why Saint Peter can be the immovable rock of the teaching Church. In his own human character he could not be such. He is such simply because Christ prayed for the firmness and durability of his faith, because Christ sustains him. And what is the effect of Christ’s prayer for Saint Peter? No other than this, namely, that Peter may strengthen his brethren in the faith. But how could strength and safety in faith proceed from Saint Peter if, chief teacher as he was, he could fall into error? This confirming of Saint Peter in the faith took place when, after being first called by Christ to be the head of the Church, he received the Holy Ghost on Whitsunday. Up to that time we see in Saint Peter a simple man capable of erring, though he never fell from the faith. From the day of Pentecost we behold him a chosen vessel of election, an agent of Christ.

3. At the time of his profession of faith in the divinity of Christ Saint Peter was made the foundation of the Church. Again, when he asserted his love for Christ, which is the completion and perfection of faith, he was made the full shepherd and guardian of the Church. In the two preceding, as well as in the two following, passages are clearly perceived the teaching office, the priestly office and the pastoral office, which Christ entrusted to Saint Peter as to His visible representative in the Church.

“Feed My lambs, feed My sheep,” said Christ to the Prince of the apostles (John 21:15-17). In this commission, delivered as it is to Saint Peter, is entrusted to him the office of chief pastor over the entire Church, clergy and laity. Peter was to lead all the adherents of the Church, to feed them and to guide them according to the intention, and by the power, of Christ, whose representative he was always to be. But Christ is the way, the truth and the life. On this same way was Peter to conduct those entrusted to his keeping, and to feed and to nourish them with that same truth, and to lead them to that same life, which is in Christ only. But if the guidance of the faithful to life is to be sure and certain, it must always be a guidance founded in truth. Error can never lead any one to Christ. Hence it follows that Saint Peter could never err in matters of the saving truths. Hence he was necessarily infallible, and should be so if the Christ-work of atonement was not to be useless and eternally lost.

Having shown that the infallibility of the supreme head of the Church is asserted and taught in the Scriptures, it may now be shown briefly how this prerogative must necessarily be perpetuated in the successors of Saint Peter, the Popes.

For what purpose did Christ bestow upon Peter the favor of infallibility in his sublime office of Church teacher? For no other purpose than that the truth brought by Christ to the world as a means of salvation should be taught pure and unchanged by the chief teacher of the Church. Since Christ wishes that all men in all ages shall be saved, the ways and means for such salvation should exist through all ages. In the Church pure truth must last and exist as long as that teaching institution which He gave to His Church shall exist, as long as the Church shall endure, which is till the end of time. It was for such length of time that Christ promised His miraculous grace-assistance to the teaching office in the Church. Hence not Saint Peter alone, but all his lawful successors have a participation in the miraculous help of infallibility promised by Christ. The right of complete succession carries this with it. For he is not worthy of the name of successor, in the true sense of the word, if he be not admitted to the full office, and all the rights, privileges and prerogatives, of his predecessors. Thus it is evident of itself that all ecclesiastical teachings and practises, even the mode of action of the Popes, have been ever based on the consciousness of papal infallibility.

Infallibility and Tradition

We must be extremely careful above all things to guard against the error of presuming that when a general council proclaims an article of faith, it has invented or discovered such article. The teaching office in the Church can not invent a doctrine; it merely declares solemnly and formally what has been the belief at all times of the Church concerning the question in hand. The Council of Nice, in the year 325, no more invented the doctrine of the divinity of Christ than did the Council of Constantinople, in the year 381, invent or discover the divinity of the Holy Ghost. Nor was the doctrine of infallibility a mere invention of the Vatican Council. This and all other dogmas of faith always existed in Catholic conviction and belief.

With regard to papal infallibility this may be proved by the following testimony from the Fathers and from the councils, while we show how this doctrine was held and taught in the Church and acted on by the Popes.

1. Let us first hear Saint Irenaeus, who died in the year 202, and who had for his teacher Saint Polycarp, a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist. In his book against heresies Saint Irenaeus writes: ” All churches, that is to say, the faithful in all places, must agree with the Roman Church on account of her mighty rank. In her the faithful of all places have ever found and kept apostolic Tradition.” This testimony, so ancient and venerable, affords us a powerful proof of the teaching authority anjl prestige of the Church of Rome. That here, by the word ” church,” not all the believing faithful, but only the bishops of Rome are meant, is easily understood, for in no time were the laity, as such, the keepers of Tradition, that is, of the doctrines of the Church.

Immediately before the above passage he gives the reason why all the faithful should agree with Rome. He says, to refute the heretics and their errors, that he might refer to and quote the teachings of the bishops of all the churches, but, as it would be too tedious to enumerate all these bishops, he confined himself to that apostolic Tradition which had been preserved by the greatest, oldest and best known Church, which had been founded by the two glorious apostles, Peter and Paul. Thus he restricted himself to that belief and faith only which the Church proclaims through her bishops. By this only those who think wrong are made ashamed. But in these words are implied the opinion that the teaching office in the Church is infallible.

The teaching authority of the Church in Rome can be none other than the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. With him, therefore, must all the other churches concur in their teachings, in order to be sure that they possess the truth.

2. Saint Ambrose, who died in the year 397, writes, “The foundation of the Church must endure solidly against all heresies;” and again, “Where Peter is, that is, the Pope, there is the Church; and where the Church is there is no death, but everlasting life.” Now, the foundation of the Church, which is the Papacy, can endure solidly under the attacks of heresy only as long as it retains the truth; and the everlasting life for all of us rests solely in the truth revealed by Christ. Saint Jerome, who died in the year 420, teaches the same thing. Saint Augustine, who died in the year 430, says, “Never will any one acknowledge your faith to be Catholic if you do not admit that one must hold fast to the Roman faith. What further inquiry can you desire than that already made by the apostolic chair? The errors condemned by that authority need no further investigation by the bishops.” Rome has spoken, the case is settled. Passing over many other authorities let us glance at the sayings of Saint Fulgentius, who lived in the sixth century. He says: “Whatever the head of the world, the Roman Church, holds and teaches, is believed without a question by the whole Christian world unto justice, and acknowledged without hesitation unto salvation.” It would be an easy matter to go on quoting countless testimonies of later centuries, especially such as those of Saint Bernard, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Thomas of Aquinas, Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Saint Francis of Sales, Saint Alphonsus Liguori and others. But after the above evidences this would be unnecessary to show that the infallibility of the Pope was not only known and understood by the Fathers of the Church, but also expressly and emphatically taught by them.

3. An irresistible proof that all the councils acknowledged the infallibility of the Pope is found in the positive fact that they always submitted their transactions to the Pope for confirmation, and never considered their doings valid or binding on the Church until the Pope ratified them. How could such proceeding be explained intelligently if the fathers of the councils did not admit the infallibility of the supreme teacher?

It must be borne in mind that at the more ancient Church councils, the doctrine of papal infallibility was not discussed or defined because it was never questioned. Those councils were held for the purpose of declaring what was genuine Catholic doctrine, at times and on occasions when certain points of faith were questioned and even denied. Among the many heresies that sprang up, no one of them ever denied specifically the doctrine of papal infallibility, and hence no council was ever called upon to treat the question. Yet these ancient councils do not leave us devoid of proofs of the doctrine. A few of the most striking may be here adduced.

When Pope Saint Leo I sent his dogmatical writings to the fourth general council of Chalcedon, held in 551, on account of the errors concerning Christ, the fathers of that council declared, “Peter hath spoken through Leo; it is therefore not allowed to make any change.” Here the impossibility of an appeal from a papal sentence is fully acknowledged by a council. The decrees of this same council were proclaimed by the legates of the Pope in the following words, “Therefore His Holiness, the Archbishop of great and ancient Rome, has, through us and through the present sacred assembly, under the assistance of the holiest and most praiseworthy apostle, Peter, who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic Church and the corner-stone of the true faith, deposed Dioscurus as well from his episcopal dignity as from his entire priestly functions.” Now, how could the Pope as successor of Saint Peter be called the foundation of the true faith if, at the same time, the infallibility of the chief teacher in the Church, the Pope, was not held to be an integral part of Catholic conviction and belief?

Equally striking are the letters of Pope Agatho which, on the occasion of the council at Constantinople, in 680, he addressed to the Emperor Constantine IV and through him to the members of the council. In one of these Agatho writes, “That only is the true rule of faith which has been constantly held by the apostolic Church which never has departed from the paths of apostolic Tradition, never has been changed by heretical innovations, but perseveres in the true faith till the end of time. For Jesus Christ said to Peter, ‘I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not, and when thou be converted that thou confirm thy brethren.’ Now, all this has been verified and realized fully in my predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, as every one knows.” To this papal letter the fathers of the council replied, “Severe maladies need powerful remedies, hence Christ the Lord has given your Holiness as a skillful physician to drive out the poison of the heretical plague by the teachings of the true faith, and to restore health to the members of the Church. For this reason we leave to you the final sentence in this matter of the Monothelite heresy, as to the highest authority in the universal Church which rests upon the immovable rock of true faith.”

The council of Constantinople, in the year 869, passed a resolution in which it is asserted, “The Catholic religion and its sacred doctrines have always been believed by the Apostolic See and preserved from all blemish.”

The two councils of Florence and that of Lyons say, “To the Pope belongs the fullness of authority, so that he is the teacher of all Christians and the one by whom are decided all questions of faith.”

In the beginning of the sixth century an assembly of Oriental bishops wrote to Pope Symmachus, “Thou art taught daily by Saint Peter to feed the sheep of Christ who are everywhere on earth committed to thy care.”

In more recent times nearly every provincial council becomes a witness to papal infallibility.

4. Amid these evidences, which could easily be multiplied by the hundred, is the proof that the dogma of infallibility, as promulgated by the Vatican Council, is no new doctrine or one discovered for the first time by that council. It lay buried in the conviction of the whole ancient Church. The Vatican Council merely gave outward and clearly defined expression of an old belief; it could not be more than declaratory, it was such only. Half the world had been busy with this question. Books for and against had been multiplied without number, the whole public press had discussed it in every conceivable manner. It had become a subject of universal comment and of world-wide contention and, therefore, the council could no longer defer the responsibility of a decision. When doubt and uncertainty had crept into the hearts of so many, the teaching authority in the Church was constrained to speak.

The Catholic Church Is the Only Sanctifying and Saving Church

It must not be lost sight of that the Church does not say that only those who are baptized Catholics and brought up as such can be saved. She teaches that among all the so-called churches only the Catholic Church can secure our happiness. This doctrine does not judge or condemn any person for the reason that he does not belong to the outward communion of the Catholic Church, but merely asserts that she alone possesses the means established by Christ which have the power of making us happy. Whoever belongs to the visible communion of the Catholic Church will be saved if he believes, desires, receives and retains the doctrines, means of grace, and commandments of the Church, as the Church wills and prescribes he should do. Even a man who does not belong to the external or visible body of the Church may be saved, but it will not be by the means supplied him in his own sect, which is false, but rather through a very special grace of God, with which such a person can cooperate if he have a truly good will and sincere desire of doing right.

The Catholic Church teaches that a man can be saved through herself and no other.

1. Because it is only within her communion that the means of salvation established by Christ can be found in all their purity and entirety.

Man can be saved only in Christ, that is to say, only in the way marked out by Him. No other name is given to u$ whereby we must be saved than the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12). It can not, therefore, be a matter of free choice for any man to mark out for himself the way to salvation. Freedom in religion has been limited by the law of Christ. The means available and necessary to salvation are the doctrines, graces and commandments of Christ. These He has deposited in His own Church founded by Himself. What this true Church is, has been already demonstrated. It is the Catholic Church. Hence she alone possesses the right means of salvation, and for that reason is the only Church that has within herself the power to save souls.

2. Christ commands us to belong to this Church, to believe her teachings, to make use of her means of grace, and to observe her precepts. “He who will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican,” says the Lord in Matthew 18:17. In another passage, too, He gives the same command, saying, “He that heareth you, heareth Me: and he that despiseth you, despiseth Me, and he that despiseth Me despiseth Him that sent Me.” (Luke 10:16) On the necessity of accepting His teaching Christ says emphatically, ” He that believeth not, shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

Hence if the Church could teach that man can secure his salvation in any church as safely as in her communion, she would contradict the word of God, declare herself to be other than the true Church of God, and would decide conclusively that it is a matter of indifference whether a man believe truth or error.

3. In regard to those persons who do not belong to the Church, such as unbaptized pagans and Jews, as well as heretics, and those schismatics who, though denying no tenet of the Church, are separated from her, and also excommunicated persons, the Church does not by any means teach that they are personally lost. She does teach that such persons as are outside of her pale, without any fault of their own, and who to the best of their ability keep God’s commandments and sincerely desire the true faith, may succeed in saving their souls. But as to what persons are separated from the Church without any fault of theirs, she does not decide. That question belongs to God, because He only penetrates the hearts and brains of men. Hence the Church curses no person; she merely condemns error and abhors vice.

It is true that the question about a man’s certainty or uncertainty of working out his salvation, in or out of the Church, is far different. The Catholic Church is a secure conveyance for us to gain our salvation; outside of her communion, though salvation is possible under certain circumstances and fixed conditions, it is not promised.

This thought should impel us

(1) to inward gratitude toward God, who, without any merit of ours, has called us to be members of His Church;

(2) to unchangeable fidelity toward that saving institution, the Catholic Church; to a desire of knowing and believing her doctrines, of assiduously using her means of grace, and of keeping faithfully her commandments in every circumstance of our life; to an endeavor to manifest our faith through our mode of life, for indifferent and nominal Catholics are but as lukewarm water, insipid and unwholesome; and

(3) to Christian charity, and to prayer for those who have not the happiness to be members of our Church. The Church herself prays for them and urges us to do the same. Therefore let us never forget this our Catholic duty. Our fellow-beings have an immortal soul, created for heaven; let us commend them to the mercy of God.

The Growth and Upholding of the Church

The preaching of the apostles was attended with precious and blessed consequences, evidently the work of God rather than of men. These results consisted simply in the fact of their having converted the world, and substituting, in the place of the grossest superstitions and godlessness sanctioned by false religion, a respect for the true God, and having developed virtues of which no man prior to that time had any idea. All this was not the work of human abilities, but God’s work. Christianity waged war against the corrupt passions of men who, bad by nature, had adopted actually and on principle all vices. The doctrine of a crucified God, which was to appear, and really did appear, as folly wherever it was proclaimed, spread itself so rapidly over the whole globe that only one hundred and sixty years after the death of Christ Tertullian, the Christian writer, could thus address the pagans: “We are but of yesterday, yet we have filled all your places, cities, islands, castles, warehouses, palaces, legislative assemblies, and courts of justice; we have left you only your temples. For what war were we strong enough and sufficiently armed, for what active forces were we equal, were it not an established principle of our religion rather to be killed than to kill? Indeed, we needed no arms, no insurrection; by the mere threat of division we could have made war on you. Were we, with our great numbers, to be removed from your midst to a distant country, you would certainly have to tremble for the great change it would make in business and other important affairs Then you would be unable to find willing subjects, and more enemies than citizens would be left to you.” This rapid and widespread diffusion of the Christian system went on while all men, Jews as well as pagans, kings and emperors, did everything in their power to thwart it, and to stamp it out. We read even in the Acts of the Apostles that, because they preached, they were thrown enchained into prison, whence they were miraculously delivered (Acts 5); that Saint Stephen was stoned to death (Acts 7); that “Saul made havoc of the Church” in Jerusalem and elsewhere (Acts 8); that King Herod put James the brother of John to death by the sword and sought to deal in a similar manner with Saint Peter (Acts 12).

The whole history of Saint Paul after his miraculous conversion is one series of sufferings for the name of Christ, as he himself tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. All these martyred apostles, and with them their disciples and followers, constituted a vast number of witnesses to the faith, and their blood on earth and their prayers in heaven contributed to the growth and prosperity of the Church. All manner of warfare was waged against the Christians, ridicule no less than open violence. Men made merry over the followers of a man who, although unable to save Himself from crucifixion, was honored as a God. The Christians were sneered at and called Nazarenes, and the Emperor Julian, the Apostate, would not suffer them to be known by any other name than Galileans. They were styled godless because they believed in only one God; they were accused of witchcraft because the genuineness of their miracles could not be questioned; they were charged with the crime of child-murder because a necessary privacy surrounded their divine service of the Lord’s Supper. But both ridicule and violence failed in their effect. The Church, though most cruelly persecuted during three hundred years, continued to flourish, and the blood of her martyrs, which flowed in an unbroken stream, became the seed of new champions of the faith.

It often happened that the very executioners, astounded and edified at the constancy of the Christian victims, threw away their instruments of death and declared themselves believers in Christ. At last, in the year 312, Constantine the Great gave peace and outward rest to the long-persecuted Christians. God chose him to be their special protector. One day, when the emperor was about to engage in very uncertain battle, the Lord showed him in the sky a figure of a bright cross surrounded with an inscription saying, “In this,” sign, “thou shalt conquer.” Constantine complied with the divine injunction, ordered the sign of the cross to be placed on all the banners of the army, and going forth conquered the enemy. From that time the Christians were enabled to profess their faith openly, to build their own churches, and to accept public offices of honor and trust. Constantine, having sought admission by baptism into the Church, surrounded himself with bishops for his counselors, made Christianity the religion of the State, and enacted laws whereby Christianity and Christian principles were introduced into the economy of the State and family life. The Church had gone through its baptism of fire.

But persecution was to be the lot of the Church in all ages and in all lands. At all times she had to encounter potent and persistent enemies, for wherever she planted her standard of the cross hell raised a storm of opposition. The blood of her children flowed in Africa and Asia as well as in Europe; in England, Germany and France as well as in Italy; in China and the Indies as well as in Holland and the Low Countries. The world was loth to be on terms of friendship with the principles of Christianity, it was loth to receive the gospel, and yielded only to the heroic efforts of a divine faith.

But the Saviour had foretold a victory in these words: Be not afraid, little flock; “have confidence; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The Church was not overcome, nor could she be, for Christ had so promised when He said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” But yet the worst enemies of the Church were not always the avowed persecutors. There were others, too – the heretics – who separated themselves from the Catholic Church and formed their own congregations or sects, which the Church cut off from herself then because they would not agree with her doctrine – for a mortified limb should be cut from the body lest the other members be affected with the poisonous decay.

Such sects sprang into existence during the first ages of Christianity. The Saviour had foretold them, and the apostles had warned their hearers against them. Christ’s words were, “Many false prophets shall rise, and shall seduce many.” (Matthew 24:11) This prediction found its fulfilment even in the apostles’ time. The Scriptures tell us of one Simon Magus, who offered gold to the apostles on condition that they would impart to him the power of bringing down the Holy Ghost on such persons as he might impose hands. Such false prophets abused the Word of God, perverted His simplest doctrines by attributing to them meanings that they did not contain, and so misled the people that many wavered in their faith or lost it altogether. It is against such evils that Saint Paul warns Timothy when he says, “There shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” (2 Timothy 4:3) “For the word of God . . . is more piercing than any two-edged sword: reaching unto . . . the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Now, as by the Word of God many who did not wish to live properly were disquieted, they had recourse to doctrines that flattered their passions and tended to drive from their minds all thoughts of God’s everlasting judgments. Hence Saint Peter writes, “Knowing this first that in the last days there shall come deceitful scoffers, walking after their own lusts, saying: Where is His promise or His coming? for since the time that the fathers slept, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4), a truth that Saint Jude the Apostle confirms in similar words, saying, “My dearly beloved, be mindful of the words which have been spoken before by the apostles of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who told you, that in the last time, there should come mockers, walking according to their own desires in ungodliness.” (Jude 17-18)

Although the number of these sects was unusually large, this largeness of number led to their own condemnation, for it proves that those who separate themselves from the Church can not harmonize together, and thus their errors are ventilated and made known. For, as they disagree among themselves on the principal doctrines, and such as most forcibly concern the salvation of their own souls, it becomes clear that they do not know what truth is, and hence can not presume to charge the Catholic Church with error.

Here let no one dare to find fault because God permits His Church to lose members, and sometimes whole nations. For faith is a voluntary acceptation by the understanding, as Saint Paul writes – “bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Without this free will, faith, which in and of itself is a grace of God, would not be meritorious. As with regard to the ten commandments man is free to give his obedience or not, so is it also with regard to faith.

Then, again, God permits secession in order that the Church may be purified from corrupt and decaying members. By the fact of these being cut off from the Church, if they go voluntarily, they declare themselves openly to be the enemies of the Church, and thus the poison of their heresy is less harmful. The Church being no longer accountable for them as her members, and they themselves openly proclaiming their false doctrines, she is in a better position to combat their false teachings and wrong-doings. While thus combating error she finds herself necessitated to develop Catholic conviction the more clearly, and to adduce much reasoning to fortify faith. Thus she is indebted to these very attacks of her enemies for opportunities of proclaiming and making known her principles, of keeping her weapons of defense from rusting, and of sharpening her mental forces. In a word, the existence of divers religious sects contributes to strengthen her doctrines anew and to diffuse them more widely among men.

Thus, for instance, it was owing to the opposition of those heretics who arose in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Thessalonica and Philippi that Saint Paul was induced to write to those congregations his various epistles, in which we find valuable material for the defense of our faith.

Probably we would not have had a single written line from any of the apostles or their immediate successors, such as Clement, Barnabas, Hennas, Polycarp, Ignatius, and others, had there been no opposition to the teaching of Christ. The important contest of the Church with Arianism supplied such men as Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzen, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, and others with opportunities of combating all through the years of their life for the purity of Catholic belief, thus strengthening in their faith even such as remained true. It is thus that the Church has been compelled to seek out remedies and apply them to the healing of the wounds she sustained at the hands of her enemies.

This combating contributes to the grandeur of the Church, for the spirit of confidence and the hope of victory thus evoked in her members, stimulate them to renewed efforts for carrying the light of the gospel to those heathens who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. And the Lord, who wishes to call all men to Himself, is with such messengers of light. The loss of the unworthy members who leave the Church is richly compensated for by the conversion of pagan peoples, who will make better use of the grace of God. Thus, for example, Saint Patrick converted Ireland; Saint Columbkill, Scotland; Saint Augustine, England; Saints Columbanus, Fridolin, Gall, Emmeran, Kilian, Boniface, Willibrord, and others, Germany; and these conversions were taking place just at a time when in the old Eastern countries the Church had to maintain the fiercest conflicts with Arianism, Eutychianism, and Nestorianism. In every century the Church was thus consoled. Indeed the blessing of God was never so apparent within her as during her time of persecution. Even during the present, when her every doctrine is assailed, converts are flocking to her bosom.

Nor was it only individual champions that sprang to her defense, to the defense of her doctrine and discipline. The combined prelates of the whole Church assembled solemnly in Church councils, for the purpose of refuting heresies and enunciating the true teachings of the Church. It is easy to understand that these gatherings could not take place during the time of persecution. It is true that some few bishops met together for mutual counsel from time to time, as, for example, in the year 170, when some assemblages were called to condemn the errors of the Montanists. General councils were convened when persecution ceased, and peace was granted to the Church. Hardly had she entered upon the enjoyment of her public rights and privileges when the bishops of the united Church assembled at Nice, in the year 325, and in the most solemn manner condemned Arius and his adherents.

And afterward, whenever a heresy presented itself, or any circumstance arose affecting the whole Church, the bishops assembled in a general or ecumenical council and took counsel one from another, after the example of the apostles in the first council at Jerusalem. We count twenty such councils, the last of which was the Vatican Council, so called from its having been held in the Vatican church, better known as Saint Peters, in Rome. This council, which was solemnly opened on the 8th of December, 1869, had to be hastily adjourned in the following October after having passed and published some decrees, the most notable of which was the dogma of the infallibility of the Pope.

The last council held before the Vatican was the council of Trent, opened in the year 1545 and closed in the year 1563.

In the year 1517 the so-called reformation was begun in Germany by Martin Luther. During many years Rome endeavored in vain by means of kind and forbearing action to allay the strife and contention that ensued, but was finally compelled to pronounce sentence of excommunication upon Martin Luther, who thereupon appealed to the authority of a general council, which, however, he refused to attend when it assembled. As there were many highly important questions to be discussed and settled, Clement, when assuming the Chair of Peter in 1523, announced in his inauguration discourse that he would assemble the much-needed council. Just then, however, the German Emperor Charles V was about to make war on Francis I, King of France, and the Turks were invading Austria, so that it was impossible for the bishops to travel to any place assigned for a council. When things became more peaceful it was impossible to get the Protectants to agree upon a place of assembly. At last Pope Paul III ordered the meeting to be held at Mantua in May, 1537. The Protestants refused to go to Italy. Finally, after several unsuccessful attempts at meeting, the council was called for the 1st of November, 1542, at Trent in the Tyrol. Yet it was only after the lapse of three years that the fathers could finally meet on the 1st day of December, 1545, owing to the continued hostilities between the governments.

In the summer of 1546 renewed wars interrupted the meetings of the bishops. They had hardly met together on the 13th of January, 1547, when a pestilence broke out in Trent, causing many of the fathers to withdraw to Bologna, so that from the nth of March of that year till the 1st of May of 1551 no further questions could be considered. On the 28th of April, 1552, war again necessitated an adjournment, and it was not till ten years later, on the 18th of January, 1562, that the sessions could be resumed. From the last date the council continued its deliberations nearly two years, and finally closed its sessions on the 4th of December, 1563, after having held twenty-five sessions and settled upon a vast number of questions regarding faith, morals, and discipline.

The acts were signed by three patriarchs, twenty-five archbishops, one hundred and sixty-eight bishops, seven abbots, seven generals of Orders, and thirty-nine deputies of bishops.

On the 6th of November, 1564, the decrees were confirmed by Pope Pius IV and on the 13th of the same month the same Pontiff published the profession of faith based on the decrees of the council.

From the history of this general council of Trent, as indeed of all the councils, we learn how devotedly attached were the prelates of the Church to the purity of faith and the reformation and maintenance of discipline, and how incessantly and indefatigably they labored and strove amid the most discouraging obstacles and difficulties.

Of course, if there is within the Church any divine assistance, it must be found wherever the authorities of the Church are assembled. Hence it is an article of faith that such duly authorized Church councils are enlightened by the Holy Ghost, and that their decrees are infallible. It would be contrary to sound reason to assume that the Holy Ghost is present in the different detached congregations of the Church and not in the assemblies of her teachers.

In the Confession of Faith as formulated by the council of Trent, each Catholic may find a standard for his right belief, and he knows what stand to take if division or schism arise. By it he is taught to guard against all idle questions and such as flatter merely the pride of intellect, and to content himself with embracing humbly and confidingly the teachings of the Church, and also to avoid everything that might cause him to waver in his belief. Hence it is his conscientious duty to avoid reading all such literature as is opposed to the Church, and to flee the company of such persons as talk in terms derogatory of the true faith. He is thus bound, not only out of the respect which he owes to the Church of God, but also out of a regard for his own salvation, for faith is a plant that can thrive only in the light of divine grace, and not in the feeble ray of a human glow-worm.

Thankfulness and congratulation must fill the heart of the Catholic Christian when, in looking upon the contention and division of his separated brethren, he remembers that he is spared their torturing doubts and anxieties in matters of belief and, furthermore, that he owes this happy immunity to the gratuitous gift of God. One of the first fruits of such thankfulness should be to show forth in his own life the beautiful workings of such pure faith and perfect morals.

Thus does actual life identify itself with true faith, and good will with divine grace, for, as Saint Clement of Alexandria says, “As we were originally destined for good, we must now direct all our efforts to that end. We are required to have sound and healthful dispositions of mind for good, correct doctrine and a spirit of obedience.”

“The Communion of Saints” – The Church Militant, The Church Suffering, The Church Triumphant

The Church of God forms a great, expansive kingdom which, while having its beginning on earth, reaches into the other life and finds its perfection, completion, and solution in heaven. It embraces all who have ever been admitted to it. Thus he who has been once received remains a member of the Church forever. Not merely those living on the earth are members of the Church of God. Both the saints in heaven and the souls in purgatory are united in a spiritual manner with the believing Christians yet dwelling in this world.

Therefore between the living and the departed, whether the latter are glorious in heaven or still detained in purgatory, there exists a community of spirit. The soul, even when detached from the body, can not forget what it knew in life. On the contrary, with deliverance from bodily incumbrance, many hindrances to knowledge are dispelled, and knowledge itself becomes clearer and stronger. After his death man is separated only in body from those with whom he was associated when on earth. The spirit retains remembrance of them, and with this remembrance charity also, which is the more elevated and intense since the spirit is now in a better condition to distinguish true divine worth from what is not genuine.

Thus all dwell in union with each other, and this union consists in all being members of one body, the mystical body of the Church whose head is Christ.

In order to describe this union the Holy Scriptures employ very aptly the simile of a human body, which, although one in person, consists of different members. “For as in one body, we have many members, but all the members have not the same office,” says Saint Paul, “so we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” (Romans 12:4-5)

The similarity between the Church and a human body consists in the fact that the Church has several members like the human body. As all the members of the frame compose but one body, so the members of the Church form but one Church. As the members of the body do not all discharge the same functions, so the different members of the Church do not all stand in an equality of calling, position, and dignity. But as each member suffers pain when any other member of the body is hurt and, on the other hand, is sound and well when the others are sound and well, so do the members of the Church suffer when one member suffers, because they are all closely bound together by a holy and indivisible charity. For as no one member of the human body serves itself, so no member of the Church serves itself, but all serve God and contribute to His glory.

This is truly a communion of saints, that is, a communion of such as are called by God to saintliness, who are sanctified by baptism, who respond voluntarily to their calling, who strive for perfect holiness, and of whom many attain to perfect holiness. These compose the great Church of Christ, which is again subdivided into three, namely, the Church struggling on earth, the Church suffering in purgatory, and the Church glorious in heaven.

What these have in common are prayers and good works, so that each one of them can say with the Psalmist, “I am a partaker with all them that fear Thee ” (Psalms 118:63), that is to say, I have a share in the merits of all God-fearing souls.

Thus the Church militant has a share in the merits and enjoys the intercession of the saints in heaven who come to our aid.

The saints in heaven have reached their destiny. After long and weary struggles they have entered on the glory and happiness of the vision of God, entered into the unspeakable delights of heaven. In the fullness of their sublime charity they know no other wish save to see us become sharers of their joys. As, during their sojourn in life, they labored only for the glory of God, so now do they burn with desire to have us upon earth advance and increase that same honor and glory.

Far better than we do they know the dangers that threaten us and the obstacles that impede us who are left behind; hence they pray that we may obtain grace to fully discharge those duties the observance of which will make us worthy of heaven, as it has already done in their own regard. Why would not God hear their prayer? We know that prayer is useful and efficacious, for Our Lord teaches, “Ask, and it shall be given you.” (Matthew 7:7) Now, if any and every prayer is powerful, the prayer of those pure saints in heaven, who ask for nothing but what is beneficial to our bodies and souls, must be preeminently efficacious. If the prayers of God’s chosen saints are unavailing and without effect, then the prayers of poor, weak, sin-laden mortals on earth must be futile and vain, and man is thus robbed of his only source of hope and consolation.

Even among the ancient Jews the conviction prevailed that, for the sake of pious departed saints, God granted graces which the weakness and unworthiness of the petitioner would not have obtained. To Isaac God Himself said, “I am with thee: I will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for My servant Abraham’s sake.” (Genesis 26:24) Hence, also, Solomon prayed, “For Thy servant David’s sake, turn not away the face of Thy anointed.” (Psalms 131:10) Surely what God did for the sake of the saints of the Old Law, who had not yet reached His presence, He will not deny to the saints of His beloved Son.

Like us, the poor suffering souls in purgatory are benefited by the merits and prayers of the saints in heaven. We also can come to their relief by prayer, alms-giving and other good works, but chiefly by the holy sacrifice of the Mass, whether we have it offered up for them, or hear such Masses, or receive holy communion for them. Prayer must be of assistance to them, and the more so as they can not help themselves. It must be that God looks down with compassion and mercy on such a spectacle, the most touching of all spectacles – one portion of His creatures praying for those who have no other means of reaching His blessed presence save through the sympathizing efforts of their fellow-beings.

Often, indeed, have the unbelievers called this sweet communion of saints a foolish doctrine and one that is opposed to reason.

A single example, which we will here relate, may serve to instruct us differently.

Let us take our stand beside the death-bed of a mother who knows that, though in the prime of life, she must quit this earth and leave her poor orphan child behind her, helpless and friendless in the world. In this dire moment of heartfelt grief what is there to comfort the poor mother? Certainly only the firm belief on her part that, although she is to leave her child in the body, she is not to be separated from her in soul, and that when it shall please God to admit her to heaven she will then be in a still better condition to pray for her child than even when on earth.

This sacred and consoling promise the mother can make to her child when giving her her final blessing. All through life, even till her dying day, the orphan child can look upon her dead mother as a cherished guarding and protecting spirit. And will not God hear the prayers of such a sainted mother in heaven for her child on earth? And if the mother, instead of being at once admitted to the glory of heaven, is undergoing the necessary cleansing of purgatory, will God deprive that mother of her child in the very time when her innocent prayers can help the departed soul, and when such prayers are most needed?

Men talk much about the goodness and love of God. Why, then, do they charge so kind and merciful a Being with tearing asunder the very ties made by Himself?

They talk of the wisdom of God. Why, then, do they charge Him with condemning the human soul to forgetfulness and oblivion, at the very time when such praying for and communing with each other is useful if not necessary to reaching the end for which the soul was created? Is, then, the human soul, created by God and redeemed by the blood of Christ, but a schoolboy’s slate, from which the problem of life is to be wiped out as soon as the human part of the sum is solved?

In this simple case we have a clear picture of the relations existing as well between those living on earth and the saints in heaven, as between the living and the souls in purgatory. What we have said of the relations between mother and child may be truly said of the relations of Christians with one another. “My mother and My brethren, are they who hear the word of God, and do it,” says Our Saviour in Luke 8:21.

Moreover, the good works which we perform for the dead benefit them in a twofold manner. For purgatory is a place of penance, out of which no one can come until the last farthing be paid (Matthew 5:26). Our good works augment the force of our prayers, because they draw down blessings on the petitioners themselves. The adorable sacrifice of the Mass is an atoning sacrifice for sins, a sacrifice that extirpates venial sins, and as such may be applied in supplication toward the souls in purgatory, as in the Old Law such offerings were made for the departed. Thus, for example, Judas Machabaeus “making a gathering, sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead.” And the Sacred Scriptures add, “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.” (2 Machabees 12:43,46)

The Church militant also has its community of good things: for all members who are in a state of grace, that is to say, who are without mortal sin and are in the friendship of God, have a share in all the Masses, prayers, and good works that are performed in the Catholic Church, but more especially in the Church’s spiritual treasures. For all members derive their life and vigor from the forces of the body to which they belong. Hence Saint Paul writes, “God hath tempered the body together, giving to that which wanted, the more abundant honor, that there might be no schism in the body, but the members might be mutually careful one for another. And if one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it: or, if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members of member.” (1 Corinthians 12:24-27)

Thus the treasure of the Church is but one; all members share the merits of each other.

Here may arise the question, what share in these treasures have such as are not in a state of grace, namely, sinners? Sinners are also members of the body of Christ, but lifeless members. Hence they have no share in the spiritual growth or strength of the Church. Yet, as long as sentence has not been pronounced upon them, they are not cut off from the body, and, by the virtue of God’s grace, they may be awakened again to spiritual life. Hence they share so far in the treasures of God as the living members, through their prayers, tears and good works, may implore for them the grace of reawakening, the grace of conversion.

Again, the doctrine of the communion of saints encourages the Christian in a special manner to the practise of fervent prayer. The Christian believes and feels that he does not stand alone. All Christendom prays with him, the saints in heaven pray with him. Therefore he prays not for himself alone, but for all who are in the Church, that they may be preserved in it; and for all those who are not in the Church, that they may secure admission.

This communion of prayer is expressed in the prayer which Our Lord Himself taught us. We pray, “Our Father, Thy kingdom come, give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our trespasses, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” For wherever the kingdom of God suffers any want or injury the Christian himself suffers; hence we ought to pray every day for the Church militant, in order that she may pass successfully through her struggles and obtain a victory.

But it is also our sacred duty to pray for the dead. Who are the dead? They are our parents, brothers and sisters, relations and friends, with all of whom during life we were united by the tenderest and holiest relations. Ah I what would we not have given to have saved them from death and to have kept them in our midst. Why, then, are we so dilatory in our efforts to rescue them from the sufferings of purgatory? Is this our gratitude for their goodness to us, for their kind charity which has bequeathed to us legacies of wisdom, counsel, example, if not temporal goods? Ah, how parents will sigh with regret at having been sparing in the performance of their own good works, which would have benefited their souls, and all for the purpose of having more to leave behind for their children, who now neglect them ungratefully I Alas, how piteously the poor souls look toward us, and cry to us in the words of the suffering Job, “Have pity on me, have pity on me, at least you, my friends, because the hand of the Lord hath touched me.” (Job 19:21) And when we shall have succeeded in alleviating the pains of the poor souls, they, being liberated, will remember their liberator gratefully; the charity which we practise toward them will be amply repaid by that charity which they, when in heaven, will exercise toward us.

And, at least, the Catholic Christian should recommend himself every morning and evening to the protection of the saints in heaven. The saints are our friends. In all perils to our salvation they protect us by their powerful intercession. They implore for us spiritual and temporal prosperity. Above all we should invoke our holy patron saint, who is specially related to us by a spiritual alliance. He will assist us to follow in his footsteps, in order that we may hereafter have a place near the throne now occupied by him.

All Saints’ Day – All Souls’ Day – Origin and Object of these Festivals

From a discourse pronounced on the festival of All Saints by Saint Chrysostom we learn that the Christians, even in the fourth century, commemorated each year on the Sunday after Whitsunday, the lives of all the martyrs and other saints. When Phocas, the Greek emperor, bestowed upon Pope Boniface IV the Pantheon, a heathen temple which had been devoted to all the gods, that same Pope dedicated it to the one true God under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin and all the saints in heaven, and at the same time established a feast in their honor. About the year 850 this festival became general, and was made a chief festival in the Church. On this day all Christians render honor to all the saints combined, and are thereby encouraged and impelled by calling upon their names, to become participators in the blessing of their intercession.

This festival is also a powerful inducement to the imitation of their virtues, for on that day of joy and congratulation these happy souls seem to cry out to us from heaven, “What we have succeeded in doing you also are able to do. We were once like you, flesh and blood as you are; we had all your temptations – we have conquered, so can you. Strive bravely, therefore, that this festival may one day be your festival in heaven.”

The festival of All Souls’ day is the continuation and completion of All Saints’ day. The joyful vespers of All Saints are followed closely by the mournful vespers of All Souls in the evening of the first of November. It is proper that not only the living on earth, but also the departed souls, should have a share in the prayers of all the saints in heaven. Hence the living faithful on earth do unite with the saints in their suffrages for the poor, suffering souls in purgatory, in the belief and hope that their pains will be thereby lessened and shortened.

These two festivals unite the whole Church – the Church militant, the Church suffering, and the Church triumphant, setting forth beautifully the admirable union that reaches from heaven to earth, from earth to purgatory, to be one day perfected in heaven. The monks of the monastery at Cluny were the first to observe All Souls’ day. In some places it is customary on this anniversary to keep extra lights burning in the churches, and even on the graves of the dead. These lights are a figure of the everlasting light of heaven, which we seek by our prayers to obtain for the souls of the faithful departed.