The Catholic Church the True Church: Part 1[1]
Fr. W. Devivier, SJ
Edited by Bishop S.G. Messmer, DD, DCL
Bishop of Green Bay, Wisc.
Imprimatur, 1903

In the preceding chapter we have seen that Jesus Christ founded a Church of which every one is obliged to be a member under pain of failing to realize his last end. We must now enter upon the capital question of this second part, that is, determine which among the Christian societies we have before us was truly founded by Jesus Christ, preserves His doctrine in all its purity, and represents Him upon earth. In a matter where any mistake involves such deplorable consequences to our souls we cannot take too much precaution to discern the false from the true.

Outside of the Catholic Church we find in the bosom of Christianity two great religious divisions claiming to be the true religion of Christ: heresy and schism. Heresy is a Christian sect which rejects one part of the Christian dogma formerly universally admitted, and retains another part. Schism is the separating of a religious body from the central government formerly universally acknowledged, and the constituting itself a special centre and separate government.

We shall first set forth the distinct marks or notes by which the true Church of Christ may be recognized among the various Christian communions, and show that the Catholic or Roman Church, who has as head the Roman Pontiff, possesses all these notes. We shall then prove that all other Christian communions (Protestant or schismatic) lack these marks, although this last proof is not indispensable. The Divinity of the Roman Catholic Church involves of itself the illegitimacy of all sects. Lastly, in the Primacy of St. Peter we shall discover a new mark by which the exclusive truth of the Church of Rome may be readily recognized.


The true religion, "binding upon all men, exists only in the Church founded by Jesus Christ. God wills the salvation of all, hence it is absolutely necessary that all be able to discern the true Church of Christ among the various religious societies claiming Him as founder. [2] The notes of which we are about to treat will enable us to make this indispensable discovery.


DEFINITION.----We call notes of the Church sensible and permanent characters proper to her, by means of which the true Church may be readily and unerringly recognized by all men. Let us explain this definition in detail.

1st. Sensible characters, that is, characters exteriorly perceptible (visible). It is evident that qualities which, though real, are not patent to our eyes cannot help us to discern the true Church. [3]

2d. Special characters proper to the Church. As the celebrated Bellarmin says: "If I wish to describe a man whom you have never seen, and enable you to recognize him immediately at sight, I should not say he has two hands, two ears, for these things are common to all men."

3d. Permanent characters, that is, those which continue throughout all ages in the Church. This is an immediate consequence of what we have just said. If it never ceases to be a strict obligation for all men to enter the Church, the only way of salvation, it is sovereignly important to be able always and at all times to recognize this way of salvation; hence the characters which guide us must be constant and permanent.

4th. Means by which the true Church may be readily and unerringly recognized by all men. In fact it was for this end that God willed that His Church should be invested with these characters. Now as all, the ignorant as well as the learned, are obliged to enter this ark of salvation, and as the greater part of mankind is incapable of laborious examination or profound study, God mercifully provides in these notes an easy guide for all in search of truth. [4] At the same time the conviction which the notes afford varies according to the penetration of each mind. But the conviction of the scholar, though more enlightened and the result of deeper reflection, is essentially of the same nature as that of ordinary minds.

REMARK.----It follows from what we have just said that among the characters necessary to the Church there are some which can in no way serve as notes; such are indefectibility and infallibility, for the reason that they are not exterior, palpable characters more easily recognized than the Church itself. On the contrary, it is only after we have discerned the true Church that we recognize its indispensable qualities of infallibility and indefectibility.


All the notes of the Church are real properties and positive characters; yet we divide them according to their demonstrative value into positive and negative notes. The negative notes (if they can be called notes) are those the absence of which proves efficaciously that a society is not the Church of Christ, but the presence of which does not of itself prove the true Church. Let us cite for example certain notes generally mentioned by Protestants: perfect integrity of doctrine, loyalty of preachers, legitimate use of the Sacraments, just and peaceful means of propagation. These characters are doubtless indispensable to the true Church; but while they may exist, at least in theory, for a time in a dissenting sect, they are as difficult to recognize as the Church itself. The positive notes have quite a different value; they belong exclusively to the true Church of Christ. Once we prove their existence in a religious society we are authorized to conclude that this society is the true Church.

Apologists differ in their enumeration of negative as well as positive notes. We shall speak only of the four positive notes generally admitted, and enumerated in the Creed of Nicæa or Constantinople inserted in the liturgy of the Mass: Unity, Sanctity, Catholicity, and Apostolicity.


A. Unity.

This unity is twofold: it includes, 1st, unity of doctrine and of faith, which consists in the universal assent of the faithful to all that the Church teaches as revealed by Jesus Christ.

2d. Unity of ministry and of communion; that is, the union of all the faithful by participation in the same Sacraments and in the celebration of the same worship under the guidance of their bishops, and particularly of the Roman Pontiff.

To disturb the unity of faith by rejecting a point of doctrine is heresy; to disturb the unity of communion by rejecting the authority of lawful heads is schism. [5]


Thesis.----Jesus Christ willed that His Church should be one in Doctrine and Belief; that is, He made it an Obligation for Pastors to Teach, and consequently for the Faithful to Believe, Unreservedly, all the Truths revealed by Him.

FIRST ARGUMENT, DERIVED FROM HOLY SCRIPTURE.----a. "Go," Jesus said to His Apostles, "and teach ye all nations, Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Christ, we see, makes no exception; His very words make exception impossible: "You will teach them to observe omnia quaecumque mandavi, all things whatsoever I have commanded you;" He imposed, consequently, faith in all His doctrines no less than in all His precepts. Again He says: "Preach the Gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is Baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned " (Mark xvi. 15,16). If it were sufficient to believe only certain truths, and we were free to believe or not to believe others, Jesus certainly would have declared those that were of obligation, since we are obliged to accept them under pain of eternal loss. Nor does Jesus make any exception when He says; "He that heareth you heareth Me, and he that despiseth you despiseth Me." And again: "He that will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen and as a publican" (Luke x.16; Matt. xviii. 17).

b. The language of the Apostles is the same as that of their Master. We do not find in the Epistles of St. Paul anything intimating the slightest distinction between dogma and dogma, between truth and truth; he announces the doctrine of Christ, nothing less, nothing more. He pronounces anathema upon anyone who would preach anything else, were it even he himself, or an Angel from Heaven. He conjures the Romans to avoid those who cause dissensions and offences contrary to the doctrine they have learned. He beseeches the Galatians to do the same, and to avoid schisms and heresies without distinction, under pain of damnation. St. John speaks in the same manner; according to him, whoever remains not in the doctrine of Christ, but rejects it, does not possess God: "If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house, nor say to him, God speed you" (2 John i. 10).

SECOND ARGUMENT, DERIVED FROM THE TEACHING OF THE EARLY FATHERS AND COUNCILS OF THE CHURCH.----a. Pressed by the irresistible arguments of Catholic theologians, the French Calvinist Jurieu, in the seventeenth century, introduced into the doctrine of Jesus Christ a distinction hitherto absolutely unknown, viz., fundamental articles which we are obliged to believe, and non-fundamental articles which we are free to reject. He claimed that this distinction was generally admitted during the first four centuries of the Church, and that it was only in the fifth century that it was rejected and the faithful thenceforth obliged to believe all the dogmas revealed by Jesus Christ. [6] It is very evident that if such a change had taken place then, it would have drawn forth innumerable protests from the bishops and Fathers of the Church, as well as from the faithful and from heretics. The innumerable Councils, general or special, convened to decide questions of dogma attest the vigilance employed at that time to preserve the doctrine in all its purity and integrity. Moreover, contemporaneous history, which relates in minutest detail the smallest heresies, makes no mention of any protest or charge of this nature. And what is more, no Catholic or heretic, or even Protestant, before Jurieu, was aware of such an innovation, nor did anyone ever think of reproaching the Church with such a departure. As a matter of fact the Church has never varied on this point, and consequently all tradition condemns the theory.

b. Moreover, it is absolutely false that the Fathers and Popes of the first four centuries taught the distinction, which was the tardy invention of Jurieu's imagination. On the contrary, when they treated of the doctrine of the Church and the obligation of accepting it, they employed universal terms which imply no restriction. They insist that what is to be taught and to be believed is the doctrine of Christ; that he who teaches anything else is a heretic; that he who believes otherwise shares in his heresy; and that they are both excluded from the Church and from salvation. The Fathers and bishops, even outside the Councils, who have taught this, are very numerous. Cardinal Gousset in his Dogmatic Theology reproduces the testimony of twenty-one, from St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Polycarp of Smyrna, disciples of the Apostles, to St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and St. Ambrose, all of whom lived before the fifth century.

THIRD ARGUMENT, DERIVED FROM REASON.----Common sense itself enables us to recognize that it cannot be a matter of equal indifference whether we believe that there are seven Sacraments or that there are less; that Confession is necessary for the remission of sin or that it is optional; that Jesus Christ is really or only figuratively present in the Eucharist. No one would venture to affirm that he who adores the consecrated Host and he who tramples it under foot are equally pleasing to God and true disciples of Jesus Christ; that it is equally allowable to believe that faith without works is sufficient for salvation, and that faith without works is dead and of no avail for salvation. Religions professing doctrines so opposite cannot be one and the same religion, teaching the one and indivisible doctrine of Christ. Yet this, notwithstanding it is so manifestly contrary to good sense, is what our opponents advance.


REMARKS.----1st. We have here a question of fact: Did Jesus Christ confide to the Pope and the bishops, and to no others, not only the ministry of the word which preserves the unity of faith, but also the ministry of the Sacraments, the regulation of worship and of all the details of religious government, from which arises the unity of communion?

2d. Protestants recognize, it is true, the existence of a certain ministry in the Church of Christ; but with them this ministry has no authority to bind the conscience of the faithful. In fact they claim for every individual Christian the right to pronounce final judgment in religious questions, and to decide what he must believe and what he may reject. Nor is this ministry, they claim, limited only to bishops united with, and subordinate to the Roman Pontiff, but it is legitimately exercised by every pastor whom the people are pleased to recognize, on condition, however, that the pastor in preaching, and in the administration of the Sacraments, does not reject any of their fundamental articles.

3d. As to the Greek schismatics, they deny the primacy of jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome in the exercise of the ministry and, consequently, the obligation on the part of the bishops and their flocks to form part of the Roman communion.

Thesis.----Jesus Christ has Established in the Church an Authority which He Confided to the Apostles and to which all the Faithful must Submit, consequently whosoever Separates Himself from their Ministry is Guilty of Schism and thereby Excluded from the Church.

FIRST ARGUMENT, FROM THE SCRIPTURES.----a. Jesus declares that He sends His Apostles as His Father hath sent Him. He orders them to preach the Gospel, to administer Baptism, and to teach all that He taught them, promising to be with them until the consummation of the world. He makes Peter the supreme head and the foundation of His Church; He gives him the keys of the kingdom of Heaven and declares that all that Peter shall decide in the exercise of his ministry shall be ratified in Heaven; He orders him to feed His lambs and His sheep, that is, the whole flock, which is
the Church. Again, Jesus, speaking one day to His Apostles and the disciples whom He associated with them, gave them practical lessons of great importance, among which is one which has immediate reference to the present question. "If thy brother shall offend against thee, go and rebuke him between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother; and if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And 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." (Matth. xviii. 15, 16,17.) The witnesses of whom Jesus speaks here are not to be called to pronounce sentence, but simply to sustain by their presence the protest of the one demanding redress. And though He adds, "tell the Church," Jesus does not mean a union of the faithful, but of the heads established in the Church to settle such questions. Thus nowhere do we find, either in the Scriptures or in the ecclesiastical history of the first ages, that the faithful were ever convened in council to decide questions of this nature. Moreover, the words of the Master which immediately follow those we have just cited exclude all doubt in this matter: "Amen I say to you, 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." It is evident that these words, which He had already addressed to Peter alone, referred, not to the congregation of the faithful, but to those in whom He had vested His authority, and associated with Peter in the government of His Church. Now the question here is not a question of faith, but simply of spiritual direction, the reparation of an injury committed by one brother against another. Jesus nevertheless says very clearly that if the guilty one refuse to submit, he must be considered as a heathen and a publican, that is, as no longer forming a part of His

Hence there exists in the Church a ministry not only for preaching, but for government; and this ministry is confided only to the heads established by Jesus Christ, whom the faithful are obliged to obey under pain of being cut off from the body of the faithful.

b. The same ministry is affirmed by the Apostle St. Paul in several of his Epistles. He tells the Ephesians that God has appointed "some Apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, 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 until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God;  . . . that henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine." He preaches to the Galatians union, concord, and obedience, ranking schisms, which he calls sects, with the works of the flesh which exclude men from the kingdom of Heaven. Elsewhere he orders the bishops, whom the Holy Spirit, he says, hath appointed to govern the Church of Christ, to take heed to themselves and their flocks; for he knows that after his departure ravening wolves will steal among them and will not spare the flock, and men will arise among them who will pervert doctrine, and draw disciples after them. (Eph. iv.; Gal. vi. 20; Acts xx. 28.).

Here, certainly, is a ministry clearly defined as to its origin, which is the will of God; as to its depositaries, who are the heads of the Church; as to its object, which is the government of the faithful. Now if the faithful were not bound to submit to this ministry, why does it exist, and why should refusal to recognize and submit to it exclude us from the kingdom of Heaven?

SECOND ARGUMENT, DERIVED FROM THE TEACHING OF THE FATHERS IN THE FIRST AGES.----Pope St. Clement, who was the disciple and companion of the great Apostle, wrote the Corinthians an admirable letter to suppress a schism which had broken out at Corinth. The letter was of such exceptional authority that for a long time in the Churches of the East it was read with the Holy Scriptures. It ought to be quoted entire, but we cannot do more than give a summary of it. He calls the dissension which was dividing the Corinthians an impious and detestable schism unworthy of God's elect. You will walk faithfully in the ways of the Lord, he tells them, by being submissive to your pastors, loving to obey rather than to command. It is just and reasonable that we submit to God instead of imitating those who, moved by a detestable jealousy, have given an example of pride and revolt. He adds that we must obey our pastors according to the position, the rank, and the measure of the gift which God has imparted to each one in the spiritual edifice of the Church; that God sent Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ sent the Apostles. These faithful ministers, having received orders from the lips of their Master, preached in the cities and in the villages; they chose men among the first-fruits of the infant Church, and after having tried them by the light of the Holy Spirit with which they were filled, they established them priests and deacons over those who were to accept the Gospel, and ordained that after their death other men tried in like manner should succeed them in the ministry. He says finally that the words pronounced against Judas by Jesus must be applied to the authors of the schism: Woe to these men! it were better that they had not been born.

Let us remark that the doctrine so clearly formulated in this chapter goes back to the time of the Apostles of whom St. Clement was a disciple, and consequently to Jesus Christ. Though presented by the Bishop of Rome, it was received without protest by the Churches of the East. Therefore it was universally known and admitted in the first centuries, and was regarded, not as a new doctrine, but as coming from Jesus Christ.

We could cite much more testimony quite as conclusive from St. Ignatius, St. Irenæus, St. Cyprian, and others. (See Faith of Catholics, vol. i.)

B. Sanctity.

If we are satisfied with vague and general terms we may say that Protestants as well as Catholics recognize sanctity as a necessary character of the Church. They hold with us that Jesus wished His Church to be holy, and that He established it only to make men holy. This is a point, moreover, which they could hardly dispute in face of St. Paul's formal declaration to the Ephesians: "Christ loved the Church and delivered Himself up for it that He might sanctify it;  . . . 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" (Eph. v. 25, 26, 27). And again, that God established a ministry "for the perfecting of the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," which He elsewhere calls the Church (Eph. iv. 12; Col. i. 24).

But when there is a question of explaining in what this sanctity consists, Protestants either exaggerate or minimize it, and thus fall into two opposite errors. The first class confound the sanctity of the Church with the sanctity of each of its members, and claim that only just souls, who, moreover, are known only to God, form a part of the Church of Christ. Others are content with the ordinary and mediocre sanctity common to all the members of the Church, and reject as foreign to the spirit of the Gospel all that breathes of heroism and perfection, particularly the vows and life of religious orders. They deny particularly all miracles in favor of eminent sanctity.

The Church's teaching on this point, of which the following is a summary, lies between the two extremes. We maintain that the Church is holy because her Author is holy and the source itself of all holiness; because her end is to make men holy; because the means she employs, her dogmas, her ethics, and her Sacraments, are holy in themselves and lead to holiness; because, finally, she has produced in all ages members distinguished by sanctity, some of them----those who faithfully followed her guidance----by eminent sanctity.

Thesis.----The Church of Christ is not Composed Exclusively of Men Just in the Sight of God.

FIRST ARGUMENT, DERIVED FROM THE TEACHING OF JESUS CHRIST.----The figures under which Jesus represents His Church invariably present it to us as composed of just and of sinners, as including the wheat and the chaff, the faithful and the unfaithful servant, the wise and the prudent virgins; as the field where the tares are mingled with the good grain until the days of the harvest; as a net cast into the sea and gathering all kinds of fish, good and bad, while only the good are retained and the bad rejected; as a vineyard where the barren fig-tree is allowed to remain with the fruit-bearing trees, in the hope that it will one day bear fruit.

SECOND ARGUMENT, DERIVED FROM THE CoNDUCT OF THE APOSTLES.----Thus did the Apostles, instructed by Jesus, interpret holiness. We see them in the exercise of their ministry recalling to their duty Christians whose conduct did not correspond to their faith; they are far from treating the erring as strangers to the Church. St. Paul, when he excommunicates the scandalous sinner of Corinth and the heretics Hymeneus and Alexander, does not regard the other sinners, whom he has not cut off, as banished from the Church (1 Cor. v.; 1 Tim. i. 20).


We have just seen that the Church is holy in various respects. At the same time these different kinds of sanctity are not all equally palpable and appreciable; many of them serve only as negative notes.

The holiness specially regarded as a positive note of the Church is the holiness of its members, and particularly the heroic sanctity of many among them. This character is easily proved, for it is confirmed by striking miracles which are not accidental, transitory facts, but the fulfillment of promises frequently uttered by Jesus Christ and limited to no time. "He that believeth in Me," said Our Saviour, "the works that I do he also shall do, and greater than these shall he do." And again: "These signs shall follow them that believe: in My name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover" (John xiv. 12; Mark xvi. 17, 18).

C. Catholicity.

Catholic means universal. The application of this word to the Church means that at every period of her existence, after the adequate diffusion of the Gospel, she must extend morally throughout the whole world, and be everywhere the same.

EVERYWHERE THE SAME; for true Catholicity supposes unity of doctrine and of communion, otherwise the Church in China, for example, would not he the same as the Church existing in Brazil; and it would be false to say that it is one and the same Church in Brazil and in China. Hence it is evident that a collection of sects having nothing in common but a name (it is well known that this is the present condition of Protestantism), even though its various elements are spread throughout the entire world, cannot merit the name of Catholic or universal religion.

Catholicity may be considered absolutely, in itself; or relatively, that is, in comparison with the diffusion of dissenting sects.

a. Taken in an absolute sense it does not require that the Church exist in all parts of the world without exception, still less that it include in its bosom the entire human race. St. Matthew says clearly that when the Gospel shall be preached to all nations the end of the world will be at hand. Hence there is no question of a physical, but a moral universality.

To justify its name of Catholic it suffices that the Church include a great part of mankind, and that it exist in the greater part of the world in a manner to be recognized in all the other parts. "It is necessary," says the illustrious theologian Suarez, "that the Church shed throughout the world a certain universal splendor, so that her light may shine everywhere, and she may be distinguished from all heretical sects." A proper understanding of the Scriptures, and tradition from the earliest ages, show that this moral universality is all that is required.

b. Nor is it required that the Church exceed in numbers all the other Christian communities taken collectively, but that it outnumber each one of them taken singly.

Thesis.----Catholicity is an Indispensable Attribute of the True Church.

PROOF DRAWN FROM HOLY SCRIPTURES.----a. It is certain that the ancient prophecies concerning the Messias and His work, which we have cited elsewhere, represent the Church as destined to spread throughout the world. It will be the light of nations; the light destined to shine in the utmost parts of the earth; the house into which God will gather all the nations; a high mountain which shall fill all the earth. The Messias is to have nations for His inheritance, and His kingdom will extend to the utmost parts of the earth. The kings of the earth are to adore Him, all the nations are to obey Him. From the rising to the setting of the sun His name will be glorified by all nations, and in every place there will be offered to His name a pure oblation. All these passages, and many others too long to quote, are inexplicable if they do not signify the moral diffusion of the Church throughout the world.

b. The words of Jesus Himself are no less clear. He tells us that when He is raised upon the Cross He will draw all things to Himself. He commands His Apostles to preach the Gospel to every creature, to instruct all nations, Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all whatsoever He had commanded them. He sends them as His witnesses to Jerusalem, throughout Judea, Samaria, and to the extremities of the earth.

c. The Apostles perfectly understood the design of their Master. Faithful to His command they preached the Gospel, first in Judea and Samaria, then they dispersed through the pagan nations; and St. Paul was soon able to write to the Romans that their faith had been announced throughout the universe. The Apostles knew then that Jesus wished the Church to be Catholic, and that Catholicity was one of its essential characters, hence they inserted in their creed this article of their faith: "I believe in the holy Catholic Church." The testimony of the Fathers on this point may be found in "Faith of Catholics," vol. i.

THIS CATHOLICITY IS A NOTE. In fact it offers us a ready means of recognizing the true Church. It is not difficult to demonstrate which among the various Christian communions is the Church that can be said to be morally diffused throughout the world since the adequate promulgation of the Gospel, and to include in her bosom the greatest number of members professing the same faith by participation in the same Sacraments and the same worship under the guidance of one and the same apostolic and pastoral ministry.

REMARKS.----lst. Strictly speaking, another Christian communion might at a given period exist simultaneously in different parts of the earth, and yet we must be able at every period to distinguish the legitimate communion from the illegitimate. Catholicity, therefore, to be a distinctive mark must have still another character or note; that is, the true Church must always outnumber every other Christian communion. At the same time, as Catholicity is essential to the Church, it is sufficient to prove that at a given period, at the present day, for example, such a Christian society is the most widely spread and the most numerous: we are then authorized to conclude that it is this society which has been universally diffused and the most numerous at all times since the promulgation of the Gospel.

2d. We must not forget that by the notes of the Church, especially its Catholicity, we must distinguish the true Christian Church from other Christian societies. The Divinity of the Christian religion has been shown in the first part of the book (Ch. III.) by other characteristic marks.

D. Apostolicity.

In saying that the true Church is necessarily apostolic, we mean that she must profess the doctrine taught by the Apostles: this is apostolicity of doctrine; then, that she must be able to trace her descent from the Apostles through the succession of her lawful heads: this is apostolicity of ministry or government. Apostolicity of doctrine is the logical and indispensable consequence of the unity required in the true Church. The necessity of this characteristic is rarely disputed, but it is of little service as a note, as a positive means of discerning the true Church. Hence we shall dwell more particularly on the apostolicity of ministry. We have shown above, [and in the previous chapter], that all authority in the Church has been really bestowed upon the Apostles. This authority must, as we shall prove, pass to their successors.

Thesis.----Jesus Christ Willed that the Powers Given to His Apostles should be Transmitted to all their Successors.

FIRST ARGUMENT.----a. Jesus imposed upon Peter, and then upon all the Apostles, the exercise of the ministry which His Father had confided to Him for the purpose of saving all men till the end of time. Hence this ministry is essential to the Church, and must be indefectible and perpetual. There must always, until the end of the world, be men who exercise it in the name of Jesus Christ; there must also always be a foundation which supports the edifice, always one in whom is deposited the power of the keys, always a supreme pastor to feed the entire flock, always heads associated with him for preaching the word and for governing the Church. This foundation, this depositary, this supreme pastor, these subordinate heads cannot be Peter and the Apostles in their individual persons alone, since they are mortal; they must be also Peter and the Apostles in the persons of their successors. Now, because they only, and no others, have received their character and their power from Jesus Christ, they, and they only, can and must transmit this character and this power to whomsoever they choose; and those chosen can and must, in turn, transmit these prerogatives to others until the end of the world.

b. Christ assures us that His Church will last to the end of the world. But no society can exist for any length of time without an authority which is its very foundation. Such an authority must, therefore, be forever perpetual in the Church. Hence Christ willed that the ministry or authority given to the Apostles should forever pass to their lawful successors in office, being with them but one moral person. He made no other provision for the continuance of the ministry in the Church.

c. The true Church of Christ must ever, until the end of time, be distinguishable from heterodox churches; she must ever, until the end of time, be able to prove her descent from the Apostles by the uninterrupted succession of her pastors.

SECOND ARGUMENT.----We see from the history of the Apostles that they did indeed transmit to others the powers which they had received from Jesus Christ, by appointing bishops everywhere to replace and succeed them. Thus St. Paul made Timothy bishop of Ephesus, and Titus bishop of Crete, charging them to perpetuate their ministry by appointing other pastors (Tit. i. 5).

THIRD ARGUMENT.----Tradition furnishes a most decisive proof for our thesis. But we must refer the reader to special treatises on the subject. (See" Faith of Catholics," vol. i.)

REMARKs.----1st. The ministry confided by Jesus Christ to the Apostles, and by the Apostles to the bishops, their successors, includes a twofold power, the power of order and the power of jurisdiction.

a. Power of order regards the administration of the Sacraments. Bishops alone possess it in all its fullness. Hence there is no priestly office which they cannot exercise; and they alone can confer upon others the sacred character which they have received. This character is conferred by sacramental Ordination according to the fixed rite, which dates from the time of the Apostles. Every validly consecrated bishop has the power of ordaining other bishops. Even should he fall into heresy or schism, the consecration or ordination performed by him would still be valid though not lawful, provided he observed the prescribed rite. [Emphasis in bold added by the Web Master.----See article on sedevacantism.] The power of order is inamissible, i.e., once obtained it can never be lost.

b. The power of jurisdiction includes at the same time the faculty of lawfully exercising the power of order and the right of taking part in the government of the Church. This faculty and this right are conferred by canonical institution, and depend on the will of the supreme head of the Church. No bishop who has not received jurisdiction from the head of the Church can lawfully ordain a priest or consecrate a bishop, even though he do it validly; nor can he take part, even validly, in the administration and government of the Church. To be in the legitimate and full line of succession of the pastors of the Church, that is, in the hierarchy of jurisdiction, it does not suffice that a bishop have received the power of order; he must also have the power of jurisdiction. In other words, it is not sufficient that he be consecrated bishop; he must also have received with his consecration the right of administering a diocese, which in virtue of the apostolic succession becomes thus attached to one of the primitive apostolic sees. This is a self-evident proposition which may be proved by the words of all the Fathers, who condemn as schismatics, bishops in possession of usurped sees. The episcopacy is established for the administration of the Church, and a bishop is a chief or ruler in the Church. Hence he must have subjects. But one cannot give himself subjects; Jesus alone, Who has received from His Father the nations as a heritage, could confide to whom He pleased the power to govern the faithful, that is, the power of jurisdiction. He confided it, as we have seen, to the Apostles, and chiefly to Peter, their head, with power to transmit it. Hence a Christian society whose bishops go back to the Apostles only through the power of order, and not also through the power of jurisdiction, cannot claim to be apostolic, and consequently cannot be the Church of Christ.
c. It belongs to the heads of the Church to transmit this power of jurisdiction and to determine the mode of transmission left undetermined by Christ. This mode may have varied in the course of time, particularly in regard to the selection of subjects who are to receive this jurisdiction. Without prejudice, however, to the vicar of Christ's essential right of free nomination in regard to all dignities and offices outside his own, subjects have been chosen, sometimes by election, sometimes by presentation, sometimes by the will alone of the successors of St. Peter.

As the canonical rules observed in this transmission were established by the Church, and not by Jesus Christ, the Church has a right to modify them according to circumstances. But the jurisdiction itself always resides in the heads of the Church, and is always transmitted by canonical laws in force at the time. Consequently whosoever has not received jurisdiction according to these rules does not possess it, and though he may have received episcopal consecration he does not belong to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Having neither see nor subjects, it is evident that he cannot be one of the heads of the Church, and has no claim to apostolic succession. [7]

2d. Bishops have the same functions and the same powers as the Apostles. There are, however, certain personal privileges which the Apostles as founders, after Christ, of the Church alone enjoyed, and which they did not transmit to their successors; such are: infallibility in teaching the doctrine of Jesus Christ, the right to preach the Gospel throughout the world and to govern the faithful, and the right to erect bishoprics by their own authority.

These two powers of order and jurisdiction are communicated to priests, but in a limited degree and in view of certain acts only; for example, the administration of Sacramental absolution.


1. Spalding, J. M., Evidences, etc.; Allnat, The Church and the Sects; Schanz, III.; Gibbons, Faith of our Fathers; Lindsay, De Ecclesia, etc.; Gildea, in C. T. S. xvi.; Preston, Protestantism and the Church; Moriarty, The Keys of Heaven; Ricards, Cath. Christianity; Bagshawe, Credentials of the Church; Br. W. viii. 552; Hunter, I., tr. 4; McLaughlin, Divine Plan; Van den Hagen, Where is the True Church?; Cox, The Pillar and Ground of Truth.
2. Spalding, Evid., 1. 6; Hunter, 1. c., ch. 9; Br. W. v. 476. A rich collection of testimonies from the Fathers on the Marks of the Church is found in the excellent work "The Faith of Catholics," vol. i.
3. "Though the Church possesses many properties, not all of these are marks in the technical sense of the word." Scheeben, II., p. 341.
4. "It is plain that if the Church is to be an available guide to poor as well as rich, unlearned as well as learned, its notes and tokens must be very simple, obvious, and intelligible. They must not depend on education or be brought out by abstruse reasoning, but must at once affect the imagination and interest the feelings. They must bear with them a sort of internal evidence which supersedes further discussion and makes the truth self-evident." These evidences of the Church need not be "such as cannot possibly be explained away or put out of sight, but such as, if allowed room to display themselves, will persuade the many that she is what she professes to be, God's ordained teacher in attaining Heaven." (Newman, Essays, I., n. 4.)
5. On Schism consult Harper, I., essay 2, § 6; Hunter I., n. 216; M. lxxxii. 1; Br. W. ivi. 573; Botalla, Papacy and Schism; Lockhart, Old. Rel., ch 15, 30, 31.

6. We do not think it necessary to refute at great length this distinction invented for the needs of a desperate cause and eagerly adopted by the Protestants of that day. It can be easily demonstrated that this system, which has, moreover, been generally abandoned, is contrary to the Holy Scriptures upon which Protestants claim to rely exclusively; that it destroys the authority of Jesus Christ; that it is contrary to the belief of all Christians prior to the seventeenth century: finally, that it is arbitrary and impracticable. How will Protestants determine which are fundamental articles, recognizing, as they do, no other rule of interpreting the word of God than private judgment and individual reason? If, according to Jurieu, the safest rule is to admit as fundamental and necessary for salvation only what all Christians have believed unanimously and still believe all over the world, there are absolutely no more fundamental doctrines left in matters of religion. Is there any one dogma which has not been rejected by heretics? Moreover, this system tells against Protestants themselves, and condemns their separation from the Catholic Church. In fact, since this Church has always held and still holds articles which they declare fundamental, what reason have they for separating from her? [Br. w. vi. 269; Hunter. I., n. 219.]
7. A.C.Q. xx. 225 (Order and Jurisdiction).