Certain Prerogatives Conferred by Jesus Christ Upon His Church: Part1
Fr. W. Devivier, SJ
Edited by Bishop S.G. Messmer, DD, DCL
Bishop of Green Bay, Wisc.
Imprimatur, 1903

The Church, in order to carry out effectually her mission of saving souls to the end of time, must needs have certain privileges or prerogatives which are quite indispensable to accomplish her purpose. Among these the principal are indefectibility, or perpetual, uninterrupted, and unchangeable existence through all the changes, evolutions, and revolutions of the centuries; authority, that is, spiritual rights and powers over the souls of men as well as over the means of salvation; infallibility, which is the Divine guaranty of the unfailing exercise of the Church's authority; sovereignty, or absolute freedom and independence of any and all earthly power.

Firstly, in this sub-chapter and the next three, we shall prove that the all-wise and all-powerful Founder of the Church did endow her with these supernatural attributes. Lastly, in the fifth sub-chapter, we shall treat of Liberalism, the great heresy of the nineteenth century, which denies to the Catholic Church most of the above-mentioned prerogatives.


Taken in its broadest acceptation the indefectibility of the Church is the duration that Jesus Christ promised her until the end of the world, with the maintenance of her interior constitution and her exterior form, with the preservation of all her properties and prerogatives. The Church can, of course, admit, in the series of centuries, disciplinary changes required for the good of souls, but she will never be deprived of one of her constituent elements (her members, her chiefs, her organization), nor of any of her essential properties (unity, sanctity, catholicity), nor of her Divine
prerogatives (authority, infallibility).

Let us observe at the same time that this promise of indefectibility is made to the universal Church, and not to each of her parts, or to particular churches. The latter may fall away or disappear; but despite these shipwrecks the true Church of Christ will always remain, ever the same; these defections, moreover, will be compensated by the conquest or the foundation of new churches. Protestants, sometimes openly, sometimes covertly, reject this indefectibility. No doubt the invisible Church, many of them say, cannot fail, but it is quite otherwise with the visible Church, which may disappear from the world for a greater or shorter time; and this they allege is what has taken place. [2]

Thesis.----Jesus Christ Wished His Church to Endure without any Essential Change until the End of Time.

FIRST ARGUMENT.----A great number of texts in the Old Testament clearly defines the perpetuity of the reign of Christ. Let us limit ourselves to quoting a verse from Daniel, ii. 44: "But in the days of those kingdoms the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and His kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people, and it shall break in pieces and shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand forever." The synagogue, which was to change its form and receive an essential perfection, is frequently contrasted with the kingdom of the Messias, the New Covenant, the Christian Church, which was to exist forever, and remain always the same. This is an argument frequently used by St. Paul, particularly in his Epistle to the Hebrews (viii. 6 if.; xii. 27, 28).

SECOND ARGUMENT.----The New Testament is no less explicit (Matth. xiii. 24, coll. 30, 39; 1 Cor. xv. 24 f.).

a. In a text already quoted, which has become classic and dispenses with commentary, Jesus, with His supreme authority, confirms this indefectibility: "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" (Matth. xvi. 18).

b. Christ, sole mediator between God and man, has confided the fruits of His Redemption and the means of salvation to the Church. Now there will always be souls to be saved by these means; hence Christ, in sending the Apostles to teach and to Baptize, promises to be with them all days, even to the consummation of the world (Matth. xxviii. 20). But this perpetual indefectibility of the apostolic ministry, on which everything depends in the Church, evidently entails that of the Church itself. (Cfr. 1 Tim. n. 4.)

THIRD ARGUMENT, DRAWN FROM THEOLOGICAL REASONS.----If the Church could ever fail, she would, by this very fact, lose irrevocably all efficacious authority. In fact all who chose to rebel against the Church could justly claim that she had failed in her mission, that she had become corrupt, that she no longer merited either their confidence or obedience. Was it not on this ground that the innovators of the sixteenth century sought to justify their rebellion?


1. Spalding, J. M.., Evidences, 10; Manahan, Triumph, etc.; Br. W. xiii. 384; C. W. xlix. 761; Hunter, I., n. 166 ff.
2. The modern fiction, defended by Lasaulx, Dollinger and others, of a triple successive development of the Church, called respectively the Petrine, the Pauline, and the Johannine Churches, is clearly condemned by the Vatican Schema on the Church, ch. 8 and can. 8.---EDITOR.