Peter is the Rock on which the Church is Built
Peter has the Keys of Authority over the Earthly Kingdom,
Peter's Keys and Papal Succession
The Church is Infallible and Supernatural
The Church is Visible and One
The Church is Hierarchical
Controversies in the Church
Tradition / Church Fathers
Peter is the Rock on which the Church is Built
The Church is called “Catholic”
The Church is Indefectible
The Church’s Ecumenical Councils are Infallible
The Church is Hierarchical (Bishops, Priests and Deacons)
The Church is Visible and One
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I. Peter is the Rock on which the Church is Built
Mark 3:16; John 1:42 – Jesus renames Simon "Kepha" in Aramaic which literally
means "rock." This was an extraordinary thing for Jesus to do, because "rock"
was not even a name in Jesus' time. Jesus did this, not to give Simon a strange
name, but to identify his new status among the apostles. When God changes a
person's name, He changes their status.
Gen. 17:5; 32:28; 2 Kings 23:34; Acts 9:4; 13:9 - for example, in these verses,
we see that God changes the following people's names and, as a result, they
become special agents of God: Abram to Abraham; Jacob to Israel, Eliakim to
Jehoiakim, Saul to Paul.
2 Sam. 22:2-3, 32, 47; 23:3; Psalm 18:2,31,46; 19:4; 28:1; 42:9; 62:2,6,7;
89:26; 94:22; 144:1-2 - in these verses, God is also called "rock." Hence, from
these verses, non-Catholics often argue that God, and not Peter, is the rock
that Jesus is referring to in Matt. 16:18. This argument not only ignores the
plain meaning of the applicable texts, but also assumes words used in Scripture
can only have one meaning. This, of course, is not true. For example:
1 Cor. 3:11 - Jesus is called the only foundation of the Church, and yet in Eph.
2:20, the apostles are called the foundation of the Church. Similarly, in 1
Peter 2:25, Jesus is called the Shepherd of the flock, but in Acts 20:28, the
apostles are called the shepherds of the flock. These verses show that there
are multiple metaphors for the Church, and that words used by the inspired
writers of Scripture can have various meanings. Catholics agree that God is the
rock of the Church, but this does not mean He cannot confer this distinction
upon Peter as well, to facilitate the unity He desires for the Church.
Matt. 16:18 - Jesus said in Aramaic, you are "Kepha" and on this "Kepha" I will
build my Church. In Aramaic, "kepha" means a massive stone, and "evna" means
little pebble. Some non-Catholics argue that, because the Greek word for rock
is "petra", that "Petros" actually means "a small rock", and therefore Jesus
was attempting to diminish Peter right after blessing him by calling him a
small rock. Not only is this nonsensical in the context of Jesus' blessing of
Peter, Jesus was speaking Aramaic and used "Kepha," not "evna." Using Petros to
translate Kepha was done simply to reflect the masculine noun of Peter.
Moreover, if the translator wanted to identify Peter as the "small rock," he
would have used "lithos" which means a little pebble in Greek. Also, Petros and
petra were synonyms at the time the Gospel was written, so any attempt to
distinguish the two words is inconsequential. Thus, Jesus called Peter the
massive rock, not the little pebble, on which He would build the Church. (You
don’t even need Matt. 16:18 to prove Peter is the rock because Jesus renamed
Simon “rock” in Mark 3:16 and John 1:42!).
Matt. 16:17 - to further demonstrate that Jesus was speaking Aramaic, Jesus says
Simon "Bar-Jona." The use of "Bar-Jona" proves that Jesus was speaking Aramaic.
In Aramaic, "Bar" means son, and "Jonah" means John or dove (Holy Spirit).
See Matt. 27:46 and Mark 15:34
which give another example of Jesus speaking Aramaic as He utters in rabbinical
fashion the first verse of Psalm 22 declaring that He is the Christ, the
Messiah. This shows that Jesus was indeed speaking Aramaic, as the Jewish
people did at that time.
Matt. 16:18 - also, in quoting "on this rock," the Scriptures use the Greek
construction "tautee tee" which means on "this" rock; on "this same" rock; or
on "this very" rock. "Tautee tee" is a demonstrative construction in Greek,
pointing to Peter, the subject of the sentence (and not his confession of faith
as some non-Catholics argue) as the very rock on which Jesus builds His Church.
The demonstrative (“tautee”) generally refers to its closest antecedent
Also, there is no place in
Scripture where “faith” is equated with “rock.”
Matt. 16:18-19 - in addition, to argue that Jesus first blesses Peter for having
received divine revelation from the Father, then diminishes him by calling him
a small pebble, and then builds him up again by giving him the keys to the
kingdom of heaven is entirely illogical, and a gross manipulation of the text
to avoid the truth of Peter's leadership in the Church. This is a three-fold
blessing of Peter - you are blessed, you are the rock on which I will build my
Church, and you will receive the keys to the kingdom of heaven (not you are
blessed for receiving Revelation, but you are still an insignificant little
pebble, and yet I am going to give you the keys to the kingdom).
Matt. 16:18-19 – to further rebut the Protestant argument that Jesus was
speaking about Peter’s confession of faith (not Peter himself) based on the
revelation he received, the verses are clear that Jesus, after acknowledging
Peter’s receipt of divine revelation, turns the whole discourse to the person
of Peter: Blessed are “you” Simon,
for flesh and blood has not revealed this to “you,” and I tell “you,” “you” are
Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. I will give “you” the keys to
the kingdom, and whatever “you” bind and loose on earth will be bound and
loosed in heaven. Jesus’ whole discourse relates to the person of Peter, not
his confession of faith.
Matt. 16:13 - also, from a geographical perspective, Jesus renames Simon to rock
in Caesarea Philippi near a massive rock formation on which Herod built a
temple to Caesar. Jesus chose this setting to further emphasize that Peter was
indeed the rock on which the Church would be built.
Matt. 7:24 - Jesus, like the wise man, builds His house on the rock (Peter), not
on grain of sand (Simon) so the house will not fall.
Luke 6:48 - the house (the Church) built upon the rock (Peter) cannot be shaken
by floods (which represent the heresies, schisms, and scandals that the Church
has faced over the last 2,000 years). Floods have occurred, but the Church
still remains on its solid rock foundation.
Matt. 16:21 - it is also important to note that it was only after Jesus
established Peter as leader of the Church that He began to speak of His death
and departure. This is because Jesus had now appointed His representative on
John 21:15 - Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus "more than these," referring to
the other apostles. Jesus singles Peter out as the leader of the apostolic
John 21:15-17 - Jesus selects Peter to be the chief shepherd of the apostles
when He says to Peter, "feed my lambs," "tend my sheep," "feed my sheep." Peter
will shepherd the Church as Jesus’ representative.
Luke 22:31-32 - Jesus also prays that Peter's faith may not fail and charges
Peter to be the one to strengthen the other apostles - "Simon, satan demanded
to have you (plural, referring to all the apostles) to sift you (plural) like
wheat, but I prayed for you (singular) that your (singular) faith may not fail,
and when you (singular) have turned again, strengthen your brethren.
Acts 1,2,3,4,5,8,15 - no one questions Peter's authority to speak for the
Church, declare anathemas, and resolve doctrinal debates. Peter is the rock on
which the Church is built who feeds Jesus’ sheep and whose faith will not fail.
II. Peter has the Keys of Authority over the
Earthly Kingdom, the Church
2 Sam. 7:16; Psalm 89:3-4; 1 Chron.17:12,14 - God promises to establish the
Davidic kingdom forever on earth.
Matt. 1:1 - Matthew clearly establishes this tie of David to Jesus. Jesus is the
new King of the new House of David, and the King will assign a chief steward to
rule over the house while the King is in heaven.
Luke 1:32 - the archangel Gabriel announces to Mary that her Son would be given
"the throne of His father David."
Matt. 16:19 - Jesus gives Peter the "keys of the kingdom of heaven." While most
Protestants argue that the kingdom of heaven Jesus was talking about is the
eternal state of glory (as if Peter is up in heaven letting people in), the
kingdom of heaven Jesus is speaking of actually refers to the Church on earth.
In using the term "keys," Jesus was referencing Isaiah 22 (which is the only
place in the Bible where keys are used in the context of a kingdom).
Isaiah 22:22 - in the old Davidic kingdom, there were royal ministers who
conducted the liturgical worship and bound the people in teaching and doctrine.
But there was also a Prime Minister or chief steward of the kingdom who held
the keys. Jesus gives Peter these keys to His earthly kingdom, the Church. This
representative has decision-making authority over the people - when he shuts,
no one opens. See also Job 12:14.
Rev. 1:18; 3:7; 9:1; 20:1 - Jesus' "keys" undeniably represent authority. By
using the word "keys," Jesus gives Peter authority on earth over the new
Davidic kingdom, and this was not seriously questioned by anyone until the
Protestant reformation 1,500 years later after Peter’s investiture.
Matt. 16:19 - whatever Peter binds or looses on earth is bound or loosed in
heaven / when the Prime Minister to the King opens, no one shuts. This "binding
and loosing" authority allows the keeper of the keys to establish "halakah," or
rules of conduct for the members of the kingdom he serves.
Peter's "keys" fit into the
"gates" of Hades which also represent Peter’s pastoral authority over souls.
Matt. 23:2-4 - the "binding and loosing" terminology used by Jesus was
understood by the Jewish people. For example, Jesus said that the Pharisees
"bind" heavy burdens but won't move ("loose") them with their fingers. Peter
and the apostles have the new binding and loosing authority over the Church of
the New Covenant.
Matt. 13:24-52 -Jesus comparing the kingdom of heaven to a field, a mustard
seed, leaven, and a net demonstrate that the kingdom Jesus is talking about is
the universal Church on earth, not the eternal state of glory. Therefore, the
keys to the "kingdom of heaven" refers to the authority over the earthly
Matt. 25:1-2 - Jesus comparing the kingdom of heaven to ten maidens, five of
whom were foolish, further shows that the kingdom is the Church on earth. This
kingdom cannot refer to the heavenly kingdom because there are no fools in
Mark 4:26-32 - again, the "kingdom of God" is like the seed which grows and
develops. The heavenly kingdom is eternal, so the kingdom to which Peter holds
the keys of authority is the earthly Church.
Luke 9:27 - Jesus says that there are some standing here who will not taste
death until they see the "kingdom of God." This kingdom refers to the earthly
kingdom of Christ, which Jesus established by His death and resurrection on
Luke 13:19-20 - again, Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed
which grew into a tree. This refers to the earthly Church which develops over
time, from an acorn to an oak tree (not the heavenly state of glory which is
boundless and infinite).
Matt 12:28; Mark 1:15; Luke 11:20; 17:21 - these verses provide more examples of
the " kingdom of God" as the kingdom on earth which is in our midst.
1 Chron. 28:5 - Solomon sits on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord. This
shows that the "kingdom of God" usually means an earthly kingdom.
1 Chron. 29:23 - Solomon sits on the throne of the Lord as king in place of King
David. The throne of God refers to the earthly kingdom.
Matt. 16:19 - Peter holds keys to this new Davidic kingdom and rules while the
real King of David (Jesus) is in heaven.
Luke 12:41-42 - when Peter asks Jesus if the parable of the master and the
kingdom was meant just for the apostles or for all people, Jesus rhetorically
confirms to Peter that Peter is the chief steward over the Master's household
of God. "Who then, (Peter) is that faithful and wise steward whom his master
will make ruler over His household..?"
Ezek. 37:24-25 - David shall be king over them forever and they will have one
shepherd. Jesus is our King, and Peter is our earthly shepherd.
III. Peter's Keys and Papal Succession
Jer. 33:17 - Jeremiah prophesies that David shall never lack a man to sit on the
throne of the earthly House of Israel. Either this is a false prophecy, or
David has a successor of representatives throughout history.
Dan. 2:44 - Daniel prophesies an earthly kingdom that will never be destroyed.
Either this is a false prophecy, or the earthly kingdom requires succession.
Isa. 22:20 - in the old Davidic kingdom, Eliakim succeeds Shebna as the chief
steward of the household of God. The kingdom employs a mechanism of dynastic
succession. King David was dead for centuries, but his kingdom is preserved
through a succession of representatives.
Isa. 22:19 - Shebna is described as having an "office" and a "station." An
office, in order for it to be an office, has successors. In order for an
earthly kingdom to last, a succession of representatives is required. This was
the case in the Old Covenant kingdom, and it is the case in the New Covenant
kingdom which fulfills the Old Covenant. Jesus our King is in heaven, but He
has appointed a chief steward over His household with a plan for a succession
Isa. 22:21 - Eliakim is called “father” or “papa” of God's people. The word Pope
used by Catholics to describe the chief steward of the earthly kingdom simply
means papa or father in Italian. This is why Catholics call the leader of the
Church "Pope." The Pope is the father of God's people, the chief steward of the
earthly kingdom and Christ's representative on earth.
Isa. 22:22 - we see that the keys of the kingdom pass from Shebna to Eliakim.
Thus, the keys are used not only as a symbol of authority, but also to
facilitate succession. The keys of Christ's kingdom have passed from Peter to
Linus all the way to our current Pope with an unbroken lineage for almost 2,000
Acts 1:20 - we see in the early Church that successors are immediately chosen
for the apostles' offices. Just as the Church replaced Judas, it also replaced
Peter with a successor after Peter's death.
John 21:15-17; Luke 22:31-32 - Jesus' creation of Peter's office as chief
shepherd with the keys passed to Linus, Cletus, Clement I, all the way to our
current Holy Father.
Matt. 23:2 - this shows that the Jews understood the importance of succession to
the chair and its attendant authority. Here, Jesus respects Moses' seat
("cathedra") of authority which was preserved by succession. In the Church,
Peter's seat is called the "cathedra," and when Peter's successor speaks
officially on a matter of faith or morals, it may rise to the level of an "ex
cathedra" (from the chair) teaching.
Eph. 3:21 - this divine word tells us that Jesus Christ's Church will exist in
all generations. Only the Catholic Church can prove by succession such
existence. Our Protestant brothers and sisters become uncomfortable with this
passage because it requires them to look for a Church that has existed for over
2,000 years. This means that all the other Christian denominations (some of
which have been around even less than one year!) cannot be the church that
Christ built upon the rock of Peter.
IV. The Church is Infallible and Supernatural
Isa. 35:8, 54:13-17 - this prophecy refers to the Church as the Holy Way where
sons will be taught by God and they will not err. The Church has been given the
gift of infallibility when teaching about faith and morals, where her sons are
taught directly by God and will not err. This gift of infallibility means that
the Church is prevented from teaching error by the power of the Holy Spirit (it
does not mean that Church leaders do not sin!)
Acts 9:2; 22:4; 24:14,22 - the early Church is identified as the "Way"
prophesied in Isaiah 35:8 where fools will not err therein.
Matt. 10:20; Luke 12:12 - Jesus tells His apostles it is not they who speak, but
the Spirit of their Father speaking through them. If the Spirit is the one
speaking and leading the Church, the Church cannot err on matters of faith and
Matt. 16:18 - Jesus promises the gates of Hades would never prevail against the
Church. This requires that the Church teach infallibly. If the Church did not
have the gift of infallibility, the gates of Hades and error would prevail.
Also, since the Catholic Church was the only Church that existed up until the
Reformation, those who follow the Protestant reformers call Christ a liar by
saying that Hades did prevail.
Matt. 16:19 - for Jesus to give Peter and the apostles, mere human beings, the
authority to bind in heaven what they bound on earth requires infallibility.
This is a gift of the Holy Spirit and has nothing to do with the holiness of
the person receiving the gift.
Matt. 18:17-18 - the Church (not Scripture) is the final authority on questions
of the faith. This demands infallibility when teaching the faith. She must be
prevented from teaching error in order to lead her members to the fullness of
Matt. 28:20 - Jesus promises that He will be with the Church always. Jesus'
presence in the Church assures infallible teaching on faith and morals. With
Jesus present, we can never be deceived.
Mark 8:33 - non-Catholics sometimes use this verse to down play Peter's
authority. This does not make sense. In this verse, Jesus rebukes Peter to show
the import of His Messianic role as the Savior of humanity. Moreover, at this
point, Peter was not yet the Pope with the keys, and Jesus did not rebuke Peter
for his teaching. Jesus rebuked Peter for his lack of understanding.
Luke 10:16 - whoever hears you, hears me. Whoever rejects you, rejects me. Jesus
is very clear that the bishops of the Church speak with Christ's infallible
Luke 22:32 - Jesus prays for Peter, that his faith may not fail. Jesus' prayer
for Peter's faith is perfectly efficacious, and this allows Peter to teach the
faith without error (which means infallibly).
John 11:51-52 - some non-Catholics argue that sinners cannot have the power to
teach infallibly. But in this verse, God allows Caiaphas to prophesy
infallibly, even though he was evil and plotted Jesus' death. God allows
sinners to teach infallibly, just as He allows sinners to become saints. As a
loving Father, He exalts His children, and is bound by His own justice to give
His children a mechanism to know truth from error.
1 & 2 Peter - for example, Peter denied Christ, he was rebuked by his
greatest bishop (Paul), and yet he wrote two infallible encyclicals. Further,
if Peter could teach infallibly by writing, why could he not also teach
infallibly by preaching? And why couldn't his successors so teach as well?
Gen. to Deut.; Psalms; Paul - Moses and maybe Paul were murderers and David was
an adulterer and murderer, but they also wrote infallibly. God uses us sinful
human beings because when they respond to His grace and change their lives, we
give God greater glory and His presence is made more manifest in our sinful
John 14:16 - Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit would be with the Church
forever. The Spirit prevents the teaching of error on faith and morals. It is
guaranteed because the guarantee comes from God Himself who cannot lie.
John 14:26 - Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit would teach the Church (the
apostles and successors) all things regarding the faith. This means that the
Church can teach us the right moral positions on such things as in vitro
fertilization, cloning and other issues that are not addressed in the Bible.
After all, these issues of morality are necessary for our salvation, and God
would not leave such important issues to be decided by us sinners without His
John 16:12 - Jesus had many things to say but the apostles couldn't bear them at
that point. This demonstrates that the Church's infallible doctrine develops
over time. All public Revelation was completed with the death of the last
apostle, but the doctrine of God's Revelation develops as our minds and hearts
are able to welcome and understand it. God teaches His children only as much as
they can bear, for their own good.
John 16:13 - Jesus promises that the Spirit will "guide" the Church into all
truth. Our knowledge of the truth develops as the Spirit guides the Church, and
this happens over time.
1 Cor. 2:13 – Paul explains that what the ministers teach is taught, not by
human wisdom, but by the Spirit.
The ministers are led to interpret
and understand the spiritual truths God gives them over time.
Eph. 4:13,15 – Paul indicates that attaining to the unity of the faith and the
knowledge of the Son of God to mature manhood is a process. We are to grow up
in every way into Christ. Doctrine (which means “teaching”) develops as we
understand God’s Revelation.
Acts 15:27-28 - the apostles know that their teaching is being guided by the
Holy Spirit. He protects the Church from deception.
Gal. 2:11-14 - non-Catholics sometimes use this verse to diminish Peter's
evident authority over the Church. This is misguided. In this verse, Paul does
not oppose Peter's teaching, but his failure to live by it. Infallibility
(teaching without error) does not mean impeccability (living without sinning).
Peter was the one who taught infallibly on the Gentile's salvation in Acts
10,11. With this rebuke, Paul is really saying "Peter, you are our leader, you
teach infallibly, and yet your conduct is inconsistent with these facts. You of
all people!" The verse really underscores, and not diminishes, the importance
of Peter's leadership in the Church.
Eph. 3:10 - the wisdom of God is known, even to the intellectually superior
angels, through the Church (not the Scriptures). This is an incredible verse,
for it tells us that God's infinite wisdom comes to us through the Church. For
that to happen, the Church must be protected from teaching error on faith and
morals (or she wouldn't be endowed with the wisdom of God).
Eph. 3:9 - this, in fact, is a mystery hidden for all ages - that God manifests
His wisdom through one infallible Church for all people.
Eph. 3:20 - God's glory is manifested in the Church by the power of the Spirit
that works within the Church's leaders. As a Father, God exalts His children to
roles of leadership within the body of Christ.
Eph. 5:23-27, Col. 1:18 - Christ is the head of the Church, His Bride, for which
He died to make it Holy and without blemish. There is only one Church, just as
Christ only has one Bride.
Eph. 5:32- Paul calls the Church a "mystery." This means that the significance
of the Church as the kingdom of God in our midst cannot be understood by reason
alone. Understanding the Church also requires faith. "Church" does not mean a
building of believers. That is not a mystery. Non-Catholics often view church
as mere community, but not the supernatural mystery of Christ physically
present among us.
1 Thess. 5:21 - Paul commands us to test everything. But we must have something
against which to test. This requires one infallible guide that is available to
us, and this guide is the Catholic Church, whose teachings on faith and morals
have never changed.
1 Tim. 3:15 - Paul says the apostolic Church (not Scripture) is the pillar and
foundation of the truth. But for the Church to be the pinnacle and foundation
of truth, she must be protected from teaching error, or infallible. She also
must be the Catholic Church, whose teachings on faith and morals have not
changed for 2,000 years. God loves us so much that He gave us a Church that
infallibly teaches the truth so that we have the fullness of the means of
salvation in His only begotten Son.
1 John 4:6 – John writes that whoever knows God “listens to us” (the bishops and
successors to the apostles). Then John writes “This is the way we discern truth
and error. John does not say “reading the Bible is the way we discern truth and
error.” But if listening to mere human beings helps us discern truth and error,
God would have had to endow his chosen leaders with the special gift of
infallibility, so that they would be prevented from teaching error.
Matt. to Rev. - we must also note that not all Christian doctrines are explicit
in Scripture (for example, the dogma of the Blessed Trinity). However,
infallibility is strongly inferred from the foregoing passages. Non-Catholic
Christians should ask themselves why they accept the Church's teaching on the
three persons of the Trinity, the two natures of Christ in one divine person,
and the New Testament canon of Scripture (all defined by the Catholic Church),
but not other teachings regarding the Eucharist, Mary, the saints, and
V. The Church is Visible and One
Matt. 5:14 - Jesus says a city set on a hill cannot be hidden, and this is in
reference to the Church. The Church is not an invisible, ethereal, atmospheric
presence, but a single, visible and universal body through the Eucharist. The
Church is an extension of the Incarnation.
Matt. 12:25; Mark 3:25; Luke 11:17 - Jesus says a kingdom divided against itself
is laid waste and will not stand. This describes Protestantism and the many
thousands of denominations that continue to multiply each year.
Matt. 16:18 - Jesus says, "I will build my 'Church' (not churches)." There is
only one Church built upon one Rock with one teaching authority, not many
different denominations, built upon various pastoral opinions and suggestions.
Matt. 16:19; 18:18 - Jesus gave the apostles binding and loosing authority. But
this authority requires a visible Church because "binding and loosing" are
visible acts. The Church cannot be invisible, or it cannot bind and loose.
John 10:16 - Jesus says there must only be one flock and one shepherd. This
cannot mean many denominations and many pastors, all teaching different
doctrines. Those outside the fold must be brought into the Church.
John 17:11,21,23 - Jesus prays that His followers may be perfectly one as He is
one with the Father. Jesus' oneness with the Father is perfect. It can never be
less. Thus, the oneness Jesus prays for cannot mean the varied divisions of
Christianity that have resulted since the Protestant reformation. There is
perfect oneness only in the Catholic Church.
John 17:9-26 - Jesus' prayer, of course, is perfectly effective, as evidenced by
the miraculous unity of the Catholic Church during her 2,000 year history.
John 17:21 - Jesus states that the visible unity of the Church would be a sign
that He was sent by God. This is an extremely important verse. Jesus tells us
that the unity of the Church is what bears witness to Him and the reality of
who He is and what He came to do for us. There is only one Church that is
universally united, and that is the Catholic Church. Only the unity of the
Catholic Church truly bears witness to the reality that Jesus Christ was sent
by the Father.
Rom. 15:5 - Paul says that we as Christians must live in harmony with one
another. But this can only happen if there is one Church with one body of
faith. This can only happen by the charity of the Holy Spirit who dwells within
Rom. 16:17 - Paul warns us to avoid those who create dissensions and
difficulties. This includes those who break away from the Church and create one
denomination after another. We need to avoid their teaching, and bring them
back into the one fold of Christ.
1 Cor. 1:10- Paul prays for no dissensions and disagreements among Christians,
being of the same mind and the same judgment. How can Protestant pastors say
that they are all of the same mind and the same judgment on matters of faith
Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23-32; Col. 1:18,24 - again, the Church does not mean
"invisible" unity, because Paul called it the body (not the soul) of Christ.
Bodies are visible, and souls are invisible.
Eph. 4:11-14 - God gives members of the Church various gifts in order to attain
to the unity of the faith. This unity is only found in the Catholic Church.
Eph. 4:3-5 - we are of one body, one Spirit, one faith and one baptism. This
requires doctrinal unity, not 30,000 different denominations.
Eph. 5:25 - the Church is the Bride of Christ. Jesus has only one Bride, not
Eph. 5:30; Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 6:15 - we, as Christians, are one visible body in
Christ, not many bodies, many denominations.
Phil. 1:27 - Paul commands that we stand firm in one spirit, with one mind
striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel.
Phil. 2:2 - Paul prays that Christians be of the same mind, of one accord. Yet
there are 30,000 different "Protest"ant denominations?
Col. 1:18 - Christ is the Head of the one body, the Church. He is not the Head
of many bodies or many sects.
1 Tim. 6:4 - Paul warns about those who seek controversy and disputes about
words. There must be a universal authority to appeal to who can trace its
authority back to Christ.
2 Tim. 2:14 - do not dispute about words which only ruin the
hearers. Two-thousand years of doctrinal unity is a sign of Christ's
2 Tim. 4:3 - this is a warning on following our own desires and not the
teachings of God. It is not a cafeteria where we pick and choose. We must
humble ourselves and accept all of Christ's teachings which He gives us through
Rev. 7:9 - the heavenly kingdom is filled with those from every nation and from
all tribes, peoples and tongues. This is "catholic," which means universal.
1 Peter 3:8 - Peter charges us to have unity of spirit. This is impossible
unless there is a central teaching authority given to us by God.
Gen. 12:2-3 - since Abram God said all the families of the earth shall be
blessed. This family unity is fulfilled only in the Catholic Church.
Dan. 7:14 - Daniel prophesies that all peoples, nations and languages shall
serve His kingdom. Again, this catholicity is only found in the Catholic
1 Cor. 14:33 - God cannot be the author of the Protestant confusion. Only the
One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church claims and proves to be Christ's
VI. The Church is Hierarchical
Matt. 16:18; 18:18 - Jesus uses the word "ecclesia" only twice in the New
Testament Scriptures, which demonstrates that Jesus intended a visible,
unified, hierarchical, and authoritative Church.
Acts 20:17,28 - Paul refers to both the elders or priests ("presbyteroi") and
the bishops ("episkopoi") of the Church. Both are ordained leaders within the
hierarchical structure of the Church.
1 Cor. 12:28 - God Himself appoints the various positions of authority within
the Church. As a loving Father, God gives His children the freedom and
authority to act with charity and justice to bring about His work of salvation.
Eph. 4:11 - the Church is hierarchical and includes apostles, prophets, pastors,
and teachers, all charged to build up the Church. The Church is not an
invisible entity with an invisible foundation.
Phil. 1:1 - Paul addresses the bishops and deacons of the Church. They can all
trace their unbroken lineage back to the apostles.
1 Tim. 3:1; Titus 1:7 - Christ's Church has bishops ("episkopoi") who are direct
successors of the apostles. The bishops can trace the authority conferred upon
them back to the apostles.
1 Tim. 5:17; Titus 1:5; James 5:14 - Christ's Church also has elders or priests
("presbyteroi") who serve the bishops.
1 Tim. 3:8 - Christ's Church also has deacons ("diakonoi"). Thus, Jesus Christ's
Church has a hierarchy of authority - bishops, priests and deacons, who can all
trace their lineage back to Peter and the apostles.
Exodus 28:1 and 19:6 – shows the three offices of the Old Testament priesthood
(1). high priest – Aaron (Ex. 28:1); (2). Ministerial priests – Aaron’s sons
(Ex. 19:6; 28:1); and (3). Universal priests – Israel (Ex. 19:6). The New
Testament priesthood also has three offices:
(1) High Priest – Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:1); (2) Ministerial priests – the ordained bishops
and priests (Rom. 15:16; 1 Tim. 3:1,8; 5:17; Titus 1:7); and (3) Universal
priests - all the baptized (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6).
VII. Controversies in the Church
Matt. 13:24-30 - scandals have always existed in the Church, just as they have
existed outside of the Church. This should not cause us to lose hope in the
Church. God's mysterious plan requires the wheat and the weeds to be side by
side in the Church until the end of time.
Matt. 13:47-50 - God's plan is that the Church (the kingdom of heaven) is a net
which catches fish of every kind, good and bad. God revealed this to us so that
we will not get discouraged by the sinfulness of the Church’s members.
Matt. 16:18 - no matter how sinful its members conduct themselves, Jesus
promised that the gates of death will never prevail against the Church.
Matt. 23:2-3 - the Jewish people would have always understood the difference
between a person's sinfulness and his teaching authority. We see that the
sinfulness of the Pharisees does not minimize their teaching authority. They
occupy the "cathedra" of Moses.
Matt. 26:70-72; Mark 14:68-70; Luke 22:57; John 18:25-27 - Peter denied Christ
three times, yet he was chosen to be the leader of the Church, and taught and
Mark 14:45 - Judas was unfaithful by betraying Jesus. But his apostolic office
was preserved and this did not weaken the Church.
Mark 14:50 - all of Jesus' apostles were unfaithful by abandoning Him in the
garden of Gethsemane, yet they are the foundation of the Church.
John 20:24-25 - Thomas the apostle was unfaithful by refusing to believe in
Jesus' resurrection, yet he taught infallibly in India.
Rom. 3:3-4 - unfaithful members do not nullify the faithfulness of God and the
work of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
Eph. 5:25-27 - just as Jesus Christ has both a human and a divine nature, the
Church, His Bride, is also both human and divine. It is the holy and spotless
bride of Christ, with sinful human members.
1 Tim. 5:19 - Paul acknowledges Church elders might be unfaithful. The Church,
not rebellion and schism, deals with these matters.
2 Tim. 2:13 - if we remain faithless, God remains faithful for He cannot deny
2 Tim. 2:20 - a great house has not only gold and silver, but also wood and
earthenware, some for noble use, some for ignoble use.
Jer. 24:1-10 - God's plan includes both good and bad figs. The good figs will be
rewarded, and the bad figs will be discarded.
1 Kings 6,7,8 - the Lord commands us to build elaborate places of worship. Some
non-Catholics think that this is controversial and the money should be given to
the poor, even though no organization does more for the poor of the world that
the Catholic Church. We create our churches with beauty because Christ our King
lives in the churches in the blessed Eucharist.
Matt. 26:8-9; Mark 14:4-5; John 12:5 - negative comments concerning the beauty
of the Church are like the disciples complaining about the woman anointing
Jesus' head with costly oil. Jesus desires that we honor Him with our best
gifts, not for Him, but for us, so that we realize He is God and we are His
Matt. 26:10-11 - Jesus says we have both a duty to honor God and give to the
poor - a balanced life of reverence and charity.
Tradition / Church Fathers
I. Peter is the Rock on which the Church is Built
“Peter, who is called 'the rock on which the church should be built,' who also
obtained 'the keys of the kingdom of heaven...'” Tertullian, On the
Prescription Against the Heretics, 22 (c. A.D. 200).
“And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, against which the gates of
hell shall not prevail...” Origen, Commentary on John, 5:3 (A.D.
“By this Spirit Peter spake that blessed word, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of
the living God.' By this Spirit the rock of the Church was established.” Hippolytus,
Discourse on the Holy Theophany, 9 (ante A.D. 235).
“'...thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church' ... It is on him
that he builds the Church, and to him that he entrusts the sheep to feed. And
although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single
Chair, thus establishing by his own authority the source and hallmark of the
(Church's) oneness...If a man does not fast to this oneness of Peter, does he
still imagine that he still holds the faith. If he deserts the Chair of Peter
upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the
Church?” Cyprian, De Unitate Ecclesiae (Primacy text), 4 (A.D. 251).
“...folly of (Pope) Stephen, that he who boasts of the place of the episcopate,
and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundation of
the Church were laid...” Firmilian, Epistle To Cyprian, Epistle 75(74):17(A.D.
“...Peter, that strongest and greatest of all the apostles, and the one who on
account of his virtue was the speaker for all the others...” Eusebius,
Ecclesiastical History, 2:14 (A.D. 325).
“And Peter,on whom the Church of Christ is built, 'against which the gates of
hell shall not prevail'” Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6:25 (A.D. 325).
“...the chief of the disciples...the Lord accepted him, set him up as the
foundation, called him the rock and structure of the church.” Aphraates, De
Paenitentibus Homily 7:15 (A.D. 337).
“Peter, the foremost of the Apostles, and Chief Herald of the Church...” Cyril
of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures,1 1:3 (A.D. 350).
“[B]lessed Simon, who after his confession of the mystery was set to be the
foundation-stone of the Church, and received the keys of the kingdom...” Hilary
de Poiters, On the Trinity, 6:20(A.D. 359).
“[F]or the good of unity blessed Peter, for whom it would have been enough if
after his denial he had obtained pardon only, deserved to be placed before all
the apostles, and alone received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to be
communicated to the rest.” Optatus of Milevis, De Schismate Donatistorum,
“[T]he Lord spoke to Peter a little earlier; he spoke to one, that from one he
might found unity, soon delivering the same to all.” Pacian, To Sympronianus,
Epistle 3:2 (AD 372).
"Simon, My follower, I have made you the foundation of the Holy Church. I
betimes called you Peter (Kepha), because you will support all its buildings.
You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for me...I have
given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, have given you authority over all my
treasures." Ephraim, Homily 4:1, (A.D. 373).
“[T]he first of the apostles, the solid rock on which the Church was built.” Epiphanius,
In Ancorato, 9:6 (A.D. 374).
“Peter upon which rock the Lord promised that he would build his church.” Basil,
In Isaias, 2:66 (A.D. 375).
“As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your
blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on
which the church is built!” Jerome, To Pope Damasus, Epistle 15 (A.D. 375).
“Seest thou that of the disciples of Christ, all of whom were exalted and
deserving of choice, one is called rock, and is entrusted with the foundations
of the church.” Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 32:18 (A.D. 380).
“[W]e have considered that it ought be announced that although all the Catholic
Churches spread abroad through the world comprise one bridal chamber of Christ,
nevertheless, the holy Roman Church has been placed at the forefront not by
conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the
evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: "You are Peter, and upon this
rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against
it..."...The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the Apostle, that of the
Roman Church, which has neither the stain nor blemish nor anything like it.” Pope
Damasus, Decree of Damasus, 3 (A.D. 382).
”It was right indeed that he (Paul) should be anxious to see Peter; for he was
the first among the apostles, and was entrusted by the Savior with the care of
the churches.” Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Galatians, PL 17:344 (A.D. 384).
"Peter bore the person of the church.” Augustine, Sermon 149:7 (inter A.D.
“Number the priests even from that seat of Peter. And in that order of fathers
see to whom succeeded: that is the rock which the proud gates of hades do not
conquer.” Augustine, Psalmus contro Partem Donati (A.D. 393).
“But you say, the Church was rounded upon Peter: although elsewhere the same is
attributed to all the Apostles, and they all receive the keys of the kingdom of
heaven, and the strength of the Church depends upon them all alike, yet one
(Peter) among the twelve is chosen so that when a head has been appointed,
there may be no occasion for schism.” Jerome, Against Jovinianus, 1 (A.D. 393).
“The memory of Peter, who is the head of the apostles...he is the firm and most
solid rock, on which the savior built his Church.” Gregory of Nyssa, Panegyric
on St. Stephen, 3 (ante A.D. 394).
“Thou art Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church,” Wherefore where
Peter is the Church is...” Ambrose, Commentary on the Psalms, 40:30 (AD 395).
“At length, after being tempted by the devil, Peter is set over the Church.” Ambrose,
Commentary on the Psalms, 43:40 (AD 397).
“In order that he may show his power, God has endowed none of his disciples
with gifts like Peter. But, having raised him with heavenly gifts, he has set
him above all. And, as first disciple and greater among the brethren, he has
shown, by the test of deeds, the power of the Spirit. The first to be called,
he followed at once...The Saviour confided to this man, as some special trust,
the whole universal Church, after having asked him three times 'Lovest thou
me?' And he receive the world in charge...” Asterius, Homily 8 (A.D. 400).
"(Peter) The first of the Apostles, the foundation of the Church, the
coryphaeus of the choir of disciples." John Chrysostom, Ad eos qui scandalizati
17(ante A.D. 407).
“Peter, that head of the Apostles, the first in the Church, the friend of
Christ, who received revelation not from man but from the Father...this Peter,
and when I say Peter, I mean that unbroken Rock, the unshaken foundation, the
great Apostle, the first of the disciples, the first called, the first to
obey.” John Chrysostom, De Eleemosyna, 3:4 (ante A.D. 407).
“This Peter on whom Christ freely bestowed a sharing in his name. For just as
Christ is the rock, as the Apostle Paul taught, so through Christ Peter is made
rock, when the Lord says to him: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will
build my church...” Maximus of Turin, Homily 63 (A.D. 408).
“...the most firm rock, who (Peter) from the principal Rock received a share of
his virtue and his name.” Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of All Nations,
“He promises to found the church, assigning immovableness to it, as He is the
Lord of strength, and over this he sets Peter as shepherd.” Cyril of
Alexandria, Commentary on Matthew (A.D. 428).
“[B]ut that great man, the disciple of disciples, that master among masters,
who wielding the government of the Roman Church possessed the authority in
faith and priesthood. Tell us therefore, tell us we beg of you, Peter, prince
of the Apostles, tell us how the churches must believe in God.” John Cassian,
Contra Nestorium, 3:12 (A.D. 430).
“There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy
and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of faith, and
foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our
Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him
was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to to-day and
forever, lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed Pope
Celestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place...” Philip,
Council of Ephesus, Session III (A.D. 431).
“[B]lessed Peter preserving in the strength of the Rock, which he has received,
has not abandoned the helm of the Church, which he under took...And so if
anything is rightly done and rightly decreed by us, if anything is won from the
mercy of God by our daily supplications, it is of his work and merits whose
power lives and whose authority prevails in his See...to him whom they know to
be not only the patron of this See, but also primate of all bishops. When
therefore...believe that he is speaking whose representative we are:..” Pope
Leo the Great, Sermon 3:3-4 (A.D. 442).
“We exhort you, honourable brother, to submit yourself in all things to what
has been written by the blessed Bishop of Rome, because St. Peter, who lives
and presides in his see, gives the true faith to those who seek it. For our
part, for the sake of peace and the good of the faith, we cannot judge
questions of doctrine without the consent of the Bishop of Rome.” Peter
Chrysologus, Epistle 25 of Leo from Peter (A.D. 449).
“If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Ghost, hastened to
the great Peter in order that he might carry from him the desired solution of
difficulties to those at Antioch who were in doubt about living in conformity
with the law, much more do we, men insignificant and small, hasten to your
apostolic see in order to receive from you a cure for the wounds of the
churches. For every reason it is fitting for you to hold the first place,
inasmuch as your see is adorned with many privileges.” Theodoret of Cyrus, To
Pope Leo, Epistle 113 (A.D. 449).
“[T]he Lord wished to be indeed the concern of all the Apostles: and from him as
from the Head wishes His gifts to flow to all the body: so that any one who
dares to secede from Peter's solid rock may understand that he has no part or
lot in the divine mystery.” Pope Leo the Great, To Bishops of Vienne, Epistle
10 (A.D. 450).
“Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder
Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod together with the
thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the Apostle, who is the rock and
foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith...”
Council of Chalcedon, Session III (A.D. 451).
“Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder
Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod together with the
thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the Apostle, who is the rock and
foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith,
hath stripped him of the episcopate, and hath alienated from him all hieratic
worthiness. 'Peter, the apostle, who is the rock and support of the Catholic
Church.'” Paschasinus, Council of Chalcedon, Session III (A.D. 451).
“Peter is again called 'the coryphaeus of the Apostles.’” Basil of Seleucia,
Oratio 25 (ante A.D. 468).
“The holy Roman Church is senior to the other churches not by virtue of any
synodal decrees, but obtained the primacy from Our Lord and Savior in the words
of the Gospel, 'Thou art Peter...'” Pope Gelasius, Decree of Gelasium (A.D.
“[T]he statement of Our Lord Jesus Christ who said, 'Thou art Peter, and upon
this rock I will build my Church,'...These (words) which were spoken, are
proved by the effects of the deeds, because in the Apostolic See the Catholic
religion has always been preserved without stain.'” Pope Hormisdas, Libellus
professionis fidei, (A.D. 519).
“To Peter, that is, to his church, he gave the power of retaining and forgiving
sins on earth.” Fulgentius, De Remissione Peccatorum, 2:20 (A.D. 523).
“Who could be ignorant of the fact that the holy church is consolidated in the
solidity of the prince of the Apostles, whose firmness of character extended to
his name so that he should be called Peter after the 'rock', when the voice of
the Truth says, 'I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven'. To him
again is said "When after a little while thou hast come back to me, it is for
thee to be the support of thy brethren.” Pope Gregory the Great, Epistle 40
“The decrees of the Roman Pontiff, standing upon the supremacy of the Apostolic
See, are unquestionable.” Isidore of Seville, (ante A.D. 636).
“For the extremities of the earth, and all in every part of it who purely and
rightly confess the Lord, look directly towards the most holy Roman Church and
its confession and faith, as it were a sun of unfailing light, awaiting from it
the bright radiance of our fathers, according to what the six inspired and holy
Councils have purely and piously decreed, declaring most expressly the symbol
of faith. For from the coming down of the Incarnate Word among us, all the
churches in every part of the world have possessed that greatest church alone
as their base and foundation, seeing that, according to the promise of Christ
Our Savior, the gates of hell do never prevail against it, that it possesses
the Keys of right confession and faith in Him, that it opens the true and only
religion to such as approach with piety, and shuts up and locks every heretical
mouth that speaks injustice against the Most High.” Maximus the Confessor,
Opuscula theologica et polemica (A.D. 650).
“Peter was pronounced blessed by the Lord...the duty of feeding the spiritual
sheep of the Church under whose protecting shield, this Apostolic Church of his
has never turned away from the path of truth in any direction of error, whose
authority, as that of the Prince of all the Apostles, the whole Catholic Church
and the Ecumenical Synods have faithfully embraced...” Pope Agatho, To
Ecumenical Council VI at Constantinople, (A.D. 680).
"A copy of the letter sent by the holy and Ecumenical Sixth Council to Agatho,
the most blessed and most holy pope of Old Rome…Therefore to thee, as to the
bishop of the first see of the Universal Church, we leave what must be done,
since you willingly take for your standing ground the firm rock of the faith,
as we know from having read your true confession in the letter sent by your
fatherly beatitude to the most pious emperor: and we acknowledge that this
letter was divinely written (perscriptas) as by the Chief of the Apostles, and
through it we have cast out the heretical sect of many errors which had
recently sprung up..” Constantinople III, Council to Pope Agatho, (A.D. 680).
“For, although the devil desired to sift all the disciples, the Lord testifies
that He Himself asked for Peter alone, and wished that the others be confirmed
my him; and to Peter also was committed the care of 'feeding the sheep'(John
21:15);and to him also did the Lord hand over the 'keys of the kingdom of
heaven'(Matthew 16:19),and upon him did He promise to 'build His Church'
(Matthew 16:18);and He testified that 'the gates of Hell would not prevail
against it' (Matthew 16:19).” Pope Pelagius II, Quod Ad Dilectionem (c. A.D.
“'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of
hell shall not prevail against it, and to thee I will give the keys of the
kingdom of heaven'? When Wilfrid spoken thus, the king said, 'It is true,
Colman, that these words were spoken to Peter by our Lord?' He answered, 'It is
true O king!' Then says he, 'Can you show any such power given to your
Columba?' Colman answered, 'None.' Then added the king, "Do you both agree that
these words were principally directed to Peter, and that the keys of heaven
were given to him by our Lord?' They both answered, 'We do.'” Venerable Bede,
(A.D. 700), Ecclesiastical History, 3:5 (A.D. 700).
II. The Church is called “Catholic”
"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father, and
the presbytery as ye would the apostles. Do ye also reverence the deacons, as
those that carry out the appointment of God. Let no man do anything connected
with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist,
which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has
entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also
be; by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop
shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ
is, there is the Catholic Church." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the
Smyrneans, 8:2 (c. A.D. 110).
"[A]ll the people wondered that there should be such a difference between the
unbelievers and the elect, of whom this most admirable Polycarp was one, having
in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the
Catholic Church which is in Smyrna. For every word that went out of his mouth
either has been or shall yet be accomplished." Martyrdom of Polycarp, 16:2
“…to be in honour however with the Catholic Church for the ordering of
ecclesiastical discipline...one to the Laodicenes, another to the Alexandrians,
both forged in Paul's name to suit the heresy of Marcion, and several others,
which cannot be received into the Catholic Church; for it is not fitting that
gall be mixed with honey. The Epistle of Jude no doubt, and the couple bearing
the name of John, are accepted by the Catholic Church...But of Arsinous, called
also Valentinus, or of Militiades we receive nothing at all.” The fragment of
Muratori (A.D. 177).
"[N]or does it consist in this, that he should again falsely imagine, as being
above this [fancied being], a Pleroma at one time supposed to contain thirty,
and at another time an innumerable tribe of Aeons, as these teachers who are
destitute of truly divine wisdom maintain; while the Catholic Church possesses
one and the same faith throughout the whole world, as we have already said." Irenaeus,
Against Heresies, 1:10,3 (A.D. 180).
“For it is evident that those men lived not so long ago,--in the reign of
Antoninus for the most part,--and that they at first were believers in the
doctrine of the Catholic Church, in the church of Rome under the episcopate of
the blessed Eleutherus, until on account of their ever restless curiosity, with
which they even infected the brethren, they were more than once expelled.” Tertullian,
On the Prescription Against Heretics, 22,30 (A.D. 200).
”Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in
the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the
Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having
peace with God's priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some;
while the Church, which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is
indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with
one another.” Cyprian, To Florentius, Epistle 66/67 (A.D. 254).
“But for those who say, There was when He was not, and, Before being born He
was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the
Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance...these the Catholic and
apostolic Church anathematizes.” Creed of Nicea (A.D. 325).
"Concerning those who call themselves Cathari, if they come over to the
Catholic and Apostolic Church, the great and holy Synod decrees that they who
are ordained shall continue as they are in the clergy. But it is before all
things necessary that they should profess in writing that they will observe and
follow the dogmas of the Catholic and Apostolic Church; in particular that they
will communicate with persons who have been twice married, and with those who
having lapsed in persecution have had a period [of penance] laid upon them, and
a time [of restoration] fixed so that in all things they will follow the dogmas
of the Catholic Church..." Council of Nicaea I (A.D. 325).
“Concerning this Holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy, 'That thou mayest
know haw thou oughtest to behave thyself in the House of God, which is the
Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth'” Cyril of
Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures,18:25(A.D. 350).
"[T]he Article, In one Holy Catholic Church,' on which, though one might say
many things, we will speak but briefly. It is called Catholic then because it
extends over all the world, from one end of the earth to the other; and because
it teaches universally and completely one and all the doctrines which ought to
come to men's knowledge, concerning things both visible and invisible, heavenly
and earthly… for this cause the Faith has securely delivered to thee now the
Article, And in one Holy Catholic Church;' that thou mayest avoid their
wretched meetings, and ever abide with the Holy Church Catholic in which thou
wast regenerated. And if ever thou art sojourning in cities, inquire not simply
where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to
call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the Church is, but
where is the Catholic Church. For this is the peculiar name of this Holy
Church, the mother of us all, which is the spouse of our Lord Jesus Christ, the
Only-begotten Son of God.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 18:23,26
"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of
saints, the remission of sins, the resurrection of the flesh, and eternal life.
Amen." Apostles Creed (A.D. 360).
"And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the life-giver, Who proceeds from the
Father, Who with the Father and the Son is together worshiped and together
glorified, Who spoke through the prophets; in one holy Catholic, and apostolic
Church." Constantinopolitan Creed (A.D. 381).
"Those who from heresy turn to orthodoxy, and to the portion of those who are
being saved, we receive according to the following method and custom: Arians,
and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians, who call themselves Cathari or
Aristori, and Quarto-decimans or Tetradites, and Apollinarians, we receive,
upon their giving a written renunciation [of their errors] and anathematize
every heresy which is not in accordance with the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
Church of God." Council of Constantinople I, Canon 7 (A.D. 381).
“We must hold to the Christian religion and to communication in her Church,
which is Catholic and which is called Catholic not only by her own members but
even by all her enemies. For when heretics or the adherents of schisms talk
about her, not among themselves but with strangers, willy-nilly they call her
nothing else but Catholic. For they will not be understood unless they
distinguish her by this name which the whole world employs in her regard.” Augustine,
The True Religion, 7:12 (A.D. 390).
“Inasmuch, I repeat, as this is the case, we believe also in the Holy Church,
[intending thereby] assuredly the Catholic. For both heretics and schismatics
style their congregations churches. But heretics, in holding false opinions
regarding God, do injury to the faith itself; while schismatics, on the other
hand, in wicked separations break off from brotherly charity, although they may
believe just what we believe. Wherefore neither do the heretics belong to the
Church catholic, which loves God; nor do the schismatics form a part of the
same.” Augustine, On Faith and Creed, 10:21 (A.D. 393).
"For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the
knowledge of which a few spiritual, men attain in this life…--not to speak of
this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are
many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of
peoples and nations…so does her authority…the succession of priests…[a]nd so,
lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so
many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish
to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church
meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then
in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name
which keep a believer in the Catholic Church…Now if the truth is so clearly
proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the
things that keep me in the Catholic Church…For my part, I should not believe
the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church…for it was
through the Catholics that I got my faith in it; and so, whatever you bring
from the gospel will no longer have any weight with me. Wherefore, if no clear
proof of the apostleship of Manichaeus is found in the gospel, I will believe
the Catholics rather than you." Augustine, Against the Epistle of Manichaeus,
4:5,5:6 (A.D 397).
"You think that you make a very acute remark when you affirm the name Catholic
to mean universal, not in respect to the communion as embracing the whole
world, but in respect to the observance of all Divine precepts and of all the
sacraments, as if we (even accepting the position that the Church is called
Catholic because it honestly holds the whole truth, of which fragments here and
there are found in some heresies) rested upon the testimony of this word's
signification, and not upon the promises of God, and so many indisputable
testimonies of the truth itself, our demonstration of the existence of the
Church of God in all nations." Augustine, To Vincent the Rogatist, 93:7,23
"Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: There is no doubt,
and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed
Peter, prince and head of the Apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of
the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Saviour and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given
the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to to-day and forever both
lives and judges in his successors." Council of Ephesus, Session III (A.D.
"I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent
for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule
I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of
heretical depravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received
an answer to this effect: That whether I or anyone else should wish to detect
the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they arise, and to continue
sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify
our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and
then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church…Therefore, it is very necessary,
on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the
right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance
with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation" Vincent of
Lerins, Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith,
2:4,5 (A.D. 434).
"Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder
Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod together with the
thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the Apostle, who is the rock and
foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith,
hath stripped him of the episcopate, and hath alienated from him all hieratic
worthiness. Therefore let this most holy and great synod sentence the before
mentioned Dioscorus to the canonical penalties." Council of Chalcedon, Session
III (A.D. 451).
III. The Church is Indefectible
"But [it has, on the other hand, been shown], that the preaching of the Church
is everywhere consistent, and continues in an even course, and receives
testimony from the prophets, the apostles, and all the disciples…For in the
Church," it is said, "God hath set apostles, prophets, teachers,' and all the
other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not
partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of
life through their perverse opinions and infamous behaviour. For where the
Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is
the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth." Irenaeus,
Against Heresies, 3:24 (A.D. 180).
"But we who hope for the Son of God are persecuted and trodden down by those
unbelievers. For the wings of the vessels are the churches; and the sea is the
world, in which the Church is set, like a ship tossed in the deep, but not
destroyed; for she has with her the skilled Pilot, Christ. And she bears in her
midst also the trophy (which is erected) over death; for she carries with her
the cross of the Lord…As the wind the Spirit from heaven is present, by whom
those who believe are sealed: she has also anchors of iron accompanying her,
viz., the holy commandments of Christ Himself, which are strong as iron. She
has also mariners on the right and on the left, assessors like the holy angels,
by whom the Church is always governed and defended.” Hippolytus, Christ and
Anti-Christ, 59 (A.D. 200).
"But I shall pray the Spirit of Christ to wing me to my Jerusalem. For the
Stoics say that heaven is properly a city, but places here on earth are not
cities; for they are called so, but are not. For a city is an important thing,
and the people a decorous body, and a multitude of men regulated by law as the
church by the word--a city on earth impregnable--free from tyranny; a product
of the divine will on earth as in heaven." Clement of Alexandria, Stromata,
4:26 (A.D. 202).
"And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, against which the gates of
hell shall not prevail..." Origen, On John, 5 (A.D. 232).
"[F]or the rock is inaccessible to the serpent, and it is stronger than the
gates of Hades which are opposing it, so that because of its strength the gates
of Hades do not prevail against it; but the church, as a building of Christ who
built His own house wisely upon the rock, is incapable of admitting the gates
of Hades which prevail against every man who is outside the rock and the
church, but have no power against it." Origen, On Matthew, 12:11 (A.D. 244).
“From which things it is evident that all the prophets declared concerning
Christ, that it should come to pass at some time, that being born with a body
of the race of David, He should build an eternal temple in honour of God, which
is called the Church, and assemble all nations to the true worship of God. This
is the faithful house, this is the everlasting temple; and if any one hath not
sacrificed in this, he will not have the reward of immortality. And since
Christ was the builder of this great and eternal temple, He must also have an
everlasting priesthood in it; and there can be no approach to the shrine of the
temple, and to the sight of God, except through Him who built the temple. David
in the sixth Psalm teaches the same, saying: 'Before the morning-star I begat
Thee. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent; Thou art a priest for ever,
after the order of Melchisedec.’” Lactantius, Divine Institutes, 4:14 (A.D.
"And besides, also, one only Catholic and Apostolic Church, which can never be
destroyed, though all the world should seek to make war with it; but it is
victorious over every most impious revolt of the heretics who rise up against
it. For her Goodman hath confirmed our minds by saying, 'Be of good cheer, I
have overcome the world.' " Alexander of Alexandria, Epistle on the Arian
Heresy, 12 (A.D. 321).
“The Church, ordained by the Lord and established by His Apostles, is one for
all; but the frantic folly of discordant sects has severed them from her. And
it is obvious that these dissensions concerning the faith result from a
distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its
opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of Scripture. And thus,
amid the clash of mutually destructive errors, the Church stands revealed not
only by her own teaching, but by that of her rivals. They are ranged, all of
them, against her; and the very fact that she stands single and alone is her
sufficient answer to their godless delusions. The hosts of heresy assemble
themselves against her; each of them can defeat all the others, but not one can
win a victory for itself. The only victory is the triumph which the Church
celebrates over them all.” Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, 7:4 (A.D. 359).
"[W]e are content with the fact that this is not the teaching of the Catholic
Church, nor did the fathers hold this." Athanasius, To Epicletus, Epistle 59:3
"He seems to have designated the tabernacle of the Old Testament a likeness, or
a type, and a temporary tabernacle, thereby to intimate that it was to last but
for a time, and that, when at last set aside, for it would be substituted the
church of Christ, and that this, as being perfect and complete pattern of the
heavenly tabernacle, would abide for ever." Ephraem, On Exodus,1:2 (ante
"Such as these have no power against the ark; for holy Noah received a
commission, according to the word of the Lord, to secure it; as the Lord said
unto him, 'Thou shalt pitch it within and without'; that he might thereby point
out the semblance of the holy church of God, which has that efficacy of pitch
which repells pernicious and destructive and serpent-like doctrines. For where
is the smell of pitch, there the snake is unable to remain." Epiphanius,
Panarion, 51 (A.D. 377).
“For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built! This is the house
where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the ark of Noah, and
he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails.” Jerome, To
Pope Damasus [regn. A.D. 366-384], Epistle 15:2 (A.D. 377).
“It follows after commendation of the Trinity, 'The Holy Church.' God is
pointed out, and His temple. 'For the temple of God is holy,' says the Apostle,
'which (temple) are ye.' This same is the holy Church, the one Church, the true
Church, the Catholic Church, fighting against all heresies: fight, it can: be
fought down, it cannot. As for heresies, they went all out of it, like as
unprofitable branches pruned from the vine: but itself abideth in its root, in
its Vine, in its charity. 'The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.'” Augustine,
Sermon to the Catechumens on the Creed, 6:14 (A.D. 377).
“Go thy way, therefore, to my brethren--that is, to those everlasting doors,
which, as soon as they see Jesus, are lifted up. Peter is an 'everlasting
door,' against whom the gates of hell shall not prevail. John and James, the
sons of thunder, to wit, are 'everlasting doom.' Everlasting are the doors of
the Church, where the prophet, desirous to proclaim the praises of Christ,
says: 'That I may tell all thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion.'” Ambrose,
On the Christian Faith, 4:26 (A.D. 380).
"An heretical congregation is an adulteress woman: for the Catholic hath never
from the beginning left the couch and the chamber of her spouse, nor gone after
other and strange lovers. Ye have painted a divorced form in new colours; ye
have withdrawn your couch from the old wedlock' ye have left the body of a
mother, the wife of one husband, decking yourselves out with new arts of
pleasing, new allurements of corruption." Pacian, Epistle 3(ante A.D. 392).
"Do not hold aloof from the Church; for nothing is stronger than the Church.
The Church is thy hope, thy salvation, thy refuge. It is higher than the
heaven, it is wider than the earth. It never waxes old, but is always in full
vigour. Wherefore as significant of its solidity and stability Holy Scripture
calls it a mountain: or of its purity a virgin, or of its magnificence a queen;
or of its relationship to God a daughter; and to express its productiveness it
calls her barren who has borne seven…” Chrysostom, Eutropius, 2:6 (A.D. 399).
“'I have raised him up a king with justice, and all his ways are right.' The
ways of Christ are right, and he has built the holy city, that is, the church,
wherein also he dwelleth. For he abideth in the saints, and we have become
temples of the living God, having Christ within us through the participation of
the Holy Spirit. He, therefore, founded a church, himself being the foundation,
in which we also, as rich and precious stones, are built into a holy temple, as
a dwelling-place for God in the spirit; the church, having Christ for a
foundation, and an immoveable support, is perfectly immoveable.” Cyril of
Alexandria, On Isaiah, 4 (A.D. 429).
“'But thou hast upheld me by reason of mine innocence, and hast established me
in thy sight for ever.' This signifies the church in the apostles and prophets;
for not philosophers and rhetoricians, but unlearned men and fishermen, upheld
of God, founded a church which he has established in his sight forever.” Arnobius
the Younger, On Psalms, 40 (A.D. 439).
“He also denotes, by these men, those who have risen up at divers times against
the church, and were not able to overcome it, in accordance with that
prohibition of our God and Saviour; 'For the gates of hell,' he says, 'shall
not prevail against it.'” Theodoret of Cyrus, Interpretation of Psalms, 5 (A.D.
“But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines
deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes,
never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is
superfluous, does not lose her own, does not appropriate what is another's, but
while dealing faithfully and judiciously with ancient doctrine, keeps this one
object carefully in view…This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by
the novelties of heretics, has accomplished by the decrees of her
Councils,--this, and nothing else,--she has thenceforward consigned to
posterity in writing what she had received from those of olden times only by
tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for
the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the
characteristic of a new name…What but the Catholic and universal doctrine,
which has continued one and the same through the several successions of ages by
the uncorrupt tradition of the truth and so will continue for ever--'Receive
him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed, for he that biddeth him
Godspeed communicates with him in his evil deeds.'” Vincent of Lerins,
Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith, 59-60
"Since, therefore, the universal Church has become a rock (petra) through the
building up of that original Rock , and the first of the Apostles, the most
blessed Peter, heard the voice of the Lord saying, 'Thou art Peter, and upon
this rock (petra) I will build My Church ,' who is there who dare assail such
impregnable strength, unless he be either antichrist or the devil, who, abiding
unconverted in his wickedness, is anxious to sow lies by the vessels of wrath
which are suited to his treachery, whilst under the false name of diligence he
pretends to be in search of the Truth." Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D.
440-461], To Leo Augustus, Epistle 156:2 (ante A.D. 461).
IV. The Church’s Ecumenical Councils are Infallible
"Are they not then committing a crime, in their very thought to gainsay so
great and ecumenical a Council? Are they not in transgression, when they dare
to confront that good definition against Arianism, acknowledged, as it is, by
those who had in the first instance taught them irreligion? " Athanasius,
Defence of the Nicene Definition, 2 (A.D. 351).
"This gave occasion for an Ecumenical Council, that the feast might be
everywhere celebrated on one day, and that the heresy which was springing up
might be anathematized. It took place then; and the Syrians submitted, and the
Fathers pronounced the Arian heresy to be the forerunner of Antichrist, and
drew up a suitable formula against it. And yet in this, many as they are, they
ventured on nothing like the proceedings of these three or four men. Without
pre-fixing Consulate, month, and day, they wrote concerning Easter, 'It seemed
good as follows,' for it did then seem good that there should be a general
compliance; but about the faith they wrote not, 'It seemed good,' but, 'Thus
believes the Catholic Church;' and thereupon they confessed how they believed,
in order to shew that their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolical; and
what they wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught
by the Apostles." Athanasius, Councils of Ariminum & Seleucia, 5( A.D.
"But the word of the Lord which came through the ecumenical Synod at Nicaea,
abides for ever." Athanasius, To the Bishops of Africa, 2 (A.D. 372).
"[T]hat you should confess the faith put forth by our Fathers once assembled at
Nicaea, that you should not omit any one of its propositions, but bear in mind
that the three hundred and eighteen who met together without strife did not
speak without the operation of the Holy Ghost, and not to add to that creed the
statement that the Holy Ghost is a creature, nor hold communion with those who
so say, to the end that the Church of God may be pure and without any evil
admixture of any tare." Basil, To Cyriacus, Epistle 114 (A.D. 372).
"Synods create security on the point that falls under notice from time to time."
Epiphanius, Panarion, 74 (A.D. 377).
"And therefore, first in the holy Synod of Nicaea, the gathering of the three
hundred and eighteen chosen men, united by the Holy Ghost, as far as in him
lay, he [St. Athanasius] stayed the disease. Though not yet ranked among the
Bishops, he held the first rank among the members of the Council, for
preference was given to virtue just as much as to office." Gregory of
Nazianzen, Oration 21:14 (A.D. 379).
“The Faith of the Three Hundred and Eighteen Fathers assembled at Nice in
Bithynia shall not be set aside, but shall remain firm. And every heresy shall
be anathematized, particularly that of the Eunomians or [Anomoeans, the Arians
or] Eudoxians, and that of the Semi-Arians or Pneumatomachi, and that of the
Sabellians, and that of the Marcellians, and that of the Photinians, and that
of the Apollinarians.” Ecumenical Council of Constantinople I, Canon 1 (A.D.
"This was decreed at the Synod of Ariminum, and rightly do I detest that
council, following the rule of the Nicene Council, from which neither death nor
the sword can detach me, which faith the father of your Clemency also." Ambrose,
To the Emperor Valentinian, Epistle 21:14 (A.D. 386).
"Some of the brethren whose heart is as our heart told us of the slanders that
were being propagated to our detriment by those who hate peace, and privily
backbite their neighbour; and have no fear of the great and terrible
judgment-seat of Him Who has declared that account will be required even of
idle words in that trial of our life which we must all look for: they say that
the charges which are being circulated against us are such as these; that we
entertain opinions opposed to those who at Nicea set forth the right and sound
faith." Gregory of Nyssa, To Sebasteia, Epistle 2 (ante A.D. 394).
"As to those other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but
of tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may be
understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by the apostles
themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in the Church is most
useful, e.g. the annual commemoration, by special solemnities, of the Lord's
passion, resurrection, and ascension, and of the descent of the Holy Spirit
from heaven, and whatever else is in like manner observed by the whole Church
wherever it has been established." Augustine, To Januarius, Epistle 54:1 (A.D.
"[H]e, I say, abundantly shows that he was most willing to correct his own
opinion, if any one should prove to him that it is as certain that the baptism
of Christ can be given by those who have strayed from the fold, as that it
could not he lost when they strayed; on which subject we have already said
much. Nor should we ourselves venture to assert anything of the kind, were we
not supported by the unanimous authority of the whole Church, to which he
himself would unquestionably have yielded, if at that time the truth of this
question had been placed beyond dispute by the investigation and decree of a
plenary Council. For if he quotes Peter as an example for his allowing himself
quietly and peacefully to be corrected by one junior colleague, how much more
readily would he himself, with the Council of his province, have yielded to the
authority of the whole world, when the truth had been thus brought to light?" Augustine,
On Baptism against the Donatist, 2:5 (A.D. 401).
"What the custom of the Church has always held, what this argument has failed
to prove false, and what a plenary Council has confirmed, this we follow!" Augustine,
On Baptism against the Donatist, 4:10 (A.D. 401).
"And in no wise do we suffer to be shaken by any one, the faith defined, or the
symbol of faith settled, by our fathers, who assembled, in their day, at Nicea.
Neither do we allow ourselves, or any other to alter a word there set down, or
even to omit a single syllable, mindful of that saying: 'Remove not the ancient
land-marks which thy fathers have set.' " Cyril of Alexandria, To John of
Antioch, 5 (A.D. 433).
"[C]leave to the holy synod which assembled at Nicea, nothing added (thereto),
nothing diminishing; for that synod being divinely inspired, taught the true
doctrine." Isidore of Pelusium, Epistle 99:4 (ante A.D. 435).
"So have I learnt not only from the apostles and prophets but also from the
interpreters of their writings, Ignatius, Eustathius, Athanasius, Basil,
Gregory, John, and the rest of the lights of the world; and before these from
the holy Fathers in council at Nicea, whose confession of the faith I preserve
in its integrity, like an ancestral inheritance, styling corrupt and enemies of
the truth all who dare to transgress its decrees." Theodoret of Cyrus, To
Florentius, Epistle 89 (A.D. 449).
"The great and holy and universal Synod, which by the grace of God and the
sanction of our most pious and Christ-loving Emperors has been gathered
together in the metropolis of Chalcedon…For if 'where two or three are gathered
together in His name,' He has said that 'there He is in the midst of them,'
must He not have been much more particularly present with 520 priests, who
preferred the spread of knowledge concerning Him to their country and their
ease? Of whom you were, chief, as the head to the members, showing your
goodwill in the person of those who represented you; whilst our religious
Emperors presided to the furtherance of due order, inviting us to restore the
doctrinal fabric of the Church, even as Zerubbabel invited Joshua to rebuild
Jerusalem." Council of Chalcedon to Pope Leo the Great, Epistle 98:1 (A.D.
"Anatolius' attempts to subvert the decisions of Nicea are futile. But at the
present time let it be enough to make a general proclamation on all points,
that if in any synod any one makes any attempt upon or seems to take occasion
of wresting an advantage against the provisions of the Nicene canons, he can
inflict no discredit upon their inviolable decrees: and it will be easier for
the compacts of any conspiracy to be broken through than for the regulations of
the aforesaid canons to be in any particular invalidated." Pope Leo the Great
[regn. A.D. 440-461], To Maximus, Epistle 119:3 (A.D. 453).
"[T]he Sacred Synod of Nicea...Ephesus...[and] Chalcedon...to be received after
those of the Old or New Testament, which we regularly accept." Pope Gelasius
[regn. A.D. 492-496], Epistle 42 (A.D. 492).
"Besides those which are contained in the Decretal of Gelasius, here, after the
Synod of Ephesus 'Constantinople(I)' was also inserted: then was added: But
even if any councils thus far have been instituted by the holy Fathers, we have
decreed that after the authority of those four they must be both kept and
received." Pope Hormisdas [regn. A.D. 514-523], Epistle 125 (A.D. 520).
"We confessed that we hold, preserve, and declare to the holy churches that
confession of faith which the 318 holy Fathers more at length set forth, who
were gathered together at Nicea, who handed down the holy anathema or creed.
Moreover, the 150 gathered together at Constantinople set forth our faith, who
followed that same confession of faith and explained it. And the consent of
fire 200 holy fathers gathered for the same faith in the first Council of
Ephesus. And what things were defined by the 630 gathered at Chalcedon for the
one and the same faith, which they both followed and taught. And all those wile
from time to time have been condemned or anathematized by the Catholic Church,
and by the aforesaid four Councils, we confessed that we hold them condemned
and anathematized." Ecumenical Council of Constantinople II, Sentence of the
Synod (A.D. 553).
"I confess that I receive and revere, as the four books of the Gospel so also
the four Councils: to wit, the Nicene, in which the perverse doctrine of Arius
is overthrown; the Constantinopolitan also, in which the error of Eunomius and
Macedonius is refuted; further, the first Ephesine, in which the impiety of
Nestorius is condemned; and the Chalcedonian, in which the pravity of Eutyches
and Dioscorus is reprobated. These with full devotion I embrace, and adhere to
with most entire approval; since on them, as on a four-square stone, rises the
structure of the holy faith…The fifth council also I equally venerate, in which
the epistle which is called that of Ibas, full of error, is reprobated;
Theodorus, who divides the Mediator between God and men into two
subsistences…and the writings of Theodoritus, in which the faith of the blessed
Cyril is impugned, are refuted as having been published with the daring of
madness. But all persons whom the aforesaid venerable Councils repudiate I
repudiate; those whom they venerate I embrace; since, they having been
constituted by universal consent, he overthrows not them but himself, whosoever
presumes either to loose those whom they bind, or to bind those whom they
loose. Whosoever, therefore, thinks otherwise, let him be anathema. But
whosoever holds the faith of the aforesaid synods, peace be to him from God the
Father, through Jesus Christ His Son, Who lives and reigns consubstantially God
with Him in the Unity of the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen." Pope Gregory
the Great [regn. A.D. 590-604], To John of Constantinople, Epistle 24 (A.D.
"And in the fourth holy and great Ecumenical Council, I mean the one at
Chalcedon, we are told that it was in this form that the Hymn was sung; for the
minutes of this holy assembly so record it. It is, therefore, a matter for
laughter and ridicule that this 'Thrice Holy' Hymn, taught us by the angels,
and confirmed by the averting of calamity, ratified and established by so great
an assembly of the holy Fathers, and sung first by the Seraphim as a
declaration of the three subsistences of the Godhead, should be mangled and
forsooth emended to suit the view of the stupid Fuller as though he were higher
than the Seraphim. But oh! the arrogance! not to say folly! But we say it thus,
though demons should rend us in pieces, 'Do Thou, Holy God, Holy and Mighty
One, Holy and Immortal One, have mercy upon us.'" John of Damascene, Orthodox
Faith, 10 (A.D. 743).
V. The Church is Hierarchical
"Accordingly, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons, men who are an honor to
the Lord, of gentle disposition, not attached to money, honest and well-tried;
for they, too, render you the sacred service of the prophets and teachers." The
Didache (c. A.D. 90).
"Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be
strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore,
inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed
those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that
when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their
ministry." Clement of Rome, Pope, 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, 44:1-2 (c.
"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and
the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being
the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church
without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is
[administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it.
Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also
be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not
lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but
whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that
everything that is done may be secure and valid." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle
to the Smyraens, 8 (c. A.D. 110).
"Hegesippus and the Events which he mentiones. Hegesippus in the five books of
Memoirs which have come down to us has left a most complete record of his own
views. In them he states that on a journey to Rome he met a great many bishops,
and that he received the same doctrine from all. It is fitting to hear what he
says after making some remarks about the epistle of Clement to the Corinthians.
His words are as follows: And the church of Corinth continued in the true faith
until Primus was bishop in Corinth. I conversed with them on my way to Rome,
and abode with the Corinthians many days, during which we were mutually
refreshed in the true doctrine. And when I had come to Rome I remained a there
until Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And Anicetus was succeeded by
Soter, and he by Eleutherus. In every succession, and in every city that is
held which is preached by the law and the prophets and the Lord.'" Hegesippus,
fragment in Eusebius Ecclesiastical History, 4:22 (c. A.D. 180).
"Since, according to my opinion, the grades here in the Church, of bishops,
presbyters, deacons, are imitations of the angelic glory, and of that economy
which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who, following the footsteps of the
apostles, have lived in perfection of righteousness according to the Gospel." Clement
of Alexandria, Stromata, 6:13 (A.D. 202).
"Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the
honour of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says
to Peter: I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build
my Church…Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of
bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded
upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same
rulers. Since this, then, is founded on the divine law, I marvel that some,
with daring temerity, have chosen to write to me as if they wrote in the name
of the Church; when the Church is established in the bishop and the clergy, and
all who stand fast in the faith." Cyprian, To the Lasped, Epistle 26/33 (A.D.
"And before you had received the grace of the episcopate, no one knew you; but
after you became one, the laity expected you to bring them food, namely
instruction from the Scriptures...For if all were of the same mind as your
present advisers, how would you have become a Christian, since there would be
no bishops? Or if our successors are to inherit the state of mind, how will the
Churches be able to hold together?" Athanasius, To Dracontius, Epistle 49:2,4
(c. A.D. 355).
"The Blessed Apostle Paul in laying down the form for appointing a bishop and
creating by his instructions an entirely new type of member of the Church, has
taught us in the following words the sum total of all the virtues perfected in
him:--Holding fast the word according to the doctrine of faith that he may be
able to exhort to sound doctrine and to convict gainsavers. For there are many
unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers. For in this way he points out that the
essentials of orderliness and morals are only profitable for good service in
the priesthood if at the same time the qualities needful for knowing how to
teach and preserve the faith are not lacking, for a man is not straightway made
a good and useful priest by a merely innocent life or by a mere knowledge of
preaching." Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity (A.D. 359).
"The immediate object of my entreaty is as follows. By the old census, the
clergy of God, presbyters and deacons, were left exempt" Basil, To Modestus,
Epistle 104 (A.D. 372).
"You must know that Faustus came with letters for me, from the pope, requesting
that he might be ordained bishop." Basil, To Theodotus, Epistle 121 (A.D. 373).
"There is not, however, such narrowness in the moral excellence of the Catholic
Church as that I should limit my praise of it to the life of those here
mentioned. For how many bishops have I known most excellent and holy men, how
many, presbyters, how many deacons, and ministers of all kinds of the divine
sacraments, whose virtue seems to me more admirable and more worthy of
commendation on account of the greater difficulty of preserving it amidst the
manifold varieties of men, and in this life of turmoil!" Augustine, On the
Morals of the Catholic Church, 69 (A.D. 388).
"Who can test himself by the rules and standards which Paul laid down for
bishops and presbyters, that they are to be temperate, sober-minded, not given
to wine, no strikers, apt to teach, blameless in all things, and beyond the
reach of the wicked, without finding considerable deflection from the straight
line of the rules?" Gregory of Nazianzen, In Defense of his Flight, 69 (ante
"You saw there the deacon, you saw the priest, you saw the chief priest [the
bishop]." Ambrose, Concerning the Mysteries, 2 (A.D.391).
"To this end it is well, I think, to look out for high qualifications in your
election, that he who is appointed to the Presidency may be suitable for the
post. Now the Apostolic injunctions do not direct us to look to high birth,
wealth, and distinction in the eyes of the world among the virtues of a
Bishop." Gregory of Nyssa, To the Church at Nicodemia, Epistle 13 (ante A.D.
“I have often noticed this, Sulpitius, that Martin was accustomed to say to
you, that such an abundance of power was by no means granted him while he was a
bishop, as he remembered to have possessed before he obtained that office. Now,
if this be true, or rather since it is true, we may imagine how great those
things were which, while still a monk, he accomplished, and which, without any
witness, he effected apart by himself; since we have seen that, while a bishop,
he performed so great wonders before the eyes of all.” Sulpitius Severus,
Dialogues, 2,4 (c. A.D. 400).
"To the fellow-Bishops and Deacons.' What is this? were there several Bishops
of one city? Certainly not; but he called the Presbyters so. For then they
still interchanged the titles, and the Bishop was called a Deacon. For this
cause in writing to Timothy, he said, Fulfil thy ministry,' when he was a
Bishop. For that he was a Bishop appears by his saying to him, Lay hands
hastily on no man' (1 Tim. v. 22). And again, Which was given thee with the
laying on of the hands of the Presbytery' (1 Tim. iv. 14). Yet Presbyters would
not have laid hands on a Bishop." Chrysostom, Homily on Philippians, 1:1 (c.
"Theotocos,' but not in the sense in which it is imagined by a certain impious
heresy which maintains, that she is to be called the Mother of God for no other
reason than because she gave birth to that man who afterwards became God, just
as we speak of a woman as the mother of a priest, or the mother of a bishop,
meaning that she was such, not by giving birth to one already a priest or a
bishop, but by giving birth to one who afterwards became a priest or a bishop.
Not thus, I say, was the holy Mary Theotocos,' the mother of God, but rather,
as was said before, because in her sacred womb was wrought that most sacred
mystery whereby, on account of the singular and unique unity of Person, as the
Word in flesh is flesh, so Man in God is God." Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory
for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith, 15 ( A.D. 434).
"For in the early days of the faith when only a few, and those the best of men,
were known by the name of monks, who, as they received that mode of life from
the Evangelist Mark of blessed memory, the first to preside over the Church of
Alexandria as Bishop...But sometimes it creates a wish to take holy orders, and
a desire for the priesthood or diaconate. And it represents that if a man has
even against his will received this office, he will fulfill it with such
sanctity and strictness that he will be able to set an example of saintliness
even to other priests; and that he will win over many people, not only by his
manner of life, but also by his teaching and preaching.” John Cassian,
Institutes, 2:5,11:14 (ante A.D. 435).
"For although they who are not within the ranks of the clergy are free to take
pleasure in the companionship of wedlock and the procreation of children, yet
for the exhibiting of the purity of complete continence, even sub-deacons are
not allowed carnal marriage: that both those that have, may be as though they
had not,' and those who have not, may remain single. But if in this order,
which is the fourth from the Head, this is worthy to be observed, how much more
is it to be kept in the first, or second, or third, lest any one be reckoned
fit for either the deacon's duties or the presbyter's honourable position, or
the bishop's pre-eminence, who is discovered not yet to have bridled his
uxorious desires." Pope Leo the Great [regn A.D. 440-461], To Anastasius,
Epistle 14,5 (A.D. 446).
"Through my most beloved son Laurentius, the presbyter, and Peter the monk, I
received thy Fraternity's letter, in which thou hast been at pains to question
me on many points…Augustine's first question. I ask, most blessed father,
concerning bishops, how they should live with their clergy: And concerning the
offerings of the faithful which are received at the altars, both into what
portions they should be divided, and how the bishop ought to deal with them in
the Church. Answer of St. Gregory, Pope of the City of Rome. Holy Scripture,
which no doubt thou knowest well, bears witness, and especially the epistles of
the blessed Paul to Timothy, in which he studied to instruct him how he ought
to behave himself in the house of God. Now it is the custom of the Apostolic
See to deliver an injunction to bishops when ordained, that of all emoluments
that come in four divisions should be made: to wit, one for the bishop and his
household on account of hospitality and entertainment; another for the clergy;
a third for the poor; and a fourth for the reparation of Churches.” Pope
Gregory the Great [regn A.D. 590-604], To Augustine, Epistle 64 (A.D. 595).
VI. The Church is Visible and One
“Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the
knowledge of the holy presbyters…It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their
doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to
flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the
Lord's Scriptures. For the Church has been planted as a garden (paradisus) in
this world; therefore says the Spirit of God, 'Thou mayest freely eat from
every tree of the garden,' that is, Eat ye from every Scripture of the Lord;
but ye shall not eat with an uplifted mind, nor touch any heretical discord." Irenaeus,
Against Heresies, 5:20 (A.D. 180).
"I shall at once go on, then, to exhibit the peculiarities of the Christian
society, that, as I have refuted the evil charged against it, I may point out
its positive good. We are a body knit together as such by a common religious
profession, by unity of discipline, and by the bond of a common hope. We meet
together as an assembly and congregation, that, offering up prayer to God as
with united force, we may wrestle with Him in our supplications. This violence
God delights in…We assemble to read our sacred writings, if any peculiarity of
the times makes either forewarning or reminiscence needful. However it be in
that respect, with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope,
we make our confidence more steadfast; and no less by inculcations of God's
precepts we confirm good habits." Tertullian, Apology, 39:1 (A.D. 197).
"To sum up all in one word--what the soul is in the body, that are Christians
in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and
Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells
in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are
not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and
Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains
invisible." Letter to Diognetus, 6:1 (A.D. 200).
"You may learn, if you will, the crowning wisdom of the all-holy Shepherd and
Instructor, of the omnipotent and paternal Word, when He figuratively
represents Himself as the Shepherd of the sheep…Such are the promises of the
good Shepherd. Feed us, the children, as sheep. Yea, Master, fill us with
righteousness, Thine own pasture; yea, O Instructor, feed us on Thy holy
mountain the Church, which towers aloft, which is above the clouds, which
touches heaven." Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, I:9 (A.D. 202).
"We are not to give heed to those who say, Behold here is Christ, but show him
not in the Church, which is filled with brightness from the East even unto the
West; which is filled with true light; is the 'pillar and ground of truth'; in
which, as a whole, is the whole advent of the Son of Man, who saith to all men
throughout the universe, 'Behold, I am with you all the days of life even unto
the consumption of the world.'" Origen, Commentary on Matthew, Tract 30 (A.D.
"The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She
knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She
keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom.
Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is
separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church
of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he
is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church
for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then
he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying,
'He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathereth not with me
scattereth.' Cyprian, On Unity, 6 (A.D. 251).
"Separate a ray of the sun from its body of light, its unity does not allow a
division of light; break a branch from a tree,--when broken, it will not be
able to bud; cut off the stream from its fountain, and that which is cut off
dries up. Thus also the Church, shone over with the light of the Lord, sheds
forth her rays over the whole world, yet it is one light which is everywhere
diffused, nor is the unity of the body separated. Her fruitful abundance
spreads her branches over the whole world. She broadly expands her rivers,
liberally flowing, yet her head is one, her source one; and she is one mother,
plentiful in the results of fruitfulness: from her womb we are born, by her
milk we are nourished, by her spirit we are animated." Cyprian, Unity of the
Church, 5 (A.D. 256).
"'A city built upon a mountain cannot be hid' The light, or lamp of Christ, is
not now to be hidden under a bushel, nor to be concealed by any covering of the
synagogue, but, hung on the wood of the Passion, it will give an everlasting
light to those that dwell in the church. He also admonishes the apostles to
shine with like splendour, that by the admiration of their deeds, praise may be
given to God." Hilary of Poitiers, Commentary on Matthew, 5:13 (A.D. 355).
"'And his throne as the sun before me.' Understand, by the 'throne' of Christ,
the Church; for in it he rests. The Church of Christ, then, he says, shall be
refulgent and enlighten all under heaven, and be abiding as the sun and the
moon. For this passage says so: 'His throne as the sun before me, and as the
moon perfect forever, and a faithful witness in heaven.'" Athanasius,
Exposition in the Psalms, 88 (ante A.D. 373).
"'And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared
on the top of the mountains' The house of the Lord, 'prepared on the top of the
mountains,' is the church, according to the declaration of the apostle, 'Know,'
he says, 'how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the
church of the living God' Whose foundations are on the holy mountains, for it
is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. One also of these
mountains was Peter, upon which the rock the Lord promised to build his
church." Basil, Commentary on Isaiah, 2:66 (A.D. 375).
"Not therefore on that Mount Zion does Isaias look down upon the valley, but on
that holy mountain which is the church, that mountain which lifts its head over
the whole Roman world under heaven...a church which is throughout the world,
wherein there is one Catholic church." Optatus of Mileve, Against the Donatist,
3:2 (A.D. 384).
"Petilianus said: 'If you declare that yon hold the Catholic Church, the word
'catholic' is merely the Greek equivalent for entire or whole. But it is clear
that you are not in the whole, because you have gone aside into the part.'
Augustine answered: I too indeed have attained to a very slight knowledge of
the Greek language, scarcely to be called knowledge at all, yet I am not
shameless in saying that I know that means not 'one,' but 'the whole;' and that
means "according to the whole:" whence the Catholic Church received its name,
according to the saying of the Lord, 'It is not for you to know the times,
which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after
that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in
Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and even in the whole earth.' Here you
have the origin of the name 'Catholic.' Augustine, Answer to Letters of
Petilian, 2:38  (A.D. 400).
"It is an easier thing for the sun to be quenched, than for the church to be
made invisible." John Chrysostom, In illud: vidi Dom. (ante A.D. 407).
"For the church is in lofty and conspicuous, and well known to all men in every
place. It is also lofty in another sense; for her thoughts have nothing
earthly, but she is above all that is earthly, and with the eyes of the
understanding, looks upon, as far as it is possible, the glory of God, and
glories in doctrines truly exalted, concerning God ... Wherefore, with justice
may the house of God be called a mountain (known) by the understanding, and it
is perfectly visible, as being raised upon the hills; and one may say of it,
and with great cause, what as a notable illustration was uttered by the mouth
of the Saviour: 'A city placed upon a hill cannot be hidden'" Cyril of
Alexandria, Commentary on Isaias, (ante A.D. 429).