Questions and Answers about the Marks and Attributes of the Church
152. Which is the one true Church established by Christ?
The one true Church established by Christ is the Catholic Church.
(a) Many churches which claim to be Christian have broken away from the one true Church
established by Jesus Christ. These churches were founded by men who had no authority from
God to found a church.
(b) Christ intended that there should be only one true Christian Church, for He always
spoke of His Church as one.
153. How do we know that the Catholic Church is the one true Church established
We know that the Catholic Church is the one true Church established by Christ because
it alone has the marks of the true Church.
154. What do we mean by the marks of the Church?
By the marks of the Church we mean certain clear signs by which all men can recognize
it as the true Church founded by Jesus Christ.
(a) Jesus Christ willed that the true Church should have these marks, which would
distinguish it from all false religions.
155. What are the chief marks of the Church?
The chief marks of the Church are four: It is one, holy, catholic or universal, and
(a) Sacred Scripture teaches that the one true Church of Christ must have these marks.
(b) The marks of the Church are themselves an indication that God guides the Church.
156. Why is the Catholic Church one?
The Catholic Church is one because all its members, according to the will of Christ,
profess the same faith, have the same sacrifice and sacraments, and are united under one
and the same visible head, the Pope.
(a) Our Divine Savior prayed explicitly that His Church might be one, and He made it
one; thus men can recognize it as the true Church.
(b) Only the Catholic Church possesses this mark of unity. Various sects, having only
fragments of Christianity, are divided in doctrine and practice and recognize no authority
but their own judgment, which can easily lead them into error.
(c) There are many religious sects which claim to be Christian, but are separated from
the unity of Christ by their rejection of the authority invested by Him in the Roman
Pontiff, the successor to Saint Peter.
(d) Catholics accept all the doctrines of faith and morals which were taught by Our
Lord and the apostles and are proposed by the Church for belief and practice. A person who
deliberately denies even one of the doctrines of the Church cannot be a Catholic. The
Church is one in faith.
(e) Catholics take part in the same sacrifice of the Mass and accept the same
sacraments, although the same language and the same ceremonies are not used by all in the
offering of Mass and in the administration of the sacraments. Everywhere the essential
parts of the ceremonies are the same and substantially the same words are used in offering
Mass. Hence the Church is one in worship. What Christ determined, the Church cannot
change. Since Christ, however, did not determine many points of worship in non-essential
matters, the Church has the authority to do so.
(f) Catholics are subject to their respective bishops who rule them. They must
recognize the supreme authority of the Pope in matters of religion. A person who
deliberately refuses to accept the legitimate and supreme authority of the Pope and the
bishops in matters of religion cannot be a Catholic.
157. Why is the Catholic Church holy?
The Catholic Church is holy because it was founded by Jesus Christ, who is all-holy,
and because it teaches, according to the will of Christ, holy doctrines, and provides the
means of leading a holy life, thereby giving holy members to every age.
(a) Holiness is a mark of the Church according to the will of Christ, as is evident
from the prayer of Christ for His apostles.
(b) Even some of the enemies of the Church recognize the holiness of the doctrines
which the Church teaches. The efforts of others to prove that the Church is not holy show
that they acknowledge holiness as a mark of truth.
(c) The lives of the saints, of the martyrs, and of good Catholics prove how effective
are the means of grace with which the Church is endowed. Moreover, God has always favored
the Catholic Church with miracles.
(d) Bad Catholics do not disprove the holiness of the Church since they do not use the
means of grace at their disposal. Christ foretold that there would be good and bad members
of His Church as we read in the parables of the fishes in the net and the cockle among the
158. Why is the Catholic Church catholic or universal?
The Catholic Church is catholic or universal because, destined to last for all time, it
never fails to fulfill the divine commandment to teach all nations all the truths revealed
(a) Catholicity is a mark of the Church because Christ commissioned His apostles to go
forth and make disciples of all nations, and to teach all that He had commanded. Christ
further promised to be with them all days, even to the end of time.
(b) The Church today teaches the same doctrine it received from Christ. It has existed
uninterruptedly since the day it was established down to the present time. The Church
exists in a more flourishing condition in some nations than in others. It is always trying
to preach the gospel to all races and in all places and sends its missioners to the most
remote places on earth.
(c) Christian sects began later and for the most part exist in only some sections of
the world. In trying to accommodate themselves to the changing conditions of the time,
they have made changes in the doctrines of Christ without any divine authorization.
159. Why is the Catholic Church apostolic?
The Catholic Church is apostolic because it was founded by Christ on the apostles and,
according to His divine will, has always been governed by their lawful successors.
(a) The true Church is apostolic because it is the Church Christ founded upon the
apostles, and especially upon Peter whom He called the Rock on which the Church would be
built. The supreme power of Saint Peter in the Church has been passed down through the
unbroken line of his successors in the see of Rome.
160. How do we know that no other church but the Catholic Church is the true
Church of Christ?
We know that no other church but the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ
because no other church has these four marks.
(a) All other churches lack essential unity. They recognize no authority in religious
matters vested in an individual who is the vicar of Christ. In the worship of God many
Christian sects are guided more by sentiment and personal conviction than by the objective
truths given to the world by Our Lord.
(b) The founders of Christian sects were not saints and generally were not holy or
edifying men. The sects have not given saints to the world. Their truths are but fragments
of the doctrines of the Catholic Church. The holiness of their members is due to the means
that the sects have salvaged from Catholic worship. Moreover, these sects cannot point to
miracles wrought in their favor.
(c) Not one of the Christian sects is universal or catholic; that is, not one has
universality such as that of the Catholic Church.
(d) Not one of the Christian sects can trace its origin to the apostles.
(e) The Greek Orthodox or Schismatic Church began in the ninth century with its
rejection of the authority of the Pope. From it have come various national churches,
subject in some degree to civil authority. The Protestant churches began in the sixteenth
century when their founders, rejecting certain doctrines of faith, broke away from
Catholic unity. Many Protestant denominations are offshoots of the earliest sects. The
Lutherans were founded by Martin Luther, the Presbyterians by John Knox, and the
Methodists by John Wesley.
161. What are the chief attributes of the Catholic Church?
The chief attributes of the Catholic Church are authority, infallibility, and
indefectibility. They are called attributes because they are qualities perfecting the
nature of the Church.
162. What is meant by the authority of the Catholic Church?
By the authority of the Catholic Church is meant that the Pope and the bishops, as the
lawful successors of the apostles, have power from Christ Himself to teach, to sanctify,
and to govern the faithful in spiritual matters.
(a) Christ Himself gave this authority to Saint Peter and the other apostles when He
bestowed the power of binding and loosing, of teaching and baptizing. He implicitly
guaranteed the same power to the successors of the apostles when He promised to be with
them all days, even to the consummation of the world.
(b) Outside the Church there generally is no real recognition of authority in spiritual
matters and this disregard for spiritual authority has lessened the respect for civil and
(c) The Church has authority over temporal matters which are closely connected with
spiritual matters, as the administration of Church property.
(d) The Pope, as the supreme head of the Church, cannot rightly be made a subject of
any temporal power on earth. The present position of the Pope, as head of the Vatican
City, shows to the world that he and his household are not the subjects of other temporal
powers. When we speak of the temporal power of the Pope, we do not mean thereby merely to
classify him with earthly rulers. The Pope's temporal power is a means to an end,
guaranteeing that freedom of word and action which he must rightfully enjoy as the supreme
spiritual ruler of the Church.
163. What is meant by the infallibility of the Catholic Church?
By the infallibility of the Catholic Church is meant that the Church, by the special
assistance of the Holy Ghost, cannot err when it teaches or believes a doctrine of faith
(a) Infallibility, especially papal infallibility, is a doctrine often misunderstood
and derided by those outside the Church. The term "infallibility" is often
distorted to mean impeccability, that is, freedom from all sin. The Church has never held
that the Pope cannot sin.
(b) It is unthinkable that an institution established by God for the salvation of souls
could lead men into error and turn them away from God. If the Church could and did err in
matters of faith or morals it would not be a true teacher; it would fail in its ministry
of sanctification and would not lead men to salvation but would be responsible for their
condemnation. (c) A doctrine of faith or morals is a truth revealed by God dealing with
what we must believe or what we must do in order to be saved.
(d) The Church cannot change its defined teachings on faith and morals though it may
restate them more clearly and more completely.
(e) We know that the Church is infallible in matters of faith or morals because Christ
promised that He would be with the apostles and their successors in their work of teaching
until the end of time. It would be impossible for Christ to be with the official teachers
of the Church and permit them to teach error.
164. When does the Church teach infallibly?
The Church teaches infallibly when it defines, through the Pope alone, as the teacher
of all Christians, or through the Pope and the bishops, a doctrine of faith or morals to
be held by all the faithful.
(a) The Holy Father must intend to use his supreme, apostolic authority when he teaches
(b) The Pope can teach without speaking infallibly; for example, he does this in his
encyclical letters. Catholics must accept such teachings, not on faith, but in obedience
to the authority of the Pope and in respect for his wisdom.
165. What is meant by the indefectibility of the Catholic Church?
By the indefectibility of the Catholic Church is meant that the Church, as Christ
founded it, will last until the end of time.
(a) This indefectibility of the Church is in conformity with the will of Christ, who
promised to be with His Church until the end of time.
166. Are all obliged to belong to the Catholic Church in order to be saved?
All are obliged to belong to the Catholic Church in order to be saved.
(a) The principle, "It makes no difference what religion a person practices so
long as he leads a good life," is deceptive because it attaches the same importance
to the teaching and practice of a false religion as it does to the teaching and practice
of the one, true religion revealed by Christ and taught by His Church. No one can be saved
without sanctifying grace, and the Catholic Church alone is the divinely established means
by which grace is brought to the world and the full fruits of Our Lord's Redemption are
applied to men.
167. What do we mean when we say, "Outside the Church there is no
When we say, "Outside the Church there is no salvation," we mean that those
who through their own grave fault do not know that the Catholic Church is the true Church
or, knowing it, refuse to join it, cannot be saved.
(a) "Outside the Church there is no salvation" does not mean that everyone
who is not a Catholic will be condemned. It does mean that no one can be saved unless he
belongs in some manner to the Catholic Church, either actually or in desire, for the means
of grace are not given without some relation to the divine institution established by
68. Can they be saved who remain outside the Catholic Church because they do
not know it is the true Church?
They who remain outside the Catholic Church through no grave fault of their own and do
not know it is the true Church, can be saved by making use of the graces which God gives
(a) Those who are outside the Church through no fault of their own are not culpable in
the sight of God because of their invincible ignorance.
(b) Persons who make use of the graces God gives them, even though they are not members
of the true Church, actually have the desire to become members inasmuch as they wish to
use all the means ordained by God for their salvation.
(c) We should pray and try to persuade others to investigate the teachings of the
Catholic Church because charity obliges us to do all we can to lead others to salvation.
We should also pray for Catholic missioners and help them in their work of bringing the
faith to those outside the Catholic Church.
169. Why is the Catholic Church called the Mystical Body of Christ?
The Catholic Church is called the Mystical Body of Christ because its members are
united by supernatural bonds with one another and with Christ, their Head, thus resembling
the members and head of the living human body.
The Baltimore Catechism, no. 3, Lesson 12.
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