Catholic Encyclopedia 


The term church (Anglo-Saxon, cirice, circe; Modern German, Kirche; 
Sw., Kyrka) is the name employed in the Teutonic languages to render 
the Greek ekklesia (ecclesia), the term by which the New Testament 
writers denote the society founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ. The 
derivation of the word has been much debated. It is now agreed that it 
is derived from the Greek kyriakon (cyriacon), i. e. the Lord's house, 
a term which from the third century was used, as well as ekklesia, to 
signify a Christian place of worship. This, though the less usual 
expression, had apparently obtained currency among the Teutonic races. 
The Northern tribes had been accustomed to pillage the Christian 
churches of the empire, long before their own conversion. Hence, even 
prior to the arrival of the Saxons in Britain, their language had 
acquired words to designate some of the externals of the Christian 
The present article is arranged as follows:
 I.    The term Ecclesia
 II.   The Church in Prophecy
 III.  Its Constitution by Christ; the Church after the Ascension
 IV.   Its Organization by the Apostles
 V.    The Church, a Divine Society
 VI.   The Church, the Necessary Means of Salvation
 VII.  Visibility of the Church
 VIII. The Principle of Authority; Infallibility; Jurisdiction
 IX.   Members of the Church
 X.    Indefectibility of the Church; Continuity
 XI.   Universality of the Church; the "Branch" Theory
 XII.  Notes of the Church
 XIII. The Church, a Perfect Society
In order to understand the precise force of this word, something must 
first be said as to its employment by the Septuagint translators of the 
Old Testament. Although in one or two places (Ps. xxv, 5; Judith, vi, 
21; etc.) the word is used without religious signification, merely in 
the sense of "an assembly", this is not usually the case. Ordinarily it 
is employed as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew qahal, i.e., the 
entire community of the children of Israel viewed in their religious 
aspect. Two Hebrew words are employed in the Old Testament to signify 
the congregation of Israel, viz. qahal, and 'êdah. In the Septuagint 
these are rendered, respectively, ekklesia and synagoge. Thus in 
Proverbs v, 14, where the words occur together, "in the midst of the 
church and the congregation", the Greek rendering is en meso ekklesias 
kai synagoges. The distinction is indeed not rigidly observed -- thus 
in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, both words are regularly represented 
by synagoge -- but it is adhered to in the great majority of cases, and 
may be regarded as an established rule. In the writings of the New 
Testament the words are sharply distinguished. With them ecclesia 
denotes the Church of Christ; synagoga, the Jews still adhering to the 
worship of the Old Covenant. Occasionally, it is true, ecclesia is 
employed in its general significance of "assembly" (Acts, xix, 32; I 
Cor., xiv, 19); and synagoga occurs once in reference to a gathering of 
Christians, though apparently of a non-religious character (James, ii, 
2.) But ecclesia is never used by the Apostles to denote the Jewish 
Church. The word as a technical expression had been transferred to the 
community of Christian believers.
It has been frequently disputed whether there is any difference in the 
signification of the two words. St. Augustine (in Psalm. lxxvii, in P. 
L., XXXVI, 984) distinguishes them on the ground that ecclesia is 
indicative of the calling together of men, synagoga of the forcible 
herding together of irrational creatures: "congregatio magis pecorum 
convocatio magis hominum intelligi solet". But it may be doubted 
whether there is any foundation for this view. It would appear, 
however, that the term qahal, was used with the special meaning of 
"those called by God to eternal life", while 'êdah, denoted merely "the 
actually existing Jewish community" (Schürer, Hist. Jewish People, II, 
59). Though the evidence for this distinction is drawn from the Mishna, 
and thus belongs to a somewhat later date, yet the difference in 
meaning probably existed at the time of Christ's ministry. But however 
this may have been, His intention in employing the term, hitherto used 
of the Hebrew people viewed as a church, to denote the society He 
Himself was establishing cannot be mistaken. It implied the claim that 
this society now constituted the true people of God, that the Old 
Covenant was passing away, and that He, the promised Messias, was 
inaugurating a New Covenant with a New Israel.
As signifying the Church, the word Ecclesia is used by Christian 
writers, sometimes in a wider, sometimes in a more restricted sense.
It is employed to denote all who, from the beginning of the world, have 
believed in the one true God, and have been made His children by grace. 
In this sense, it is sometimes distinguished, signifying the Church 
before the Old Covenant, the Church of the Old Covenant, or the Church 
of the New Covenant. Thus St. Gregory (Epp. V, ep. xviii ad. Joan. Ep. 
Const., in P. L., LXXVII, 740) writes: "Sancti ante legem, sancti sub 
lege, sancti sub gratiâ, omnes hi . . . in membris Ecclesiæ sunt 
constituti" (The saints before the Law, the saints under the Law, and 
the saints under grace -- all these are constituted members of the 
It may signify the whole body of the faithful, including not merely the 
members of the Church who are alive on earth but those, too, whether in 
heaven or in purgatory, who form part of the one communion of saints. 
Considered thus, the Church is divided into the Church Militant, the 
Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant.
It is further employed to signify the Church Militant of the New 
Testament. Even in this restricted acceptation, there is some variety 
in the use of the term. The disciples of a single locality are often 
referred to in the New Testament as a Church (Apoc., ii, 18; Rom., xvi, 
4; Acts, ix, 31), and St. Paul even applies the term to disciples 
belonging to a single household (Rom., xvi, 5; I Cor., xvi, 19, Col., 
iv, 15; Philem., i, 2). Moreover, it may designate specially those who 
exercise the office of teaching and ruling the faithful, the Ecclesia 
Docens (Matt., xviii, 17), or again the governed as distinguished from 
their pastors, the Ecclesia Discens (Acts xx, 28). In all these cases 
the name belonging to the whole is applied to a part. The term, in its 
full meaning, denotes the whole body of the faithful, both rulers and 
ruled, throughout the world (Eph., i, 22; Col., i, 18). It is in this 
meaning that the Church is treated of in the present article. As thus 
understood, the definition of the Church given by Bellarmine is that 
usually adopted by Catholic theologians: "A body of men united together 
by the profession of the same Christian Faith, and by participation in 
the same sacraments, under the governance of lawful pastors, more 
especially of the Roman Pontiff, the sole vicar of Christ on earth" 
(Cœtus hominum ejusdem christianæ fidei professione, et eorumdem 
sacramentorum communione colligatus, sub regimine legitimorum pastorum 
et præcipue unius Christi in Terris vicarii Romani Pontificis. – 
Bellarmine, De Eccl., III, ii, 9). The accuracy of this definition will 
appear in the course of the article.
Hebrew prophecy relates in almost equal proportions to the person and 
to the work of the Messias. This work was conceived as consisting of 
the establishment of a kingdom, in which he was to reign over a 
regenerated Israel. The prophetic writings describe for us with 
precision many of the characteristics which were to distinguish that 
kingdom. Christ during His ministry affirmed not only that the 
prophecies relating to the Messias were fulfilled in His own person, 
but also that the expected Messianic kingdom was none other than His 
Church. A consideration of the features of the kingdom as depicted by 
the Prophets, must therefore greatly assist us in understanding 
Christ's intentions in the institution of the Church. Indeed many of 
the expressions employed by Him in relation to the society He was 
establishing are only intelligible in the Light of these prophecies and 
of the consequent expectations of the Jewish people. It will moreover 
appear that we have a weighty argument for the supernatural character 
of the Christian revelation in the precise fulfillment of the sacred 
A characteristic feature of the Messianic kingdom, as predicted, is its 
universal extent. Not merely the twelve tribes, but the Gentiles are to 
yield allegiance to the Son of David. All kings are to serve and obey 
him; his dominion is to extend to the ends of the earth (Pss. xxi, 28 
sq.; ii, 7-12; cxvi, 1; Zach., ix, 10). Another series of remarkable 
passages declares that the subject nations will possess the unity 
conferred by a common faith and a common worship -- a feature 
represented under the striking image of the concourse of all peoples 
and nations to worship at Jerusalem. "It shall come to pass in the last 
days (i.e. in the Messianic Era] . . . that many nations shall say: 
Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of 
the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways and we will walk in 
his paths; for the law shall go forth out of Sion, and the word of the 
Lord out of Jerusalem" (Mich., iv, 1-2; cf. Is., ii, 2; Zach., viii, 
3). This unity of worship is to be the fruit of a Divine revelation 
common to all the inhabitants of the earth (Zack., xiv, 8).
Corresponding to the triple office of the Messias as priest, prophet, 
and king, it will be noted that in relation to the kingdom the Sacred 
Writings lay stress on three points: (a) it is to be endowed with a new 
and peculiar sacrificial system; (b) it is to be the kingdom of truth 
possessed of a Divine revelation; (c) it is to be governed by an 
authority emanating from the Messias.
In regard to the first of these points, the priesthood of the Messias 
Himself is explicitly stated (Ps. cix, 4); while it is further taught 
that the worship which He is to inaugurate shall supersede the 
sacrifices of the Old Dispensation. This is implied, as the Apostle 
tells us, in the very title, "a priest after the order of 
Melchisedech"; and the same truth is contained in the prediction that a 
new priesthood is to be formed, drawn from other peoples besides the 
Israelites (Is., lxvi, 18), and in the words of the Prophet Malachias 
which foretell the institution of a new sacrifice to be offered "from 
the rising of the sun even to the going down" (Mal., i, 11). The 
sacrifices offered by the priesthood of the Messianic kingdom are to 
endure as long as day and night shall last (Jer., xxxiii, 20).
The revelation of the Divine truth under the New Dispensation attested 
by Jeremias: "Behold the days shall come saith the Lord, and I will 
make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Juda 
. . . and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, saying: 
Know the Lord: for all shall know me from the least of them even to the 
greatest" (Jer., xxxi, 31, 34), while Zacharias assures us that in 
those days Jerusalem shall be known as the city of truth. (Zach., viii, 
The passages which foretell that the Kingdom will possess a peculiar 
principle of authority in the personal rule of the Messias are numerous 
(e. g. Pss. ii; lxxi; Is., ix, 6 sq.); but in relation to Christ's own 
words, it is of interest to observe that in some of these passages the 
prediction is expressed under the metaphor of a shepherd guiding and 
governing his flock (Ezech., xxxiv, 23; xxxvii, 24-28). It is 
noteworthy, moreover, that just as the prophecies in regard to the 
priestly office foretell the appointment of a priesthood subordinate to 
the Messias, so those which relate to the office of government indicate 
that the Messias will associate with Himself other "shepherds", and 
will exercise His authority over the nations through rulers delegated 
to govern in His name (Jer., xviii, 6; Ps. xliv, 17; cf. St. Augustine 
Enarr. in Psalm. xliv, no. 32). Another feature of the kingdom is to be 
the sanctity of its members. The way to it is to be called "the holy 
way: the unclean shall not pass over it". The uncircumcised and unclean 
are not to enter into the renewed Jerusalem (Is., xxxv, 8; lii, 1).
The later uninspired apocalyptic literature of the Jews shows us how 
profoundly these predictions had influenced their national hopes, and 
explains for us the intense expectation among the populace described in 
the Gospel narratives. In these works as in the inspired prophecies the 
traits of the Messianic kingdom present two very different aspects. On 
the one hand, the Messias is a Davidic king who gathers together the 
dispersed of Israel, and establishes on this earth a kingdom of purity 
and sinlessness (Psalms of Solomon, xvii). The foreign foe is to be 
subdued (Assumpt. Moses, c. x) and the wicked are to be judged in the 
valley of the son of Hinnon (Enoch, xxv, xxvii, xc). On the other hand, 
the kingdom is described in eschatological characters. The Messias is 
pre-existent and Divine (Enoch, Simil., xlviii, 3); the kingdom He 
establishes is to be a heavenly kingdom inaugurated by a great world-
catastrophe, which separates this world (aion outos), from the world to 
come (mellon). This catastrophe is to be accompanied by a judgment both 
of angels and of men (Jubilees, x, 8; v, 10; Assumpt. Moses, x, 1). The 
dead will rise (Ps. Solom., iii, 11) and all the members of the 
Messianic kingdom will become like to the Messias (Enoch, Simil., xc, 
37). This twofold aspect of the Jewish hopes in regard to the coming 
Messias must be borne in mind, if Christ's use of the expression 
"Kingdom of God" is to be understood. Not infrequently, it is true, He 
employs it in an eschatological sense. But far more commonly He uses it 
of the kingdom set up on this earth -- of His Church. These are indeed, 
not two kingdoms, but one. The Kingdom of God to be established at the 
last day is the Church in her final triumph.
The Baptist proclaimed the near approach of the Kingdom of God, and of 
the Messianic Era. He bade all who would share its blessings prepare 
themselves by penance. His own mission, he said, was to prepare the way 
of the Messias. To his disciples he indicated Jesus of Nazareth as the 
Messias whose advent he had declared (John, i, 29-31). From the very 
commencement of His ministry Christ laid claim in an explicit way to 
the Messianic dignity. In the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke, iv, 21) He 
asserts that the prophecies are fulfilled in His person; He declares 
that He is greater than Solomon (Luke, xi, 31), more venerable than the 
Temple (Matt., xii, 6), Lord of the Sabbath (Luke, vi, 5). John, He 
says, is Elias, the promised forerunner (Matt., xvii, 12); and to 
John's messengers He vouchsafes the proofs of His Messianic dignity 
which they request (Luke, vii, 22). He demands implicit faith on the 
ground of His Divine legation (John, vi, 29). His public entry into 
Jerusalem was the acceptance by the whole people of a claim again and 
again reiterated before them. The theme of His preaching throughout is 
the Kingdom of God which He has come to establish. St. Mark, describing 
the beginning of His ministry, says that He came into Galilee saying, 
"The time is accomplished, and the Kingdom of God is at hand". For the 
kingdom which He was even then establishing in their midst, the Law and 
the Prophets had been, He said, but a preparation (Luke, xvi, 16; cf. 
Matt., iv, 23; ix, 35; xiii, 17; xxi, 43; xxiv, 14; Mark, i, 14; Luke, 
iv, 43; viii, 1; ix, 2, 60; xviii, 17).
When it is asked what is this kingdom of which Christ spoke, there can 
be but one answer. It is His Church, the society of those who accept 
His Divine legation, and admit His right to the obedience of faith 
which He claimed. His whole activity is directed to the establishment 
of such a society: He organizes it and appoints rulers over it, 
establishes rites and ceremonies in it, transfers to it the name which 
had hitherto designated the Jewish Church, and solemnly warns the Jews 
that the kingdom was no longer theirs, but had been taken from them and 
given to another people. The several steps taken by Christ in 
organizing the Church are traced by the Evangelists. He is represented 
as gathering numerous disciples, but as selecting twelve from their 
number to be His companions in an especial manner. These share His 
life. To them He reveals the more hidden parts of His doctrine (Matt., 
xiii, 11). He sends them as His deputies to preach the kingdom, and 
bestows on them the power to work miracles. All are bound to accept 
their message; and those who refuse to listen to them shall meet a fate 
more terrible than that of Sodom and Gomorra (Matt., x, 1-15). The 
Sacred Writers speak of these twelve chosen disciples in a manner 
indicating that they are regarded as forming a corporate body. In 
several passages they are still termed "the twelve" even when the 
number, understood literally, would be inexact. The name is applied to 
them when they have been reduced to eleven by the defection of Judas, 
on an occasion when only ten of them were present, and again after the 
appointment of St. Paul has increased their number to thirteen (Luke, 
xxiv, 33; John, xx, 24; I Cor., xv, 5; Apoc., xxi, 14).
In this constitution of the Apostolate Christ lays the foundation of 
His Church. But it is not till the action of official Judaism had 
rendered it manifestly impossible to hope the Jewish Church would admit 
His claim, that He prescribes for the Church as a body independent of 
the synagogue and possessed of an administration of her own. After the 
breach had become definite, He calls the Apostles together and speaks 
to them of the judicial action of the Church, distinguishing, in an 
unmistakable manner, between the private individual who undertakes the 
work of fraternal correction, and the ecclesiastical authority 
empowered to pronounce a judicial sentence (Matt., xviii, 15-17). To 
the jurisdiction thus conferred He attached a Divine sanction. A 
sentence thus pronounced, He assured the Apostles, should be ratified 
in heaven. A further step was the appointment of St. Peter to be the 
chief of the Twelve. For this position he had already been designated 
(Matt., xvi, 15 sqq.) on an occasion previous to that just mentioned: 
at Cæsarea Philippi, Christ had declared him to be the rock on which He 
would build His Church, thus affirming that the continuance and 
increase of the Church would rest on the office created in the person 
of Peter. To him, moreover, were to be given the keys of the Kingdom of 
Heaven -- an expression signifying the gift of plenary authority (Is., 
xxii, 22). The promise thus made was fulfilled after the Resurrection, 
on the occasion narrated in John, xxi. Here Christ employs a simile 
used on more than one occasion by Himself to denote His own relation to 
the members of His Church -- that of the shepherd and his flock. His 
solemn charge, "Feed my sheep", constituted Peter the common shepherd 
of the whole collective flock. (For a further consideration of the 
Petrine texts see article PRIMACY.) To the twelve Christ committed the 
charge of spreading the kingdom among all nations, appointing the rite 
of baptism as the one means of admission to a participation in its 
privileges (Matt., xxviii, 19).
In the course of this article detailed consideration will be given to 
the principal characteristics of the Church. Christ's teaching on this 
point may be briefly summarized here. It is to be a kingdom ruled in 
His absence by men (Matt., xviii, 18; John, xxi, 17). It is therefore a 
visible theocracy; and it will be substituted for the Jewish theocracy 
that has rejected Him (Matt., xxi, 43). In it, until the day of 
judgment, the bad will be mingled with the good (Matt., xiii, 41). Its 
extent will be universal (Matt., xxviii, 19), and its duration to the 
end of time (Matt., xiii, 49); all powers that oppose it shall be 
crushed (Matt., xxi, 44). Moreover, it will be a supernatural kingdom 
of truth, in the world, though not of it (John, xviii, 36). It will be 
one and undivided, and this unity shall be a witness to all men that 
its founder came from God (John, xvii, 21).
It is to be noticed that certain recent critics contest the positions 
maintained in the preceding paragraphs. They deny alike that Christ 
claimed to be the Messias, and that the kingdom of which He spoke was 
His Church. Thus, as regards Christ's claim to Messianic dignity, they 
say that Christ does not declare Himself to be the Messias in His 
preaching: that He bids the possessed who proclaimed Him the Son of God 
be silent: that the people did not suspect His Messiahship, but formed 
various extravagant hypotheses as to his personality. It is manifestly 
impossible within the limits of this article to enter on a detailed 
discussion of these points. But, in the light of the testimony of the 
passages above cited, it will be seen that the position is entirely 
untenable. In reference to the Kingdom of God, many of the critics hold 
that the current Jewish conception was wholly eschatological, and that 
Christ's references to it must one and all be thus interpreted. This 
view renders inexplicable the numerous passages in which Christ speaks 
of the kingdom as present, and further involves a misconception as to 
the nature of Jewish expectations, which, as has been seen, together 
with eschatological traits, contained others of a different character. 
Harnack (What is Christianity? p. 62) holds that in its inner meaning 
the kingdom as conceived by Christ is "a purely religious blessing, the 
inner link of the soul with the living God". Such an interpretation can 
in no possible way be reconciled with Christ's utterances on the 
subject. The whole tenor of his expressions is to lay stress on the 
concept of a theocratic society.
The Church after the Ascension
The doctrine of the Church as set forth by the Apostles after the 
Ascension is in all respects identical with the teaching of Christ just 
described. St. Peter, in his first sermon, delivered on the day of 
Pentecost, declares that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic king (Acts, 
ii, 36). The means of salvation which he indicates is baptism; and by 
baptism his converts are aggregated to the society of disciples (ii, 
41). Though in these days the Christians still availed themselves of 
the Temple services, yet from the first the brotherhood of Christ 
formed a society essentially distinct from the synagogue. The reason 
why St. Peter bids his hearers accept baptism is none other than that 
they may "save themselves from this unbelieving generation". Within the 
society of believers not only were the members united by common rites, 
but the tie of unity was so close as to bring about in the Church of 
Jerusalem that condition of things in which the disciples had all 
things common (ii, 44).
Christ had declared that His kingdom should be spread among all 
nations, and had committed the execution of the work to the twelve 
(Matt., xxviii, 19). Yet the universal mission of the Church revealed 
itself but gradually. St. Peter indeed makes mention of it from the 
first (Acts, ii, 39). But in the earliest years the Apostolic activity 
is confined to Jerusalem alone. Indeed an old tradition (Apollonius, 
cited by Eusebius "Hist. Eccl.", V, xvii, and Clem. Alex., "Strom.", 
VI, v, in P. G. IX, 264) asserts that Christ had bidden the Apostles 
wait twelve years in Jerusalem before dispersing to carry their message 
elsewhere. The first notable advance occurs consequent on the 
persecution which arose after the death of Stephen, A. D. 37. This was 
the occasion of the preaching of the Gospel to the Samaritans, a people 
excluded from the privileges of Israel, though acknowledging the Mosaic 
Law (Acts, viii, 5). A still further expansion resulted from the 
revelation directing St. Peter to admit to baptism Cornelius, a devout 
Gentile, i. e. one associated to the Jewish religion but not 
circumcised. From this tune forward circumcision and the observance of 
the Law were not a condition requisite for incorporation into the 
Church. But the final step of admitting those Gentiles who had known no 
previous connection with the religion of Israel, and whose life had 
been spent in paganism, was not taken till more than fifteen years 
after Christ's Ascension; it did not occur, it would seem, before the 
day described in Acts xiii, 46, when, at Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and 
Barnabas announced that since the Jews accounted themselves unworthy of 
eternal life they would "turn to the Gentiles".
In the Apostolic teaching the term Church, from the very first, takes 
the place of the expression Kingdom of God (Acts, V, 11). Where others 
than the Jews were concerned, the greater suitability of the former 
name is evident; for Kingdom of God had special reference to Jewish 
beliefs. But the change of title only emphasizes the social unity of 
the members. They are the new congregation of Israel -- the theocratic 
polity: they are the people (laos) of God (Acts, xv, 14; Rom., ix, 25; 
II Cor., vi, 16; I Peter, ii, 9 sq.; Heb., viii, 10; Apoc., xviii, 4; 
xxi, 3). By their admission to the Church, the Gentiles have been 
grafted in and form part of God's fruitful olive-tree, while apostate 
Israel has been broken off (Rom., xi, 24). St. Paul, writing to his 
Gentile converts at Corinth, terms the ancient Hebrew Church "our 
fathers" (I Cor., x, 1). Indeed from time to time the previous 
phraseology is employed, and the Gospel message is termed the preaching 
of the Kingdom of God (Acts, xx, 25; xxviii, 31).
Within the Church the Apostles exercised that regulative power with 
which Christ had endowed them. It was no chaotic mob, but a true 
society possessed of a corporate life, and organized in various orders. 
The evidence shows the twelve to have possessed (a) a power of 
jurisdiction, in virtue of which they wielded a legislative and 
judicial authority, and (b) a magisterial office to teach the Divine 
revelation entrusted to them. Thus (a) we find St. Paul authoritatively 
prescribing for the order and discipline of the churches. He does not 
advise; he directs (I Cor., xi, 34; xxvi, 1; Titus, i, 5). He 
pronounces judicial sentence (I Cor., V, 5; II Cor., ii, 10), and his 
sentences, like those of other Apostles, receive at times the solemn 
sanction of miraculous punishment (I Tim., i, 20; Acts, v, 1-10). In 
like manner he bids his delegate Timothy hear the causes even of 
priests, and rebuke, in the sight of all, those who sin (I Tim., v, 19 
sq.). (b) With no less definiteness does he assert that the Apostolate 
carries with it a doctrinal authority, which all are bound to 
recognize. God has sent them, he affirms, to claim "the obedience of 
faith" (Rom., i, 5; xv, 18). Further, his solemnly expressed desire, 
that even if an angel from heaven were to preach another doctrine to 
the Galatians than that which he had delivered to them, he should be 
anathema (Gal., i, 8), involves a claim to infallibility in the 
teaching of revealed truth.
While the whole Apostolic College enjoyed this power in the Church, St. 
Peter always appears in that position of primacy which Christ assigned 
to him. It is Peter who receives into the Church the first converts, 
alike from Judaism and from heathenism (Acts, ii, 41; x, 5 Sq.), who 
works the first miracle (Acts, iii, 1 sqq.), who inflicts the first 
ecclesiastical penalty (Acts, v, 1 sqq.). It is Peter who casts out of 
the Church the first heretic, Simon Magus (Acts, viii, 21), who makes 
the first Apostolic visitation of the churches (Acts, ix, 32), and who 
pronounces the first dogmatic decision (Acts, xv, 7). (See Schanz, III, 
p. 460.) So indisputable was his position that when St. Paul was about 
to undertake the work of preaching to the heathen the Gospel which 
Christ had revealed to him, he regarded it as necessary to obtain 
recognition from Peter (Gal., i, 18). More than this was not needful: 
for the approbation of Peter was definitive.
Few subjects have been so much debated during the past half-century as 
the organization of the primitive Church. The present article cannot 
deal with the whole of this wide subject. Its scope is limited to a 
single point. An endeavour will be made to estimate the existing 
information regarding the Apostolic Age itself. Further light is thrown 
on the matter by a consideration of the organization that is found to 
have existed in the period immediately subsequent to the death of the 
last Apostle. (See BISHOP.) The independent evidence derived from the 
consideration of each of these periods will, in the opinion of the 
present writer, be found, when fairly weighed, to yield similar 
results. Thus the conclusions here advanced, over and above their 
intrinsic value, derive support from the independent witness of another 
series of authorities tending in all essentials to confirm their 
accuracy. The question at issue is, whether the Apostles did, or did 
not, establish in the Christian communities a hierarchical 
organization. All Catholic scholars, together with some few 
Protestants, hold that they did so. The opposite view is maintained by 
the rationalist critics, together with the greater number of 
In considering the evidence of the New Testament on the subject, it 
appears at once that there is a marked difference between the state of 
things revealed in the later New Testament writings, and that which 
appears in those of an earlier date. In the earlier writings we find 
but little mention of an official organization. Such official positions 
as may have existed would seem to have been of minor importance in the 
presence of the miraculous charismata (q. v.) of the Holy Spirit 
conferred upon individuals, and fitting them to act as organs of the 
community in various grades. St. Paul in his earlier Epistles has no 
messages for the bishops or deacons, although the circumstances dealt 
with in the Epistles to the Corinthians and in that to the Galatians 
would seem to suggest a reference to the local rulers of the Church. 
When he enumerates the various functions to which God has called 
various members of the Church, he does not give us a list of Church 
offices. "God", he says, "hath set some in the church, first apostles, 
secondly prophets, thirdly doctors [didaskaloi]; after that miracles; 
then the graces of healings, helps, governments, kinds of tongues" (I 
Cor, xii, 28). This is not a list of official designations. It is a 
list of "charismata" bestowed by the Holy Spirit, enabling the 
recipient to fulfill some special function. The only term which forms 
an exception to this is that of apostle. Here the word is doubtless 
used in the sense in which it signifies the twelve and St. Paul only. 
As thus applied the Apostolate was a distinct office, involving a 
personal mission received from the Risen Lord Himself (I Cor., i, 1; 
Gal., i, 1). Such a position was of altogether too special a character 
for its recipients to be placed in any other category. The term could 
indeed be used in a wider reference. It is used of Barnabas (Acts, xiv, 
13) and of Andronicus and Junias, St. Paul's kinsmen (Rom., xvi, 7). In 
this extended signification it is apparently equivalent to evangelist 
(Eph., iv, 11; II Tim., iv, 5) and denotes those "apostolic men", who, 
like the Apostles, went from place to place labouring in new fields, 
but who had received their commission from them, and not from Christ in 
person. (See APOSTLES.)
The "prophets", the second class mentioned, were men to whom it was 
given to speak from time to time under the direct influence of the Holy 
Spirit as the recipients of supernatural inspiration (Acts, xiii, 2; 
xv, 23; xxi, 11; etc.). By the nature of the case the exercise of such 
a function could be occasional only. The "charisma" of the "doctors" 
(or teachers) differed from that of the prophets, in that it could be 
used continuously. They had received the gift of intelligent insight 
into revealed truth, and the power to impart it to others. It is 
manifest that those who possessed such a power must have exercised a 
function of vital moment to the Church in those first days, when the 
Christian communities consisted to so large an extent of new converts. 
The other "charismata" mentioned do not call for special notice. But 
the prophets and teachers would appear to have possessed an importance 
as organs of the community, eclipsing that of the local ministry. Thus 
in Acts, xiii, 1, it is simply related that there were in the Church 
which was at Antioch prophets and doctors. There is no mention of 
bishops or deacons. And in the Didache -- a work as it would seem of 
the first century, written before the last Apostle had passed away – 
the author enjoins respect for the bishops and deacons, on the ground 
that they have a claim similar to that of the prophets and doctors. 
"Appoint for yourselves", he writes, "bishops and deacons, worthy of 
the Lord, men who are meek, and not lovers of money, and true and 
approved; for unto you they also perform the service [leitourgousi ten 
leitourgian] of the prophets and doctors. Therefore despise them not: 
for they are your honourable men along with the prophets and teachers" 
(c. xv).
It would appear, then, indisputable that in the earliest years of the 
Christian Church ecclesiastical functions were in a large measure 
fulfilled by men who had been specially endowed for this purpose with 
"charismata" of the Holy Spirit, and that as long as these gifts 
endured, the local ministry occupied a position of less importance and 
influence. Yet, though this be the case, there would seem to be ample 
ground for holding that the local ministry was of Apostolic 
institution: and, further, that towards the later part of the Apostolic 
Age the abundant "charismata" were ceasing, and that the Apostles 
themselves took measures to determine the position of the official 
hierarchy as the directive authority of the Church. The evidence for 
the existence of such a local ministry is plentiful in the later 
Epistles of St. Paul (Phil., I and II Tim., and Titus). The Epistle to 
the Philippians opens with a special greeting to the bishops and 
deacons. Those who hold these official positions are recognized as the 
representatives in some sort of the Church. Throughout the letter there 
is no mention of the "charismata", which figure so largely in the 
earlier Epistles. It is indeed urged by Hort (Christian Ecelesia, p. 
211) that even here these terms are not official titles. But in view of 
their employment as titles in documents so nearly contemporary, as I 
Clem., c. 4, and the Didache, such a contention seems devoid of all 
In the Pastoral Epistles the new situation appears even more clearly. 
The purpose of these writings was to instruct Timothy and Titus 
regarding the manner in which they were to organize the local Churches. 
The total absence of all reference to the spiritual gifts can scarcely 
be otherwise explained than by supposing that they no longer existed in 
the communities, or that they were at most exceptional phenomena. 
Instead, we find the Churches governed by a hierarchical organization 
of bishops, sometimes also termed presbyters, and deacons. That the 
terms bishop and presbyter are synonymous is evident from Titus, i, 5-
7: "I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest . . . ordain priests in 
every city . . . For a bishop must be without crime." These presbyters 
form a corporate body (I Tim., iv, 14), and they are entrusted with the 
twofold charge of governing the Church (I Tim., iii, 5) and of teaching 
(I Tim., iii, 2; Titus, i, 9). The selection of those who are to fill 
this post does not depend on the possession of supernatural gifts. It 
is required that they should not be unproved neophytes, that they 
should be under no charge, should have displayed moral fitness for the 
work, and should be capable of teaching. (I Tim., iii, 2-7; Titus, i, 
5-9.) The appointment to this office was by a solemn laying on of hands 
(I Tim., v, 22). Some words addressed by St. Paul to Timothy, in 
reference to the ceremony as it had taken place in Timothy's case, 
throw light upon its nature. "I admonish thee", he writes, "that thou 
stir up the grace (charisma) of God, which is in thee by the laying on 
of my hands" (II Tim., i, 6). The rite is here declared to be the means 
by which a charismatic gift is conferred; and, further, the gift in 
question, like the baptismal character, is permanent in its effects. 
The recipient needs but to "waken into life" [anazopyrein] the grace he 
thus possesses in order to avail himself of it. It is an abiding 
endowment. There can be no reason for asserting that the imposition of 
hands, by which Timothy was instructed to appoint the presbyters to 
their office, was a rite of a different character, a mere formality 
without practical import.
With the evidence before us, certain other notices in the New Testament 
writings, pointing to the existence of this local ministry, may be 
considered. There is mention of presbyters at Jerusalem at a date 
apparently immediately subsequent to the dispersion of the Apostles 
(Acts, xi, 30; cf. xv, 2; xvi, 4; xxi, 18). Again, we are told that 
Paul and Barnabas, as they retraced their steps on their first 
missionary journey, appointed presbyters in every Church (Acts, xiv, 
22). So too the injunction to the Thessalonians (I Thess., v, 12) to 
have regard to those who are over them in the Lord (proistamenoi; cf. 
Rom., xii, 6) would seem to imply that there also St. Paul had invested 
certain members of the community with a pastoral charge. Still more 
explicit is the evidence contained in the account of St. Paul's 
interview with the Ephesian elders (Acts, xx, 17-23). It is told that, 
sending from Miletus to Ephesus, he summoned "the presbyters of the 
Church", and in the course of his charge addressed them as follows: 
"Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost 
has placed you bishops to tend [poimainein] the Church of God" (xx, 
28). St. Peter employs similar language: "The presbyters that are among 
you, I beseech, who am myself also a presbyter . . . tend [poimainein] 
the flock of God which is among you." These expressions leave no doubt 
as to the office designated by St. Paul, when in Eph., iv, 11, he 
enumerates the gifts of the Ascended Lord as follows: "He gave some 
apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some 
pastors and doctors [tous de poimenas kai didaskalous]. The Epistle of 
St. James provides us with yet another reference to this office, where 
the sick man is bidden send for the presbyters of the Church, that he 
may receive at their hands the rite of unction (James, v, 14).
The term presbyter was of common use in the Jewish Church, as denoting 
the "rulers" of the synagogue (cf. Luke, xiii, 14). Hence it has been 
argued by some non-Catholic writers that in the bishops and deacons of 
the New Testament there is simply the synagogal organization familiar 
to the first converts, and introduced by them into the Christian 
communities. St. Paul's concept of the Church, it is urged, is 
essentially opposed to any rigid governmental system; yet this familiar 
form of organization was gradually established even in the Churches he 
had founded. In regard to this view it appears enough to say that the 
resemblance between the Jewish "rulers of the synagogue" and the 
Christian presbyter-episcopus goes no farther than the name. The Jewish 
official was purely civil and held office for a time only. The 
Christian presbyterate was for life, and its functions were spiritual. 
There is perhaps more ground for the view advocated by some (cf. de 
Smedt, Revue des quest. hist., vols. XLIV, L), that presbyter and 
episcopus may not in all cases be perfectly Synonymous. The term 
presbyter is undoubtedly an honorific title, while that of episcopus 
primarily indicates the function performed. It is possible that the 
former title may have had a wider significance than the latter. The 
designation presbyter, it is suggested, may have been given to all 
those who were recognized as having a claim to some voice in directing 
the affairs of the community, whether this were based on official 
status, or social rank, or benefactions to the local Church, or on some 
other ground; while those presbyters who had received the laying on of 
hands would be known, not simply as "presbyters", but as "presiding 
[proistamenoi -- I Thess., v. 12) presbyters", "presbyter-bishops", 
"presbyter-rulers" (hegoumenoi -- Heb., xiii, 17).
It remains to consider whether the so-called "monarchical" episcopate 
was instituted by the Apostles. Besides establishing a college of 
presbyter-bishops, did they further place one man in a position of 
supremacy, entrusting the government of the Church to him, and endowing 
him with Apostolic authority over the Christian community? Even if we 
take into account the Scriptural evidence alone, there are sufficient 
grounds for answering this question in the affirmative. From the time 
of the dispersion of the Apostles, St. James appears in an episcopal 
relation to the Church of Jerusalem (Acts, xii, 17; xv, 13; Gal., ii, 
12). In the other Christian communities the institution of 
"monarchical" bishops was a somewhat later development. At first the 
Apostles themselves fulfilled, it would seem, all the duties of Supreme 
oversight. They established the office when the growing needs of the 
Church demanded it. The Pastoral Epistles leave no room to doubt that 
Timothy and Titus were sent as bishops to Ephesus and to Crete 
respectively. To Timothy full Apostolic powers are conceded. 
Notwithstanding his youth he holds authority over both clergy and 
laity. To him is confided the duty of guarding the purity of the 
Church's faith, of ordaining priests, of exercising jurisdiction. 
Moreover, St. Pauls exhortation to him, "to keep the commandment 
without spot, blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" 
shows that this was no transitory mission. A charge so worded includes 
in its sweep, not Timothy alone, but his successors in an office which 
is to last until the Second Advent. Local tradition unhesitatingly 
reckoned him among the occupants of the episcopal see. At the Council 
of Chalcedon, the Church of Ephesus counted a succession of twenty-
seven bishops commencing with Timothy (Mansi, VII, 293; cf. Eusebius, 
Hist. Eccl., III, iv, v).
These are not the sole evidences which the New Testament affords of the 
monarchical episcopate. In the Apocalypse the "angels" to whom the 
letters to the seven Churches are addressed are almost certainly the 
bishops of the respective communities. Some commentators, indeed, have 
held them to be personifications of the communities themselves. But 
this explanation can hardly stand. St. John, throughout, addresses the 
angel as being responsible for the community precisely as he would 
address its ruler. Moreover, in the symbolism of ch. i, the two are 
represented under different figures: the angels are the stars in the 
right hand of the Son of Man; the seven candlesticks are the image 
which figures the communities. The very term angel, it should be 
noticed, is practically synonymous with apostle, and thus is aptly 
chosen to designate the episcopal office. Again the messages to 
Archippus (Col., iv, 17; Philem., 2) imply that he held a position of 
special dignity, superior to that of the other presbyters. The mention 
of him in a letter entirely concerned with a private matter, as is that 
to Philemon, is hardly explicable unless he were the official head of 
the Colossian Church. We have therefore four important indications of 
the existence of an office in the local Churches, held by a Single 
person, and carrying with it Apostolical authority. Nor can any 
difficulty be occasioned by the fact that as yet no special title 
distinguishes these successors of the Apostles from the ordinary 
presbyters. It is in the nature of things that the office should exist 
before a title is assigned to it. The name of apostle, we have seen, 
was not confined to the Twelve. St. Peter (I Peter, V, 1) and St. John 
(II and III John, i, 1) both speak of themselves as presbyters". St. 
Paul speaks of the Apostolate as a diakonia. A parallel case in later 
ecclesiastical history is afforded by the word pope. This title was not 
appropriated to the exclusive use of the Holy See till the eleventh 
century. Yet no one maintains that the supreme pontificate of the Roman 
bishop was not recognized till then. It should cause no surprise that a 
precise terminology, distinguishing bishops, in the full sense, from 
the presbyter-bishops, is not found in the New Testament.
The conclusion reached is put beyond all reasonable doubt by the 
testimony of the sub-Apostolic Age. This is so important in regard to 
the question of the episcopate that it is impossible entirely to pass 
it over. It will be enough, however, to refer to the evidence contained 
in the epistles of St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, himself a disciple 
of the Apostles. In these epistles (about A. D. 107) he again and again 
asserts that the supremacy of the bishop is of Divine institution and 
belongs to the Apostolic constitution of the Church. He goes so far as 
to affirm that the bishop stands in the place of Christ Himself. "When 
ye are obedient to the bishop as to Jesus Christ," he writes to the 
Trallians, "it is evident to me that ye are living not after men, but 
after Jesus Christ. . . be ye obedient also to the presbytery as to the 
Apostles of Jesus Christ" (ad Trall., n. 2). He also incidentally tells 
us that bishops are found in the Church, even in "the farthest parts of 
the earth" (ad Ephes., n. 3) It is out of the question that one who 
lived at a period so little removed from the actual Apostolic Age could 
have proclaimed this doctrine in terms such as he employs, had not the 
episcopate been universally recognized as of Divine appointment. It has 
been seen that Christ not only established the episcopate in the 
persons of the Twelve but, further, created in St. Peter the office of 
supreme pastor of the Church. Early Christian history tells us that 
before his death, he fixed his residence at Rome, and ruled the Church 
there as its bishop. It is from Rome that he dates his first Epistle, 
speaking of the city under the name of Babylon, a designation which St. 
John also gives it in the Apocalypse (c. xviii). At Rome, too, he 
suffered martyrdom in company with St. Paul, AD 67. The list of his 
successors in the see is known, from Linus, Anacletus, and Clement, who 
were the first to follow him, down to the reigning pontiff. The Church 
has ever seen in the occupant of the See of Rome the successor of Peter 
in the supreme pastorate. (See POPE.)
The evidence thus far considered seems to demonstrate beyond all 
question that the hierarchical organization of the Church was, in its 
essential elements, the work of the Apostles themselves; and that to 
this hierarchy they handed on the charge entrusted to them by Christ of 
governing the Kingdom of God, and of teaching the revealed doctrine. 
These conclusions are far from being admitted by Protestant and other 
critics. They are unanimous in holding that the idea of a Church -- an 
organized society -- is entirely foreign to the teaching of Christ. It 
is therefore, in their eyes, impossible that Catholicism, if by that 
term we signify a worldwide institution, bound together by unity of 
constitution, of doctrine, and of worship, can have been established by 
the direct action of the Apostles. In the course of the nineteenth 
century many theories were propounded to account for the transformation 
of the so-called "Apostolic Christianity" into the Christianity of the 
commencement of the third century, when beyond all dispute the Catholic 
system was firmly established from one end of the Roman Empire to the 
other. At the present day (1908) the theories advocated by the critics 
are of a less extravagant nature than those of F.C. Baur (1853) and the 
Tübingen School, which had so great a vogue in the middle of the 
nineteenth century. Greater regard is shown for the claims of 
historical possibility and for the value of early Christian evidences. 
At the same time it is to be observed that the reconstruction's 
suggested involve the rejection of the Pastoral Epistles as being 
documents of the second century. It will be sufficient here to notice 
one or two salient points in the views which now find favour with the 
best known among non-Catholic writers.
It is held that such official organization as existed in the Christian 
communities was not regarded as involving special spiritual gifts, and 
had but little religious significance. Some writers, as has been seen, 
believe with Holtzmann that in the episcopi and presbyteri, there is 
simply the synagogal system of archontes and hyperetai. Others, with 
Hatch, derive the origin of the episcopate from the fact that certain 
civic functionaries in the Syrian cities appear to have borne the title 
of "episcopi". Professor Harnack, while agreeing with Hatch as to the 
origin of the office, differs from him in so far as he admits that from 
the first the superintendence of worship belonged to the functions of 
the bishop. The offices of prophet and teacher, it is urged, were those 
in which the primitive Church acknowledged a spiritual significance. 
These depended entirely on special charismatic gifts of the Holy Ghost. 
The government of the Church in matters of religion was thus regarded 
as a direct Divine rule by the Holy Spirit, acting through His inspired 
agents. And only gradually, it is supposed, did the local ministry take 
the place of the prophets and teachers, and inherit from them the 
authority once attributed to the possessors of spiritual gifts alone 
(cf. Sabatier, Religions of Authority, p. 24). Even if we prescind 
altogether from the evidence considered above, this theory appears 
devoid of intrinsic probability. A direct Divine rule by "charismata" 
could only result in confusion, if uncontrolled by any directive power 
possessed of superior authority. Such a directive and regulative 
authority, to which the exercise of spiritual gifts was itself subject, 
existed in the Apostolate, as the New Testament amply shows (I Cor., 
xiv). In the succeeding age a precisely similar authority is found in 
the episcopate. Every principle of historical criticism demands that 
the source of episcopal power should be sought, not in the 
"charismata", but, where tradition places it, in the Apostolate itself.
It is to the crisis occasioned by Gnosticism and Montanism in the 
second century that these writers attribute the rise of the Catholic 
system. They say that, in order to combat these heresies, the Church 
found it necessary to federate itself, and that for this end it 
established a statutory, so-called "apostolic" faith, and further 
secured the episcopal supremacy by the fiction of "apostolic 
succession", (Harnack, Hist. of Dogma, II, ii; Sabatier, op. cit., pp. 
35-59). This view appears to be irreconcilable with the facts of the 
case. The evidence of the Ignatian epistles alone shows that, long 
before the Gnostic crisis arose, the particular local Churches were 
conscious of an essential principle of solidarity binding all together 
into a single system. Moreover, the very fact that these heresies 
gained no foothold within the Church in any part of the world, but were 
everywhere recognized as heretical and promptly excluded, suffices to 
prove that the Apostolic faith was already clearly known and firmly 
held, and that the Churches were already organized under an active 
episcopate. Again, to say that the doctrine of Apostolic succession was 
invented to cope with these heresies is to overlook the fact that it is 
asserted in plain terms in the Epistle of Clement, c. xlii.
M. Loisy's theory as to the organization of the Church has attracted so 
much attention in recent years as to call for a brief notice. In his 
work, "L'Evangile et l'Eglise", he accepts many of the views held by 
critics hostile to Catholicism, and endeavours by a doctrine of 
development to reconcile them with some form of adhesion to the Church. 
He urges that the Church is of the nature of an organism, whose 
animating principle is the message of Jesus Christ. This organism may 
experience many changes of external form, as it develops itself in 
accordance with its inner needs, and with the requirements of its 
environment. Yet so long as these changes are such as are demanded in 
order that the vital principle may be preserved, they are unessential 
in character. So far indeed are they from being organic alterations, 
that we ought to reckon them as implicitly involved in the very being 
of the Church. The formation of the hierarchy he regards as a change of 
this kind. In fact, since he holds that Jesus Christ mistakenly 
anticipated the end of the world to be close at hand, and that His 
first disciples lived in expectation of His immediate return in glory, 
it follows that the hierarchy must have had some such origin as this. 
It is out of the question to attribute it to the Apostles. Men who 
believed the end of the world to be impending would not have seen the 
necessity of endowing a society with a form of government intended to 
These revolutionary views constitute part of the theory known as 
Modernism, whose philosophical presuppositions involve the complete 
denial of the miraculous. The Church, according to this theory, is not 
a society established by eternal Divine interposition. It is a society 
expressing the religious experience of the collectivity of consciences, 
and owing its origin to two natural tendencies in men, viz. the 
tendency of the individual believer to communicate his beliefs to 
others, and the tendency of those who hold the same beliefs to unite in 
a society. The Modernist theories were analyzed and condemned as "the 
synthesis of all the heresies" in the Encyclical "Pascendi Dominici 
gregis" (18 September, 1907). The principal features of M. Loisy's 
theory of the Church had been already included among the condemned 
propositions contained in the Decree "Lamentabili" (3 July, 1907). The 
fifty-third of the propositions there singled out for reprobation is 
the following: "The original constitution of the Church is not 
immutable; but the Christian society like human society is subject to 
perpetual change."
The church, as has been seen, is a society formed of living men, not a 
mere mystical union of souls. As such it resembles other societies. 
Like them, it has its code of rules, its executive officers, its 
ceremonial observances. Yet it differs from them more than it resembles 
them: for it is a supernatural society. The Kingdom of God is 
supernatural alike in its origin, in the purpose at which it aims, and 
in the means at its disposal. Other kingdoms are natural in their 
origin; and their scope is limited to the temporal welfare of their 
citizens. The supernatural character of the Church is seen, when its 
relation to the redemptive work of Christ is considered. It is the 
society of those whom He has redeemed from the world. The world, by 
which term are signified men in so far as they have fallen from God, is 
ever set forth in Scripture as the kingdom of the Evil One. It is the 
"world of darkness" (Eph., vi, 12), it is "seated in the wicked one" (I 
John, vi, 19), it hates Christ (John, xv, 18). To save the world, God 
the Son became man. He offered Himself as a propitiation for the sins 
of the whole world (I John, ii, 2). God, Who desires that all men 
should be saved, has offered salvation to all; but the greater part of 
mankind rejects the proffered gift. The Church is the society of those 
who accept redemption, of those whom Christ "has chosen out of the 
world" (John, xv, 19). Thus it is the Church alone which He "hath 
purchased with his own blood" (Acts, xx, 28). Of the members of the 
Church, the Apostle can say that "God hath delivered us from the power 
of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his 
love" (Col., i, 13). St. Augustine terms the Church "mundus salvatus " 
-- the redeemed world -- and speaking of the enmity borne towards the 
Church by those who reject her, says: "The world of perdition hates the 
world of salvation" ("in Joan.", Tract. lxxx, vii, n. 2 in P. L., XXXV, 
1885). To the Church Christ has given the means of grace He merited by 
His life and death. She communicates them to her members; and those who 
are outside her fold she bids to enter that they too may participate in 
them. By these means of grace -- the light of revealed truth, the 
sacraments, the perpetual renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary -- the 
Church carries on the work of sanctifying the elect. Through their 
instrumentality each individual soul is perfected, and conformed to the 
likeness of the Son of God.
It is thus manifest that, when we regard the Church simply as the 
society of disciples, we are considering its external form only. Its 
inward life is found in the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, the gifts of 
faith, hope, and charity, the grace communicated by the sacraments, and 
the other prerogatives by which the children of God differ from the 
children of the world. This aspect of the Church is described by the 
Apostles in figurative language. They represent it as the Body of 
Christ, the Spouse of Christ, the Temple of God. In order to understand 
its true nature some consideration of these comparisons is requisite. 
In the conception of the Church as a body governed and directed by 
Christ as the head, far more is contained than the familiar analogy 
between a ruler and his subjects on the one hand, and the head guiding 
and coordinating the activities of the several members on the other. 
That analogy expresses indeed the variety of function, the unity of 
directive principle, and the Cooperation of the parts to a common end, 
which are found in a society; but it is insufficient to explain the 
terms in which St. Paul speaks of the union between Christ and His 
disciples. Each of them is a member of Christ (I Cor., vi, 15); 
together they form the body of Christ (Eph., iv, 16); as a corporate 
unity they are simply termed Christ (I Cor., xii, 12).
The intimacy of union here suggested is, however, justified, if we 
recall that the gifts and graces bestowed upon each disciple are graces 
merited by the Passion of Christ, and are destined to produce in him 
the likeness of Christ. The connection between Christ and himself is 
thus very different from the purely juridical relation binding the 
ruler of a natural society to the individuals belonging to it. The 
Apostle develops the relatio between Christ and His members from 
various points of view. As a human body is organized, each joint and 
muscle having its own function, yet each contributing to the union of 
the complex whole, so too the Christian society is a body "compacted 
and firmly joined together by that which every part supplieth" (Eph., 
iv, 16), while all the parts depend on Christ their head. It is He Who 
has organized the body, assigning to each member his place in the 
Church, endowing each with the special graces necessary, and, above 
all, conferring on some of the members the graces in virtue of which 
they rule and guide the Church in His name (ibid., iv, 11). 
Strengthened by these graces, the mystical body, like a physical body, 
grows and increases. This growth is twofold. It takes place in the 
individual, inasmuch as each Christian gradually grows into the 
"perfect man", into the image of Christ (Eph., iv, 13, 15; Rom., viii, 
29). But there is also a growth in the whole body. As time goes on, the 
Church is to increase and multiply till it fills the earth. So intimate 
is the union between Christ and His members, that the Apostle speaks of 
the Church as the "fullness" (pleroma) of Christ (Eph., i, 23; iv, 13), 
as though apart from His members something were lacking to the head. He 
even speaks of it as Christ: "As all the members of the body whereas 
they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ" (I Cor., xii, 12). 
And to establish the reality of this union he refers it to the 
efficacious instrumentality of the Holy Eucharist: "We being many, are 
one bread, one body: for we all partake of that one bread" (I Cor., x, 
17 -- Greek text).
The description of the Church as God's temple, in which the disciples 
are "living stones" (I Peter, ii, 5), is scarcely less frequent in the 
Apostolic writings than is the metaphor of the body. "You are the 
temple of the living God" (II Cor., vi, 16), writes St. Paul to the 
Corinthians, and he reminds the Ephesians that they are "built upon the 
foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the 
chief corner stone; in whom all the building being framed together, 
groweth up into a holy temple in the Lord" (Eph., ii, 20 sq.). With a 
slight change in the metaphor, the same Apostle in another passage (I 
Cor., iii, 11) compares Christ to the foundation, and himself and other 
Apostolic labourers to the builders who raise the temple upon it. It is 
noticeable that the word translated "temple" is naos, a term which 
signifies properly the inner sanctuary. The Apostle, when he employs 
this word, is clearly comparing the Christian Church to that Holy of 
Holies where God manifested His visible presence in the Shekinah. The 
metaphor of the temple is well adapted to enforce two lessons. On 
several occasions the Apostle employs it to impress on his readers the 
sanctity of the Church in which they have been incorporated. "If any 
shall violate the temple of God", he says, speaking of those who 
corrupt the Church by false doctrine, "him shall God destroy" (I Cor., 
iii, 17). And he employs the same motive to dissuade disciples from 
forming matrimonial alliance with Unbelievers: "What agreement hath the 
temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God" (II 
Cor., vi, 16). It further illustrates in the clearest way the truth 
that to each member of the Church God has assigned his own place, 
enabling him by his work there to cooperate towards the great common 
end, the glory of God.
The third parallel represents the Church as the bride of Christ. Here 
there is much more than a metaphor. The Apostle says that the union 
between Christ and His Church is the archetype of which human marriage 
is an earthly representation. Thus he bids wives be subject to their 
husbands, as the Church is subject to Christ (Eph., v, 22 sq.). Yet he 
points out on the other hand that the relation of husband to wife is 
not that of a master to his servant, but one involving the tenderest 
and most self-sacrificing love. He bids husbands love their wives, "as 
Christ also loved the Church, and delivered himself up for it" (ibid., 
v, 25). Man and wife are one flesh; and in this the husband has a 
powerful motive for love towards the wife, since "no man ever hated his 
own flesh". This physical union is but the antitype of that mysterious 
bond in virtue of which the Church is so truly one with Christ, that 
"we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 'For this 
cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his 
wife, and they shall be two in one flesh"' (Eph., v, 30 sq.; Gen., ii, 
24). In these words the Apostle indicates the mysterious parallelism 
between the union of the first Adam with the spouse formed from his 
body, and the union of the second Adam with the Church. She is "bone of 
his bones, and flesh of his flesh", even as Eve was in regard to our 
first father. And those only belong to the family of the second Adam, 
who are her children, "born again of water and of the Holy Ghost". 
Occasionally the metaphor assumes a slightly different form. In Apoc., 
xix, 7, the marriage of the Lamb to his spouse the Church does not take 
place till the last day in the hour of the Church's final triumph. Thus 
too St. Paul, writing to the Corinthians (II Cor., xi, 2), compares 
himself to "the friend of the bridegroom", who played so important a 
part in the Hebrew marriage ceremony (cf. John, iii, 29). He has, he 
says, espoused the Corinthian community to Christ, and he holds himself 
responsible to present it spotless to the bridegroom.
Through the medium of these metaphors the Apostles set forth the inward 
nature of the Church. Their expressions leave no doubt that in them 
they always refer to the actually existing Church founded by Christ on 
earth -- the society of Christ's disciples. Hence it is instructive to 
observe that Protestant divines find it necessary to distinguish 
between an actual and an ideal Church, and to assert that the teaching 
of the Apostles regarding the Spouse, the Temple, and the Body refers 
to the ideal Church alone (cf. Gayford in Hastings, "Dict. of the 
Bible", s. v. Church).
In the preceding examination of the Scriptural doctrine regarding the 
Church, it has been seen how clearly it is laid down that only by 
entering the Church can we participate in the redemption wrought for us 
by Christ. Incorporation with the Church can alone unite us to the 
family of the second Adam, and alone can engraft us into the true Vine. 
Moreover, it is to the Church that Christ has committed those means of 
grace through which the gifts He earned for men are communicated to 
them. The Church alone dispenses the sacraments. It alone makes known 
the light of revealed truth. Outside the Church these gifts cannot be 
obtained. From all this there is but one conclusion: Union with the 
Church is not merely one out of various means by which salvation may be 
obtained: it is the only means.
This doctrine of the absolute necessity of union with the Church was 
taught in explicit terms by Christ. Baptism, the act of incorporation 
among her members, He affirmed to be essential to salvation. "He that 
believeth and is baptized shall be saved: he that believeth not shall 
be condemned" (Mark, xvi, 16). Any disciple who shall throw off 
obedience to the Church is to be reckoned as one of the heathen: he has 
no part in the kingdom of God (Matt., xviii, 17). St. Paul is equally 
explicit. "A man that is a heretic", he writes to Titus, "after the 
first and second admonition avoid, knowing that he that is such a one 
is . . . condemned by his own judgment" (Tit., iii, 10 sq.). The 
doctrine is summed up in the phrase, Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. This 
saying has been the occasion of so many objections that some 
consideration of its meaning seems desirable. It certainly does not 
mean that none can be saved except those who are in visible communion 
with the Church. The Catholic Church has ever taught that nothing else 
is needed to obtain justification than an act of perfect charity and of 
contrition. Whoever, under the impulse of actual grace, elicits these 
acts receives immediately the gift of sanctifying grace, and is 
numbered among the children of God. Should he die in these 
dispositions, he will assuredly attain heaven. It is true such acts 
could not possibly be elicited by one who was aware that God has 
commanded all to join the Church, and who nevertheless should willfully 
remain outside her fold. For love of God carries with it the practical 
desire to fulfill His commandments. But of those who die without 
visible communion with the Church, not all are guilty of willful 
disobedience to God's commands. Many are kept from the Church by 
Ignorance. Such may be the case of numbers among those who have been 
brought up in heresy. To others the external means of grace may be 
unattainable. Thus an excommunicated person may have no opportunity of 
seeking reconciliation at the last, and yet may repair his faults by 
inward acts of contrition and charity.
It should be observed that those who are thus saved are not entirely 
outside the pale of the Church. The will to fulfill all God's 
commandments is, and must be, present in all of them. Such a wish 
implicitly includes the desire for incorporation with the visible 
Church: for this, though they know it not, has been commanded by God. 
They thus belong to the Church by desire (voto). Moreover, there is a 
true sense in which they may be said to be saved through the Church. In 
the order of Divine Providence, salvation is given to man in the 
Church: membership in the Church Triumphant is given through membership 
in the Church Militant. Sanctifying grace, the title to salvation, is 
peculiarly the grace of those who are united to Christ in the Church: 
it is the birthright of the children of God. The primary purpose of 
those actual graces which God bestows upon those outside the Church is 
to draw them within the fold. Thus, even in the case in which God Saves 
men apart from the Church, He does so through the Church's graces. They 
are joined to the Church in spiritual communion, though not in visible 
and external communion. In the expression of theologians, they belong 
to the soul of the Church, though not to its body. Yet the possibility 
of salvation apart from visible communion with the Church must not 
blind us to the loss suffered by those who are thus situated. They are 
cut off from the sacraments God has given as the support of the soul. 
In the ordinary channels of grace, which are ever open to the faithful 
Catholic, they cannot participate. Countless means of sanctification 
which the Church offers are denied to them. It is often urged that this 
is a stern and narrow doctrine. The reply to this objection is that the 
doctrine is stern, but only in the sense in which sternness is 
inseparable from love. It is the same sternness which we find in 
Christ's words, when he said: "If you believe not that I am he, you 
shall die in your sin" (John, viii, 24). The Church is animated with 
the spirit of Christ; she is filled with the same love for souls, the 
same desire for their salvation. Since, then, she knows that the way of 
salvation is through union with her, that in her and in her alone are 
stored the benefits of the Passion, she must needs be uncompromising 
and even stern in the assertion of her claims. To fail here would be to 
fail in the duty entrusted to her by her Lord. Even where the message 
is unwelcome, she must deliver it.
It is instructive to observe that this doctrine has been proclaimed at 
every period of the Church's history. It is no accretion of a later 
age. The earliest successors of the Apostles speak as plainly as the 
medieval theologians, and the medieval theologians are not more 
emphatic than those of today. From the first century to the twentieth 
there is absolute unanimity. St. Ignatius of Antioch writes: "Be not 
deceived, my brethren. If any man followeth one that maketh schism, he 
doth not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walketh in strange 
doctrine, he hath no fellowship with the Passion" (ad to the same 
effect: "He cannot have God for his father, who has not the Church for 
his mother" (De Unit., c. vi). The words of the Fourth Ecumenical 
Council of Lateran (1215) define the doctrine thus in its decree 
against the Albigenses: "Una est fidelium universalis Ecclesia, extra 
quam nullus omnino salvatur" (Denzinger, n. 357); and Pius IX employed 
almost identical language in his Encyclical to the bishops of Italy (10 
August, 1863): "Notissimum est catholicum dogma neminem scilicet extra 
catholicam ecclesiam posse salvari" (Denzinger, n. 1529).
In asserting that the Church of Christ is visible, we signify, first, 
that as a society it will at all times be conspicuous and public, and 
second, that it will ever be recognizable among other bodies as the 
Church of Christ. These two aspects of visibility are termed 
respectively "material" and "formal" visibility by Catholic 
theologians. The material visibility of the Church involves no more 
than that it must ever be a public, not a private profession; a society 
manifest to the world, not a body whose members are bound by some 
secret tie. Formal visibility is more than this. It implies that in all 
ages the true Church of Christ will be easily recognizable for that 
which it is, viz. as the Divine society of the Son of God, the means of 
salvation offered by God to men; that it possesses certain attributes 
which so evidently postulate a Divine origin that all who see it must 
know it comes from God. This must, of course, be understood with some 
necessary qualifications. The power to recognize the Church for what it 
is presupposes certain moral dispositions. Where there is a rooted 
unwillingness to follow God's will, there may be spiritual blindness to 
the claims of the Church. Invincible prejudice or inherited assumptions 
may produce the same result. But in such cases the incapacity to see is 
due, not to the want of visibility in the Church, but to the blindness 
of the individual. The case bears an almost exact analogy to the 
evidence possessed by the proofs for the existence of God. The proofs 
in themselves are evident: but they may fail to penetrate a mind 
obscured by prejudice or ill will. From the time of the Reformation, 
Protestant writers either denied the visibility of the Church, or so 
explained it as to rob it of most of its meaning. After briefly 
indicating the grounds of the Catholic doctrine, some views prevalent 
on this subject among Protestant authorities will be noticed.
It is unnecessary to say more in regard to the material visibility of 
the Church than has been said in sections III and IV of this article. 
It has been shown there that Christ established His church as an 
organized society under accredited leaders, and that He commanded its 
rulers and those who should succeed them to summon all men to secure 
their eternal salvation by entry into it. It is manifest that there is 
no question here of a secret union of believers: the Church is a 
worldwide corporation, whose existence is to be forced upon the notice 
of all, willing or unwilling. Formal visibility is secured by those 
attributes which are usually termed the "notes" of the Church -- her 
Unity, Sanctity, Catholicity, and Apostolicity (see below). The proof 
may be illustrated in the case of the first of these. The unity of the 
Church stands out as a fact altogether unparalleled in human history. 
Her members all over the world are united by the profession of a common 
faith, by participation in a common worship, and by obedience to a 
common authority. Differences of class, of nationality, and of race, 
which seem as though they must be fatal to any form of union, cannot 
sever this bond. It links in one the civilized and the uncivilized, the 
philosopher and the peasant, the rich and the poor. One and all hold 
the same belief, join in the same religious ceremonies, and acknowledge 
in the successor of Peter the same supreme ruler. Nothing but a 
supernatural power can explain this. It is a proof manifest to all 
minds, even to the simple and the unlettered, that the Church is a 
Divine society. Without this formal visibility, the purpose for which 
the Church was founded would be frustrated. Christ established it to be 
the means of salvation for all mankind. For this end it is essential 
that its claims should be authenticated in a manner evident to all; in 
other words, it must be visible, not merely as other public societies 
are visible, but as being the society of the Son of God.
The views taken by Protestants as to the visibility of the Church are 
various. The rationalist critics naturally reject the whole conception. 
To them the religion preached by Jesus Christ was something purely 
internal. When the Church as an institution came to be regarded as an 
indispensable factor in religion, it was a corruption of the primitive 
message. (See Harnack, What is Christianity, p.213.) Passages which 
deal with the Church in her corporate unity are referred by writers of 
this school to an ideal invisible Church, a mystical communion of 
souls. Such an interpretation does violence to the sense of the 
passages. Moreover, no explanation possessing any semblance of 
probability has yet been given to account for the genesis among the 
disciples of this remarkable and altogether novel conception of an 
invisible Church. It may reasonably be demanded of a professedly 
critical school that this phenomenon should be explained. Harnack holds 
that it took the place of Jewish racial unity. But it does not appear 
why Gentile converts should have felt the need of replacing a feature 
so entirely proper to the Hebrew religion.
The doctrine of the older Protestant writers is that there are two 
Churches, a visible and an invisible. This is the view of such standard 
Anglican divines as Barrow, Field, and Jeremy Taylor (see e. g. Barrow, 
Unity of Church, Works, 1830, VII, 628). Those who thus explain 
visibility urge that the essential and vital element of membership in 
Christ lies in an inner union with Him; that this is necessarily 
invisible, and those who possess it constitute an invisible Church. 
Those who are united to Him externally alone have, they maintain, no 
part in His grace. Thus, when He promised to His Church the gift of 
indefectibility, declaring that the gates of hell should never prevail 
against it, the promise must be understood of the invisible, not of the 
visible Church. In regard to this theory, which is still tolerably 
prevalent, it is to be said that Christ's promises were made to the 
Church as a corporate body, as constituting a society. As thus 
understood, they were made to the visible Church, not to an invisible 
and unknown body. Indeed for this distinction between a visible and an 
invisible Church there is no Scriptural warrant. Even though many of 
her children prove unfaithful, yet all that Christ said in regard to 
the Church is realized in her as a corporate body. Nor does the 
unfaithfulness of these professing Catholics cut them off altogether 
from membership in Christ. They are His in virtue of their baptism. The 
character then received still stamps them as His. Though dry and 
withered branches they are not altogether broken off from the true Vine 
(Bellarmine, Dc Ecciesiâ, III, ix, 13). The Anglican High Church 
writers explicitly teach the visibility of the Church. They restrict 
themselves, however, to the consideration of material visibility (cf. 
Palmer, Treatise on the Church, Part I, C. iii).
The doctrine of the visibility in no way excludes from the Church those 
who have already attained to bliss. These are united with the members 
of the Church Militant in one communion of saints. They watch her 
struggles; their prayers are offered on her behalf. Similarly, those 
who are still in the cleansing fires of purgatory belong to the Church. 
There are not, as has been said, two Churches; there is but one Church, 
and of it all the souls of the just, whether in heaven, on earth, or in 
purgatory, are members (Catech. Rom., I, x, 6). But it is to the Church 
only in so far as militant here below -- to the Church among men – 
that the property of visibility belongs.
Whatever authority is exercised in the Church, is exercised in virtue 
of the commission of Christ. He is the one Prophet, Who has given to 
the world the revelation of truth, and by His spirit preserves in the 
Church the faith once delivered to the saints. He is the one Priest, 
ever pleading on behalf of the Church the sacrifice of Calvary. And He 
is the one King -- the chief Shepherd (I Peter, v, 4) -- Who rules and 
guides, through His Providence, His Church's course. Yet He wills to 
exercise His power through earthly representatives. He chose the 
Twelve, and charged them in His name to teach the nations (Matt., 
xxviii, 19), to offer sacrifice (Luke, xxii, 19), to govern His flock 
(Matt., xviii, 18; John, xxi, 17). They, as seen above, used the 
authority committed to them while they lived; and before their death, 
they took measures for the perpetuation of this principle of government 
in the Church. From that day to this, the hierarchy thus established 
has claimed and has exercised this threefold office. Thus the 
prophecies of the Old Testament have been fulfilled which foretold that 
to those who should be appointed to rule the Messianic kingdom it 
should be granted to participate in the Messias' office of prophet, 
priest, and king. (See II above.)
The authority established in the Church holds its commission from 
above, not from below. The pope and the bishops exercise their power as 
the successors of the men who were chosen by Christ in person. They are 
not, as the Presbyterian theory of Church government teaches, the 
delegates of the flock; their warrant is received from the Shepherd, 
not from the sheep. The view that ecclesiastical authority is 
ministerial only, and derived by delegation from the faithful, was 
expressly condemned by Pius VI (1794) in his Constitution "Auctorem 
Fidei" (q. v.); and on the renovation of the error by certain recent 
Modernist writers, Pius X reiterated the condemnation in the Encyclical 
on the errors of the Modernists. In this sense the government of the 
Church is not democratic. This indeed is involved in the very nature of 
the Church as a supernatural society, leading men to a supernatural 
end. No man is capable of wielding authority for such a purpose, unless 
power is communicated to him from a Divine source. The case is 
altogether different where civil society is concerned. There the end is 
not supernatural: it is the temporal well-being of the citizens. It 
cannot then be said that a special endowment is required to render any 
class of men capable of filling the place of rulers and of guides. 
Hence the Church approves equally all forms of civil government which 
are consonant with the principle of justice. The power exercised by the 
Church through sacrifice and sacrament (potestas ordinis) lies outside 
the present subject. It is proposed briefly to consider here the nature 
of the Church's authority in her office (1) of teaching (potestas 
magisterii) and (2) of government (potestas jurisdictionis).
(1)   Infallibility
As the Divinely appointed teacher of revealed truth, the Church is 
infallible. This gift of inerrancy is guaranteed to it by the words of 
Christ, in which He promised that His Spirit would abide with it 
forever to guide it unto all truth (John, xiv, 16; xvi, 13). It is 
implied also in other passages of Scripture, and asserted by the 
unanimous testimony of the Fathers. The scope of this infallibility is 
to preserve the deposit of faith revealed to man by Christ and His 
Apostles (see INFALLIBILITY.) The Church teaches expressly that it is 
the guardian only of the revelation, that it can teach nothing which it 
has not received. The Vatican Council declares: "The Holy Ghost was not 
promised to the successors of Peter, in order that through His 
revelation they might manifest new doctrine: but that through His 
assistance they might religiously guard, and faithfully expound the 
revelation handed down by the Apostles, or the deposit of the faith" 
(Conc. Vat., Sess. IV, cap. liv). The obligation of the natural moral 
law constitutes part of this revelation. The authority of that law is 
again and again insisted on by Christ and His Apostles. The Church 
therefore is infallible in matters both of faith and morals. Moreover, 
theologians are agreed that the gift of infallibility in regard to the 
deposit must, by necessary consequence, carry with it infallibility as 
to certain matters intimately related to the Faith. There are questions 
bearing so nearly on the preservation of the Faith that, could the 
Church err in these, her infallibility would not suffice to guard the 
flock from false doctrine. Such, for instance, is the decision whether 
a given book does or does not contain teaching condemned as heretical. 
It is needless to point out that if the Christian Faith is indeed a 
revealed doctrine, which men must believe under pain of eternal loss, 
the gift of infallibility was necessary to the Church. Could she err at 
all, she might err in any point. The flock would have no guarantee of 
the truth of any doctrine. The condition of those bodies which at the 
time of the Reformation forsook the Church affords us an object-lesson 
in point. Divided into various sections and parties, they are the scene 
of never-ending disputes; and by the nature of the case they are cut 
off from all hope of attaining to certainty. In regard also to the 
moral law, the need of an infallible guide is hardly less imperative. 
Though on a few broad principles there may be some consensus of opinion 
as to what is right and what is wrong, yet, in the application of these 
principles to concrete facts, it is impossible to obtain agreement. On 
matters of such practical moment as are, for instance, the questions of 
private property, marriage, and liberty, the most divergent views are 
defended by thinkers of great ability. Amid all this questioning the 
unerring voice of the Church gives confidence to her children that they 
are following the right course, and have not been led astray by some 
specious fallacy. The various modes in which the Church exercises this 
gift, and the prerogatives of the Holy See in regard to infallibility, 
will be found discussed in the article dealing with that subject.
(2)   Jurisdiction
The Church's pastors govern and direct the flock committed to them in 
virtue of jurisdiction conferred upon them by Christ. The authority of 
jurisdiction differs essentially from the authority to teach. The two 
powers are concerned with different objects. The right to teach is 
concerned solely with the manifestation of the revealed doctrine; the 
object of the power of jurisdiction is to establish and enforce such 
laws and regulations as are necessary to the well-being of the Church. 
Further, the right of the Church to teach extends to the whole world: 
The jurisdiction of her rulers extends to her members alone (I Cor., v, 
12). Christ's words to St. Peter, "I will give thee the keys of the 
kingdom of heaven", distinctly express the gift of jurisdiction. 
Supreme authority over a body carries with it the right to govern and 
direct. The three elements which go to constitute jurisdiction – 
legislative power, judicial power, and coercive power -- are, moreover, 
all implied in Christ's directions to the Apostles (Matt., xviii). Not 
merely are they instructed to impose obligations and to settle 
disputes; but they may even inflict the extremest ecclesiastical 
penalty -- that of exclusion from membership in Christ.
The jurisdiction exercised within the Church is partly of Divine right, 
and partly determined by ecclesiastical law. A supreme jurisdiction 
over the whole Church -- clergy and laity alike -- belongs by Divine 
appointment to the pope (Conc. Vat, Sess. IV, cap. iii). The government 
of the faithful by bishops possessed of ordinary jurisdiction (i. e. a 
jurisdiction that is not held by mere delegation, but is exercised in 
their own name) is likewise of Divine ordinance. But the system by 
which the Church is territorially divided into dioceses, within each of 
which a single bishop rules the faithful within that district, is an 
ecclesiastical arrangement capable of modification. The limits of 
dioceses may be changed by the Holy See. In England the old pre-
Reformation diocesan divisions held good until 1850, though the 
Catholic hierarchy had become extinct in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. 
In that year the old divisions were annulled and a new diocesan system 
established. Similarly in France, a complete change was introduced 
after the Revolution. A bishop may exercise his power on other than a 
territorial basis. Thus in the East there are different bishops for the 
faithful belonging to the different rites in communion with the Holy 
See. Besides bishops, in countries where the ecclesiastical system is 
fully developed, those of the lower clergy who are parish priests, in 
the proper sense of the term, have ordinary jurisdiction within their 
own parishes.
Internal jurisdiction is that which is exercised in the tribunal of 
penance. It differs from the external jurisdiction of which we have 
been speaking in that its object is the welfare of the individual 
penitent, while the object of external jurisdiction is the welfare of 
the Church as a corporate body. To exercise this internal jurisdiction, 
the power of orders is an essential condition: none but a priest can 
absolve. But the power of orders itself is insufficient. The minister 
of the sacrament must receive jurisdiction from one competent to bestow 
it. Hence a priest cannot hear confessions in any locality unless he 
has received faculties from the ordinary of the place. On the other 
hand, for the exercise of external jurisdiction the power of orders is 
not necessary. A bishop, duly appointed to a see, but not yet 
consecrated, is invested with external jurisdiction over his diocese as 
soon as he has exhibited his letters of appointment to the chapter.
The foregoing account of the Church and of the principle of authority 
by which it is governed enables us to determine who are members of the 
Church and who are not. The membership of which we speak, is 
incorporation in the visible body of Christ. It has already been noted 
(VI) that a member of the Church may have forfeited the grace of God. 
In this case he is a withered branch of the true Vine; but he has not 
been finally broken off from it. He still belongs to Christ. Three 
conditions are requisite for a man to be a member of the Church.
In the first place, he must profess the true Faith, and have received 
the Sacrament of Baptism. The essential necessity of this condition is 
apparent from the fact that the Church is the kingdom of truth, the 
society of those who accept the revelation of the Son of God. Every 
member of the Church must accept the whole revelation, either 
explicitly or implicitly, by profession of all that the Church teaches. 
He who refuses to receive it, or who, having received it, falls away, 
thereby excludes himself from the kingdom (Titus, iii, 10 sq.). The 
Sacrament of Baptism is rightly regarded as part of this condition. By 
it those who profess the Faith are formally adopted as children of God 
(Eph., i, 13), and an habitual faith is among the gifts bestowed in it. 
Christ expressly connects the two, declaring that "he who believeth and 
is baptized shall be saved" (Mark, xvi, 16; cf. Matt., xxviii, 19).
It is further necessary to acknowledge the authority of the Church and 
of her appointed rulers. Those who reject the jurisdiction established 
by Christ are no longer members of His kingdom. Thus St. Ignatius lays 
it down in his letter to the Church of Smyrna: Wheresoever the bishop 
shall appear, there let the people be; even as where Jesus may be there 
is the universal Church" (ad Smyrn., n. 8). In regard to this 
condition, the ultimate touchstone is to be found in communion with the 
Holy See. On Peter Christ founded his Church. Those who are not joined 
to that foundation cannot form part of the house of God.
The third condition lies in the canonical right to communion with the 
Church. In virtue of its coercive power the Church has authority to 
excommunicate notorious Sinners. It may inflict this punishment not 
merely on the ground of heresy or schism, but for other grave offenses. 
Thus St. Paul pronounces sentence of excommunication on the incestuous 
Corinthian (I Cor., v, 3). This penalty is no mere external severance 
from the rights of common worship. It is a severance from the body of 
Christ, undoing to this extent the work of baptism, and placing the 
excommunicated man in the condition of the" heathen and the publican". 
It casts him out of God's kingdom; and the Apostle speaks of it as 
"delivering him over to Satan" (I Cor., v, 5; I Tim., i, 20).
Regarding each of these conditions, however, certain distinctions must 
be drawn.
Many baptized heretics have been educated in their erroneous beliefs. 
Their case is altogether different from that of those who have 
voluntarily renounced the Faith. They accept what they believe to be 
the Divine revelation. Such as these belong to the Church in desire, 
for they are at heart anxious to fulfill God's will in their regard. In 
virtue of their baptism and good will, they may be in a state of grace. 
They belong to the soul of the Church, though they are not united to 
the visible body. As such they are members of the Church internally, 
though not externally. Even in regard to those who have themselves 
fallen away from the Faith, a difference must be made between open and 
notorious heretics on the one hand, and secret heretics on the other. 
Open and notorious heresy severs from the visible Church. The majority 
of theologians agree with Bellarmine (de Ecclesiâ, III, c. x), as 
against Suarez, that secret heresy has not this effect.
In regard to schism the same distinction must be drawn. A secret 
repudiation of the Church's authority does not sever the sinner from 
the Church. The Church recognizes the schismatic as a member, entitled 
to her communion, until by open and notorious rebellion he rejects her 
Excommunicated persons are either excommunicati tolerati (i.e. those 
who are still tolerated) or excommunicati vitandi (i.e. those to be 
shunned). Many theologians hold that those whom the Church still 
tolerates are not wholly cut off from her membership, and that it is 
only those whom she has branded as "to be shunned" who are cut off from 
God's kingdom (see Murray, De Eccles., Disp. i, sect. viii, n. 118). 
Among the prerogatives conferred on His Church by Christ is the gift of 
indefectibility. By this term is signified, not merely that the Church 
will persist to the end of time, but further, that it will preserve 
unimpaired its essential characteristics. The Church can never undergo 
any constitutional change which will make it, as a social organism, 
something different from what it was originally. It can never become 
corrupt in faith or in morals; nor can it ever lose the Apostolic 
hierarchy, or the sacraments through which Christ communicates grace to 
men. The gift of indefectibility is expressly promised to the Church by 
Christ, in the words in which He declares that the gates of hell shall 
not prevail against it. It is manifest that, could the storms which the 
Church encounters so shake it as to alter its essential characteristics 
and make it other than Christ intended it to be, the gates of hell, 
i.e. the powers of evil, would have prevailed. It is clear, too, that 
could the Church suffer substantial change, it would no longer be an 
instrument capable of accomplishing the work for which God called it in 
to being. He established it that it might be to all men the school of 
holiness. This it would cease to be if ever it could set up a false and 
corrupt moral standard. He established it to proclaim His revelation to 
the world, and charged it to warn all men that unless they accepted 
that message they must perish everlastingly. Could the Church, in 
defining the truths of revelation err in the smallest point, such a 
charge would be impossible. No body could enforce under such a penalty 
the acceptance of what might be erroneous. By the hierarchy and the 
sacraments, Christ, further, made the Church the depositary of the 
graces of the Passion. Were it to lose either of these, it could no 
longer dispense to men the treasures of grace.
The gift of indefectibility plainly does not guarantee each several 
part of the Church against heresy or apostasy. The promise is made to 
the corporate body. Individual Churches may become corrupt in morals, 
may fall into heresy, may even apostatize. Thus at the time of the 
Mohammedan conquests, whole populations renounced their faith; and the 
Church suffered similar losses in the sixteenth century. But the 
defection of isolated branches does not alter the character of the main 
stem. The society of Jesus Christ remains endowed with all the 
prerogatives bestowed on it by its Founder. Only to One particular 
Church is indefectibility assured, viz. to the See of Rome. To Peter, 
and in him to all his successors in the chief pastorate, Christ 
committed the task of confirming his brethren in the Faith (Luke, XXii, 
32); and thus, to the Roman Church, as Cyprian says, "faithlessness 
cannot gain access" [Ep. lv (lix), ad Cornelium). The various bodies 
that have left the Church naturally deny its indefectibility. Their 
plea for separation rests in each case on the supposed fact that the 
main body of Christians has fallen so far from primitive truth, or from 
the purity of Christian morals, that the formation of a separate 
organization is not only desirable but necessary. Those who are called 
on to defend this plea endeavour in various ways to reconcile it with 
Christ's promise. Some, as seen above (VII), have recourse to the 
hypothesis of an indefectible invisible Church. The Right Rev. Charles 
Gore of Worcester, who may be regarded as the representative of high-
class Anglicanism, prefers a different solution. In his controversy 
with Canon Richardson, he adopted the position that while the Church 
will never fail to teach the whole truth as revealed, yet "errors of 
addition" may exist universally in its current teaching (see 
Richardson, Catholic Claims, Appendix). Such an explanation deprives 
Christ's words of all their meaning. A Church which at any period might 
conceivably teach, as of faith, doctrines which form no part of the 
deposit could never deliver her message to the world as the message of 
God. Men could reasonably urge in regard to any doctrine that it might 
be an "error of addition".
It was said above that one part of the Church's gift of indefectibility 
lies in her preservation from any substantial corruption in the sphere 
of morals. This supposes, not merely that she will always proclaim the 
perfect standard of morality bequeathed to her by her Founder, but also 
that in every age the lives of many of her children will be based on 
that sublime model. Only a supernatural principle of spiritual life 
could bring this about. Man's natural tendency is downwards. The force 
of every religious movement gradually spends itself; and the followers 
of great religious reformers tend in time to the level of their 
environment. According to the laws of unassisted human nature, it 
should have been thus with the society established by Christ. Yet 
history shows us that the Catholic Church possesses a power of reform 
from within, which has no parallel in any other religious organization. 
Again and again she produces saints, men imitating the virtues of 
Christ in an extraordinary degree, whose influence, spreading far and 
wide, gives fresh ardour even to those who reach a less heroic 
standard. Thus, to cite one or two well-known instances out of many 
that might be given: St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi rekindled 
the love of virtue in the men of the thirteenth century; St. Philip 
Neri and St. Ignatius Loyola accomplished a like work in the sixteenth 
century; St. Paul of the Cross and St. Alphonsus Liguori, in the 
eighteenth. No explanation suffices to account for this phenomenon save 
the Catholic doctrine that the Church is not a natural but a 
supernatural society, that the preservation of her moral life depends, 
not on any laws of human nature, but on the life-giving presence of the 
Holy Ghost. The Catholic and the Protestant principles of reform stand 
in sharp contrast the one to the other. Catholic reformers have one and 
all fallen back on the model set before them in the person of Christ 
and on the power of the Holy Ghost to breathe fresh life into the souls 
which He has regenerated. Protestant reformers have commenced their 
work by separation, and by this act have severed themselves from the 
very principle of life. No one of course would wish to deny that within 
the Protestant bodies there have been many men of great virtues. Yet it 
is not too much to assert that in every case their virtue has been 
nourished on what yet remained to them of Catholic belief and practice, 
and not on anything which they have received from Protestantism as 
The Continuity Theory
The doctrine of the Church's indefectibility just considered will place 
us in a position to estimate, at its true value, the claim of the 
Anglican Church and of the Episcopalian bodies in other English-
speaking countries to be continuous with the ancient pre-Reformation 
Church of England, in the sense of being part of one and the same 
society. The point to be determined here is what constitutes a breach 
of continuity as regards a society. It may safely be said that the 
continuity of a society is broken when a radical change in the 
principles it embodies is introduced. In the case of a Church, such a 
change in its hierarchical constitution and in its professed faith 
suffices to make it a different Church from what it was before. For the 
societies we term Churches exist as the embodiment of certain 
supernatural dogmas and of a Divinely-authorized principle of 
government. when, therefore, the truths previously field to be of faith 
are rejected, and the Principle of government regarded as sacred is 
repudiated, there is a breach of continuity, and a new Church is 
formed. In this the continuity of a Church differs from the continuity 
of a nation. National continuity is independent of forms of government 
and of beliefs. A nation is an aggregate of families, and so long as 
these families constitute a self-sufficing social organism, it remains 
the same nation, whatever the form of government may be. The continuity 
of a Church depends essentially on its government and its beliefs.
The changes introduced into the English Church at the time of the 
Reformation were precisely of the character just described. At that 
period fundamental alterations were made in its hierarchical 
constitution and in its dogmatic standards. It is not to be determined 
here which was in the right, the Church of Catholic days or the 
Reformed Church. It is sufficient if we show that changes were made 
vitally affecting the nature of the society. It is notorious that from 
the days of Augustine to those of Warham, every archbishop of 
Canterbury recognized the pope as the supreme source of ecclesiastical 
jurisdiction. The archbishops themselves could not exercise 
jurisdiction within their province until they had received papal 
confirmation. Further, the popes were accustomed to send to England 
legates a latere, who, in virtue of their legatine authority, whatever 
their personal status in the hierarchy, possessed a jurisdiction 
superior to that of the local bishops. Appeals ran from every 
ecclesiastical court in England to the pope, and his decision was 
recognized by all as final. The pope, too, exercised the right of 
excommunication in regard to the members of the English Church. This 
supreme authority was, moreover, regarded by all as belonging to the 
pope by Divine right, and not in virtue of merely human institution. 
When, therefore, this power of jurisdiction was transferred to the 
king, the alteration touched the constitutive principles of the body 
and was fundamental in its character. Similarly, in regard to matters 
of faith, the changes were revolutionary. It will be sufficient to note 
that a new rule of faith was introduced, Scripture alone being 
substituted for Scripture and Tradition; that several books were 
expunged from the Canon of Scripture; that five out of the seven 
sacraments were repudiated; and that the sacrifices of Masses were 
declared to be "blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits". It is indeed 
sometimes said that the official formularies of Anglicanism are capable 
of a Catholic sense, if given a "non-natural" interpretation. This 
argument can, however, carry no weight. In estimating the character of 
a society, we must judge, not by the strained sense which some 
individuals may attach to its formularies, but by the sense they were 
intended to bear. Judged by this criterion, none can dispute that these 
innovations were such as to constitute a fundamental change in the 
dogmatic standpoint of the Church of England.
The Church of Christ has from the first claimed to transcend all those 
national differences which divide men. In it, the Apostle asserts, 
"there is neither Gentile nor Jew . . . Barbarian nor Scythian" (Col., 
iii, 11). Men of every race are one in it; they form a single 
brotherhood in the Kingdom of God. In the pagan world, religion and 
nationality had been coterminous. The boundaries of the State were the 
boundaries of the faith which the State professed. Even the Jewish 
Dispensation was limited to a special race. Previous to the Christian 
revelation the idea of a religion adapted to all peoples was foreign to 
the conceptions of men. It is one of the essential features of the 
Church that she should be a single, worldwide society embracing all 
races. In it, and in it alone, is the brotherhood of man realized. All 
national barriers, no less than all differences of class, disappear in 
the City of God. It is not to be understood that the Church disregards 
the ties which bind men to their country, or undervalues the virtue of 
patriotism. The division of men into different nations enters into the 
scheme of Providence. To each nation has been assigned a special task 
to accomplish in the working out of God's purposes. A man owes a duty 
to his nation no less than to his family. One who omits this duty has 
failed in a primary moral obligation. Moreover, each nation has its own 
character, and its own special gifts. It will usually be found that a 
man attains to high virtue, not by neglecting these gifts, but by 
embodying the best and noblest ideals of his own people.
For these reasons the Church consecrates the spirit of nationality. Yet 
it transcends it, for it binds together the various nationalities in a 
single brotherhood. More than this, it purifies, develops, and perfects 
national character, just as it purifies and perfects the character of 
each individual. Often indeed it has been accused of exercising an anti 
patriotic influence. But it will invariably be found that it has 
incurred this reproach by opposing and rebuking what was base in the 
national aspirations, not by thwarting what was heroic or just. As the 
Church perfects the nation, so reciprocally does each nation add 
something of its own to the glory of the Church. It brings its own type 
of sanctity, its national virtues, and thus contributes to "the 
fullness of Christ" something which no other race could give. Such are 
the relations of the Church to what is termed nationality. The external 
unity of the one society is the visible embodiment of the doctrine of 
the brotherhood of man. The sin of schism, the Fathers tell us, lies in 
this, that by it the law of love to our neighbour is implicitly 
rejected. "Nec hæretici pertinent ad Ecclesiam Catholicam, qæ diligit 
Deum; nec schismatici quoniam diligit proximum" (Neither do heretics 
belong to the Catholic church, for she loves God; nor do schismatics, 
for she loves her neighbour -- Augustine, De Fide et Symbolo, ch. x, in 
P. L., XL, 193). It is of importance to insist on this point. For it is 
sometimes urged that the organized unity of Catholicism may be adapted 
to the Latin races but is ill-suited to the Teutonic spirit. To say 
this is to say that an essential characteristic of this Christian 
revelation is ill-suited to one of the great races of the world.
The union of different nations in one society is contrary to the 
natural inclinations of fallen humanity. It must ever struggle against 
the impulses of national pride, the desire for complete independence, 
the dislike of external control. Hence history provides various cases 
in which these passions have obtained the upper hand, the bond of unity 
has been broken, and "National Churches" have been formed. In every 
such case the so-called National Church has found to its cost that, in 
severing its connection with the Holy See, it has lost its one 
protector against the encroachments of the secular Government. The 
Greek Church under the Byzantine Empire, the autocephalous Russian 
Church today, have been mere pawns in the hands of the civil authority. 
The history of the Anglican Church presents the same features. There is 
but one institution which is able to resist the pressure of secular 
powers -- the See of Peter, which was set in the Church for this 
purpose by Christ, that it might afford a principle of stability and 
security to every part. The papacy is above all nationalities. It is 
the servant of no particular State; and hence it has strength to resist 
the forces that would make the religion of Christ subservient to 
secular ends. Those Churches alone have retained their vitality which 
have kept their union with the See of Peter. The branches which have 
been broken from that stem have withered.
The Branch Theory
In the course of the nineteenth century, the principle of National 
Churches was strenuously defended by the High Church Anglican divines 
under the name of the "Branch theory". According to this view, each 
National Church when fully constituted under its own episcopate is 
independent of external control. It possesses plenary authority as to 
its internal discipline, and may not merely reform itself as regards 
ritual and ceremonial usages, but may correct obvious abuses in matters 
of doctrine. It is justified in doing this even if the step involve a 
breach of communion with the rest of Christendom; for, in this case, 
the blame attaches not to the Church which undertakes the work of 
reformation, but to those which, on this score, reject it from 
communion. It still remains a "branch" of the Catholic Church as it was 
before. At the present day the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Greek 
Churches are each of them a branch of the Universal Church. None of 
them has an exclusive right to term itself the Catholic Church. The 
defenders of the theory recognize, indeed, that this divided state of 
the church is abnormal. They admit that the Fathers never contemplated 
the possibility of a church thus severed into parts. But they assert 
that circumstances such as those which led to this abnormal state of 
things never presented themselves during the early centuries of 
ecclesiastical history.
The position is open to fatal objections.
It is an entirely novel theory as to the constitution of the Church, 
which is rejected alike by the Catholic and the Greek Churches. Neither 
of these admit the existence of the so-called branches of the Church. 
The Greek schismatics, no less than the Catholics, affirm that they, 
and they only, constitute the Church. Further, the theory is rejected 
by the majority of the Anglican body. It is the tenet of but one 
school, though that a distinguished one. It Is almost a reductio ad 
absurdum when we are asked to believe that a single school in a 
particular sect is the sole depositary of the true theory of the 
The claim made by many Anglicans that there is nothing in their 
position contrary to ecclesiastical and patristic tradition in quite 
indefensible. Arguments precisely applicable to their case were used by 
the Fathers against the Donatists. It is known from the "Apologia" that 
Cardinal Wiseman's masterly demonstration of this point was one of the 
chief factors in bringing about the conversion of Newman. In the 
controversy with the Donatists, St. Augustine holds it sufficient for 
his purpose to argue that those who are separated from the Universal 
Church cannot be in the right. He makes the question one of simple 
fact. Are the Donatists separated from the main body of Christians, or 
are they not? If they are, no vindication of their cause can absolve 
them from the charge of schism. "Securus judicat orbis terrarum bonos 
non esse qui se dividunt ab orbe terrarum in quâcunque parte orbis 
terrarum" (The entire world judges with security that they are not 
good, who separate themselves from the entire world in whatever part of 
the entire world -- Augustine, contra epist. Parm., III, c. iv in P. 
L., XLIII, 101). St. Augustine's position rests through out on the 
doctrine he assumes as absolutely indubitable, that Christ's Church 
must be one, must be visibly one; and that any body that is separated 
from it is ipso facto shown to be in schism.
The contention of the Anglican controversialists that the English 
Church is not separatist since it did not reject the communion of Rome, 
but Rome rejected it, has of course only the value of a piece of 
special pleading, and need not be taken as a serious argument. Yet it 
is interesting to observe that in this too they were anticipated by the 
Donatists (Contra epist. Petil., II, xxxviii in P.L., XLIII, 292).
The consequences of the doctrine constitute a manifest proof of its 
falsity. The unity of the Catholic Church in every part of the world 
is, as already seen, the sign of the brotherhood which binds together 
the children of God. More than this, Christ Himself declared that it 
would be a proof to all men of His Divine mission. The unity of His 
flock, an earthly representation of the unity of the Father and the 
Son, would be sufficient to show that He had come from God (John, xvii, 
21). Contrariwise, this theory, first advanced to justify a state of 
things having Henry VIII as its author, would make the Christian 
Church, not a witness to the brotherhood of God's children, but a 
standing proof that even the Son of God had failed to withstand the 
spirit of discord amongst men. Were the theory true, so far from the 
unity of the Church testifying to the Divine mission of Jesus Christ, 
its severed and broken condition would be a potent argument in the 
hands of unbelief.
By the notes of the Church are meant certain conspicuous 
characteristics which distinguish it from all other bodies and prove it 
to be the one society of Jesus Christ. Some such distinguishing marks 
it needs must have, if it is, indeed, the sole depositary of the 
blessings of redemption, the way of salvation offered by God to man. A 
Babel of religious organizations all proclaim themselves to be the 
Church of Christ. Their doctrines are contradictory; and precisely in 
so far as any one of them regards the doctrines which it teaches as of 
vital moment, it declares those of the rival bodies to be misleading 
and pernicious. Unless the true Church were endowed with such 
characteristics as would prove to all men that it, and it alone, had a 
right to the name, how could the vast majority of mankind distinguish 
the revelation of God from the inventions of man? If it could not 
authenticate its claim, it would be impossible for it to warn all men 
that to reject it was to reject Christ. In discussing the visibility of 
the Church (VII) it was seen that the Catholic Church points to four 
such notes -- those namely which were inserted in the Nicene Creed at 
the Council of Constantinople (AD 381): Unity, Sanctity, Catholicity, 
and Apostolicity. These, it declares, distinguish it from every other 
body, and prove that in it alone is to be found the true religion. Each 
of these characteristics forms the subject of a special article in this 
work. Here, however, will be indicated the sense in which the terms are 
to he understood. A brief explanation of their meaning will show how 
decisive a proof they furnish that the society of Jesus Christ is none 
other than the Church in communion with the Holy See.
The Protestant reformers endeavoured to assign notes of the Church, 
such as might lend support to their newly-founded sects. Calvin 
declares that the Church is to be found "where the word of God is 
preached in its purity, and the sacraments administered according to 
Christ's ordinance" (Instit., Bk. IV, c. i; cf. Confessio August., art. 
4). It is manifest that such notes are altogether nugatory. The very 
reason why notes are required at all is that men may be able to discern 
the word of God from the words of false prophets, and may know which 
religious body has a right to term its ceremonies the sacraments of 
Christ. To say that the Church is to be sought where these two 
qualities are found cannot help us. The Anglican Church adopted 
Calvin's account in its official formulary (Thirty-Nine Articles, art. 
17); on the other hand, it retains the use of the Nicene Creed; though 
a profession of faith in a Church which is One, Holy, Catholic, and 
Apostolic, can have little meaning to those who are not in communion 
with the successor of Peter.
The Church is One because its members;
Are all united under one government
All profess the same faith
All join in a common worship
As already noted (XI) Christ Himself declared that the unity of his 
followers should bear witness to Him. Discord and separation are the 
Devil's work on the earth. The unity and brotherhood promised by Christ 
are to be the visible manifestation on the earth of the Divine union 
(John, xvii, 21). St. Paul's teaching on this point is to the same 
effect. He sees in the visible unity of the body of Christ an external 
sign of the oneness of the Spirit who dwells within it. There is, he 
says, "one body and one Spirit" (Eph., iv, 4). As in any living 
organism the union of the members in one body is the sign of the one 
animating principle within, so it is with the Church. If the Church 
were divided into two or more mutually exclusive bodies, how could she 
witness to the presence of that Spirit Whose name is Love. Further, 
when it is said that the members of the Church are united by the 
profession of the same faith, we speak of external profession as well 
as inward acceptance. In recent years, much has been said by those 
outside the Church, about unity of spirit being compatible with 
differences of creed. Such words are meaningless in reference to a 
Divine revelation. Christ came from heaven to reveal the truth to man. 
If a diversity of creeds could be found in His Church, this could only 
be because the truth He revealed had been lost in the quagmire of human 
error. It would signify that His work was frustrated, that His Church 
was no longer the pillar and ground of the truth. There is, it is 
plain, but one Church, in which is found the unity we have described – 
in the Catholic Church, united under the government of the supreme 
pontiff, and acknowledging all that he teaches in his capacity as the 
infallible guide of the Church.
When the Church points to sanctity as one of her notes, it is manifest 
that what is meant is a sanctity of such a kind as excludes the 
supposition of any natural origin. The holiness which marks the Church 
should correspond to the holiness of its Founder, of the Spirit Who 
dwells within it, of the graces bestowed upon it. A quality such as 
this may well serve to distinguish the true Church from counterfeits. 
It is not without reason that the Church of Rome claims to be holy in 
this sense. Her holiness appears in the doctrine which she teaches, in 
the worship she offers to God, in the fruits which she brings forth.
The doctrine of the Church is summed up in the imitation of Jesus 
Christ. This imitation expresses itself in good works, in self-
sacrifice, in love of suffering, and especially in the practice of the 
three evangelical counsels of perfection -- voluntary poverty, 
chastity, and obedience. The ideal which the Church proposes to us is a 
Divine ideal. The sects which have severed themselves from the Church 
have either neglected or repudiated some part of the Church's teaching 
in this regard. The Reformers of the sixteenth century went so far as 
to deny the value of good works altogether. Though their followers have 
for the most part let fall this anti-Christian doctrine, yet to this 
day the self-surrender of the religious state is regarded by 
Protestants as folly.
The holiness of the Church's worship is recognized even by the world 
outside the Church. In the solemn renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary 
there lies a mysterious power, which all are forced to own. Even 
enemies of the Church realize the sanctity of the Mass.
Fruits of holiness are not, indeed, found in the lives of all the 
Church's children. Man's will is free, and though God gives grace, many 
who have been united to the Church by baptism make little use of the 
gift. But at all times of the Church's history there have been many who 
have risen to sublime heights of self-sacrifice, of love to man, and of 
love to God. It is only in the Catholic Church that is found that type 
of character which we recognize in the saints -- in men such as St. 
Francis Xavier, St. Vincent de Paul, and many others. Outside the 
Church men do not look for such holiness. Moreover, the saints, and 
indeed every other member of the Church who has attained to any degree 
of piety, have been ever ready to acknowledge that they owe whatever is 
good in them to the grace the Church bestows.
Christ founded the Church for the salvation of the human race. He 
established it that it might preserve His revelation, and dispense His 
grace to all nations. Hence it was necessary that it should be found in 
every land, proclaiming His message to all men, and communicating to 
them the means of grace. To this end He laid on the Apostles the 
Injunction to "go, and teach all nations". There is, notoriously, but 
one religious body which fulfills this command, and which can therefore 
lay any claim to the note of Catholicity. The Church which owns the 
Roman pontiff as its supreme head extends its ministrations over the 
whole world. It owns its obligation to preach the Gospel to all 
peoples. No other Church attempts this task, or can use the title of 
Catholic with any appearance of justification. The Greek Church is at 
the present day a mere local schism. None of the Protestant bodies has 
ever pretended to a universal mission. They claim no right to convert 
to their beliefs the Christianized nations of Europe. Even in regard to 
the heathen, for nearly two hundred years missionary enterprise was 
unknown among Protestant bodies. In the nineteenth century, it is true, 
many of them displayed no little zeal for the conversion of the 
heathen, and contributed large sums of money for this purpose. But the 
results achieved were so inadequate as to justify the conclusion that 
the blessing of God did not rest upon the enterprise. (See MISSIONS, 
The Apostolicity of the Church consists in its identity with the body 
which Christ established on the foundation of the Apostles, and which 
He commissioned to carry on His work. No other body save this is the 
Church of Christ. The true Church must be Apostolic in doctrine and 
Apostolic in mission. Since, however, it has already been shown that 
the gift of infallibility was promised to the Church, it follows that 
where there is Apostolicity of mission, there will also be Apostolicity 
of doctrine. Apostolicity of mission consists in the power of Holy 
orders and the power of jurisdiction derived by legitimate transmission 
from the Apostles. Any religious organization whose ministers do not 
possess these two powers is not accredited to preach the Gospel of 
Christ. For "how shall they preach", asks the Apostle, "unless they be 
sent? " (Rom., x, 15). It is Apostolicity of mission which is reckoned 
as a note of the Church. No historical fact can be more clear than that 
Apostolicity, if it is found anywhere, is found in the Catholic Church. 
In it there is the power of Holy orders received by Apostolic 
succession. In it, too, there is Apostolicity of jurisdiction; for 
history shows us that the Roman bishop is the successor of Peter, and 
as such the centre of jurisdiction. Those prelates who are united to 
the Roman See receive their jurisdiction from the pope, who alone can 
bestow it. No other Church is Apostolic. The Greek church, it is true, 
claims to possess this property on the strength of its valid succession 
of bishops. But, by rejecting the authority of the Holy See, it severed 
itself from the Apostolic College, and thereby forfeited all 
jurisdiction. Anglicans make a similar claim. But even if they 
possessed valid orders, jurisdiction would be wanting to them no less 
than to the Greeks.
The Church has been considered as a society which aims at a spiritual 
end, but which yet is a visible polity, like the secular polities among 
which it exists. It is, further, a "perfect society". The meaning of 
this expression, "a perfect society", should be clearly understood, for 
this characteristic justifies, even on grounds of pure reason, that 
independence of secular control which the Church has always claimed. A 
society may be defined as a number of men who unite in a manner more or 
less permanent in order, by their combined efforts, to attain a common 
good. Association of this kind is a necessary condition of 
civilization. An isolated individual can achieve but little. He can 
scarcely provide himself with necessary sustenance; much less can he 
find the means of developing his higher mental and moral gifts. As 
civilization progresses, men enter into various societies for the 
attainment of various ends. These organizations are perfect or 
imperfect societies. For a society to be perfect, two conditions are 
The end which it proposes to itself must not be purely subordinate to 
the end of some other society. For example, the cavalry of an army is 
an organized association of men; but the end for which this association 
exists is entirely subordinate to the good of the whole army. Apart 
from the success of the whole army, there can properly speaking be no 
such thing as the success of the lesser association. Similarly, the 
good of the whole army is subordinate to the welfare of the State.
The society in question must be independent of other societies in 
regard to the attainment of its end. Mercantile societies, no matter 
how great their wealth and power, are imperfect; for they depend on the 
authority of the State for permission to exist. So, too, a single 
family is an imperfect society. It cannot attain its end -- the well-
being of its members -- in isolation from other families. Civilized 
life requires that many families should cooperate to form a State.
There are two societies which are perfect -- the Church and the State. 
The end of the State is the temporal welfare of the community. It seeks 
to realize the conditions which are requisite in order that its members 
may be able to attain temporal felicity. It protects the rights, and 
furthers the interests of the individuals and the groups of individuals 
which belong to it. All other societies which aim in any manner at 
temporal good are necessarily imperfect. Either they exist ultimately 
for the good of the State itself; or, if their aim is the private 
advantage of some of its members, the State must grant them 
authorization, and protect them in the exercise of their various 
functions. Should they prove dangerous to it, it justly dissolves them. 
The Church also possesses the conditions requisite for a perfect 
society. That its end is not subordinate to that of any other society 
is manifest: for it aims at the spiritual welfare, the eternal 
felicity, of man. This is the highest end a society can have; it is 
certainly not an end subordinate to the temporal felicity aimed at by 
the State. Moreover, the Church is not dependent on the permission of 
the State in the attaining of its end. Its right to exist is derived 
not from the permission of the State, but from the command of God. Its 
right to preach the Gospel, to administer the sacraments, to exercise 
jurisdiction over its subjects, is not conditional on the authorization 
of the civil Government. It has received from Christ Himself the great 
commission to teach all nations. To the command of the civil Government 
that they should desist from preaching, the Apostles replied simply 
that they ought to obey God rather than men (Acts, v, 29). Some measure 
of temporal goods is, indeed, necessary to the Church to enable it to 
carry out the work entrusted to it. The State cannot justly prohibit it 
from receiving this from the benefactions of the faithful. Those whose 
duty it is to achieve a certain end have a right to possess the means 
necessary to accomplish their task.
Pope Leo XIII summed up this doctrine in his Encyclical "Immortale Dei" 
(1 November, 1885) on the Christian constitution of States: "The 
Church", he says, "is distinguished and differs from civil society; 
and, what is of highest moment, it is a society chartered as of right 
divine, perfect in its nature and its title to possess in itself and by 
itself through the will and loving kindness of its Founder, all needful 
provision for its maintenance and action. And just as the end at which 
the Church aims is by far the noblest of ends, so is its authority the 
most excellent of all authority, nor can it be looked on as inferior to 
the civil power, or in any manner dependent upon it." It is to be 
observed that though the end at which the Church aims is higher than 
that of the State, the latter is not, as a society, subordinate to the 
Church. The two societies belong to different orders. The temporal 
felicity at which the State aims is not essentially dependent on the 
spiritual good which the Church seeks. Material prosperity and a high 
degree of civilization may be found where the Church does not exist. 
Each society is Supreme in its own order. At the same time each 
contributes greatly to the advantage of the other. The church cannot 
appeal to men who have not some rudiments of civilization, and whose 
savage mode of life renders moral development impossible. Hence, though 
her function is not to civilize but to save souls, yet when she is 
called on to deal with savage races, she commences by seeking to 
communicate the elements of civilization to them. On the other hand, 
the State needs the Supernatural sanctions and spiritual motives which 
the Church impresses on its members. A civil order without these is 
insecurely based.
It has often been objected that the doctrine of the Church's 
independence in regard to the State would render civil government 
impossible. Such a theory, it is urged, creates a State within a State; 
and from this, there must inevitably result a conflict of authorities 
each Claiming supreme dominion over the same subjects. Such was the 
argument of the Gallican Regalists. The writers of this school, 
consequently, would not admit the claim of the Church to be a perfect 
society. They maintained that any jurisdiction which it might exercise 
was entirely dependent on the permission of the civil power. The 
difficulty, however, is rather apparent than real. The scope of the two 
authorities is different, the one belonging to what is temporal, the 
other to what is spiritual. Even when the jurisdiction of the Church 
involves the use of temporal means and affects temporal interests, it 
does not detract from the due authority of the State. If difficulties 
arise, they arise, not by the necessity of the case, but from some 
extrinsic reason. In the course of history, occasions have doubtless 
arisen, when ecclesiastical authorities have grasped at power which by 
right belonged to the State, and, more often still, when the State has 
endeavoured to arrogate to itself spiritual jurisdiction. This, 
however, does not show the system to be at fault, but merely that human 
perversity can abuse it. So far, indeed, is it from being true that the 
Church's claims render government impossible, that the contrary is the 
case. By determining the just limits of liberty of conscience, they are 
a defence to the State. Where the authority of the Church is not 
recognized, any enthusiast may elevate the vagaries of his own caprice 
into a Divine command, and may claim to reject the authority of the 
civil ruler on the plea that he must obey God and not man. The history 
of John of Leyden and of many another self-styled prophet will afford 
examples in point. The Church bids her members see in the civil power 
"the minister of God", and never justifies disobedience, except in 
those rare cases when the State openly violates the natural or the 
revealed law. (See CIVIL ALLEGIANCE.)
Among the writings of the Fathers, the following are the principal 
works which bear on the doctrine of the Church: ST. IRENÆUS, Adv. 
Hereses in P.G., VII; TERTULLIAN, De Prescriptionibus in P. L., II; ST. 
CYPRIAN, De Unitate Ecclesie in P.L., IV; ST. OPTATUS, De Schismate 
Donatistarum in P.L., XI; ST. AUGUSTINE, Contra Donatistas, Contra 
Epistolas Parmeniani, Contra Litteras Petiliani in P.L., XLIII; ST. 
VINCENT OF LÉRINS, Commonitorium in P.L., L. -- Of the theologians who 
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries defended the Catholic Church 
against the Reformers may be mentioned: STAPLETON, Principiorum Fidei 
Doctrinalium Demonstratio (1574; Paris, 1620); BELLARMINE, 
Disputationes de Controversiis Fidei (1576; Prague, 1721); SUAREZ, 
Defensio Fidea Catholicœ adversus Anglicanœ Sectœ Errores (1613; Paris, 
1859). -- Among more recent writers: MURRAY, De Ecclesiâ (Dublin, 
1866); FRANZLIN, De Ecclesiâ (Rome, 1887); PALMIERI, De Romano 
Pontifice (Prato, 1891); DÖLLINGER, The First Age of the Church (tr. 
London, 1866); SCHANZ, A Christian Apology (tr. Dublin, 1892). -- The 
following English works may also be noticed: WISEMAM, Lectures on the 
Church; NEWMAN, Development Of Christian Doctrine; IDEM, Difficulties 
Of Anglicans; MATHEW, ed., Ecclesia (London, 1907). In special relation 
to recent rationalist criticism regarding the primitive Church and its 
organization, may be noted: BATIFFOL, Etudes d'histoire et de la 
théologie positive (Paris, 1906); important articles by Mgr. Batiffol 
will also he found in the Bulletin de littérature ecclésiastique for 
1904, 1905, 1906, and in the Irish Theological Quarterly for 1906 and 
1907; DE SMEDT in the Revue des questions historiques (1888, 1891), 
vols. XLIV, CL; BUTLER in The Dublin Review (1893, 1897), vols. CXIII, 
CXXI. The following works are by Anglican divines of various schools of 
thought: PALMER, Treatise on the Church (1842); GORE, Lux Mundi 
(London, 1890); IDEM, The Church and the Ministry (London, 1889); HORT, 
The Christian Ecciesia (London, 1897); LIGHTFOOT, the dissertation 
entitled The Christian Ministry in his Commentary on Epistle to 
Philippians (London, 1881); GAYFORD in HASTING, Dict. of Bible, s. v. 
Church. Amongst rationalist critics may be mentioned: HARNACK, History 
of Dogma (tr. London, 1904); IDEM, What is Christianity? (tr. London, 
1901), and articles in Expositor (1887), vol. V; HATCH, Organization of 
the Early Christian Churches (London, 1880); WEISZÄCKER, Apostolic Age 
(tr. London, 1892); SABATIER, Religions of Authority and the Religion 
of the Spirit (tr. London, 1906); LOWRIE, The Church and its 
Organization -- an Interpretation of Rudolf Sohm's 'Kirchenrecht" 
(London, 1904). With these may be classed: LOISY, L'Evangile et 
l'Eglise (Paris, 1902).
Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter

From the Catholic Encyclopedia 
Copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. 

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