Reprint from THE HAMMER a Roman Catholic Replies
The Indefectibility of the Church
The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1917 gives the following definition of the Church's indefectibility:
"By this term is signified, not merely that the Church will persist to the end of time, but further, that it will be preserved unimpaired in 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 fact is that when Our Lord Jesus Christ established His Church upon Peter He did so with the express intention of establishing the means of salvation for all men, in every place and at all times. This is the only ark of salvation outside of which no one can be saved. Jesus would never have established a Church in futility knowing that it would be corrupted and changed from His infinite intention. This, of course, makes sense and is logical given the fact that Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Trinity and therefore knows exactly what He is doing. God does not create anything to have it destroyed by either man or hell. Christ established His Church as the source of salvation for every generation. He merited, by His passion, death and resurrection the graces necessary for the continual protection of what He established.
We must always remember that the Church is the "Pillar and Bulwark of Truth", the Bride of Christ, the Kingdom of God, the very mystical Body of Christ. Would Christ allow his bride to be destroyed? Would God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity establish a kingdom only to allow it to be essentially changed from His original intention by sin, man, angel or anything else? It doesn't take a brain surgeon to realize that Jesus will ultimately protect His Holy Bride the Church and will guarantee her stability for every generation.
In the Gospel of St. Matthew, chapter 16, verse 18 Jesus gives Peter the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus tells Peter that the Church built upon him will endure "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." At the end of this same gospel St. Matthew reports the last words of Jesus before he ascended into heaven. Jesus commissions the Apostles by saying, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world." (Mt. 28:18)
When the Angel Gabriel came to Mary he told her that her Son would also be the Son of the Most High God and that "He shall reign in the House of Jacob forever." (Luke 1:32) There are hundreds of such passages. The Church is what Jesus came and died for. Would He have done so in vain? It is ridiculous to even think that God would do anything in vain.
All that having been said there are a vast number of Protestant sects, such as, the Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists and Evangelicals; and cults such as the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses who believe that after the death of the last Apostle the Church was completely corrupted. The Modernists believe that dogmas and morals evolve and therefore never remain the same. This, of course, flies directly in the face of Christ's promise to Peter and the Apostles. The point is that all those who are not united to the Church that Jesus founded upon Peter have some kind of excuse for not being a part of it. They all claim that either after the death of the last Apostle or sometime thereafter the Primitive Church fell victim to error, which ultimately turned it completely away from God's original intention. Now some of these Protestants, realizing that saying this means that Jesus was a charlatan, devised strange ways of compensating. One Protestant "theologian" showed that in fact the Church remained intact through the ages by taking the heretics of every age as his Christian genealogy.
It has always been the contention of the Catholic Church that one can demonstrate its credentials by using a combination of Scripture and historic fact. We have seen how the Scriptures proclaim the indefectibility of the Church. Now let us see if history points to the claim of the Catholic Church that she in fact is the same Church founded by Jesus Christ.
The Catholic Church claims that the Church Jesus founded was a hierarchical church based on a clerical structure initiated by Christ. If, as the Protestants and Modernists claim, an Ecclesial hierarchy was a later development having no real relationship to Jesus' original intention then there should be no evidence of this hierarchy in the early extra-biblical writings written by the first converts of the Apostles.
The earliest written documents that, in the beginning, were listed with the Scriptures are the letters of St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch. St. Clement was the 3rd successor of St. Peter to the Pontificate and took his position as Vicar of Christ with great authority. A dispute had arisen in the Greek city of Corinth. The Corinthians having come to an impasse in resolving the situation wrote to the Pope to request his mediation and judgment regarding all the facts presented to him. It is interesting to note that the Corinthians did not turn to the last living Apostle for his mediation and judgment. He lived in Patmos and it would have been much easier to communicate with him. Yet the Corinthians understood the significance of the See of Peter and its Christ-given primacy.
In the corresponding letter to the church at Corinth Pope St. Clement addresses himself primarily to reiterating the spiritual and moral principles handed on by the Apostles from Our Lord Jesus Christ. In paragraph 20, Pope Clement I gives the clear Roman Catholic teaching on Apostolic Succession and the hierarchical constitution of the Church which came directly from Christ. It must be noted that this letter was written around the year 80 A.D. only 47 years after the death of Christ and only 15 years after the death of Sts. Peter and Paul. Paragraph 20 reads as follows:
"The Apostles received the gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; and Jesus Christ was sent from God. Christ, therefore, is from God, and the Apostles are from Christ. Both of these orderly arrangements, then, are by God's will. Receiving their instructions and being full of confidence on account of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and confirmed in faith by the word of God, they went forth in the complete assurance of the Holy Spirit, preaching the good news that the Kingdom of God is coming. Through countryside and city they preached; and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty: for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. Indeed, Scripture (the Old Testament) somewhere says: "I will set up their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith." (Paraphrase of Is. 60:17)
St. Ignatius of Antioch who died about A.D. 107 was the third bishop of Antioch successor of St. Peter who appointed the first bishop after himself, St. Evodius. Ignatius was actually a disciple of St. John and was ordained by him. He became bishop of Antioch around the year 69 A.D. He died in A.D. 107 by martyrdom. Because he was a Roman citizen he was tried and sentenced to death in Rome. His martyrdom took place in the amphitheater where he was literally torn apart and devoured by two ravenous lions. Having been taught by St. John himself and having fully embraced the faith handed down to him; St. Ignatius is our most reliable "extra-biblical" early Church Father.
In his Letter to the Magnesians, St. Ignatius writes in his final paragraph: "Take care, therefore, to be confirmed in the decrees of the Lord and of the Apostles, in order that in everything you do, you may prosper in body and in soul, in faith and in love, in the Son and in the Father and in the Spirit, in beginning and in end, together with your most reverend bishop; and with that fittingly woven spiritual crown, the priesthood; and with the deacons, men of God. Be subject to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was subject to the Father, and the Apostles were subject to Christ and to the Father; so that there may be unity in both body and spirit."
In the letter to the Smyrnaeans St. Ignatius reaffirms the constant apostolic teaching about the Blessed Sacrament:
"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. For love they have no care, nor for widows, nor for the orphan, nor for the distressed, nor for those in prison.... They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not believe that the Eucharist is the Flesh of Our Savior Jesus Christ, the Flesh that suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His goodness, raised up again. They who deny the Gift of God are perishing in their disputes.... It is right to shun such men and not even to speak about them, neither in public nor in private.
Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church."
St. Ignatius was the first Apostolic Father to use "Catholic" as the name of the Church established by Jesus Christ.
There are literally hundreds of such quotes of the first "children" of the Apostles who had passed on the revelation of Jesus Christ. I highly suggest reading the early Church Fathers. You will be impressed by the continuity of Catholic dogma and the perfection by which they show the proper interpretation of the Scriptures.
Now with the above examples it can be seen that those who were converted and taught by the Apostles held fast to their teachings and an examination of their lives clearly demonstrate not only their love for our Lord Jesus Christ but also for the Church. They lived exemplary lives of heroic virtue and most of them were martyred for the Faith. This continuity with the Apostles and our continuity with them demonstrate what St. Thomas Aquinas proclaims: "Our Faith is identical to the Faith of the Apostles." And so it is today.
I know that many of you will say that this may have been true up to about 35 years ago but, because of the Modernist infection, the Church has substantially changed from Christ's original intention. Wrong! No matter what the Modernists have done, no matter how they have attempted to change the Church from within, they have not succeeded in changing the essential constitution of the Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ has guaranteed that He would remain with his Church until the end of time. The fact is that all of the changes that have taken place within the last 35 years are primarily external changes and not substantial changes. All of the dogmas of the Church remain the same and have not changed. The Modernists may have succeeded in changing the meaning of dogma in the minds of the weak but the Magisterium of the Church continues to teach exactly what she has always taught and the meaning of those dogmas have never changed.
The reality is that the outward manifestations of the Faith have changed throughout the centuries. Certain essentials remained the same but if you go to a Coptic Rite liturgy, for instance, you would be hard pressed to recognize the same essential part of the Roman Rite both Traditional and Novus Ordo. Devotion in the first centuries was based more on Scripture than the "devotio moderna" of Thomas a'Kempis.
I am not making light of the present crisis in the Church. What we are now undergoing is by far the worst crisis the Church has suffered in its 2000-year history. The only other crisis that compares was the Arian Heresy where, as St. Jerome said, "One day the world woke up and groaned to find itself Arian." Our crisis is similar. After 35 years we find the world Modernist. But the Church will survive.
I know that the Modernists intend to change the Church into a utopian religion of the One World Order but they can never succeed. The Unity of the Church rests upon the Rock of Peter and no matter how weak Peter may be Christ has prayed for him.
"Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith may not fail; and when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren." (Lk. 22:31-33)
Why do you think that Jesus picked someone like Peter to be the first Pope? He was impetuous, vacillating, courageous and cowardly all at the same time. He was probably the strongest and, paradoxically, the weakest of all the Apostles, yet even though he denied our Lord 3 times he ended by being crucified upside down for that Him. Peter in the end proved that he truly was "the Rock". Jesus uses Peter as the perfect example to prove His point that His Church is Indefectible. =