Catholic Apologetics

The first two parts of this series dealt with exposing the Protestant tenet of sola scriptura as the illogical falsehood it is, and establishing the Scriptural, historical truth that it is the Church that Christ founded – the Roman Catholic Church is this specific, visible Church – which is the real root of authority.  The Church produced the Bible[1] and not the inverse.

 

How can we be sure that the Catholic Church is, in fact, the Church of the New Testament?  We do have the vast body of historical evidence demonstrating the unbroken line of Peter from his first successor to the present day as well as detailed information on the apostolic succession of other bishoprics[2], but we have something else as well: The Four Marks of the True Church.  These marks are evident (visibly so) only in the Roman Catholic Church.

 

The marks of the Church were first enumerated at the First Council of Constantinople (381), the second ecumenical council of the Church[3].  The council produced a new version of the Nicene Creed[4], which contains the teaching, "We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church."  This council, which was called primarily to condemn the Arians and other heretical, schismatic sects, sought to identify the marks by which the true Church can be known.

 

The Church is divine and reflects the divine characteristics of her Founder.  Christ is One with His Father; one God in Three Persons.  He is, as God, perfectly holy.  He is universal as the creator of all that exists and in that the fruits of His Redemption are available to all men[5] and He desires the salvation of all[6].  Lastly, Christ, being the One who created apostles and gave them their mission, is the root of all that is apostolic.

 

Since joining the true Church is a generally necessary requirement for salvation, it must be visible and readily identifiable as the true Church through just these divine attributes.  As that most excellent pontiff Leo XIII declared in Immortale Dei, “Now, it cannot be difficult to find out which is the true religion, if only it be sought with an earnest and unbiased mind; for proofs are abundant and striking. We have, for example, the fulfillment of prophecies, miracles in great numbers, the rapid spread of the faith in the midst of enemies and in face of overwhelming obstacles, the witness of the martyrs, and the like. From all these it is evident that the only true religion is the one established by Jesus Christ Himself, and which He committed to His Church to protect and to propagate.”

 

Of course, papal encyclicals carry no weight with non-Catholics, nor do, for the most part, even early ecumenical councils with most Protestants of the evangelical/fundamentalist bent (which constitute both the area of Protestantism experiencing the most growth in modern society and that which is most virulently anti-Catholic).  However, therein do we see the gross inconsistencies at the very heart of the Protestant position: Why does the Protestant accept the decisions of the Catholic Church with regard to the canon of Scripture – to the very definition of the Bible that he holds as the root of authority – as well as accepting the core Christological dogmas (almost always without being cognizant of their origin), but not a teaching such as this?  In fact, the books of the New Testament were not first defined until the regional Council of Rome in 382[7], one year after Constantinople[8].

 

The Church Is One

 

The true Church is One in both its structure and its doctrine, as attested to, first of all, by Scripture[9].  Christ says, “there shall be one fold and one shepherd[10]”, He prays, “keep them in thy name whom thou has given me; that they may be one, as we also are[11]”, and, “they all may be one, as thou, Father, are in me, and I in thee[12]”.  Christ’s prayers are perfectly efficacious; they are always granted completely and fully by the Father. 

 

Likewise, Scripture refers to the Church as a “family” or “house” repeatedly – a family household is on in structure, with a single, visible leader.

 

We have seen previously that the Church of the New Testament is a visible Church, and a visible Church that is One must have a visible head on Earth where the Church in Exile resides.  Thus did Christ name Peter and his successors as His vicars (stewards) a type of which was the steward of the Davidic kingdom.

 

In fact, to the ancients of the early Church, thoroughly accustomed as they were to strong families with singular (patriarchal) heads, monarchal governments, and, most of the early Christians being Jews, strong roots in the Davidic dynasty and the Seat of Moses, a Church without a cohesive, unified hierarchy or without a singular, visible head would have been a monumental oddity indeed[13].

 

St. Paul echoes Christ’s teachings and prayers as well[14].  That Scripture proclaims a Church that is One is not really in dispute; the Protestant would say that the invisible church of the elect is indeed united.  However, how much sense does this really make in the face of reality?  There is little need to dwell on the fact that to call Protestantism fragmented in both structure and doctrine is a serious understatement - and this has been the case since its very inception.  St. Francis de Sales put it well, addressing the Calvinists of his time: “As soon as God takes a people to Himself, as He has done the Church, He gives it unity of heart and of path: the Church is but one body, of which all the faithful are members... there is but one spirit animating the body... your first ministers had so sooner got on their feet, they had no sooner begun to build a tower of doctrine and science which was visibly to reach the heavens, and to acquire them the great and magnificent reputation of reformers, than God, wishing to traverse this ambitious design, permitted among them such a diversity of language and belief, that they began to contradict one another so violently that all their undertaking became a miserable Babel and confusion.[15]"

 

It should be noted that this lack of unity in structure implies a lack of authority in actuality which plays to (and was created by) human weakness; human nature, wounded by the Fall, tends to rebellion (protestation) which the Protestant structure readily facilitates.  Coupled with very serious heresies and the lack of true sacraments,[16] there can be little doubt that Protestantism has caused directly the loss of innumerable souls and stands as one of satan’s greatest victories over man.

 

Even the Church’s most bitter enemies rarely dare to assert that she is not one in structure, as there can be no doubt that the Catholic Church possesses a single, visible earthly head presiding over a single episcopate.  Since anti-Catholic polemicists frequently fail to understand the nature of Church authority, they may assert that she lacks, based on visible disagreements within her ranks, true unity in doctrine.  However, of course, the fact that a single body of doctrine exists (which is nothing more than the Apostolic Deposit of Faith expounded) does not prevent obstinate doubt and heresy – sins against the Faith – from arising within her visible ranks[17].

 

Never has the divinity of the Church been more evident than in our time where, despite the ravages of diabolical disorientation in the form of neo-modernism that does go “to the top”, not one iota of doctrine has been changed.  This is not possible, and even the innovators know it.

 

The Church Is Holy

 

Before we examine the holiness of the true Church, an examination of the general state of morality among the earliest Protestants according to the first and most prestigious Protestant innovators should prove interesting.

 

In fact, Martin Luther complained bitterly that the people were, on the whole and in almost every specific area imaginable, less moral, less holy, than they had been before his revolution[18].  He states that, for example, his preachers “lead such a bad life… that they do more harm than good.”[19]  There are literally dozens of such quotations from Dr. Luther in this volume, complaining how his new breed of Christians had no respect for Scripture, no respect for the teachers of Scripture, contempt for the Eucharist (the true teaching regarding which Luther himself had insulted, of course), were greedy and neglected the poor, drank heavily, took their own lives at an increased pace, and more.  (Yet, what should the man who uttered the diabolical command to “sin boldly” have expected?)

 

Of course such anecdotal evidence is of little value in a theological debate.  What we can demonstrate, with relevance, is that in the Catholic Church the highest forms of sanctity and piety have always been praised and encouraged and that the identity of the true Church has been verified by miracles, more or less continually from apostolic times to the present.

 

It is well known that one of the immediate aftermaths of the “Reformation” was priests & nuns renouncing their vows in droves to marry.  In fact, only the Catholic Church supports, as always, the Biblical teaching that virginal consecration is a higher calling than that of matrimony (which, of course, is still holy). 

 

St. de Sales had this to say: "...every one down to the ministers marries, every one labors to gather together riches, nobody acknowledges any other superior than force makes him submit to - an evident sign that this pretended church is not the one for which Our Lord has preached and draws the picture of so many excellent examples.  For if everybody marries, what will become of the advice of St. Paul (1 Cor VII), 'It is good for a man not to touch a woman'?  If everybody runs after money and possessions, to whom will that word of Our Lord (Matt VI) be addressed, 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth'... If every one will govern in his turn, where shall be found the practice of that most solemn sentence (Luke IX): 'He who will come after me let him deny himself'?  If then your Church puts itself in comparison with ours, ours will the be true spouse, who puts in practice all the words of her beloved and leaves not one talent of the Scripture idle; yours will be false, who hears not the voice of the Beloved; yea, despises it."[20]

 

Indeed, and, again, without making any subjective judgments regarding individuals, Protestantism in its root nature rejects the hightest forms of the sacred outright.  It rejects holy obedience by refusing submission to Christ’s vicar a priori; it rejects piety by spitting upon the holy virtues of virginity and poverty, etc.  Protestantism is, as the word implies, non serviam.

 

On to the miraculous.  Christ Himself told us that there would always be miracles in the Church[21] and even that the Jews of His time would not be obligated to believe in Him if it were not for the miracles He performed.  Thus, the existence of the miraculous is a testament to the identity of the true Church. 

 

Volumes can and have been written regarding the astounding number of Catholic miracles that have come into existence at a continual pace throughout the past two millennia[22].  Unlike so-called miracles in Protestant sects, to earn the term from the official capacity of the Church involves a high level of rigor.  For example, though there are many thousands of entirely credible reports of miraculous cures from the Marian shrine of Lourdes, 67 of these events have been officially recognized by the Church after extensive study by multiple experts has concluded no natural explanation is possible.  The story is similar regarding the thousands of thoroughly-researched miracles submitted as proof of sanctity in canonization causes.

 

This author has witnessed personally such astounding, incomprehensible, glorious, miraculous phenomena as the Eucharistic Miracle in Lanciano, Italy, as well as the incorrupt bodies of saints centuries old.

 

In today’s Protestant societies (such as the United States), the word “miracle” has been essentially redefined to mean something highly unlikely, yet not demonstrably outside explanation by natural causes.  It is no wonder, really, that atheists and other scoffers deride such claims so readily – to use the term miraculous to describe something that at least possibly is not is a disservice to true religion.

 

This is not to discount entirely the existence of grace among non-Catholics, which certainly includes happenings that may strain credulity as naturally explicable (never mind the movement of faith).  However, God reserves the truly, indisputably miraculousas testament to the true Church and no other, and with that assertion, it is the Catholic Church and she  alone that presents this mark.

 

The Church Is Universal

 

St. Augustine (who is held in considerable esteem in many Protestant sects, despite the fact that he was quite thoroughly Catholic) said this: “…so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic [prove the true Church], which not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has alone retained; so that though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church is, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house” (Against the Epistle of Manichaeus Called Fundamental, 396, 4.5, emphasis mine).[23]

 

As is fairly widely known even among Protestants, the word Catholic is derived from the Greek katholikos which means, literally, whole, or general, or, more widely, universal.  Christians have always known by “instinct” that the true Church is universal in time & place.  Early heretics wished to be known as Catholic as they knew enough of the true Church to wish to usurp her, but modern Protestants, now so far removed from the roots of Christianity, no longer know to desire such legitimacy[24].

 

The Church has been called Catholic since at least the very early second century A.D., when St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostle John, made his famous observation: “Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”

 

The Great Commission is universal in time and space: “Make disciples of all the nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am will you always, until the end of the age.”[25]  Only the Catholic Church can claim to have met this command.

 

St. de Sales, in the aforementioned work, lays out an irrefutable argument regarding the universality of the Catholic Church that can be summarized as follows[26]:

 

-        The true Church must be universal in time, meaning she must have been established by Christ Himself, exist now, and have existed perpetually until now.  All the early Reformers acknowledged freely that the Catholic Church was the true Church for a time; they acknowledged that Christ established the Church[27].

-        The Catholic Church exists now and no one can make any reasonable assertion as to precisely when she fell into heresy (nor by what means, nor how such a monumental event was missed by historians, etc.)[28]

-        In direct contrast, every Protestant sect has a known beginning and is thus not universal in time and thus not the true Church.  Even if the fanciful dream of many a sect that it was the Apostolic Church were true in any particular case, every sect making such a claim also acknowledges that it did not exist visibly for a great span of time (more than a millennia) and thus still fails the test of universality.

 

The saint summarizes thusly: “Now, if Tertullian already in his time bears witness that Catholics refuted the errors of heretics by their posterity and novelty, when the Church was only in her youth – “We are wont,’ says he, ‘to prescribe against heretics, for brevity’s sake, on the argument of posterity’ – how much more right have we now?  And if one of the Churches must be the true, this title falls to ours which is most ancient and to your novelty the famous name of heresy.”[29]

 

One of the most beautiful Scriptural attestations to the universality of the Church is this prophecy of Malachi:

 

For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.”[30]

 

The Fathers of the Church interpreted this prophecy as being fulfilled by the Holy Eucharist in the Catholic Mass[31], the singular Sacrifice of Calvary re-presented always and everywhere for adoration, thanksgiving, propitiation, and petition.

 

As with unity, Protestant arguments that theirs is a universal Church depend upon it being also invisible which, as we have seen, is an assertion overwhelmingly contradicted by Scripture and the reality of history.  To be frank, there is really no aspect of Protestantism[32] that is universal in any sense at all that it has not taken from the true Church.  Faith in Christ is universal indeed, but He said, “If you love me, keep my commandments”[33] and commanded all to obey the visible leaders of His Church[34].  Individual Protestants very often imagine, in this author’s experience, that their particular church, sect, or creed is the truth, and all believers therein constitute the true Church, but, of course, this is simple emotionalism that contradicts reason on multiple fronts.  As the Scripture says, the heart is deceitful[35].

 

Neither are the orthodox churches in schism universal in time or place; they have a demonstrable boundary in the former and are perpetually limited in the latter.

 

The Church Is Apostolic

 

There are no doubts among reasonable, educated people that the modern Catholic Church has maintained apostolic succession throughout her existence.  Concerning the Petrine See the full history of succession is known to us,[36] with considerable histories for many ancient bishoprics founded by apostles extant as well. 

 

Apostolic succession as a necessary mark of the true Church is, of course, denied by the majority of Protestants; given that their ecclesiastical communities do not and cannot possess it, this is not surprising.  As we have seen, however, the existence of the office of the episcopate is apparent from the New Testament alone; this is yet another of many examples of Protestant doctrine contradicting Scripture directly.

 

The Anglican community claims apostolic succession, but their holy orders lacked from the time of Edward VI proper form and intent, as explained by Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae,[37] relating to the nature of the priest as the one who offers the Sacrifice:

 

“But the words which until recently were commonly held by Anglicans to constitute the proper form of priestly ordination namely, ‘Receive the Holy Ghost,’ certainly do not in the least definitely express the sacred Order of Priesthood (sacerdotium) or its grace and power, which is chiefly the power ‘of consecrating and of offering the true Body and Blood of the Lord’… in that sacrifice which is no ‘bare commemoration of the sacrifice offered on the Cross.’”[38]

 

(It is unremarkable that the theological errors of the new church of England, especially concerning the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which they converted into a mere “Lord’s Supper,”[39] would “leak” into their new sacraments as well.)

 

The Orthodox communities in schism do possess valid holy orders and valid apostolic succession; they are apostolic in that sense.  However, true apostolicity requires more – it requires submission to the Prince of the Apostles, the See of Peter, regarded as prime and having jurisdiction over all churches since the inception of the Church.  (The Orthodox communities are defective in the qualities of unity and universality as well.)

 

The Catholic Church and the Catholic Church alone is and always has been fully apostolic, possessing and guarding the apostolic Deposit of Faith and carrying out the apostolic mission.

 

Conclusion

 

In this three-part series of articles we have seen that the Protestant cornerstone of sola scriptura is illogical and un-Scriptural, and beyond any doubt would have been regarded as a preposterous notion by not only every Christian living in the first three centuries of Christianity, during which “Bibles” did not even exist, but for more than another thousand years after that, before which they were not readily accessible.

 

We demonstrated next that it is the Church that Christ founded, which itself defined the New Testament, that is the root of authority, and that this Church is visible, perpetual, and infallible.

 

Lastly, we have demonstrated that the four “marks” of the true Church as defined by the early Christians (the same ones who defined the canon of the Bible and the Christological dogmas that virtually all modern Christians accept) are possessed by, and only by, the Catholic Church.

 

As this article was nearly completed the author happened upon an essay by a Protestant preacher castigating Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ for its “unbiblical additions”.  The author clearly took as an assumption not even worth discussing the notion that every single detail of Our Blessed Lord’s Passion was captured by the Gospel writers – this even despite the fact that Scripture itself tells us directly that that is not so.  By this distorted, diabolical logic does this man show sad disdain for honor given to the Blessed Virgin, and such is the stuff Protestantism is made of.

 

The false ecumenism[40] of the Church enshrined by that enigma of an ecumenical council, Vatican II, has gone nowhere and will go nowhere because truth and falsehood can never be reconciled no matter how much positive emotion and diabolical disorientation is stirred in to the mix.  The diehard Protestants never stopped understanding that – only the Catholics did.

 

Proclaiming the basic truths of the Catholic faith is not, or need not be, some sort of haughty “triumphalism” (as our present holy father has put it), but, rather, a response to the simple acquiescence to truth that all human beings are called to.  This has nothing to do with subjective judgment of individual Protestants, which is never licit, no matter they seem to us invincibly ignorant or deviously stubborn.  Offering prayers for their conversion in the spirit of true charity is the antidote for that.

 


[1] The Holy Ghost is, of course, the primary author of Scripture but the Church, which is divine, under the infallible guidance of the Holy Ghost defined the canon.  That it did so is a matter of historical fact.

[2] See, for example, William Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers, Liturgical Press, 1979

[3] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04308a.htm

[4] Or, according to some scholars, endorsed a particular existing form of the Creed.

[5] Of course, not all accept the grace offered to them and thus are lost.

[6] With His antecedent will; the just punishment of the reprobate is not frustrated.

[7] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03274a.htm

[8] Of course, there are Protestant denominations, such as modern Lutherans, who recite this Creed, which poses the question as to which “catholic church” they hold allegiance to, and why.

[9] http://scripturecatholic.com/the_church.html#the_church-V

[10] John 10:16

[11] John 17:11

[12] John 17:21

[13] The democracy of Protestantism , carried forward further by masonry, is another modern error that raised its head in the Church (in the form of “collegiality”) via Vatican II.

[14] Romans 16:17, 1 Cor 1:10, 1 Cor 12-13, 1 Cor 10:17

[15] Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, TAN Books, 1989, 123-124

[16] Save baptism and marriage provided valid form, matter, and intent.

[17] Such sins against Faith sever the soul from the Church.

[18] Martin Luther & Henry O’Conner, Luther’s Own Statements Concerning His Teaching And Its Results, Benzinger Bros, 1884, p50-57

[19] Ibid, p51

[20] Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, TAN Books, 1989, 146-147

[21] Mark 16:17

[22] For example, Joan Carol Cruz, The Incorrurptibles, TAN Books, 1991

[23] http://www.ewtn.com/library/PATRISTC/PNI4-4.TXT

[24] Many prominent Catholic converts, such as apologist Steve Ray, attest that as even learned Protestants they paid virtually no attention to the early Church, and that that is typical of Protestantism in general.  There is a reason; as Cardinal Neumann famously said, “To be steeped in history is to cease to be Protestant”.

[25] Matt 28:19-20

[26] Francis de Sales, The Catholic Controversy, TAN Books, 1989, p149-152

[27] They then, of course, insist that the Church “went bad” at some point, which is a direct contradiction of Christ’s promises regarding Her – She is to be infallible and eternal, prevailing always against “the gates of Hell”.

[28] Fundamentalists of a certain stripe argue that Constantine with his edict of the 4th century created the Catholic Church, but the early Reformers knew better, and educated modern Protestants understand that this is a preposterous assertion that disintegrates with the barest knowledge of early Church history.

[29] Ibid, 151

[30] Malachi 1:11

[31] See, for example, http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/father/fathers.htm

[32] All varieties of “Bible Christians” are Protestants too by any reasonable definition; they reject the Catholic Church and trace their theological roots to the Reformation whether they are aware of it or not.

[33] John 14:15

[34] Luke 10:16, Matt 18:17

[35] Jeremiah 17:9

[36] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12272b.htm

[37] http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13curae.htm

[38] Ibid, 25

[39] Michael Davies, Cranmer’s Godly Order, Roman Catholic Books, 1995

[40] True ecumenism has as its premise the goal of returning non-Catholics to the true Church