C. The Four Marks
The True Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The Church that possesses all the shining marks which Our Lord gave is the Church of God, the True Church. Any church that lacks even one of these marks is an imitation, a false church, and not the one founded by Our Lord. The True Church must possess all these marks. It is the Church which Christ commanded all to hear and obey.
1) The True Church is that one which is most persecuted by the world, and which has received God’s seal in the form of miracles.
2) The True Church is that one which the successor of Saint Peter is to be found.
3) The True Church is known for the following four marks: she is One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic.
It was founded by Jesus Christ in the year 33, and headed by St. Peter who was chosen by Christ Himself as our first Pope.
The Church at the Council of Constantinople declared concerning herself that she is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. These are not only her essential qualities, but her outward and visible signs, the marks whereby she may always be infallibly recognized.
1 The True Church Is One
The first mark of the True Church is Unity, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.
She has at all times and in all places the same doctrine, the same means grace, and only one Head.
Truth can only be One; hence the teaching of the Church cannot change. Christ wished His Church to be one; for that He prayed at the Last Supper (John 17: 20). “There shall be one fold and one shepherd” (John 10 : 16). He appointed one Head for the whole Church (John 21 :17). The Catholic Church is One: her Catechism the world over teaches precisely the same doctrine. Worldwide the Holy Sacrifice is offered, the sacraments are given in the same way; and the same ceremonies and feasts are observed. All Catholics acknowledge the Pope as Head of the Church. If there were antipopes, it is none the less true, that some are the true Popes; the existence of many pretenders to a throne does not exclude the claim of the true king. Nor can heresy destroy this unity, for the heretic who refuses to submit is no longer a member of the Church. None need accuse the Church of want of progress because holds fast by its old established doctrines; there is no true progress in giving up the truth and adopting error. The truth cannot change; hence Bossuet might well say “ Protestantism, thou art changeable, therefore thou cans’t not be the truth ! “
2. The True Church Is Holy
The second mark of the True Church is Holiness.. The Church is called Holy because of Him, by whom she is sanctified, and whose blood she was washed.
Further she has the means and the mission to lead all men to holiness:
Christ founded the Church for the very purpose of making men holy. The Catholic Church is Holy. All its teaching is lofty and pure; the great principle underlying its commands are self-denial and the love of one’s neighbor; all its Sacraments and especially Penance and the Holy Eucharist are great aids to the sanctification of mankind, and the complete following of the evangelical counsels can lead man to the highest point of perfection; moreover, the Catholic Church has a host of saints, whose holiness is attested by miracles. The misdeeds of some members, or abuses occurring within the Church are due not to the Church, but to the perversity of men. Even among the apostles there was a traitor, and Christ compared some members of the Church to weeds and worthless fish. Can any church be holy which adopts Luther’s teaching that faith alone is sufficient for salvation, and goods works unnecessary, or Calvin’s doctrine that some men are predestined by God to hell fire, or any Church which, on its own confession admits that none of its members have been saints and their sanctity confirmed by miracles.?
3. The True Church Is Universal
The third mark of the True Church is that she is Catholic, this is Universal. She is called Universal because all who desire eternal salvation must cling to and embrace her.
She is empowered to receive men into her bosom in all places and times. Christ died for all men, on ascending into heaven He gave His apostles the mission to teach all nations of the earth till the end of time. (Matthew 28: 20). Hence His Church was meant to be for all nations, and this is confirmed by the miracle of tongues on the first Pentecost. The Catholic Church is Universal; her teaching applies to all the people, the polished Greek, the victorious Romans, the rude barbarian as well as to the outcast slave. At present, the Catholic Church is spread over the whole world.
4. The True Church Is Apostolic
The Fourth Mark of the True Church is that she is Apostolic. She can be traced back under the law of grace to the Apostles; her doctrine is the truth not recently given, nor first heard of, but delivered of old by the Apostles, and disseminated throughout the entire world. (Catechism of the Council of Trent, pp. 102, 106,107).
She comes down from the time of the apostles, her teaching is always what it was in the time of the apostles, and her ministries are legitimate successors of the apostles.
The Church is built on the foundation of the apostles of which Christ is the corner-stone (Ephesians II -20). “That is the true Church,“ says Saint Jerome, “which was founded by the apostles and endures unto the present day.” The Catholic Church is Apostolic; it has lasted two thousands years, Luther himself confessed that it was the oldest. The teaching of the oldest of the Fathers agrees perfectly with our Catechism, and our services are substantially the same as those of the first ages.