Apologetics, Episode 25: The Marks of the Church, Part I – Episode Review
When it comes to the nature of the Church, we know that it is characterised by four marks: it is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. In order to better understand our Faith, we ought to know the significance of these marks and how they are fully realised in the Catholic Church.
Understanding the four marks of the Church enables us to form a clear answer to the question: “How do we know this is the true Church of Christ?” Rather than concerning ourselves with subjective feelings towards religion, these marks instead draw our attention to the nature and qualities of our Faith in order that we can identify the truth with certainty. It is essential that we recognise the true religion of God not by assessing its superficial appearances, but by looking to its inherent nature – by its oneness, apostolicity, catholicity, and holiness.
In Part I, Episode 25 of our Apologetics Series, hosted by Alexander Krawczyk, His Lordship Bishop Sanborn takes us through the four marks of the Church established by Christ and how these marks are to be found in the Catholic Church. The episode begins with a commentary on how the marks are both easily visible and intrinsically linked to each other. Not only must they all characterise the true Church of Christ, but not any single one of them, as Bishop Sanborn explains, can characterise a false religion. Where there is one, there are all; and where one is absent, all are absent.
Looking at Chapter 50 of the book The Defense of the Catholic Church by Francis X. Doyle S.J., Bishop Sanborn gives a brief break-down of the Church’s apostolicity of origin, doctrine, and legitimate succession. He also comments on the Church’s catholicity (which refers to its visible presence all over the world), its holiness, and lastly, its unity of one Faith and obedience to the same infallible authority.
His Lordship also reflects on the existence of the four marks and their relevance to our lives, especially in modern times. He reminds us that the marks exist due to the assistance of the Holy Ghost through the Church, and that: “If you take away this divine assistance, you are left with merely a collection of human beings.” It is due to the divine assistance that we are subject to the infallible teaching authority of the Church, given by Christ: “I will be with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (St. Matthew 28:20). This knowledge that the Catholic Church comes to us from Christ and with the assistance of the Holy Ghost reveals to us how the Church is preserved in its ability to teach the unchanging, holy, apostolic doctrine of Christ throughout the world.
The marks are also essential in identifying the true Faith in the current predicament – the incompatibility of the Novus Ordo religion with the Catholic Faith – as it is clear the Novus Ordo church does not contain the four marks, but instead features division and disunity that is antithetical to true Catholicism. This is evident in that the members of this religion do not profess one faith or apostolic doctrine, nor are they submitted to the authority of the Church. Bishop Sanborn speaks more on how this false religion is devoid of the marks and that it is impossible to reconcile Vatican II with the Catholic Faith.
“The Catholic is disposed to believe whatever the Catholic Church teaches and embrace by faith whatever the Catholic Church says must be embraced…” Bishop Sanborn explains. “That gives a unity of faith, expressed by the fact that everyone believes the same thing.”
An absence of this unity of faith gives rise to the ecumenism that is intrinsic, and thus we see prevalent in expression, within the Novus Ordo church, as well as in other whimsical entities which name themselves Christian. With this in mind, we begin to understand that the Church is not some obscure, invisible entity composed of Christian believers, as is held by many Protestant denominations, but rather, a visible Church which we can see and recognise. This is evident both from Sacred Scripture and Tradition, as reflected in the teachings of Christ and the practices and structure of the early Church. The Church therefore, recognisable by its oneness, holiness, catholicity, and apostolicity, operates under God’s authority, and it’s on this basis we believe everything the Church teaches by faith.
For those interested in learning more about the four marks, His Lordship’s insightful commentary provides additional context to The Defense of the Catholic Church, shedding light not only on how to identify the essential characteristics of the Church but why doing so is integral to understanding our Catholic Faith.