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The Church Of Jesus Christ… The Meaning Of Indefectibility

August 6, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 4

In this final article on the Church founded by Jesus Christ, we will touch on a concept that is not commonly discussed by Catholics. I refer to 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.”
Thus, the indefectibility of the Church is guaranteed, not by virtue of the holiness of her members, be they lay, clergy, bishops, or even Popes, but by the promises made by her Founder, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He promised infallibility to the Pontifical Magisterium. The Pope is said to be infallible when his faith cannot fail when he teaches guided by the Holy Spirit — notice the verb used by Jesus Himself in Luke 22:31-33:
“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” (Luke 22:31-33).
Notice that Jesus chose Peter to be the head of the Church not because of his strong faith, but despite his weak faith, which left much to be desired. Peter denied our Lord three times but in the end, he was crucified upside down in contrition. Peter in the end proved that he truly was “the Rock.”
The first promise made by God that the Church of Jesus Christ — His Kingdom — would be indefectible was declared by St. Gabriel to our Lady, when he said that Jesus “shall be king over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). Jesus built His Church upon a rock, not sand, and promised that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
Then He commanded His apostles to teach all nations, and promised that He would be with them until the end of the world (Matt. 28:20). The apostles passed that mission on to their successors until today. Traitors have been from the beginning (Judas) and throughout history examples of bad Christians — lay folks, priests, monks, even bishops and Popes — but the Church weathers all storms and soldiers on.
St. Ambrose said: “The Church is like the moon; it may wane, but never be destroyed; it may be darkened, but it can never disappear.” St. Anselm said: “The bark of the Church may be swept by the waves, but it can never sink, because Christ is there” — although sometimes He seems to sleep during the storm, I would add.
The Catholic Church has, throughout its long history, proved itself indefectible, against all kinds of attack from outside and especially from inside, facing all sorts of heresy and schism. She survived the persecutions waged by the pagan emperors of ancient Rome and the invasions of barbarians that destroyed the old Roman Empire.
She converted the barbarians, who subsequently became Christian Europe. The Church not only survived, but converted and civilized the barbarians. The hordes of Mohammedans invaded Europe several times, but the Church inspired and guided the resistance. The heresies of Luther and his followers mutilated the Church in various countries, but the Counter-Reformation spread the faith to many others in all continents.
Today it is as if the smoke of Satan has entered the Church (Paul VI, June 29, 1972, address to the Lombard Seminary): confusion on moral issues reigns supreme, ambiguous statements on moral matters are made by bishops and even the Pope himself, the boat of Peter appears to have been taken over by storm waves. The Commander, Jesus, seems to have fallen asleep; but we know that sooner or later He will wake up, as it were, and intervene to bring peace again. In the meantime, we keep on rowing and defending the true faith.
As she is the Church indefectible, we are called to love her. Yes, we must love the Church as designed by Christ. The defects which we may perceive in the Church belong to her sinful members, and owe nothing to her constitution as willed by Christ. The Church ever remains the Immaculate Bride of Christ, perfectly pure in her teaching, and unfailingly fruitful in her sacraments and spiritual doctrine. In the Church, we must see Christ Himself, and love her members, especially the ailing ones, as Christ loves them.
The Apostles’ Creed says, “I believe . . . in the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints. . . .”
The apostles linked the Catholic Church to the communion of saints, simply because the communion of saints is the Catholic Church. She comprises not only the faithful on Earth, but also the souls in Purgatory and the blessed in Heaven. These three provinces, as it were, are often called the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant. We belong to the first, hope not to stay too long in the second, and long to live eternally in the third.
A final point: The Church of Christ is the Catholic Church. Protestant churches are not strictly churches, but societies of people who have taken elements from the Catholic Church and put them together in their own subjective way. Documents of the Catholic Magisterium for this reason do not even call Anglican or Protestant bodies “churches,” but only “communions” or “communities.”
There is no such thing as “Protestant Baptism”: Baptism is a sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ and entrusted to His Church — the Catholic Church. Most Protestant communities have valid Baptism, because they have retained the true way of conferring it, but it remains a sacrament of the Catholic Church nevertheless. A Baptism of an infant by a Protestant minister in effect makes that child a member of the Catholic Church (the one and only Church of Christ). It is not a “Protestant Baptism,” but a Catholic Baptism performed by a Protestant.
Children of Protestants who validly receive the Sacrament of Baptism are actually made members of the Catholic Church; however, if reared in a non-Catholic denomination, they will lose some of their baptismal heritage and then only be in “partial communion” with the Church.
Protestant or Orthodox adults in good faith are incorporated into Christ by Baptism at whatever age they receive it, but are only in partial or imperfect communion with the Church. Catholics who have defected from the Church are not in partial communion with the Church; they are outside the Church and in mortal sin until they repent and return.
Next article: What is divine grace?

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is available to speak at Catholic events anywhere in the free world in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Please email SacredHeartMedia@Outlook.com or visit www.RaymonddeSouza.com or phone 507-450-4196 in the United States.)

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