A SYSTEMATIC STUDY of the CATHOLIC RELIGION
BY REV. CHARLES COPPENS, S. J. IMPRIMATUR. S. Ludovici, die 19. Aug. 1903.
†JOANNES J. GLENNON, Coadj. Adm. Dioceseos S. Ludovici.
72. Yet this importance attached to the true doctrine by Christ, by the Apostles, and by their successors throughout all ages, would be unintelligible and unreasonable if we had no certain means of knowing what the true doctrine is. Now we cannot have such means unless the Church be endowed with infallibility in her teaching (n. 99). Therefore she must be infallible. For no one can pretend that the Scriptures are so clear as to decide all doubts concerning the faith, even on matters of the gravest importance; for instance, on the necessity of Baptism for infants, or on the meaning of the words, “Amen, amen, I say to you; Except you eat the Flesh of the Son of man, and drink His Blood, you, shall not have life in you” (Jo. VI, 54). And who is to decide for certain what is and what is not of importance? Is every one to judge for himself? If so, why the words of St. Peter warning us that in the Epistles of St. Paul there are “certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Pet. III, 16)? The fact is, those who pretend to draw their faith from the Scriptures are divided into more than three hundred sects, and in each sect there is much difference of opinion;--some members of the English Church call that holy which others in the same Church call an abomination. All this shows that the Scriptures are not sufficient to guarantee the truth of doctrine. Some Protestants suppose that the Holy Ghost teaches each pious reader of the Bible the true meaning of the inspired pages. If this were so, not two such readers would disagree; their faith would be concordant, which is not the case.
Besides, we have shown most clearly that the provision made by Christ for the perpetuity of His true doctrine is the institution of His Church (nn. 44-46). Therefore she must teach without error. Let us briefly sum up the proofs of her infallibility.
1. God could not bid us hear the Church if she could decide against the truth; and yet He bids us hear her (Matt. XVIII, 17).
2. He could not condemn a man for refusing to believe a false doctrine; and yet He says, “He that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark XVI, 16). Therefore the doctrine which we are to believe cannot be false.
3. Christ promised to be with His Church till the end of time. Now this expression “to be with” occurs in ninety places in the Scriptures, and uniformly means “to give success;” but for a teaching body to err in doctrine would not be success but failure.
4. The Spirit of truth is to teach her all the truth and to abide with her forever (Jo. XIV, 16; XVI, 13).
5. “The gates of hell shall not prevail against her” (Matt. XVI, 18). If she erred, the gates of hell would prevail.
6. St. Paul calls her, “The Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth” (1. Tim. III, 15).
7. The Church has claimed infallibility from the beginning; for the Council of Jerusalem issued its decree as proceeding from the Holy Spirit: “It has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us” (Acts XV, 28). Nor should it be supposed that this claim was made in the name of the Apostles only; for it is distinctly stated that the decree proceeded from the Apostles and the “Ancients” (πρεσβυτεροι), which name designated the bishops and priests.
8. It has ever been the practice of the Church to separate from her communion all who refused to believe her doctrine; and this separation has always been considered as the greatest evil, so that St. Augustine said “A Christian ought to fear nothing so much as to be separated from the Church of Christ; for if he be separated from the Church of Christ, he is not a member of Christ.” All this certainly supposes that the Church cannot teach a false doctrine, and this is meant by saying she is infallible (n. 99).
To answer objections against the holiness of the Church, we must remember that an institution is to be judged by the effects of its action on those members who are imbued with its spirit, not on those who are impervious to its influence. (88)