St. Francis Jerome, when he visited the parents of St. Alphonsus
shortly after his birth, made this prophecy: "This child will be blessed with
length of days; he shall not see death before his ninetieth year; he will be a
bishop and will do great things for Jesus Christ." This prophecy certainly came
true. One of the most accomplished of all the saints is Alphonsus Liguori. He
was a lawyer in both civil and Church law before he dedicated his whole life to
serving God. He was founder of a religious order, author of more than a hundred
books, originator of modern moral theology, renowned preacher and confessor,
bishop, musical composer and painter. For all of his 91 years on earth, he was
also a man of prayer and deep personal holiness.
A CHURCH which is not one in its
doctrine and faith can never be the True Church. Hence, because truth must be
one, of all the different churches, only one can be the true one, and
outside of that Church there is no salvation.
Now, in order to determine which
is this one true Church, it is necessary to examine which is the Church first
founded by Jesus Christ, for when this is ascertained, it must be confessed
that this one alone is the true Church which, having once been the true Church
must always have been the true Church and must forever be the true Church. For
to this first Church has been made the promise of the Savior that the gates of
Hell would never be able to overturn it
In the entire
history of religion, we find that the Roman Catholic Church alone was the
first Church, and that the other false and heretical churches afterwards
departed and separated from her. This is the Church which was propagated by the
Apostles and afterwards governed by pastors whom the Apostles themselves
appointed to rule over her. This character can be found only in the Roman
Church, whose pastors descend securely by an uninterrupted and legitimate
succession from the Apostles of the world [Matt 28:20].
The innovators themselves do not deny
that the Roman Church was the first which Jesus Christ founded. However, they
say that it was the true Church until the fifth century, or until it
fell away, because it had been corrupted by the Catholics. But how could that
Church fall which St. Paul calls the "pillar and ground of truth"
[1 Timothy 3:15]?
No, the Church has not failed. The truth is, that all the false
churches, which have separated from the Roman Church, have fallen away and erred.
To convince all heretical sects of their error, there is no way more certain
and safe than to show that our Catholic Church has been the first one founded by
Jesus Christ. For, this being established, it is proved beyond all doubt that
ours is the only true Church and that all the others which have left it
and separated are certainly in error. But, pressed by this argument, the
innovators have invented an answer. They say that the visible Church has failed,
but not the invisible Church. But these doctrines are diametrically
opposed to the Gospel.
The innovators have been challenged several times to
produce a text of Sacred Scripture which would prove the existence of the
invisible church they invented, and we are unable to obtain any such text from
them. How could they adduce such a text when, addressing His Apostles whom He
left as the propagators of His Church, Jesus said: "You cannot be hidden"
Thus He has declared that the Church cannot help but be
visible to everyone. The Church has been at all times, and will forever be,
necessarily visible, so that each person may always be able to learn from his
pastor the true doctrine regarding the dogmas of faith, to receive the
Sacraments, to be directed in the way of salvation, and to be enlightened and
corrected should he ever fall into error.
For, were the Church in any time
hidden and invisible, to whom would men have recourse in order to learn what
they are to believe and to do? It was necessary that the Church and her
pastors be obvious and visible, principally in order that there might be
an infallible judge, to resolve all doubts, and to whose decision everyone
should necessarily submit. Otherwise, there would be no sure rule of faith by
which Christians could know the true dogmas of faith and the true precepts of
morality, and among the faithful there would be endless disputes and
controversies. "And Christ gave some apostles, and others pastors and
doctors, that henceforth we be no more children tossed to-and-fro and carried
about with every wind of doctrine" [Eph 4:11-14].
But what faith can we learn from these
false teachers when, in consequence of separating from the Church, they have no
rule of faith. How often Calvin changed his opinions! And, during his life,
Luther was constantly contradicting himself: on the single article of the
Eucharist, he fell into thirty-three contradictions! A single contradiction
is enough to show that they did not have the Spirit of God.
"He cannot deny Himself"
[2 Timothy 2:13].
In a word, take away the authority of the Church,
and neither Divine Revelation nor natural reason itself is of any use, for each
of them may be interpreted by every individual according to his own caprice.
Do they not see that from this accursed liberty of conscience has arisen the
immense variety of heretical and atheistic sects? I repeat: if you take away
obedience to the Church, there is no error which will not be embraced.