Catholics have sometimes been heard to speak of the four marks of the church. In fact, we state our belief in them every time we say the Nicene Creed at mass, when we state that we believe in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.”
Catholics believe that the true church can only be identified as one that bears all four qualities.
The true church of Christ must be one.
The true church must be unified. Jesus told us that he and the Father are one. Their unity is perfect. It would be impossible for it not to be. Since the Father is truth and the Son is truth, they must be united because that truth cannot be divided.
It is a human error to believe that truth is subjective and up to each person. Each person does not have the ability to decide what truth is only to try and perceive truth and try to abide by it or reject it.
If the Father is unified with the Son, because of truth, then all the true followers of the Father and Son would be united with the Father and Son. If they are united with the Father and Son, they would be, as a consequence, united with each other.
Jesus’ last prayer was that this unity would endure.
“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are,” (Cf. John 17:9-11).
Jesus knew that if they were not united they were not with Him and, therefore, they could not stand.
Knowing their thoughts, he said to them in Matthew 12:25, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”
Many who attack Catholicism as a false religion immediately latch on to its central authority as proof of its illegitimacy.
Ironically, it is just the reverse that is true. When any two non-Catholics claim that they follow the truth of Christ, yet they disagree among themselves on any issue, they refute their own argument.
That the Catholic Church authority binds the flock in certain beliefs is powerful evidence of it’s authority as a true church. If a doctrine is true, all true believers must accept it. If a doctrine is false, all true believers must reject it. That is why you will seldom hear an orthodox Catholic say “I believe”. You will be far more likely to hear him/her say “We believe.”
Our unity is evidence of the truth of what we believe.
Now, many will scoff and say that we are merely unified in error.
Fair enough. Let’s look at the evidence.
Catholics have a catechism that defines our beliefs. It expounds the same beliefs that were expounded 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 700 years ago, and 2000 years ago. Most of the sects and cults of today’s religions state that the Bible alone is their authority. Yet they cannot show contemporaries, from centuries past, who expounded all their views. In fact, they have division within their own flocks.
In that division, is proof that they are not marked as one.