History of the Catholic Church Series
Part I- Introduction
By: Matthew J Bellisario 2010
The Catholic Church is a divine institution built upon the foundation of Christ Jesus. This is not only supported by Scripture and Tradition, but also by the testimony of history itself. No human institution has ever existed as long the Catholic Church has existed. She has never shown the characteristics of human institutions, which always have a rise, a decline and a catastrophic fall. As great as such human institutions have been like the empires of Greece, Egypt, and Rome, none have remained intact in such a way as the Catholic Church has remained. Even the mighty Roman Empire with all of her resources could not stamp out the Church in her infancy, despite repeated persecutions to do so. Over thirty of the earliest Popes were killed for their faith. History saw the rise and decline of the Caesars of Rome, the Pharaohs of Egypt, the Czars of Russia, the Tudor Dynasty of England and so on. The sands of time have witnessed countless villains like Martin Luther, John Calvin and the like try to topple Christ’s Church, yet they all have fallen in defeat. Yes, the Catholic Church still presses on long after their crowns have toppled in the dirt off of their arrogant skulls. Long after their praises have fallen silent, the Church like an unsinkable ship still continues on to its destination, the port of heaven. Despite many trials such as the great Schism and the papacy of Avignon, many internal quarrels and apostates, the Church still survives. There is no other Church planted by Christ on the face of the earth other than the Catholic Church.
All other “churches” have fallen by the wayside and have splintered into quarrelsome sects changing their doctrines on the whims of men. We have to only look at the disintegration of the Anglican church, the Lutheran church and the various forms of the Reformed flavored churches to understand my point. What once was considered to be Biblical teaching by all major Protestant sects, such as the recognition of the immorality of contraception, there is now not one Protestant sect in whole, who has not given way to the modernist adoption of its accepted use. Although their founders such as John Calvin, Martin Luther and the like all viewed contraception as being immoral based on Scripture, few of their followers today share their Biblical interpretation. Since their faiths are based on nothing more than the mere opinions of men, it is no surprise that they continue to splinter as regular as the night follows the day. As the Gospel of St. Matthew tells us, “Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” (Matthew 15:13) So it is with those sects that have broken with the Catholic Church.
Since the time of Saint Peter, there has been an unbroken succession of bishops in Rome, giving the Church a direct connection with Christ Himself. In fact, there is not one bishop in the Catholic Church that cannot trace their succession back to one of the apostles, which all remain united to the one chair of St. Peter. Saint Augustine once wrote the following during the Donatist heresy, "If the lineal succession of bishops is to be considered with how much more benefit to the Church do we reckon from Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it!” (To Generosus, Epistle 53:2, A.D. 400) There is no questioning the fact that Christ Himself sent His apostles with His authority, “He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. (Matthew 10:40) We also see this fact demonstrated by the immediate successors of the apostles. Pope Clement I wrote around the year 98AD the following, “Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry...” (Pope Clement, Epistle to Corinthians, 42, 44 A.D. 98) It is this direct connection to the authority of Christ that the Catholic Church is built upon, and has continued on uninterrupted, guided by the Holy Spirit to this very day.
The Catholic Church is not built upon a particular interpretation of the Scriptures, for the Church gave us the Scriptures as a testimony to what she had preached by the authority of Christ from the beginning. It is not a democratic Church which changes with the corruption of human culture. The Catholic Church is built upon a living person, that is the living person of Jesus Christ. Without Him there is no Scripture, no Tradition, no Church and no Gospel. None of these particulars, that is, Scripture, Tradition, the preaching authority of the apostles and Christ Himself can be separated from one another and still retain the true Gospel in its intended form as Church on earth. For it is written that “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)It is no surprise that even the media across the world pays close attention to what the Pope says and does, despite their open denial of his authority. Yet, does the media pay the same attention in regards to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Billy Graham, or any other other Protestant figure, or even any other religion as a whole? Just as the world has reluctantly recognized Christ by the very splitting of time itself in two, despite the secular world’s opposition to the Catholic Church, even it recognizes its authority and leadership among the Christianized world. With this in mind, it is here that we begin our journey into the history of the Catholic Church.
This will be a multipart series, and when I am finished with it, I will follow it up with a Podcast on the subject.