Back to the Four Marks: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic


The four marks of the Church are One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  With so many changes having happened within the Church during the past century, many are left wondering: what vestiges remain of the Apostolic deposit of faith?  In the era following Vatican II, the two most important evaluations of the four marks of the church are probably going to be the following.

1) Evangelization of the modern world is the main thrust of the actual documents of Vatican II.  Have the missions improved since 1965?

2) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI speaks of the “hermeneutic of continuity.”  This means that any council, especially Vatican II, must be interpreted in light of the previous councils.  Has this happened since 1965?

More specifically, the hermeneutic of continuity is the teaching of Benedict that the tradition of the Catholic Church before Vatican II can be lived with the new expressions of the faith that were supposed to follow the Council.  “Hermeneutic” basically means philosophy or tool of interpretation, and “continuity” signifies the idea that Catholic doctrine, worship, and life after the Council should be the same as the previous generations, but renewed.

While this is theoretically possible, it may not be practically possible (barring a worldwide miracle). Miracle or not, the following seven aspects need to be accepted by faithful Catholics before we experience any possible “hermeneutic of continuity”:

1. Things (good and bad) were already in motion before Vatican II. Some say liberal humanism entered the Church in the Renaissance era (16th century).  Some say it entered the Church because of Vatican II (1962 to 1965).  Most well-read traditionalists recognize that heresy successfully infiltrated seminaries just before World War I (1905-1915).

The heresy of Modernism (“the synthesis of all heresies,” according to Pope St. Pius X) actually began as an attack on the Bible: Fr. Loisy was a Scripture scholar at a French seminary and made waves in doubting the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture.  St. Pius X excommunicated him after numerous attempts at rehabilitation.  Of course it starts with this, since Satan’s first words to man and woman were, “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1).  In any case, it was probably because Sacred Scripture was questioned in the first half of the 20th century that clerics in the second half of the century had the hubris to question the Church’s prohibition of contraception within marriage.

The cancer we now experience in the Church may have little to do with Vatican II.  Even Archbishop Lefebvre said in a 1978 interview: “I would not say that Vatican II would have prevented what is happening in the Church today.  Modernist ideas have penetrated everywhere for a long time.”  But the good may not be due to Vatican II, either: while many Catholics now rightly recognize that they need a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to keep His commandments, so did St. Ignatius of Loyola in writing the Spiritual Exercises in the 16th century.  Jesus Himself said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). So this timeless understanding of relationship was not introduced at the Council.  At least we can say that both extremes in the Church need to stop using Vatican II as an excuse for presumption or despair.

Read more here: Back to the Four Marks: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic