What Are The Marks Of The Church?

Quotes selected by: Tony Capobianco


Artistic attribution: Viviano Codazzi. Title: St. Peter’s Rome. Date: Circa 1630. This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less. {{PD-US}} 

In the first part of this series, St. Robert Bellarmine explained what the Church is and that it is in fact visible. This the second part of the series will focus on The Marks of the Church as taught by St. Bellarmine in His monumental work, De Controversiis: Tomus II On The Church, translated by Ryan Grant from the original Latin into English. In recent times it is commonly taught that there are four marks of the Church and that those marks or notes are that the Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. St. Bellarmine expounds upon these four marks/ notes as he delineates fifteen marks of the Church. In the introduction to the chapter On The Marks Of The Church he writes:

Since we have briefly refuted these ’marks,’ it remains that we should propose the true marks. It must be observed from the beginning, however, that the Catholic Church is as a sun, which diffuses it’s most beautiful rays of light from every side, that it can be recognized very easily through them. Indeed, it has many marks, or testimonies, and signs, which discern her from every false religion of the Pagans, of Jews, and Heretics. Indeed, they do not evidently cause truth: she is the true church of God, but nevertheless they cause it to be evidently believable, for it is not the same thing to be evidently true and evidently believable. For something to be called evidently true, it must appear to be either in itself, or in it’s principles. For something to be called evidently believable, it does not need to appear so in itself, or in it’s principles, nevertheless it has so many and such serious testimonies, that any wise man you like rightly ought to believe it. It is as though a judge should see a man to be killed by a thief, or lethally wounded and dies afterward, he has the evidence of truth, that the thief is a murderer; if however, he might not have seen the killing done, but might have twenty serious men as witnesses, who say they saw it, he has evidence of believability.

Therefore, we say the marks of the Church, which we produce, do not simply make the evidence of truth, because if that were so, no one could be found who would be able to deny it, just as you could find no one who would deny the teachings which the mathematicians prove; but, nevertheless, they cause the evidence of believability, according to the Psalm: ‘Your testimonies are exceedingly believable.’ But among those who admit the Scriptures are divine, as well as the histories and the ancient writings of the Fathers, they even make evidence of truth. Even if the truth of articles of faith cannot be evident to us absolutely, nevertheless that truth can be evident hypothetically, that is, by supposing the truth of the Scriptures. The Scriptures being supposed, what is evidently deduced from the Scripture, is evidently true.

Next, these marks are called by various names, and St. Augustine places six marks, St. Jerome two, St. Vincent of Lérin in his Commonitorium, three. From more recent writers, Driedo and Pedro de Soto three others. Cardinal Hosius four. Nicholas Sanders, six. Miguel de Medina, eleven. Gunter of Peter places twelve.

We propose fifteen marks, which if anyone might wish, could be recalled to those four, which commonly and by more recent authors are assigned to the Constantinople creed, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 362-363)

1.) The First Mark of the Church is that it is Catholic. Doctor of the Church Saint Robert Bellarmine deftly elucidates that this Mark is found in the very name of the Catholic Church:

The First Mark, is the very name of the Catholic and Christian Church; for, as St. Augustine teaches, even if every heresy should wish to appear and be called the Catholic Church, nevertheless, when the heretics are asked by the pagans where one would go to come together at a Catholic Church, none of them dares to show his house. St. Cyril teaches , ‘If you will go out into some city, you do not ask where the Church might be, or the house of God, for even the heretics say theirs is the house of God, and the Church. Rather you ask, where might the Catholic Church be; that indeed is the proper name of this holy Church, the mother of us all; as if one might say, if you ask this, no heretic will show you his church.’

Pacianus says, in his letter to Sympronianus, which is on the catholic name: ‘Certainly, that which has endured through so many centuries was not borrowed from men. That which you refer to as Catholic, does not denote Marcion, nor Apelles, nor Montanus, just as it does not suppose heretics as authors... My name is Christian, Catholic is my cognomen; that addresses me, that shows who I am.’ He says the same thing Most beautifully, that the Catholic name agrees with the principle head and the trunk of that tree, from where many branches are cut off from different times: the heretical sects are the branches, that is, certain parts cut off from the tree of the Church: it is the very tree, which rests upon it’s root, as well as always remains the same, and Catholic is what the whole tree is called. Likewise, there is no heresy which would not take the name from some man as it’s author, and the Christian name should be abandoned by those who it leaves. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 3, some of the schismatics were saying: ‘I am of Paul, others, I am of Apollo, others, but I am of Cephas.’

St. Justin Martyr says: ‘And they are distinct with respect to their cognomens, designated from certain men, since each one was the author of some new doctrine. Among them, some are called Marcionists, others Valentinians, others Basilidinians, other Saturinists, and others still by another word, whatever it may be coming from the first inventor of their teaching.’ Irenaeus adds: ‘They even have words, from Simon, the prince of the most impious teachings, which are called Simony.’ Lactantius says: ‘Although the Marcionists or the Arians are called Christians, those who have lost the name of Christ and clothed themselves in a human and external name, have ceased to be Christian.’ St. Athanasius says against the Arians: ‘The people have never received a name from their bishops, but from the Lord, in whom they believed. Certainly we did not inherit names from the blessed apostles, but we are named after Christ because we are Christians. But they who deduce the origin of their faith from somewhere else rightly bear the names of their authors. For which reason, since we are all Christians and are called such, Marcion the inventor of his heresy is cast out. The rest who remain retain the title of Christians: those who followed Marcion were no longer Christians, but called Marcionists. Such is also the case with Valentinus, Basilides and Manes, and the others who bestowed names upon their sects.’

Chrysostom confirms this: ‘They have certain men after whom they are called: according to the name of the heresiarch, so also the sect is called, for us however, no man gave a name, rather the faith itself.’

Jerome says at the end of his work against the Luciferians: ‘If you will hear, in any place, those who are called Christians not by the Lord Jesus Christ but named after someone else, such as Marcionists or Valentinians; know that it is not the Church of Christ, but the synagogue of Antichrist.’ Today, therefore, if some are called ‘Martinists,’ or Lutherans, some Zwinglians, others Calvinists, etc., yet no one ever called us after some man, it is certain that ours is the true Church.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 364-366)

2.) The Second Mark of the Church is Antiquity.

The Second Mark is Antiquity; for without a doubt the true Church is more ancient than a false one, just as God existed before the devil. We read in the Gospel that the first sowing was good seed, afterwards came the cockle. Also, the Church is called Catholic, because it was in every time, and likewise is called apostolic, because it was founded by the apostles, and hence is the most ancient. That our Church is older than all the associations of pagans, nay more, that our Scripture is older than the gods of the nations, Tertullian proves in his Apologeticus.

In every manifest change of religion, these six signs of it are always able to be shown. Firstly, the author of the change. Secondly, some new doctrine. Thirdly, the time in which it began. Fourthly, the place where it began. Fifthly, who opposed it. Sixthly, that some scanty body little by little began to grow when others entered into it. On the one hand, we find all these things the very Church of Christ, which, nevertheless, was not a new Church, but only a type of change of the status of the Church according to the predictions of the prophets.

First, we know the author was Christ, whereby we are called Christians. Secondly, the new doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation began to be believed explicitly. Thirdly, this was preached in the 15th year of Emperor Tiberius Caesar. Fourthly, it began in Judea. Fifthly, this religion was soon assaulted by the scribes and pharisees, and thereafter by the nations with great force. Sixthly we know, in the beginning there were many fewer Christians than there were Jews, even when the separation was made. If, therefore, in this change of the state of the same Church those six things can be shown, the same things can be shown much more in any perfect change. We have already shown all those in the individual sects of heretics. But our adversaries could not show anything like this ever happened in our Church after apostolic times.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 367-368)

3.) The Third Mark of the Church is Long Duration.

The Third Mark is Long Duration, without interruption. Truly the Church is called Catholic, not only because it always was, but even because it always will be, according to Daniel IX: ‘The Kingdom which will not be destroyed in eternity.’ Also Acts V: ‘If this is a work or council of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is from God, you cannot destroy it.’ Concerning the heretics, however, St. Paul says: ‘They will proceed no further.’ St. Cyprian says that schismatics always swarm in the beginning, but cannot have increase, rather immediately fade out due to their deprave rivalry. St. Augustine, commenting on Psalm 57, where it is read ‘they come to nothing, as water flowing down,’ says: ‘Let them not terrify you, brethren, as certain rivers which are spoken of as running streams. They are filled with the waters of winter. Do not fear: after a while it passes, the water runs down, it resounds for a time, soon it will cease. They cannot stand for a long time. Many difficulties have already died off, they ran in their streams as much as they could, they flowed down: they are dry streams, scarcely a memory of them is found to show that they ever were.’

Now it is certain that our Church has endured to this point from the beginning of the world. Or, if we speak from the status of the New Testament, it has endured from Christ to this point for 1577 years, in vain have all attacked her, first the Jews, then the pagans, lastly the heretics. Not only has it endured, but even has increased from persecutions. As the waters of floods rush over the palaces of kings, and also overthrow them, so have persecutions destroyed temporal kingdoms, but the kingdom of Christ, which is the Church, not only did they not destroy, but made even more glorious. Therefore St. Justin Martyr says in his Dialogue with Trypho, that persecution is to the Church, like pruning is to vineyards, as indeed by the pruning of vineyards they are called to fruitfulness, so also the Church rises in persecutions. Tertullian elegantly calls the blood of the martyrs the seed of Christians, which Pope Leo seems to have expressed when he said: ‘The Church by persecutions is not decreased, but increased, and the Lord’s field is always clothed with the richest grain, while from a grain which falls individually, many more are born.’

However much the heretics of this time do not concede that our Church has endured for 1577 years, yet they concede it to have endured without any interruption from St. Gregory the great to this time; that is nearly a thousand years. Such a time even by itself, would still be longer than the life of any heresy; certainly they cannot show through any history or ancient writing that a change of religion came to pass in the Roman Church in the time of St. Gregory.

Thereupon, it can be proven that our Church is the true Church even by this argument; for before the times of Luther, there were no other religions in the world but these; Paganism, Judaism, Islam, Greek Orthodoxy, Nestorianism, The heresy of the Hussites and the Roman Church. Now it is certain that the true Church of Christ was not with any of the aforementioned sects, as even the Lutherans will affirm, therefore it was the Roman Church, what follows from their opinion is that every and visible Church perished from the world — which cannot be, as we taught above. But on the other hand, all heretical sects fail after time, apart from those which have recently arisen.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 376-377)

4.) The Fourth Mark of the Church is the Extent. Catholic means universal and the Catholic Church is universal.

The Fourth mark is the Extent, or the Multitude and Diversity of Believers. Indeed, a Church that is truly Catholic ought not only to embrace all times but all places, all nations and all races of men. Therefore, St. Vincent of Lerin explains what a Catholic might be in his Commonitorium, where he says that they are properly Catholics, who hold to that which has been believed always, everywhere and by all. And thus it was preached in the Psalms: ‘I will give to you the nations as your inheritance, and as your possession the ends of the earth,’ and, ‘Your dominion will be from sea to sea.’ And the Lord himself in both the last chapter of Luke and the first of Acts of the apostles l, says that the Gospel must be preached in all nations, which begun in Jerusalem.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P. 381)

5.) The Fifth Mark of the Church is Apostolic Succession.

The Fifth Mark is the Succession of Bishops in the Roman Church deduced from the apostles even to us; hence it is called Apostolic. Besides, all the Fathers used this succession as a most clear argument to show the true Church. Irenaeus enumerates the roman bishops from Peter, even to Eleutherius, who sat in his times. And he says that, through this succession all heretics are confounded. Tertullian says: ‘Let the heretics start from the origins of their Churches, let them unfold the order of their bishops, so through the succession running down from the beginning, their first bishop had someone from the apostles, or apostolic men as his author and predecessor. In this manner, the Church of the Romans relates that Clement was ordained by Peter.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P. 386)

The Sixth Mark of the Church is the fact that it has One Faith.

The Sixth Mark is the Agreement in Doctrine with the ancient Church. Indeed, the true Church is called apostolic, as Tertullian witnesses, not only on account of the succession of bishops from the apostles, but even on account of the kinship of doctrine, as he says, which is that it retains the doctrine which the apostles handed down. Moreover, it is certain that the ancient Church was the true Church for the first five hundred years, and hence retained apostolic doctrine whereby Theodosius the emperor is praised by Sozomen because by this method he restrained the heretics of his time. He bid the leaders of the sects to come together, thereupon he asked whether they thought the ancient Fathers, who ruled the Church before their separation, which then had arisen from religion, to have thought rightly and truly that the apostles were saints, and when they conceded this, enjoined them: ‘Then let us examine your doctrine against their writings, and if should agree with them, it may be retained, but if not, let it be thrown out.’

Now we can prove in two ways from this Mark that ours is the true Church, and not that of our adversaries. Firstly, by advancing the teachings of the Fathers, whereby we should confirm each of our doctrines. In fact this manner is very lengthy, and more liable to many calumnies and objections. The second way is shorter and more certain, without a doubt by showing first from the confession of our adversaries, that our doctrine is indeed the doctrine of all the ancients. Then showing whether the dogmas of our adversaries were held in the ancient Church by exploring the heresies. Then it will be certain, our doctrine agrees with the doctrine of the ancient catholics, but their doctrine agrees with the doctrine of the ancient heretics.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P. 398)

7.) The Seventh Mark of the Church is the Union of Members among themselves and with the head.

For the Church is one body, one spouse, one flock, as scripture teaches everywhere, as well as in the creed of the Council of Constantinople, where we say ‘one Church.’ Moreover, the particular union of the body consists in the union of the members with the head, and among themselves. We must speak on each union, even in the first place on the foremost, that of the Roman Pontiff.

Now It Is Very clear from this mark, our Church alone is the true Church of God: Accordingly, in the first place, all the holy writers in our Church wonderfully agreed among themselves, although there were different men in different places, times and languages who wrote, which St. Augustine observes on the matter. Thereupon all decrees of legitimate councils and popes agreed among themselves, even in all dogmas, although they were promulgated by different men, in different places, times, occasions and against very different, nay more, contrary heresies. This is an obvious sign of one and the same Holy Spirit, governing this Church.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 417, 420)

8.) The Eighth Mark of the Church is Holiness of Doctrine.

Indeed, the true Church is not only Catholic, Apostolic and one, but also Holy, as the creed of the first council of Constantinople holds. It is certain that the Church is called ‘holy,’ because her profession is holy, containing nothing false with respect to doctrine, and nothing unjust with respect to a doctrine of morals. Wherefore, in Psalm 18, the Law of the Lord is called immaculate, faithful testimony, a clear precept of the Lord. Evidently from this mark is shown no Church is true but ours. Indeed, there is no sect of the Pagans, or of the philosophers, or of the Jews or Turks, or Heretics, which will not contain some errors, tried and manifestly contrary to right reason.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 426-427)

9.) The Ninth Mark of the Church is the Efficacy of Doctrine.

Only the true Church has doctrine that is not only immaculate, but even converts souls, as is said in Psalm 18, a living sermon penetrating even to the division of the soul and spirit (Hebrews 4). Although the ancient philosophers displayed great wisdom, and persuaded people of their laws with supreme eloquence, nevertheless they never could even draw a nearby town to their laws, as Athanasius and Theodoret teach. Because their words were not living words, but dead, not of the spirit of God, but of the spirit of men. On the other hand, the Muslims dragged many but by the terror of arms, not by force and efficacy of doctrine, for indeed Muhammad himself teaches in the Qur’an that men must be compelled to the faith by war.

Whereas, truly the holy and apostolic Church once, in a short time and through contemptible men, drew the whole world by means of an external splendor, without arms and pomps. The whole world, that is great men as well as the small, the learned and unlearned, young, old, men and women. And it drew them not to the delights of this world, but to things which must be believed beyond all reason, and to the cross, the narrow and most perfect way, which is repugnant to flesh and blood, and all these things on account of no reward in this life, but only in the future life. And it so persuaded this, that many preferred more to lose all riches, honors, friends, relations and even their own life, than the faith of Christ.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 432-434)

10.) The Tenth Mark of the Church is the Holiness of the Authors.

That is, of the first Fathers of our religion. Indeed, the true Church does not only have holy and efficacious doctrine, but even holy teachers, and famous with respect to the glory of their deeds. Now we will speak on uprightness, and afterward on miracles.

Now if one were to consider the great teachers of the Catholic Church, first the patriarchs and prophets, thereafter the apostles, then the doctors, who struck against heresies, and at length against the establishers of the religious orders, he will discover they were so holy, chaste, pious and sober, that our adversaries shall have nothing which they might condemn them for, except an excess of holiness. St. Augustine says the same things about the monks of his time, and on Catholic teachers: ‘These are learned bishops and shepherds, deep in holiness, keen defenders of truth, who took in the Catholic faith in their milk and ate it in their food, of which milk and bread they administered to small and great alike. With such, after the apostles, the Holy Church increased by means of such planters, irrigators, builders, shepherds and nourishers.’ Add to this, that Luther himself affirmed Bernard, Dominic and Francis to have been saints, as well as Philip Melanchthon and others from our adversaries.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P. 437)

11.) The Eleventh Mark of the Church is the Glory of Miracles.

There are two foundations which must be put forward. One, that miracles are necessary to new faith, or to persuade of an extraordinary mission. Two, that they are efficacious and sufficient, for we shall deduce from the first that there is no true Church with our adversaries, and from the second that it is with us.

On the Pagans, it is known, for only trivial things are read, which can easily be done by a trick or by the demons, such as Valerius Maximus relates, on statues and brutes speaking, or on a Vestal Virgin drawing water with a sieve. Cicero reports of an augur who sliced a stone with a razor. Tertulian in His Apologeticus, and St. Augustine in the City of God show how all these things were easily done by demons.

On the Jews after the coming of Christ, it is known that they do not have any miracles, and that one from the pool, which endured while Christ was preaching, afterward was lost.

On The Muslims, St. Damascene says that Muhammad could prove his law by no testimony. The Qur’an itself confesses the miracles of Christ, but gives for itself a sword: nevertheless in ch. 64, it says once about the moon that it did some miracle, I do not know what since it was not expressed clearly. The expositors, however, say at some time the moon was divided into two parts, then Muhammad received it in his hands and renewed it, then returned it to the sky, but no one saw this miracle, except the author, that is, Muhammad.

Concerning false prophets and heretics, it is no less certain, that they often tried to do miracles, and were always frustrated in their hope. The history of the prophets of Baal is known, who wanted to call down fire from heaven through the invocation of Baal: nevertheless they could not, because the true prophet Elijah effected through the invocation of the true God in that business.

The Donatists performed miracles against themselves, when they threw a vessel of chrism against a rock, which was held up by an angelic hand and could not be broken. On another occasion, they commanded the Eucharist be given to dogs, and they were torn to pieces by the same dogs.

The same thing is altogether certain on the heretics of our age. For, in the first place, Luther twice tried to perform a miracle: he wished at some time to cast the devil from one of his disciples, but he was in danger lest he be killed by the demon.

It will be beneficial, nevertheless, to briefly record how the Church has been illuminated with miracles in all ages, so that even now we understand that she is the true Church which is most like antiquity, that is, in which endures this gift. We have in the first century the miracles of Christ and the apostles, which are recorded in the Gospels and Acts.

In the second century we have the miracles of Christian soldiers in the army of Marcus Antoninus, about which you can read in Tertulian, Eusebius and other Fathers.

In the third century, we have the miracles of Gregory Thaumaturgi, which are recorded by St. Basil, St. Gregory, Jerome and Eusebius.

In the fourth century we have miracles of Anthony, Hilary, Martin, Nicolas, and others, written by St. Athanasius, Jerome, Sulpitius and others.

In the fifth century, we have many miracles, which Augustine writes down that happened in his time.

In the sixth century, we have miracles, which St. Gregory relates in the dialogue, where he relates the deeds of two Roman Pontiffs, John and Agapetus.

In the thirteenth century, there were many famous Catholics in the Church, particularly St. Francis, whose life was full of miracles, as recorded by St. Bonaventure. Likewise, St. Dominic, whose life, although it was written more carelessly, nevertheless shows for certain that he raised three men from the dead. Others who were famous in the same century with miracles were St. Peter Martyr, and St. Thomas from the order of Preachers and St. Anthony and St. Bonaventure from the Friars minor, whose lives can be read in Antoninus’ history. At the end of the century, many famous miracles were done by St. Celestine V, both before and after he was Pope, as Cardinal Caneracensis writes in his life.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 443- 446, 450- 453)

12.) The Twelfth Mark of the Church is the Light of Prophecy.

Just as Christ promised in the last chapter of Mark the gift of miracles, so also does he promise the gift of prophecy, by means of Peter, in Acts 2 explaining the second chapter of Joel, which certainly is the greatest. Since it is certain, that no man can know the contingencies of things to come except for God: ‘Announce what is coming in the future, and we will know that you are gods.’ And on the other hand, it was placed as a mark of false doctrine that a prophet would predict something, and it would not happen.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P. 460)

13.) The Thirteenth Mark of the Church is the Confession of our Adversaries.

Truly, the force of truth is so great, that it even compels our adversaries to give testimony to it now and again. Indeed we know there is only one true faith, and without it, there is no true justice. Therefore we firmly assert, that all err who do not follow our doctrine.

From the Pagans there are many testimonies. Pliny the Younger wrote to Emperor Trajan, that Christians detest every vice, and live in a most holy manner, and he could only reprove them in this alone, that they too easily poured out their life for their God, and because they rise in the hours before dawn to sing praises to Christ. Tertullian witnesses, the Pagans refused to examine a case of Christians, but condemned them without discussion, for they knew that no evil would be found in them. Moreover, he affirms that those emperors who are reckoned to have been best, favored Christians such as Marcus Aurelius, Vespasian, Antoninus Pius, etc., while those who were moved to persecute them are held to have been the worst emperors, even by the heathen themselves, as Nero and Domitian.

There also exists a letter of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, wherein he witnesses when his army labored in Germany with great thirst for five days, and the Romans were surrounded by such a multitude of Germans, that it was impossible to escape by human strength. Then he had recourse to his ancestral gods, but in vain; thereafter some Christian soldiers, who were in the army, asked that they might pray to their God also. Next, they had scarcely gotten on their knee to pray when immediately a most joyful rain descended from heaven upon the Romans; but upon their enemies fire and hail were mixed. Tertullian calls this epistle to mind in the Apologeticus, and it has recently been discovered and printed in the works of Justin.

We have from the Jews, in the first place testimony from Josephus, who affirms Christ was more than a man, and truly the Messiah. Philo wrote a distinguished book on the praises of those Christians, who were living in Egypt under Mark the Evangelist.

Muhammad in the Qur’an, chapter 2, teaches that Christians are save, and chapter 4 calls Christ the greatest of the prophets, and had the very soul of God. St. Bonaventure also records, that the Sultan of Egypt, although a Muslim, held St. Francis in the highest honor and reverence, although he knew that he was Christian and Catholic.

The same can be said concerning the heretics. For St. Gregory writes that St. Benedict, a Catholic, was held in such great honor by Totila, an Arian king, that he called him a true servant of God and a prophet. Even Luther when he had already become a heretic, wrote thus against the Anabaptists, who rejected in hatred of the Pope the baptism of infants: ‘We affirm, that there are many good Christians under the papacy, nay more that every good Christian even from there comes down to us. By all means we affirm in the papacy there are the true holy Scripture, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, true keys for the remission of sins, the true office of preaching, true catechesis, as are the Lord’s prayer, the Ten Commandments and articles of faith. I say, moreover, there is true christianity under the papacy, the true center of christianity.’ Where if he grants the center to us, certainly he preserves nothing for himself, except for the skin or the shell.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 463- 465)

14.) The Fourteenth Mark of the Church is the Unhappy Exit, or End, of those who oppose the Church.

Although God punishes them and scourges them, nevertheless at length he casts the chaff into the fire. ‘All ye nations praise His people, for he avenges the blood of his servants, and brings retribution upon their enemies.’

On the miserable end of Pharaoh, the first persecutor of the Church, we read in Exodus XIV. On Dathan and Abiron the first schismatics, we read about in Numbers 16; on Jezebel, in 4 (2) Kings IX; on Antiochus, 2 Machabees 9; on Pilate, that he had killed himself as Eusebius writes. He also relates the slaughter of the Jews which Josephus more broadly relates in his work On the Jewish War. Concerning Herod the Great, Josephus writes that he died gushing out worms since he had first killed his wife, and then his sons, and thereupon wished he had killed himself. On Herod the Tetrarch, Josephus adds that he lost his kingdom and was relegated to perpetual exile where he lived most miserably. On his daughter Herodias, see Nicephorus. On Herod Agrippa see Acts 12. As for Nero, Domitian and other emperors who persecuted Christians, all were cruelly killed, either by themselves or by others, or certainly perished miserably, as is certain from all the chronicles and histories. For Trajan was struck with a dreadful paralysis, and together with that died from dropsy. Diocletian gave up his empire on account of resentment, that he could not destroy Christians. Maximianus and Maximinus were struck with such dreadful sufferings that even the heathen doctors said it was a divine plague. Maxentius perished in a river and left behind a bloodless victory to Constantine.

We come to the Heresiarchs and Apostates. Simon Magus, when he wished to fly, was knocked down by the prayers of St. Peter, broke his legs, and shortly after died with supreme ignominy.

Arius wished to enter into a Church, but after a sudden movement of his stomach he went to the public toilets, and together with excrement all his intestines and his soul poured out.

Julian the Apostate was killed by divine retribution, and lacked even a common burial; for the earth was opened of its own will, and he was swallowed, as St. Gregory Nazianzen writes in an oration that is found with Athanasius.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 466-467)

15.) The Fifteenth Mark of the Church is the Temporal Happiness, divinely conferred upon those who defend the Church.

Catholic princes have never so adhered to God from the heart as when they easily triumph over the enemy. In the first place, the victories in the Old Testament of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Hezechiah, Josiah, and the Machabees are known. In the New Testament, Constantine, who was the first among the emperors to defend the Church, in that he conquered Maxentius in almost the same way as Moses did Pharaoh. Augustine adds: ‘The Emperor Constantine was filled with so many earthly rewards, that no one is heard to desire the like, not by praying to demons, but worshiping the true God. One Augustus held and defended the whole Roman world. He was the most victorious in administration and waging war. He succeeded above all in overthrowing tyrants. Old, he died from sickness and age, leaving behind sons as emperors.’

On Theodosius, the younger Socrates writes, that while his army was fighting barbarians, meanwhile he was absent in the city in prayer with God, and around 100,000 Saracens were led by angels into the Euphrates, and perished miserably.

Likewise, it is certain from the histories of the Greeks, that the emperors of the east from that time, wherein on account of the tearing apart of images, separated themselves from the Roman Church, and day by day deteriorated more and more, until at length they nearly lost their empire. But in the west, it is manifestly gathered from the histories of the Latins, that their emperors flourished more and more, or less as they were more or less attached to the Roman Church.

In France and the Netherlands Catholics brought back many victories over the Heretics, and not without a miracle. Nay more, the heretics were hardly ever superior when fought in battle. Moreover, these on the marks of the Church, and all this disputation, have been said for the sake of brevity.
— (Bellarmine and Grant. 2017. P.P. 469-471)

All of the above teachings in part 2 of this series On The Church are presented as excerpts from St. Robert Bellarmine’s De Controversiis: Tomus II On The Church, translated from the original Latin into English by Ryan Grant. Within this magnificent book, St. Bellarmine gives far more details than could be provided in this article and in addition he also responds to objections against these teachings. Part 3 of this series will address whether or not the Church can defect or err. Part 1 of this series which explains what the Church is, can be found here: https://virgopotens.org/blog/2019/1/30/ugois5dp2gopmgnkxd1yccy5y1rs9y

The next and final part of this series on the Church, The Church Cannot Defect or Err is found here: https://virgopotens.org/blog/2019/2/18/jui08ep1lzv6kpq1ajoot43w808rte


1.) Bellarmine, Robert, and Ryan Grant. De Controversiis: Tomus II: On The Church. Mediatrix Press, 2017.

This book can be purchased from Mediatrix Press here: https://mediatrixpress.com/?p=1900

Related Virgo Potens article on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus is found here: https://virgopotens.org/blog/2019/1/18/pwqx5jnw0sl07qohay98nstdanrxw3