The”Fifth”and”Sixth”Marks of the Church

The Nicene Creed fittingly noted four marks of the True Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. These marks identify four essential qualities and characteristics the Church has and they distinguish the True Church from any false claimants. Now my name may be “Pope”  but I surely cannot add authoritatively to this venerable list. Nevertheless permit me a couple of “prayerful additions” to the four marks of the Church. These cannot join the official list but I humbly submit  these “marks” for your consideration to serve in a similar way to distinguish the True Church from false claimants and to give insight into the Church’s truest identity.

The 5th Mark of the Church: Hated. Jesus consistently taught us to expect the hatred of the world if we were true disciples.

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (John 15:18-20).

Or Again: All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub,how much more the members of his household! (Matt 10:22-24)

 Or yet again, Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:26)

One of the more painful aspects of Church life, yet also one of the aspects of which I am most “proud” is that we are hated very specially by the world. It is true that some of the Evangelicals are ridiculed but few can deny that a very special and intense hatred for the Catholic Church and  is widely on display. It’s never OK in our society (nor should it be) to scorn Jews or Muslims and to mock or attack their faith traditions. Most of the other Christian denominations (except the Evangelicals) also escape much hatred. But the Catholic Church, ah the Catholic Church, now it seems open season on her. We are scorned, badly portrayed in movies, our history is misrepresented, our sins (and we do have them) are exaggerated, our teachings called bigoted, backward, unrealistic, and out of date. And no matter how ugly, bigoted and inaccurate the world’s hatred is, very few if any express any outrage at how were are treated and misrepresented. Try any of this on the Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, et al. and the outrage and claims of bigotry are echoed by the media (and well they should be). Meanwhile Dan Brown et al. get to go on and on about “evil” priests and bishops,  a crucifix can be submerged in urine or the Blessed Mother smeared with dung and this is praised as “art” and funded by government grants.

I am not complaining (though these things are wrong). I am actually quite hopeful that this means we are doing something right. We are a sign of contradiction to the world and we are hated for it. We speak the truth to a world gone mad and we hold on to that “old time religion.” That we are hated puts us in good company with Jesus and the prophets and martyrs who stood with him. If we are really doing what we should be doing, the Church ought to experience significant hatred from the world. So hatred by the world is an essential mark of the Church if you ask me. We do not look to be hated. Neither do we look for conflict. But in preaching Christ crucified, in preaching the whole counsel of God and not some watered down version of it we surely do find hatred and conflict comes to us. Some people and denominations try to fit in with the world. They accept its ways and comprise the clear teaching of Christ. But the True Church speaks the whole truth of God in love and does not cave to the world’s demands. The true Church, by Christ’s promise, is hated by the world and those allied and wedded to it. But no need to fear…the sixth “mark” is here!

The Sixth Mark of the Church – Perduring  – To perdure means to permanently endure. Here too Christ firmly established this principle and promise to the true Church:

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it(Matt 16:18).

There are no governments or nations that have lasted 2000 years. Very little else in this world can claim such antiquity and even if it does can it claim to have remained essentially unchanged in its dogma or teaching? The Catholic Church is one, even after 2000 years. An unbroken line of Popes back to Peter and an unbroken line of succession for all the Bishops back to the Apostles through the laying on of hands. Not bad. Now consider that this is a miracle! If the Church were depending on human beings to exist and stay unified how long do think she would have lasted? Probably about twenty minutes, max. Our history is not without some pretty questionable moments, in terms of the human elements of the Church. That the gates of hell would never prevail against the Church certainly suggests they would try again and again. But here we are, a miracle. Still standing after all these years. Christ is true to his promise to remain with us all days unto the consummation of the world. We, the human elements of the Church may not live teachings of Christ perfectly, but the Church has never failed to teach what Christ taught even (as now) when the world hated us for it. At times we are tepid and struggle to find our voice, but Christ still speaks and ministers even in our weakness. Yes the Catholic Church is a miracle, the Work of Jesus Christ. And thus the sixth Mark of the Church is that she perdures. By God’s grace we exhibit this sixth mark. Nations have come and gone, empires risen and fallen, eras opened and closed, but through it all we perdure.

So there it is, I believe in one, holy, catholic, apostolic, (and if you don’t mind me saying),  hated and perduring Church.

Here’s a very interesting hip hop song by the rapper Akalyte on these two additional “marks” of the Church.

32 Replies to “The”Fifth”and”Sixth”Marks of the Church”

  1. Is it correct to say that, in the Middle ages, when our church had power and respect, the church was not living by its creed?

    1. The history in this matter was complicated. At one level the Church filled a void. As secular authority waned and fell into non existence through the dark ages the Church took on a role unsuited (if you ask me) for the Church, that of leading and governing temporal affairs. This leads to trouble insofar as the living of the gospel goes and one may surmise that the excessive power of and misplaced governanace of the Church leads to a compromised prophet and to the so called enlightlenment and French Revolution hatred of the Church On the other hand one may argue that the Church had to step into the void and provide some governance in the face of confusion and anarachy. The trouble comes as to when and how to relinquish power. Hence I would argue that at some point there came a tipping point. Intenetions were good but at some point compromise sets in. The compromise was not on doctrine per se but rather on prudential matters and governance. I will have to leave the rest to better historians than I.

      1. Msgr., if I may simply post some declarations from Bl. Pius IX. concerning the role of the State in society, in governing, etc., all condemned propositions taken from the syllabus of errors:

        24. The Church has not the power of using force, nor has she any temporal power, direct or indirect. — Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

        25. Besides the power inherent in the episcopate, other temporal power has been attributed to it by the civil authority granted either explicitly or tacitly, which on that account is revocable by the civil authority whenever it thinks fit. — Ibid.

        34. The teaching of those who compare the Sovereign Pontiff to a prince, free and acting in the universal Church, is a doctrine which prevailed in the Middle Ages [i.e., that it no longer obtains]. — Apostolic Letter “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

        54. Kings and princes are not only exempt from the jurisdiction of the Church, but are superior to the Church in deciding questions of jurisdiction. — Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

        55. The Church ought to be separated from the State, and the State from the Church. — Allocution “Acerbissimum,” Sept. 27, 1852.


        75. The children of the Christian and Catholic Church are divided amongst themselves about the compatibility of the temporal with the spiritual power. — “Ad Apostolicae,” Aug. 22, 1851.

        76. The abolition of the temporal power of which the Apostolic See is possessed would contribute in the greatest degree to the liberty and prosperity of the Church. — Allocutions “Quibus quantisque,” April 20, 1849, “Si semper antea,” May 20, 1850.

        Available online: For those who are not familiar with this decree, there are many other very important and interesting decrees on the role of the Church, the State, and against Rationalism, Indifferentism, etc., in that document. There is also an additional Syllabus of Errors of St. Pius X.

        1. Thanks for these though I am puzzled as to your point in posing them. It may be that you are responding to my overall pessimism regarding the CHurch’s involement in temporal Government? I am not sure. I do not say that the Church cannot ever do this and indicated that there was a kind of necessity of temporal governanace placed on the Church in certain times when civil authority was unable to govern or just plain non-existent. But in general I think it is a bad idea for the Church to govoern temporally. The Church is criticised enough for many things let alone having to be cristicised that the roads are not properly paved or that tax rates are to high or that the rec centers need updating. My objections are pastoral and practical not doctrinal.

      2. Well in the middle agesm certainly in the XII and XIII there were a lot heretics around.

        St. Antony of Padua distinguished himself as the ‘Hammer of Heretics’ for preaching to them (no he did NOT use any violence at all 🙂 ) and performing many miracles to them and making a lot of them convert back to the catholic faith.

        The Church has always had its griefs… even (or especially!) durig the heights of its political power

      3. Frankly, I think the Pope has his plate full being universal pastor, so much so that most of the day-to-day activities of the Diocese of Rome are overseen by his subordinates. Notwithstanding the right of the Church to be involved, even extensively, in temporal affairs, these could all too easily become a distraction from the more important work assigned by Christ to the Church.

    2. During the Middle Ages, the Church endured persecutions of a different sort. While it is true that many priests, abbots, and bishops had political power and sway, those that attempted to uphold the teachings of the Gospel weren’t treated very well. The Church’s teachings against unjust war, slavery, etc weren’t always accepted by the powers that be…so they flouted them and attempted to put friendly clerics in power (as in the Investiture Controversy).

    3. Navin K. says:
      January 29, 2010 at 1:18 am
      Is it correct to say that, in the Middle ages, when our church had power and respect, the church was not living by its creed?

      Christ has died,Christ is risen,Christ will come again.
      The Paschal Mystery,The Liturgy,and all The Sacraments.Who throught the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds.
      Navin, think of it this way,It is more correct to say,”Life is the Verdict,” (flesh)”Death is the Remedy”(life in the spirit).The Church performed a “corporal work of mercy,” which having accomplished it, proceeds on with the “Spiritual works of mercy.” I BELIVE.

  2. What do you mean there are no nations that have lasted 2000 years? There may be no states…but what of, for instance, the Chinese? There are the oldest continuous civilization in the world.

    1. Lots of dynasties but surely you wouldn’t argue that the Communist Chinese Govt goes back 2K years? Then too there is the question of at what level to you define a civilization? China it seems is a long processon of disontinuous dynasties. The current Chinese situation is far removed from the other discontinuous dynstaties that have risen and fallen.

      1. The Chinese were not always one nation as they are today. Over the course of the Chinese civilization, the “civilization” was limited to only those peoples that were part of the dynasty. As the different dynasties rose and fell, so to did the geographic influence wax and wane. Not every geographic aspect of the PRC today were always part of “Chinese civilization”.

      2. Institutions that have lasted for 2,000 years do are hard to come by. It would seem that the world’s oldest existing national institutions are monarchies. The world’s oldest present monarchy, and the only present one that predates the birth of Jesus Christ, is that of Japan. Emperor Akihito is defined as the 125th emperor of a single dynasty. Of course, this has no impact on the spiritual claims of the Catholic Church or the point Msgr. Pope was making about it being perduring, but it is perhaps an interesting historical phenomenon to note. Japanese emperors have exercised little real political power since the Middle Ages (as it would be known in Europe), but in the more recent centuries have occupied the role of national spiritual leader/father figure. Perhaps an analagous enduring civilization to that of China, in the sense of having a longer-than-2,000-year history of monarchical rule exercised by different dynasties, would be Ancient Egypt.

  3. God bless you for this blog. The line “At times we are tepid and struggle to find our voice, but Christ still speaks and ministers even in our weakness” made me fall on my knees and thank God for all the persecutions we endure for his sake. I was reminded of Romans 5:3 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” In the last couple of days, while standing up with intensity to my co-workers’ endless hatred, bashing and unrealistic accusations against the Church cast me into doubt as to whether I am at peace with myself or not. Indeed, this struggle against the world will not end for the rest of our lives. Thank you Msgr once again and God bless you.

  4. Good day Monsignor. Please be reminded that in secular life also the mark of success is the presence of criticism. If you don’t have critics, you are not successful. Best wishes.

  5. I agree with your two additions and for a true follower of Christ it is crucial to remember these two. If we imitate Christ some hate is guaranteed. And that in the midst of our sinfulness we still exist and are blessed by Him is a miracle of True love and commitment to his promises. What can we say, the Church is the bride of Christ, the Son of the God, who said “let there be light” and there was light, the One who is from the beginning, it is Him who promised to take care of us and purify us by his Holy Spirit. In this case if we sound too triumphant is only by sheer joy of celebrating the love of God, the love that never ends.

  6. Any of us reading or contributing to online forums on religion or related topics will be well aware of the hatred people have towards the (institutional) church and its teachings, riturals, traditions. I had a personal commitment to contribute (politely) to such discussions as a personal evangelization effort, but had to stop – the abuse and the temptation to respond in kind was too much for me. Perhaps I should stick it out.

  7. The Nicene Creed fittingly noted four marks of the True Church: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. So, the catholic leaders get togeather and state that a true church must be catholic. Dont tell the Mormons that. Their holymen got togeather and said a true church must be Mormon. Jehovas and SDA both say the same. The Jews are in there too. But they have the fact that jesus was jewish. Even though they hate Jesus. Anyone can say that they are the true church. Talk is cheap. Jesus gave us a simple formula. ” By their fruits shall ye know them”.

  8. This is excellent, Msgr. Your concept of a “Fifth” mark, Hated, resonates with my own thinking and experience. I occasionally participate, for the purpose of explaining and defending Catholic faith and practice, in a Christian discussion forum. While I don’t remember the exact nature of the exchange, I once stated to another poster (a Catholic who has left the Church) that I want to be a member of the Church that is hated by the world and that the Catholic Church fits the bill. I think the point was lost on her because she replied that she didn’t think the Catholic Church is hated by the world, but at least the point was made and just might have, by the grace of God, provided food for thought for some other forum participant. Also wanted to take the opportunity to say that I appreciate your rich insight, clarity of thought and straightforward presentation. I look forward to your new blog entries. May God bless you richly in your priestly ministry.

  9. if you believe that the catholic church is the church of Jesus Christ unless God opens your eyes you are beyond hope of the light of Jesus Christ. The Catholic church was called by ginune believers, who were willing and many times died, the beast for hundreds of years for good reasons. Read the Bible, after all when the catholic church had the power to do so, it burned it.

      1. Its a matter of record that the catholic church killed bible believeing folks.Thats the job of the catholic church. To keep folks from heaven

  10. As an undergraduate, (50+ years ago) I noticed that professors and students who had left the Faith or denigrated the Catholic Church often did so as a defensive measure. The person who has adopted a practice of sin DOESN’T WANT ANOTHER PERSON SAYING TO THEM: “What you are doing is wrong (evil)!” If you can persuade the other person that there are no absolute standards of right and wrong, he won’t be echoing what may remain of your conscience.
    This may explain why so many since 1963 have criticized the actions of Pius XII (d. in 1958!) in World War II. The source of this calumny was two-fold: a play (The Deputy) by a German who was a teen-ager when the War ended in 1945; and a campaign by the Soviet propaganda machine to lessen the influence of the Church in the post-1945 world.
    Your mark of being hated as a characteristic of the true church seems a valid observation.

  11. And also in an almost contradictory sense the Saints are loved! – Blessings – Rene

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