There are very few certainties in this world about anything. But one thing is for sure: The Church will prevail, the Church will be here to infallibly lead us to the end of days.
“How arrogant!” you might say. And yet, say it I did! Why? Not because of any human guarantee, but based rather on the firm promise of Jesus himself.
The place is Ceasarea Phillipi, and Jesus is speaking to Simon Peter who had just confessed him to be the Christ and the Son of the Living God. Now Jesus speaks and says, You are Peter (Rock), and upon this rock I will build my church,and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt 16:18) The Church will surely be hated, attacked and persecuted, but Hell will never prevail, never defeat the Church Jesus founded.
No Human Power – Now I want to emphasize that this power of the Church to endure to the end is no human power. It is not based on brilliant or perfect human leaders. It is based solely on Jesus’ promise. So it is not arrogant to make this claim, it is simply Biblical and a matter of faith in Jesus.
This prevailing power of the Church can be understood in a couple of ways.
First it means that the Church will be here to the end. Count on it since Jesus promised it. This is what is meant by the “indefectibility” of Church.
Second, this promise means that the Church cannot mislead us or teach falsely in a matter of faith and morals. Herein lies the infallibility of the Church. Of this the Catechism teaches:
In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the Apostles, Christ who is the Truth, willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility…The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms: “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful – who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium, above all in an Ecumenical Council. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 889-891)
Therefore note that the teaching is not simplistically applied. There are rather specific conditions set forth for the invocation of infallibility. But the bottom line is that when the Church formally teaches on matters of faith and morals (as described above), the promise of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit save us from doubt and error.
Now some object to claim. But reason with me for a minute. Jesus promised that the gates of Hell could not prevail against the Church. But if the Church could formally teach error about faith and morals, if the Church could mislead people about what was necessary for their eternal salvation, then it would be a fact that the gates of Hell HAD prevailed. But since Jesus promised it could never happen, then, by God’s grace, the Church is protected from formally teaching falsely on matters of faith and morals.
Do you trust Jesus and believe his word? Then the Church is unsinkable and infallible regarding faith and morals.
Here is a video that humorously depicts the indefectibility of the Church. Though sabotaged by this world, cast down, stoned, struck and hit by this world from all sides, though the world unleash all its power against us, the Church remains ever the same, and to every blow replies, “Still I rise!” Death is detained by the “Spirit.”