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 we, of course 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 especially 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 Brownet 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.

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

  1. Nice meditation, Monsignor; but have you borrowed these marks (“Hated” and “Perduring” from someone else? I seem to recall seeing (or hearing) this concept before, sometime in the last few months.

      1. It could be – I’ve been following New Advent blogs for about that long.

  2. On the 5th,

    “If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because he called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which amid the confusion of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly, it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. … “
    -Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979)

  3. Very nice meditation. One thing we are trying to impress upon our children is that they will have to be counter-cultural … and it will not be easy. But they will always have the Church to guide them.

    Ideas are free. Ex. I came across Fulton Sheen’s quote on birth control: “The subject is birth control but the words are a misnomer because those who practice it don’t believe in birth or in control.” I realized he borrowed the idea from G.K. Chesterton (1874 – 1936): “They say birth control; what they mean is no birth, and no control.”

    No doubt the books and this blog are influencing me greatly and I will be borrowing the Monsignor’s ideas as well … and quoting him.

  4. Surely you realize that you can’t just leave this at 6! You’ll have to add another, to take the number to 7. 4 was a good number to stop at; there 4 Gospels and 4 cardinal virtues.

  5. I think I remember what TeaPot567 might be talking about. It appears in chapter 6, section 2 ( of Bl. John Henry Newman’s Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, where he says…”In one point alone the heresies seem universally to have agreed,—in hatred to the Church. This might at that time be considered one of her surest and most obvious Notes. She was that body of which all sects, however divided among themselves, spoke ill; according to the prophecy, “If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of His household.” They disliked and they feared her; they did their utmost to overcome their mutual differences, in order to unite against her.”

  6. Msgr. Pope this is another excellent article. Please publish a book containing your writing as many Bishops, Priests, lay Catholics and enquirers to the Church around the world would benefit from your reflections particularly on topics such as this and others such as your “Principles of Powerful Prophecy”, “Holiness is more than being nice” and the wonderful “What Do you Expect From Holy Communion?”.

    I am discerning a vocation to the Priesthood (pray for me!) and your writing has been a great aid and encouragement as I seek to allow the Lord to speak the truth in love through me. It seems that many of us, for fear of the condemnation and ridicule of the world, fall into the trap of failing to preach the whole counsel of God. Thus many poor souls only hear the watered down version from the pulpit which often fails to cleanse and nourish the soul.

    On the contrary, on the occasions when by the grace of God I have allowed the Holy Spirit to speak his liberating truth and saving word into people lives I have witnessed dormant hearts begin to burn, captives set free, the sick healed and the eyes of the blind opened! Oh how great is our God! May the most Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ truly be our strength and his Resurrection our victory. God bless you and keep up the good work.

    1. I agree! Monsignor Pope is a truly inspiring man. The Catholic Church needs more people like him to proclaim the Gospel and reach out to the new, technology-using generation. I will pray for you regarding your vocation. God bless you, brother! I am a mere layman, but from recent lectio divina I have been impressed at the recurrent theme in the Bible of the “remnant” – the small but active group of sincere believers who have been called to revitalise, cleanse and renew the Church. May you be among that number as a man of the cloth, and please pray for me too if you attain to that office.

  7. Something which has recently come to me and which I wait for the opportunity. About the hypothetical 5th Mark. The next time I get persecuted for my faith; even by scoffing and the like; if it seems appropriate I plan to thank the persecuter for making the blessing of the 8th Beatitude available to me.
    Would this perhaps be similar to feeding a hungry enemy which has been referred to be like heaping hot coals on the head of that enemy?
    Thank you Monsignor; I continue to pray for your boldness; as you’ve asked; while including that it be as His will be done.

  8. I would like to be more specific about the word Church as it is used in this article. The Church is not an organization but an organism with it’s head being Jesus Christ. Any World, Nation, religious sect or family that does not govern herself by the teachings of Jesus is headed for trouble. But what has continued to occur to me is that these Truths are proclaimed in a very human way through The Holy Men of God. If the people of God and the World will not obey Jesus’ teachings they certainly WILL NOT OBEY the man of God. Again, I will say ‘How can they hear without a preacher.’ Let us continue to support the proclaimation of the Gospel, knowing that many of our Priest are hated. FORTITUDE. AMEN.

  9. One nation has lasted even longer than the Church – paradoxically, dispersed: the Jews. Their perdurance, and the hatred they inspire, comprise similar evidence of being God’s favorites; and, if my experience is any guide, their goodness. (I wonder, is “goodness” a seventh mark, or is it a variety of holiness?)

    I believe that some of the “mainline religions,” accepting abortion and homosexual clergy, for example, have effectively become the World.

    editing note [old English majors never die]:
    …few can deny that a very special and intense hatred for the Catholic Church and is widely on display.
    [should probably read, dropping the “and” before is:]
    …few can deny that a very special and intense hatred for the Catholic Church is widely on display.

    They accept its ways and *comprise* the clear teaching of Christ.
    [I took you to mean:]
    They accept its ways and *compromise* the clear teaching of Christ.

    1. Thanks for the Grammar help, I as a poor student of such things and really am more of an orator than a writer.

      As for your first point, I would not so easily divide the Church and Israel. Paul in Rom 11 makes it clear that the Church is Israel. THis may not be a popular notion in Jewish/Christian talks but it is what is taught. I beleive it was Pius XII who said, “I am a semite” What youu have said is true enough but I think the unity should also be stressed.

      1. I agree, Monsignor. To be a Christian is to be a Jew; but a Jew who also accepts the divinity of Christ, the summit and answer to the Jewish Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi, and all the implications of this.

      2. I agree wholeheartedly with the Church and you Nick on the unity between the Church and the Jews, while realizing that many, many Jews will take umbrage at the concept, no matter how it’s formulated: one of those things we may not see in full until the End Time. In the meantime, I’m proud and happy to think of the Jews as our elder brothers. And to learn from them as well; I’ve lately been dipping into Abraham Joshua Heschel’s *The Sabbath* — it’s just lit from within with the love of God.

  10. I heard somewhere, “I know I’m in the right Church, because everyone hates us so much.” So true.

    Great post, Father.

  11. Hi Msgr. –

    Great thoughts and I think you’re spot on. I would add as a 7th mark: Roman.

    So much of what Benedict has been saying lately is that we’ve lost so much of what makes us one, and that’s our Roman heritage.

    Without dismissing or disrepecting our individual ethnicities, cultures and geniuses we need a solid identity that crosses across all lines, and that’s our Roman heritage.

    Without that, we’ve just become disparate groups – and there have been times in my ministry where it seemed that no one agreed on what binds us together as a Church: neither the pope, magisterium, doctrine – even Christ Himself, at times.

    Thanks again.

  12. Re: The Fifth Mark.

    It is interesting that, as you rightly observe, the Evangelicals are also hated, though perhaps not as stridently. I believe this points to something happening among Christians everywhere.

    Christians are forking into three groups.

    1. Traditional Catholics and conservative Evangelicals. Traditional Catholics are becoming more evangelical in tenor and tactics, and conservative Evangelicals are becoming more Catholic in theology and piety. Since Vatican 2, the Catholic Church has been more welcoming of Evangelicals, and Evangelicals are increasingly turning to the “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” Outliers to this movement are the Pentecostals, who seem to be moving in the same direction as Evangelicals.

    2. The heterodox New Yorkers. The heterodox denominations that sprang up in New York during the so-called Second Great Awakening of the 19th century are often ostracized but tolerated (with ridicule) by secular society. I speak of the Mormons, the Seventh Day Adventists, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    3. The Unitarians, liberal Protestants, and secular humanists. Secular society warmly embraces the Unitarians, et al., because they do not demand anything of anyone. “Believe what you want and seek your own way” the roadmap to Hell, but that’s what the Unitarians proclaim.

    Happy Trails.

  13. Dear Msgr,

    Some other marks, which I think are true if not somewhat overlooked or hard to believe:-

    Like a bride and evident in the culture of music, art, literature, architecture, costumes, customs, manners, cuisine and all else that She inspires. And likewise, the basis that where any aspect of culture is found to be ugly, it cannot therefore be of the Church or of God.

    Like a Queen and recognisable in Her elevated degrees of honour, valour, loyalty, wisdom, courage, selflessness, generosity etc.

    Like a lion, a charging horse or a loyal sheep-dog and demonstrable in the history and conduct of its organs and individual members.

    As witnessed in its dogmas and tenets of faith, which are as relevant today as they were yesterday and will be tomorrow.


    And if that doesn’t prove that it must be RICH also, then what does.

  14. some mark is
    Child — we abide the teaching of our church. a child follow what parents teach.also we are not complaining.

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