BibleBeltCatholics | Sharing quotes and writings of the Early Church Fathers with our separated Christian brethren in the South!
Home 1st-2nd Century 3rd-4th Century 5th-8th Century The Catechism Today About this site

The Catholic Church
and the term Catholic
Mother?of?God Church Authority
Peter and the Papacy
The Sacraments
Other Church Teaching
The Word of God
Heaven, Purgatory and Hell

Pre-Christian through the Second Century  >>

The Early Church Fathers on the Church's Indefectibility, that it cannot fail.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Ignatius of Antioch, (A.D. 50-107)
    St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202)
    St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220)
    Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
    St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236)
St. Ignatius of Antioch, (A.D. 50-107), Syrian; ecclesiastical writer, bishop, martyr. A disciple of St. John, the Apostle; he was bishop of Antioch, in which see he succeeded St. Peter, or, as others think, Evodius. He is supposed to have governed that church for about forty years. He suffered martyrdom at Rome in the year 107.

"For this cause did the Lord take the ointment on His head, that He might breathe incorruption upon the Church."

Ep. ad Ephes. n. 17.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 200-201

St. Irenæus of Lyons, (A.D. 125-202), Asia Minor; bishop, missionary, theologian, defender of orthodoxy. Though by birth a Greek, he was Bishop of Lyons in the second century. He tells us that, in his early youth, he learned the rudiments of religion from St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John the Apostle. He wrote several works, of which only a few fragments are now known, with the exception of his Treatise against Heretics which we have in five books.

"The public teaching (preaching) of the Church is everywhere uniform, and equally enduring, . . . our faith, which having received (it) from the Church we guard, and which, by the Spirit of God, is ever in youthful freshness, like something excellent deposited in a beautiful vase, making even the vase itself, wherein it is, seem newly formed. For this office of God has been entrusted to the Church," etc.

Adv. Hæres. l. iii. c. 24, pp. 222, 223.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 201

"The wife of Lot remained in Sodom, now no longer corruptible flesh, but an ever-enduring statue of salt; and by undergoing those things which are usual to human nature, pointing out that the Church, which is the salt of the earth, has been left on the earth's confines, suffering what is human: and while entire members are often rent from it, it still continues a statue of salt, that is the ground of faith, confirming and forwarding the sons to their Father."

Adv. Hæres. l. iv. c. xxxi. n. 3 p. 269.
See also Adv. Hæres. l. v. Praef. p. 291.
And, The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 201

St. Clement of Alexandria, (A.D. 150-220), Greek; theologian, a scholar of Pantaenus, to whom he succeeded as head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria, Egypt. His writings display great acquaintance with the Gentile philosophy. He wrote with the express design of hiding the mysteries of the Christian religion from the Pagans, and the uninitiated, while at the same time, laboring to show the immense practical superiority of the Christian code of morals over that of every Pagan sect and system of philosophy.

[Explaining the mystical meaning of that part of the history of Isaac and Rebecca, which occurs in Genesis 26:8, and having said that Rebecca means patience, he continues :]

"The statement of the prophecy may also be taken in another sense, namely, that like Isaac, we rejoice and laugh, because of salvation. He laughed because saved from death, playing and exulting with the spouse, that helper unto salvation, the Church, to which hath been given the firm name, Patience; either because she alone remains ever rejoicing unto all ages . . . Wherefore, Christ, the King, from above, watches our laughter; and, as the Scripture says, looking out through the window upon our united thanksgiving and blessing, joy and gladness, and patience which works together with them, He looks upon the Church which is His only, showing His person which was wanting to the Church, which is perfected by a kingly head."

Paedagog. l. i. c. 5, p. 111.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 201-202

"An excellent thing the city and the people: . . . governed by law, as, by the Word, the Church, which is a city on earth impregnable, and free from oppression, the divine will on earth, as (it is) in Heaven."

Strom. l. iv. p. 642.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 202

"If any magistrate prohibit the Greek philosophy, it vanishes at once; but though, from its very first announcement, both kings and tyrants, and individual magistrates, and rulers, with all their paid servants, and the countless multitude, were set in hostile array against us, and, trying with all their power to root us out, have opposed themselves against our doctrine, it but flourishes the more; for it perishes not like human doctrine, nor fades away like a feeble gift,— for no gift of God is powerless,— it endures, incapable of being put down; prophesied of, that it should be persecuted to the end."

Strom. l. vi. p. 827.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 202

Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253), Alexandrian; born in Egypt, philosopher, theologian, writer.

"The Son of God, not then only, but also always, is with His own disciples; fulfilling that (saying), Behold I am with you all the days until the consummation of the world."

T. l, l. v. Contr. Cels. n. 12, p. 586.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 202

"Isaac, under the law, built an altar, and pitched his tent. (Genesis 26:25) But, in the gospels, he pitched not a tent, but builds a house, and lays down a foundation. For hearken to Wisdom saying of the Church: "Wisdom hath built herself a house, and placed under it seven pillars." (Proverbs 9) Hearken also to Paul, who says of the same: Other foundation no man can lay but that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3) Wherefore, where there is a tabernacle, though it is pitched, it is without doubt to be taken down; but where there are foundations, and the house is built upon a rock, that house never is taken down. For it is founded upon a rock."

T. ii. Hom. xiv. in Genesis n. 2, p. 97.
See also T. ii. Hom. 1, in Lib. Jesu Nave, n. 5, p. 399.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 202-203

"Thou art Peter, and the rest, down to and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. Which does this "it" refer to? the rock upon which Christ built His Church, or the Church? For the phrase is ambiguous. Or is it that they are, as it were, one and the same thing, the rock and the Church? This, I think, is the real fact, for neither against the rock upon which Christ built His Church, nor against the Church shall the gates of Hell prevail. . . . The Church, as the edifice of Christ, who wisely "built His house upon the rock, is not susceptible of the gates of Hell, which prevailing against every one who is out of the rock and the Church, have no power against her."

T. iii. tom. xii. in Matthew n. xi. p. 526.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 203

"Though the gates of Hell are many, and almost countless, not one of them shall prevail against the rock, or against the Church which Christ built upon it."

T. iii. tom. xii. in Matthew n. xi. p. 527.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 203

St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236), Roman; bishop and martyr, probably a scholar of St. Irenæus of Lyons.

"Woe to the land, the sails (wings) of ships, which is beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, etc. (Isaiah 28:1, 2) The sails of ships are the churches: the sea is the world, in which the Church, like the ship on the sea, is indeed tempest-tossed, but perishes not; for, it has that skilful pilot Christ. It carries, too, in midship, the trophy erected against death, bearing with it, that is, the Cross of the Lord. For its prow is the east, its stern the west, the midships the south; the rudders the two Testaments; the ropes stretched about it are the love of Christ, which binds together the Church; the net which it carries is the laver of regeneration, which renews the believers, whence are glorious things. For wind there is the heavenly Spirit, through whom the believers are sealed unto God. It has also anchors of iron; that is, the holy precepts of Christ Himself, which are strong as iron. It has likewise sailors to the right and to the left, aiding as the holy angels, through whom the Church is always governed and protected."

Demonst. de Christo et Antichristo, n. 59, Galland. Bibl. t. ii. p. 438.
(Fabr. t. 1, p. 28, n. 59.)
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 203-204



The Church cannot fail; if it is always visible and assessable to everyone. If it did fail, Christ, Our Blessed Lord, would have broken his promise to Peter and his successors in Matthew 16:13-20.


For this reason the Church is indefectible, meaning it cannot fail on issues of faith or morals. The Church can't control scandalous behavior among those in the Church because everyone has free will. Nevertheless, the Teachings Jesus wished to be safeguarded before His Glorious Ascension into Heaven, have been safeguarded in only one Christian Church in the world: the Roman Catholic Church.


The Church's Scriptures that support the indefectibility of the Church:


Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ and tells Peter that His Heavenly Father has revealed that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, and that He will build His Church on Peter and his successors.

17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven."


Matthew 16:17-19

The Great Commission

18 "All power is given to me in Heaven and in earth.19 Going therefore teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world."


Matthew 28:18-20

There shall be no end to the kingdom Jesus will build and establish on St. Peter.

31 "Thou shalt call His name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of David His father, and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever: 33 and of His kingdom there shall be no end."


Luke 1:31-33

Listening to the Apostles and their successors is equal to listening and obeying Christ and His Father.

16 "He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth Him that sent me."

Luke 10:16

Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial but prays for his (singular) faith.

31 "And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you (second person plural pronoun, meaning "all of you") that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee (singular, Peter) that thy faith fail not: and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren."

Luke 22:31-32

Jesus tells His Apostles that His Father will send them the Holy Spirit, so they will be able to abide with Him forever.

16 "And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever. 17 The spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, nor knoweth him; but you shall know him, because he shall abide with you, and shall be in you."


John 14:16-17

Paul commemorates and enters into the one sacrifice of Calvary by celebrating Mass.

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread. 24 And giving thanks, broke, and said: Take ye, and eat: this is my body, which shall be delivered for you: this do for the commemoration of me. 25 In like manner also the chalice, after he had supped, saying: This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. 26 For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall shew the death of the Lord, until he come.


Corinthians 11:26

The Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth.

14 "These things I write to thee, hoping that I shall come to thee shortly. 15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth."

1 Timothy 3:14-15

Everyone in the world has a calling in the Catholic Church Jesus established on St. Peter

11 And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors, 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ;


Ephesians 4:11-13

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
Untitled Document