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


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



  1. St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    St. Isidore of Pelusium, (unknown - A.D. 440)
    St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444)
    St. Prosper of Aquitain, (A.D.c.390- c.463)
    St. Peter Chrysologus, (A.D. 406 - 450)
    St. Vincent of Lérins , (A.D. c.400-445)
    Pope St. Leo I, ( A.D. c.391-461)
    Arnobius Junior, (flourished in the 5th century, A.D. c.460)
    Pope St. Felix III, (unknown-492)
St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is also a Doctor of the Church.

"In Thy tabernacle I shall dwell for ever." (Psalm 55:5). As, not for a brief period was the Church to exist on this earth, but the Church will be here until the end of the world, therefore does he say, "I shall dwell in Thy tabernacle for ever." Let the enemy rage as he pleases, let him assail me, lay snares against me, multiply scandals, and make my heart sore, "I will dwell in Thy tabernacle for ever." The Church shall not be conquered; shall not be rooted up; nor give way before any trials whatever, until the end of this world shall come, and out of this temporal dwelling-place we be received into that eternal one, unto which may He lead us who has become our hope: I will dwell, etc. . . . If the Church were here for but a few days, the snares of the tempter would soon have an end. Good: them wouldst fain have the temptations last but a few days, but how could she gather together all that are born, were she not here long, if her existence were not stretched out even unto the end."

T. iv. Enarr. in Ps. Ix. n. 6, col. 837.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 236

"There are some who say: "She, that was the Church of all nations, is already no more; she has perished." This they say who are not in her. The impudent assertion! Is she no more, because thou art not in her? Look to it lest thou, for that cause, be no more: for she will be, though thou be not. This assertion, abominable, detestable, full of presumption and falsehood, upheld by no truth, without one spark of wisdom, devoid of all wit, vain, rash, hasty, pernicious, the Spirit of God foresaw, and as it were struck at such when it announced unity, "When the people assemble together and kings to serve the Lord" (Psalm 101) . . . And because there were to be certain men who would say against her, "She was, but is not", Declare unto me, she says, the fewness of my days. What is it that I know not what individuals who withdraw from me mutter against me? How is it that these lost men contend that I have perished? For undoubtedly they say, that I was, but am not. Declare unto me the fewness of my days. I ask Thee not of those eternal days; they are without end, where I shall be; I ask not about them; I ask about my days during time, declare unto me the days of my sojourning here. The fewness of my days, not the eternity of my days, declare unto me. Declare unto me, how long I shall be in this world, on account of those who say, "She was, and already she is not:" on account of those who say, "The Scriptures have been fulfilled; all nations have believed, but the Church of all nations has apostatized and perished." What means this, "Declare unto me the fewness of my days?" And He declared, nor was this word vain. Who declared unto me, but the way itself. How did He declare? Behold! I am with you: even to the consummation of the world. (Matthew 18) But here, they rise up, and say,"I am with you. He says, even to the consummation of the world, because He foresaw us, because the party of Donatus will be on the earth."Tell me, is this she who said, "Declare unto me the fewness of my days", and not rather she who said, higher up, "When the people assemble together, and kings to serve the Lord."

[He pursues the same argument at length, and concludes]:

Therefore, even to the end of the world, is the Church in all nations; and this is the fewness of her days, because whatsoever has an end is few; that so, from this fewness, she may pass into eternity."

T. iv. Enarr. in Ps. ci. n. 8, 9, col. 1576-1578.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 236-237

"He has founded the earth upon its firmness, it shall not be moved for ever. (Psalm 103:5) There is a difficulty here, if the words be taken literally. . . . Let us turn ourselves to seek for something that is here set down figuratively. "He has founded the earth", I understand the Church. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof" (Psalm 103); I understand, by the earth, the Church. She is the earth that thirstiest; she it is that speaketh in the psalms for she alone, out of all, says, "My soul is like earth without water unto Thee." (Psalm 142:6). ... By the earth, therefore, I understand the Church. What is the firmness upon which she is founded, but her foundation? . . . What is that foundation? Other foundation, he says, no man can lay but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. There then are we firmly founded: with reason, because that we are there founded, we shall not be moved for ever for nothing is stronger than this foundation. Thou wast infirm, but a firm foundation supports thee. On thyself thou couldst not be firm; thou wilt be ever firm, if thou withdraw not from that firm foundation. It shall not be moved for ever. She is the predestined pillar and ground of truth."

T. iv. Enarr. in Ps. ciii. n. 17, col. 1628-29.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 238

"There follows (in the Creed) after the commemoration of the Trinity, the Holy Church. God and His temple have been shown you. For the temple of God is holy, says the Apostle, which ye are. (1 Corinthians 3:7) This is the holy Church; the one Church, the true Church, the Catholic Church, which fights against all heresies. She may fight, but cannot be defeated. All heresies have gone out from her like useless branches cut off from the vine: but she remains in her own root, in her own vine, in her own charity. The gates of Hell shall not conquer her."

T. iv. De Symbolo, ad Catech. n. 14 (al. 6), col. 927-28.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 238-239

St. Isidore of Pelusium, (unknown - A.D. 440), a disciple of St. John Chrysostom, he was born in Egypt to a prominent Alexandrian family. He became an ascetic, and moved to a mountain near the city of Pelusium, in the tradition of the Desert Fathers; known to us for his letters, written to Cyril of Alexandria, Theodosius II, and a host of others. His letters display great judgment, precision, and learning.

"The Church is firmly built, and not even the gates of Hell can overthrow it, as the God that made it, promised."

L. i. Ep. cccxi.p. 83.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 239

"To the deacon Eutonius, concerning our Savior's declaration relative to the Church, that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against Her. Not that no one should war against, or try to destroy, the Church, but that many should oppose her, but should be vanquished by her power, is it said, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, the Church to wit. And thus has it befallen: she has indeed been warred against, but has not been vanquished, yea, has shone forth more resplendent than they that tried to destroy or [quench] her."

L. iii. Ep. vi. pp. 257-58.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 239

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He succeeded Theophilus in the patriarchal see of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, and was the great champion of orthodoxy against Nestorius, against whom the general council of Ephesus was called, in A.D. 431 and in which St. Cyril presided.

"Then the Church of the Gentiles shone forth, having Christ dwelling within it: He the end of the law and of the prophets. . . . And I am of opinion, that This truer tabernacle was foretold to us by the prophet Isaiah, who says unto each one that is called in faith unto righteousness: "Thine eyes shall see Jerusalem, rich cities, tabernacles that shall not be moved, neither shall the stakes of that tabernacle be stirred, nor shall the cords thereof be broken for ever. (Isaiah 33:20) For God's city is the Church, of which blessed David has made mention, saying, "Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God." (Psalm 86) For she is rich, and is adorned with gifts from on high, even from Heaven, and has a solid foundation upon what is firm, both a foundation and a permanency, for, according to the Savior's word, "The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it."

T. i. l. x. De Ador. in Sp. et Ver. p. 332.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 239

"It is befitting that they who sing this canticle (Isaiah 26) should say of the Church of our Savior, "Lo! a fortified city and our safety; for the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16), according to the declaration of our Savior, for it is girded round as with a double wall, both by the aids of the holy angels, and by that which is from above, and from God, who is its bulwark."

T. 2, Comm. in Esai. Lib. iii. t. i. p. 358.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 240

"I have raised him up a king with justice, and all his ways are right." (Isaiah 45:13). The ways of Christ are right, and he has built the holy city, that is, the Church, wherein also He dwells. For He abides in the saints, and we have become temples of the living God, having Christ within us through the participation of the Holy Spirit. He, therefore, founded the Church, Himself being the foundation, in which we also, as rich and precious stones, are built into a holy temple, as a dwelling-place for God in the spirit; the Church, having Christ for a foundation, and an immovable support, is perfectly immovable: "For behold I lay the foundations of Sion, a stone elect, a corner stone, precious, and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded." "

T. ii. Comm. in Esai. l. iv. or. 2, p. 612.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 240

"Be renewed unto me, ye islands. Israel shall be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation." (Isaiah 45) As the islands of the sea are ever buffeted by the assaulting waves, but remain immovable, and receive the vessels that are, at times, in danger, opening to them a harbor undisturbed by the waves; so the churches of Christ lie in the very midst of the tumult and the wilderness of life, and are assailed by countless trials; but they have in Christ immovableness, and they receive into their resting-place those who fly from the vain and empty restlessness of the things of the world."

T. ii. Comm. in Esai. l. iv. or. 2, p. 615 L. v.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 240

St. Prosper of Aquitain, (A.D.c.390- c.463), a Christian writer and disciple of St. Augustine, as well as the friend and secretary of Pope Leo I. He was the first continuator of Jerome's Universal Chronicle. Prosper was a layman, but he threw himself with ardour into the religious controversies of his day, defending Augustine and propagating orthodoxy.

"Declare unto me the fewness of my days." (Psalm 101:24). All that ends and passes away is brief; for this temporal life in comparison with eternity is brief: the Church for this cause asks to have her days declared unto her, that she may know that she is to endure unto the end of the world, until the days come which can neither be numbered nor end. Call me not away in the midst of my days (verse 25). Let not, she says, my days be shortened, until the consummation of the world, as thou hast promised; until the fullness of the Gentiles come in, and all Israel be saved."

In Psalm 101 col. 377.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 241

"The deep like a garment is its clothing above the mountains shall the waters stand." (Psalm 103:6) By the word earth we have understood the Church foretold, which, having Christ for its foundation, shall not be moved forever and ever. Nevertheless, it is signified that it will be surrounded by the deluge of persecutions (which are foreshown under the name of the deep, and of the waters) in such a way as to be covered as with a garment by those that assail it."

In Psalm 103, col. 385.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 241

"Christ may be understood, because He is present in the Church, even to the end of the world."

In Ps. 108, col. 414.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 241


St. Peter Chrysologus, (A.D. 406 - 450), deacon, bishop of Imola and Ravenna, and Doctor of the Church, his piety and zeal won for him universal admiration, and his oratory merited for him the name Chrysologus, meaning: golden-worded or golden mouth.

"I believe — the holy Catholic Church; that thou mayest acknowledge a Church, the spouse of Christ, which will abide in the uninterrupted society of Christ."

Serm. lxi. p. 95.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 243

St. Vincent of Lérins (A.D. c.400-445), in Latin, Vincentius, a monastic presbyter and ecclesiastical writer in the island of Lérins, he was a man learned in the Holy Scriptures, and well instructed in the knowledge of the doctrines of the Church, with a view to overthrow the sects of the heretics. He composed in elegant and clear language a very powerful dissertation, which, concealing his own name, he entitled Peregrinus against Heretics.

"Avoid profane novelties of words", he says: "of words", that is, novelties of dogmas, of things, of opinions, which are contrary to old usage, and antiquity. Which (novelties) if they be received, would require that the faith, either all, or assuredly a great part of it,
of our blessed fathers, must be overthrown (violated); it would mean that all the faithful of all ages, all the saints, all the chaste, the continent, the virgins, all the clergy, the Levites and priests, so many thousands of confessors, so great armies of martyrs, so many celebrated and populous cities and peoples, so many islands, provinces, kings, tribes, kingdoms, nations, and in fine, almost now the whole world incorporated by the Catholic faith with Christ their head, must be proclaimed to have been, during the lapse of so many ages, ignorant, and to have erred, to have blasphemed, to have not known what it should believe."

"Avoid, says he, profane novelties of words (voices], to receive and to follow which, was never the custom of Catholics, but was always that of heretics. And in fact what heresy hath ever burst forth, save under a certain name, in a certain place, at a certain time? Whoever instituted heresies, save he who first divided himself from the consent of the universality and antiquity of the Catholic Church? Which that it is so, examples prove clearer than the sun. For whoever before that profane Pelagius presumed so much on the force of free will, that lie thought not the grace of God necessary to aid it in good things throughout every act.

[Having cited Celestiusv Arius, Sabellius, Novatian, Simon Magus, as each the well known author of some special novelty, he adds:]

Such examples are innumerable, which for the sake of brevity we pass over: by all which nevertheless it is shown evidently and plainly enough, that this is as it were a custom and law in almost all heresies, that they ever delight in profane novelties, loath the decrees of antiquity, and make shipwreck of the faith by oppositions of knowledge falsely so called. Contrary to this, and proper to Catholics, we keep the things left and committed to their charge by the holy fathers, condemn profane novelties, and as the Apostle said, and again forewarned, "If any man shall preach besides that which has been received, to anathematize (him)" (Galatians 1).

Adv.Hæres, n. xxiv.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 243-244

Pope St. Leo I, ( A.D. c.391-461), also known as Leo the Great, bishop of Rome (A.D. 440 to 461); an Italian aristocrat, remembered theologically for issuing the Tome of Leo, a document which was foundational to the debates of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon.

"By no kind of cruelty can the religion founded by the mystery (sacrament) of the cross be destroyed. By persecution the Church is not lessened but increased, and the field of the Lord is always clothed with a richer harvest, while the grains which fall singly grow up multiplied."

T. 1, Serm. lxxxii. c. 5.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 244

"Stand therefore in the spirit of Catholic truth.... Do not think that the divine protection is, or will be, wanting to His holy Church. For the purity of the faith shines forth when the filth of error is separated from it."

T. 1, Ep. 1. (al. xlv.) ad Constantinop. c. 2, p. 935.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 244

Arnobius Junior, (flourished in the 5th century, A.D. c.460), also known as Arnobius the Younger, Christian priest or bishop in Gaul, author of a mystical and allegorical commentary on the Psalms, first published by Erasmus in 1522, and by him attributed to the elder Arnobius..

"But Thou hast upheld me by reason of mine innocence, and hast established me in Thy sight forever." (Psalm 13) This signifies the Church in the Apostles and prophets; for not philosophers and rhetoricians, but unlearned men and fishermen, upheld of God, founded a Church which He has established in His sight for ever."

Comm. in Ps. xl.p. 259, t. viii. Bibl. Max. SS. PP.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 244-245

Pope St. Felix III, (unknown-492), elected 48th pope of the Church, reigned from 483-492, born into a Roman senatorial family and was a great-great-grandfather of Pope Gregory I. His repudiation of the Henoticon, an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the differences between the supporters of the Council of Chalcedon and the miaphysites, is considered the beginning of the Acacian schism.

"Whereas our Lord has said that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Church. . . . this (heretic) has dared to say, that we ought not to denominate Christ, the Son of God, and that in accordance with the divine institution of the Saviour, and the tradition of the divine Scriptures, and the exposition of the Fathers."

T. iv. Labb. Condi. Ep. Zenoni, col. 1070-1071.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 245



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

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