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The Early Church Fathers on the Church's Sanctity.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



    St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    St. Prosper of Aquitain, (A.D.c.390- c.463)
    St. Peter Chrysologus, (A.D. 406 - 450)

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.

He thus writes against the Donatists, in his synodic epistle from the council of Zerta:

"Whoever is separated from this Catholic Church, how laudably whatsoever he may think he lives, yet for this crime only is he severed from the unity of Christ, and will not have life, but the wrath of God remains upon him."

Ep. cxli. n. 5, t. ii. col. 682.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 306

"In the Catholic Church, which is not in Africa only, like the party of Donatus, but is spread and diffused, according as it was promised, "throughout the whole world, bringing forth fruit, and growing" (Colossians 1:6), as the Apostle says,— there are both good and bad. But they who are separated from it, as long as they remain in their opinion against it, cannot be good; for although a kind of laudable conversation seems to show forth some of them as good, the separation itself makes them bad, the Lord saying: "He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathereth not with me, scattereth." (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23)

Ep. ccviii. n. 6, col. 1177.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 306

"A Christian ought to fear nothing so much, as to be separated from the body of Christ (the Church). For if he be separated from the body of Christ, he is not a member of
Christ; if not a member of Christ, he is not quickened by His Spirit."

Tract, xxvii. in Joan. n. 6, col. 1992, T. iii.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 306

"We say that you (Donatists) are all guilty and wicked, not some of you by the crimes which amongst you are committed by others of you, and which are reproved by some of you; but by the crime of schism, from which most heinous sacrilege, not one of you can say that he is innocent, as long as he does not communicate with the unity of all nations, unless he be forced to say, that Christ has deceived us regarding that Church which, beginning at Jerusalem, is spread through out all nations."

L. ii. Contr. Litt. Petil. n. 221, col. 453-4, T. xi.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 306-307

"It is, indeed, no small, nor slightly glorious comfort for anyone of us if we be accused, as the Church itself, by the enemies of the Church. But the defence of the Church does not consist in the defence of those men whom they (the Donatists) assail individually with false accusations. For, let Marcellinus, Marcellus, Silvester, Melchiades . . . and others, against whom they object what they choose in defence of their disunion, be what you please, it does not in any way prejudice the Catholic Church, which is spread over the whole world: we are in no way crowned by their innocence; we are in no way condemned by their iniquity. If they were good, they were cleansed on the Catholic floor like corn; if they were bad, they were crushed like straw on the Catholic floor. Within that floor there may be good and bad; out of it, there cannot be good."

De Unic. Bap. Contr. Petil. n. 30, col. 826.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 307

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.

"For the Lord hath chosen Sion, He hath chosen it for His dwelling." (Psalm 131) Sion is the Church itself, and it is the heavenly Jerusalem, to the peace whereof they are hastening who are yet in their pilgrimage. She is the city of God, which has ever, for the greater part, abided with its author; and awaits the part which, by the grace of God, is daily recalled from exile, that she may be at once the whole edifice of Him who dwells within her. "This is my rest forever and ever, here will I dwell, because I have chosen it." (verse 14) It is apparent with what ineffable love God loves His Church, since that rest wherewith He makes her repose, He calls His own; whilst what is the principal cause of this so great a gift is most fully set forth, in that He says, "Because I have chosen it", according as the Lord says in the gospel, "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you." (St. John 15:16)

In Ps. 131 col. 483.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 241-242

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.

He explains the article of the creed, "I believe the holy Catholic Church," as follows:

"Neither the members are separated from the head, nor is the bride separated from the bridegroom. . . . He, therefore, believes in God, who confesses in God a holy Church."

Serm. lvii. p. 89.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 307

"Because the Church is so united to Christ, as to be translated into the whole glory of the divinity."

Serm. lviii. p. 90.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 307

"A Church which Christ so took unto Himself as to make it a partaker of His own divinity."

Serm. lx. p. 93.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 308

"That thou mayest confess 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 308

"Because the Church is in Christ, and Christ is in the Church: whosoever, therefore, acknowledges the church, has confessed that he has believed on (or, in) the Church."

Serm. lxii. p. 97.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 3



The sanctity of the Church is deduced as a necessary consequence from the other marks by which that Church is distinguished.


For, if there be but one Church, — the Catholic, or universal Church, — which has received authority from Christ to teach all nations; with an authority which, through His promises, is to endure "all days, even to the consummation of the world", it is manifest that the doctrines and precepts of that Church must be holy all days.


That is, unless the Church ceased to be the pillar and ground of truth, (1 Timothy 3:15) which would cause the gates of Hell to prevail against that universal Christendom, which, according to the premises, we are commanded to hear, and follow her faithfully. (Luke 10:16)


The Catechism tells us the Church . . . is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as 'alone holy,' and loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her; he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God." (Ephesians 5:25-26) The Church, then, is "the holy People of God," and her members are called "saints".


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


Jesus delivered Himself up on the Cross to sanctify the Church so it would be holy and without blemish.

25 "Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it; 26 that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life. 27 That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish."


Ephesians 5:25-27

The faithful consist of a universal kingly priesthood and a holy nation.

9 "But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare His virtues, who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."


1 Peter 2:9

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