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'Quick Help' Page: Can The Church Ever Be In A State Of Apostasy?

 

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Arrow Question / Issue:

People often respond when talking about my concerns for the Church, "Christ promised that he would always be with his Church and the gates of hell will never prevail against her" so there is nothing to worry about. My response is that yes but does that mean that He would always be with a Church in the state of apostasy or if it did not teach His truth? A pedantic friend always claims the Church can never be an apostate church only individuals can be apostates. My question is, can the Holy Catholic Church ever be in the state of apostasy? Is my response a correct one?

 

Arrow Answer / Resources:

[click link(s) below, as applicable]

I am not sure that by 'apostasy' you mean a "total desertion of or departure from the Catholic faith" or the ex cathedra/infallible teaching of some heresy(ies). Either way though, the Catholic Church could never actually be in a 'state of apostasy'. However, that doesn't mean that everything in the Church must necessarily be 'rosy' either. Your question is tied with infallibility, yet remember that infallibility is limited – it is NOT a total protection from all error throughout the Church (for more on infallibility, please try here). Furthermore, it is certainly possible that members of the hierarchy can apostatize – but not the Church as a whole. Christ does promise to remain with the Church, but He does not promise the Church will be any given size, nor does He promise that all prelates will always speak the truth. Prelates can (and have) spoken in error. Even popes have taught incorrectly when not protected by infallibility. And, conceivably, the Church could be reduced to just a small number. Considering that Christ questions whether He will find faith on earth when He returns (see Lk. 18:8), we should *not* expect things to be going very well on earth at His Second Coming.

We know that the Church is currently in a pretty bad state (e.g. poor catechesis, lack of respect for the Holy Eucharist, lack of fear of the Lord, various prelates teaching/promoting error, etc.), yet that does not mean Christ has left the Church. The Church still teaches the truth, even if some prelates don't and even if few people actually know what the Church teaches. As regards the problems in the Church today, I would argue that many stem from merely pastoral decisions/actions and these pastoral matters are NOT protected by infallibility. They can be (and many have been, IMHO) very bad for the Church and for souls. Nevertheless, we can rely with certainty: (1) that the sacraments (administered properly) do what they have always done, (2) that validly ordained priests have the power they have always had, and (3) that the faith handed down from Jesus & the apostles is true and is still held – and will always be held – by the Church (as a whole, not by every person who claims to be Catholic, layperson or otherwise). As regards any 'novel doctrines', the Church does not have the power to impose them, so we can have confidence that any such doctrines will not be proclaimed with infallibility. Nevertheless, the necessity of prayer both for the Church and for her hierarchy & members cannot be emphasized enough.


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