Visibility and Perpetuity

© Copyright 2022, T. Stanfill Benns (All emphasis within quotes added by the author)


(All quotes under this subhead are from the theological manuals of Rev. E.S. Berry’s The Church of Christ, 1920, and Revs. W. Devivier S.J and Joseph Sasia’s Christian Apologetics, 1924.

— Material visibility requires a public, not a private profession of faith.

— Members all over the world are united by the profession of a common faith, by participation in a common worship, and by obedience to a common authority.

— The Church’s members are visible, for they are flesh and blood people.

— To insist on the Church’s being visible is not to claim that all its elements are immediately apparent to the senses. THE CHURCH MUST BE ADJUDGED TRULY VISIBLE EVEN IF SOME ELEMENT WHICH IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF ITS MAKEUP CANNOT BE SEEN DIRECTLY, provided that this element be by its very nature joined to and eternally manifested by some visible element.

— Without the profession of the same faith, participation in the same rites and obedience to the same authority by true Catholics, there is simply no Church of Christ. (End of quotes)
So as we observed in our initial blog on this subject, a website which can be seen by anyone in the world is a public profession of the faith. Those subscribing to it, donating to it and commenting on it are part of that public profession. These people are flesh and blood Catholics. They are either members of the Church by actual Baptism or baptism of desire. They profess the same faith, avail themselves of the two remaining Sacraments and of the substitutes for Penance and the Eucharist, recite the Mass of St. John and obey ALL the teachings of the Popes and the Ecumenical Councils, also Canon Law. Even though we have no visible pope and hierarchy, we are yet members of Christ’s Mystical Body. As such we can count ourselves as at least materially visible. Pope Pius XII taught in Mystici Corporis regarding this body, “If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ — which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church — we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression ‘the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ,’ an expression which springs from and is, as it were, the fair flowering of the repeated teaching of the Sacred Scriptures and the holy Fathers.”

And Christ, the invisible Head, rules this body as Supreme Pontiff, so materially we also have a Head of this Church. We are in daily communion with the Church Triumphant in Heaven and the suffering souls in Purgatory. In Heaven Our Lord Himself offers Sacrifice on the heavenly altar, St. Alphonsus Liguori teaches. He tells us that the Sacrifice and priesthood will never cease even during the time the Holy Sacrifice is taken away, since “the Son of God, Eternal Priest, will always continue to offer Himself to God, the Father, in Heaven as an Eternal Sacrifice” (Holy Eucharist). St. Gregory Nazianzan wrote: “What then? Will they forbid us their altars? Even so, I know of another altar, and the altars we see now are but a figure of it… All the activities ’round about that altar are spiritual; one ascends to it by contemplation. At this altar I shall stand, upon it I will make immolations pleasing to God, sacrifices, oblations, holocausts, better than those that are offered now…”(Ibid). St. Thomas of Aquinas writes: “The state of the New Law is intermediate between the state of the Old Law… and the state of glory, in which all truth will be fully and perfectly manifested. Then there will be no more Sacraments; but now, inasmuch as we see only through a glass darkly, we have to enter into spiritual things through sensible signs.”


Catholic Encyclopedia
The material visibility of the Church involves no more than that it must ever be a public, not a private profession; a society manifest to the world, not a body whose members are bound by some secret tie. Formal visibility is more than this. It implies that in all ages the true Church of Christ will be easily recognizable for that which it is, viz. as the Divine society of the Son of God, the means of salvation offered by God to men; that it possesses certain attributes which so evidently postulate a Divine origin that all who see it must know it comes from God. Formal visibility is secured by those attributes which are usually termed the “notes” of the Church — her Unity, Sanctity, Catholicity, and Apostolicity (see below). The proof may be illustrated in the case of the first of these. The unity of the Church stands out as a fact altogether unparalleled in human history. Her members all over the world are united by the profession of a common faith, by participation in a common worship, and by obedience to a common authority.

Msgr. G. Van Noort, S.T.D, Christ’s Church
On page 12 and 13 he writes: “It is due to the institution of Christ himself that the Church is visible; this proposition is certain. That the Church is visible follows necessarily from the fact it is a real society, for there can be no genuine society in the world of men unless it be visible… It is one thing to ask whether the church which Christ founded is a public society and quite another to ask whether that society can be recognized as the true Church of Christ by certain distinguishing marks. It’s being formally recognizable presupposes it’s visible, but the two are not identical. Furthermore, the present discussion centers on the visible character of the Church insofar as it is a society. No one denies that the church’s members were visible for they are flesh and blood people, but some do question whether by the institution of Christ Himself these members are bound together by external bonds so as to form a society that can be perceived by the senses, a society of such a nature that one can readily discern who belongs to it and who does not.

“Mark well the words “the institution of Christ Himself,” for the question is precisely this: did Christ personally found a visible church, one which, by its very nature, would have to be an external public society so that the invisible church could not possibly be the true Church of Christ? For once one proves that the one and only Church which Christ founded is visible from its very nature, then it necessarily follows that an invisible church such as that to which Protestants appeal is a pure fiction and that all the promises which Christ made to his church refer to a visible church. Note lastly that to insist on the Church’s being visible is not to claim that all its elements are immediately apparent to the senses. Just as a man is really visible even though one cannot see his soul directly, so too the church must be adjudged truly visible even if some element which is an essential part of its makeup cannot be seen directly, provided that this element be by its very nature joined to and eternally manifested by some visible element.

“From the threefold bond which Christ himself imposed it was indicated above how our Lord founded the church by enjoining on his disciples the profession of the same faith, participation in the same rights and obedience to the same authority. It is by these bonds that the church is drawn into unity and held together. Without them there is simply no Church of Christ. Now since these bonds are external things which people can see, they necessarily make the Church an external, visible society. One can discern, using one’s external senses, which men profess the same doctrine, frequent the same sacraments and obey the same rulers. It is then clear that the Church is visible by the very institution of Christ or in other words that its visibility flows necessarily from its very nature.

“This conclusion is corroborated by the manner of speaking employed by Christ. The apostles and the earliest fathers who clearly had in mind a visible society whenever they spoke of the Church. Christ compares his Church to a Kingdom, to a flock, to a house, to a net set down into the sea, to a field producing wheat and weeds, to a city built on a mountain peak. He teaches besides that sinners whose reformation is proving difficult are to be reported to the Church. The apostles called the Church a body in which many members are joined together and are mutually interdependent, the House of God in which pastors live, the pillar and mainstay of truth, the flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed the bishops as shepherds. The earliest Fathers urged the absolute obligation of belonging to the Church of Christ and clearly teach that it is easily discernible. They could have done neither were the Church not visible. A further consideration is the fact that long before this the prophets had described the Kingdom or Church of the Messiah as a very high mountain which attracts people to itself precisely because it can be seen from anywhere” (end of Van Noort excerpt)

(Comment: Given these two sources, and they do not differ in teaching from any of the other sources consulted, it can be determined that at least materially, the Church as professed by flesh and blood, stay-at-home Catholics publicly on the Internet constitutes visibility. They all profess the same doctrine, frequent the same Sacraments and their substitutes, engage in the same worship and obey the popes, councils and Canon Law. So how does the teaching and belief of the true Church as demonstrated on this website not constitute as much visibility as is possible today?)

All we have ever said is that the Church is not visible as a juridic body, that some of Her essential elements cannot be seen directly; that She now lacks the hierarchy and a true pope ruling from Rome. We have always claimed to possess Her apostolicity of doctrine, as presented on these pages for the past 14 years. And we have always acknowledged Christ as the origin of that doctrine. We have taught against the manifold errors regarding jurisdiction for over 36 years. We have championed the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, the necessity of the papacy also the importance of adherence to all the teachings of the magisterium for 40 years. And we have emphasized repeatedly that without legitimate succession and communion with Rome, Traditionalists cannot possibly possess any pretension to the four marks.


Already, we have determined that the Church, as She was constituted by Christ Himself, must necessarily last until the consummation, and; that as Pope Pius IX and St. Thomas Aquinas teach, the Church cannot be said to exist without the Pope as Her supreme Head. There are some, however, who have called into question the exact meaning of the Vatican Council’s use of the word perpetuity, even though the meaning intended by the lawgiver (Pius IX presiding over the Vatican Council)has been made crystal clear by Henry Cardinal Manning, instrumental in the calling of that council. But rather than risk being accused by certain modern-day Pharisees of obscuring the truth, we wish to present here the following definitions from various dictionaries of the word “perpetual.”

Perpetuos successores
“Si quis ergo dixerit, non esse ex ipsius Christi Domini institutione seu jure divino, ut beatus Petrus in primatu super universam. Ecclesiam habeat perpetuos successores: aut Romanum Pontificem non esse beati, petri in sodem primatu succesorem: anathema sit,” (DZ 1825, Vatican Council.)

Perpetuus, a, um:
Cassell’s Latin-English and English-Latin Dictionary: (peto) continuous, uninterrupted, continual. I. a, of space, munitiones, Caes.; oratio, Cic; carmen, Hor.; b. of time, unbroken, continuing, lasting, perpetual; ignis Vestae perpetuus ac sempiternus, Cic; questiones, composed of a standing body of judges, Cic; interpetuum, for ever, Cic. II. universal, general; jus, Cic.

Fourth Year Latin, edited by Lois Carlisle, Texas State College, Denton, and David Richardson, Classen High School, Okla., 1942; Adjective, whole, entire; constant, perpetual, lasting; in perpetuum, for all time or forever.

Second Latin, Scanlon and Scanlon: perpetual, everlasting, unfailing; in perpetuum, forever.

From A Latin Dictionary, by Dr. William Freund and Iggy Andrews, 1869 ed: perpetuous; 1. continuing throughout; continuous.

From A Latin-English Dictionary of St. Thomas Aquinas, by Roy Deferrari, Ph.D.; perpetuous; 1. lasting or destined to last forever.

Other Uses of Perpetuus:

Ex Quo Primum, Pius V: “Atque ut hoc ipsum Missale in Missa decantanda, aut recitanda in quibusvis Ecclesiis absque ullo conscientiae scrupulo, aut aliquarum poenarum, sententiarum, et censuram incursu, posthac omnino sequantur, eoque libere et licite uti possint, et valeant, auctoritate Apostolica, tonore praesentiam, etiam perpetuo concedimus, et indulgemus.”

“Furthermore, by these presents this law, in virtue of our apostolic authority, we grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting of reading of the Mass in any Church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censures, and may freely and lawfully be used.”

Both Archbishop Kenrick and Dr. S.B. Smith, both of whom wrote as contemporaries of the Vatican Council, interpret the “perpetual successors” in DZ 1825 of the Vatican Council as a perpetual line of successors. As we have already written, there can be gaps in such a line without incurring any Either the Church’s time on earth has come toa close or Christ built into His promise the appearance of a failure of this generative principle caused by the willful blindness of the faithful; this we have yet to see. Reverend Charles Journet explains this occurrence in his The Church of the Word Incarnate, as follows:

“When the Pope dies, the Church is widowed, and in respect of the visible universal jurisdiction, She is truly acephalous. But … Christ directs her from heaven. There is no one left then on earth who can visibly exercise the supreme spiritual jurisdiction in His name, and in consequence, any new manifestations of the general life of the Church are prevented. But though slowed down, the pulse of life has not left the Church; she possesses the power of the papacy in potency, in the sense that Christ, who has willed her always to depend on a visible pastor, has given her power to designate the man to whom He will Himself commit the keys of the kingdom of heaven, as once He committed them to Peter.” Journet, however, is careful to qualify his statement lest his readers be led to fall into the heresy of John Hus. To clarify his statement, he quotes Cardinal Cajetan, who claims that during an interregnum, the universal Church is in “…an imperfect state; she is like an amputated body, not an integral body. …The Church is acephalous, deprived of her highest part and power.” (Whoever contests that falls into the error of John Hus, who denied the need of a visible ruler for the Church. This was condemned in advance by St. Thomas, then by Martin V, at the Council of Constance.) “And to say that the Church in this state holds her power immediately from Christ and that the General Council represents her, is to err intolerably.”‘

The errors of Hus read as follows: “There is nothing whatever to show that the spiritual order demands a head who shall continue to live and endure with the Church militant.” (DZ 653.) “Peter neither is nor ever was head of the Holy Catholic Church” (DZ 633). To further qualify the definition of perpetual as used by the Church in Her own documents, we wish to cite What Is Canon Law?, by Rene Metz, and Charles Augustine’s commentary on the Code of canon law. Metz tells us: “…Perpetual does not mean the same as eternal … every ecclesiastical law which is not based on the divine law, positive or natural, must be adapted to the varying circumstances of each successive period… ” (p. 50). Rev. Augustine writes: “Human laws are those passed by councils [and] popes …unless …they are implicitly contained in revelation, or are merely declarations, specifications or modifications of divine or natural law” (Commentary on the New Code of Canon Law, Vol. 1).


The Vatican Council infallibly defined that Peter must have perpetual successors and attached an anathema to the canon defining this teaching. That this definition was an authentic interpretation of Christ’s promises to Peter is obvious from the text of the Council’s arguments; therefore, this human law is implicitly contained in revelation. But also contained in revelation is the taking away of “he who withholdeth,” and the coming of Antichrist following the Great Apostasy. A careful reading of the Vatican Council documents reveals that while it was Christ’s wish that the Church should last until the consummation in all its constituent parts, it was up to those whom He left in charge to guarantee this. He will always be the Head of His Mystical Body and will be with us until the consummation, as He promised. But because He gifted man with free will, He could not force the successors of the Apostles to keep the faith. That is indeed why that apostasy was so great and how it led to the ushering in of the abomination of desolation, just as Pope Paul IV foretold in his bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio.

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