Catholic CornucopiadCheney

The Faith of Our Fathers

Being a Plain Exposition and Vindication of the Church Founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ

by James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore


Preface:  The object of this little volume is to present in a plain and practical form an exposition and vindication of the principal tenets of the Catholic Church.

Introduction:  My Dear Reader: Perhaps this is the first time in your life that you have handled a book in which the doctrines of the Catholic Church are expounded by one of her own sons.

I. The Blessed Trinity, The Incarnation, Etc.:  The Catholic Church teaches that there is but one God, who is infinite in knowledge, in power, in goodness, and in every other perfection; who created all things by His omnipotence, and governs them by His Providence.

II. Unity of the Church:  By unity is meant that the members of the true Church must be united in the belief of the same doctrines of revelation, and in the acknowledgement of the authority of the same pastors.

III. The Holiness of the Church:  Holiness is also a mark of the true Church; for in the Creed we say, "I believe in the holy Catholic Church."

IV. Catholicity:  That Catholicity is a prominent note of the Church is evident from the Apostles' Creed, which says: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church."

V. Apostolicity:  The true Church must be Apostolical.

VI. Perpetuity of the Church:  Perpetuity, or duration till the end of time, is one of the most striking marks of the Church.

VII. Infallible Authority of the Church:  The Church has authority from God to teach regarding faith and morals, and in her teaching she is preserved from error by the special guidance of the Holy Ghost.

VIII. The Church and the Bible:  The Church, as we have just seen, is the only Divinely constituted teacher of Revelation.

IX. The Primacy of Peter:  The Catholic Church teaches also, that our Lord conferred on St. Peter the first place of honor and jurisdiction in the government of His whole Church, and that the same spiritual supremacy has always resided in the Popes, or Bishops of Rome, as being the successors of St. Peter.

X. The Supremacy of the Popes:  The Church did not die with Peter.

XI. Infallibility of the Popes:  As the doctrine of Papal Infallibility is strangely misapprehended by our separated brethren, because it is grievously misrepresented by those who profess to be enlightened ministers of the Gospel, I shall begin by stating what Infallibility does not mean, and shall then explain what it really is.

XII. Temporal Power of the Popes--How They Acquired Temporal Power--Validity and Justice of Their Title--What the Popes have Done for Rome:  For the clearer understanding of the origin and the gradual growth of the Temporal Power of the Popes, we may divide the history of the Church into three great epochs.

XIII. The Invocation of Saints:  Christians of most denominations are accustomed to recite the following article contained in the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in the communion of Saints."

XIV. Is it Lawful to Honor the Blessed Virgin Mary as a Saint, to Invoke her as an Intercessor, and to Imitate Her as a Model:  The sincere adorers and lovers of our Lord Jesus Christ look with reverence on every object with which He was associated, and they conceive an affection for every person that was near and dear to Him on earth.

XV. Sacred Images:  The veneration of the images of Christ and His Saints is a cherished devotion in the Catholic Church, and this practice will be vindicated in the following lines.

XVI. Purgatory and Prayers for the Dead:  The Catholic Church teaches that, besides a place of eternal torments for the wicked and of everlasting rest for the righteous, there exists in the next life a middle state of temporary punishment, allotted for those who have died in venial sin, or who have not satisfied the justice of God for sins already forgiven.

XVII. Civil and Religious Liberty:  A man enjoys religious liberty when he possesses the free right of worshiping God according to the dictates of a right conscience, and of practicing a form of religion most in accordance with his duties to God.

XVIII. Charges of Religious Persecution:  The Spanish Inquisition--The Massacre of St. Bartholomew--Queen Mary of England

XIX. Grace--The Sacraments--Original Sin--Baptism--Its Necessity--Its Effects--Manner of Baptizing:  The grace of God is that supernatural assistance which He imparts to us, through the merits of Jesus Christ, for our salvation.

XX. The Sacrament of Confirmation:  Confirmation is a Sacrament in which, through the imposition of the Bishop's hands, unction and prayer, baptized persons receive the Holy Ghost, that they may steadfastly profess their faith and lead upright lives.

XXI. The Holy Eucharist:  Among the various dogmas of the Catholic Church there is none which rests on stronger Scriptural authority than the doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

XXII. Communion Under One Kind:  Our Savior gave communion under both forms of bread and wine to His Apostles at the last Supper.

XXIII. The Sacrifice of the Mass:  Sacrifice is the oblation or offering made to God of some sensible object, with the destruction or change of the object, to denote that God is the Author of life and death.

XXIV. The Use of Religious Ceremonies Dictated By Right Reason--Approved by Almighty God in the Old Law--Sanctioned by Jesus Christ in the New:  By religious ceremonies we mean certain expressive signs and actions which the Church has ordained for the worthy celebration of the Divine service.

XXV. Ceremonies of the Mass--The Missal--Latin Language--Lights--Flowers--Incense--Vestments:  Let us now, dear reader, walk together into a Catholic Church in time to assist at the late Mass, which is the most solemn service of the Catholic Liturgy.

XXVI. The Sacrament of Penance:  The whole history of Jesus Christ is marked by mercy and compassion for suffering humanity.

XXVII. Indulgences:  There are few tenets of the Catholic Church so little understood, or so grossly misrepresented by her adversaries, as her doctrine regarding Indulgences.

XXVIII. Extreme Unction:  Extreme Unction is a Sacrament in which the sick, by the anointing with holy oils and the prayers of the Priests, receive spiritual succor and even corporal strength when such is conductive to their salvation.

XXIX. The Priesthood:  The Apostles were clothed with the powers of Jesus Christ.

XXX. Celibacy of the Clergy:  The Church requires her Priests to be pure in body as well as in soul, and to "present their bodies a living victim, holy, well-pleasing unto God."

XXXI. Matrimony:  Matrimony is not only a natural contract between husband and wife, but it has been elevated for Christians, by Jesus Christ, to the dignity of a Sacrament.

This online edition is based on the 94th print edition, published in 1917. Cardinal Gibbons died in 1921.

 Copyright John Murphy Company, 1917. Online Edition Copyright David M. Cheney, 2006.