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Catholic Dictionary




The fifteen features of the true Church developed by St. Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), cardinal, Archbishop of Capua, and Doctor of the Church. As a contemporary of the original Protestant Reformers, he expanded the traditional four marks to fifteen, as follows: 1. the Church's name, Catholic, universal, and worldwide, and not confined to any particular nation or people; 2. antiquity in tracing her ancestry directly to Jesus Christ; 3. constant duration in lasting substantially unchanged for so many centuries; 4. extensiveness in the number of her loyal members; 5. episcopal succession of her bishops from the first Apostles at the Last Supper to the present hierarchy; 6. doctrinal agreement of her doctrine with the teaching of the ancient Church; 7. union of her members among themselves and with their visible head the Roman Pontiff; 8. holiness of doctrine in reflecting the sanctity of God; 9. efficacy of doctrine in its power to sanctify believers and inspire t hem to great moral achievement; 10. holiness of life of the Church's representative writers and defenders; 11. the glory of miracles worked in the Church and under the Church's auspices; 12. the gift of prophecy found among the Church's saints and spokesmen; 13. the opposition that the Church arouses among those who attack her on the very grounds that Christ was opposed by his enemies; 14. the unhappy end of those who fight against her; and 15. the temporal peace and earthly happiness of those who live by the Church;s teaching and defend her interests.