Baltimore Catechism 3

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The Marks and Attributes of the Church


 * Q. 152. Which is the one true Church established by Christ?
A. The one true Church established by Christ is the Catholic Church.


 * Many churches which claim to be Christian have broken away from the one true Church established by Jesus Christ. These churches were founded by men who had no authority from God to found a church. Christ intended that there should be only one true Christian Church, for He always spoke of His Church as one.

 * > "And other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd" (John 10:16).


 * Q. 153. How do we know that the Catholic Church is the one true Church established by Christ?
A. We know that the Catholic Church is the one true Church established by Christ because it alone has the marks of the true Church.


 * > "Holy Father, keep in thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one even as we are" (John 17:11).

 * > "Sanctify them in the truth. Thy word is truth. Even as thou hast sent me into the world, so I also have sent them into the world. And for them I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

 * > "Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those also who through their word are to believe in me, that all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I

 * > In thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:17-21).13


 * Q. 154. What do we mean by the marks of the Church?
A. By the marks of the Church we mean certain clear signs by which all men can recognize it as the true Church founded by Jesus Christ.


 * Jesus Christ willed that the true Church should have these marks, which would distinguish it from all false religions.


 * Q. 155. What are the chief marks of the Church?
A. The chief marks of the Church are four: It is one, holy, catholic or universal, and apostolic.


 * Sacred Scripture teaches that the one true Church of Christ must have these marks.

 * The marks of the Church are themselves an indication that God guides the Church.


 * Q. 156. Why is the Catholic Church one?
A. The Catholic Church is one because all its members, according to the will of Christ, profess the same faith, have the same sacrifice and sacraments, and are united under one and the same visible head, the Pope.


 * Our Divine Saviour prayed explicitly that His Church might be one, and He made it one; thus, men can recognize it as the true Church. Only the Catholic Church possesses this mark of unity. Various sects, having only fragments of Christianity, are divided in doctrine and practice and recognize no authority but their own judgment, which can easily lead them into error.

 * (c)There are many religious sects which claim to be Christian, but are separated from the unity of Christ by their rejection of the authority invested by Him in the Roman Pontiff, the successor to Saint Peter.

 * Catholics accept all the doctrines of faith and morals which were taught by Our Lord and the apostles and are proposed by the Church for belief and practice. A person who deliberately denies even one of the doctrines of the Church cannot be a Catholic. The Church is one in faith.

 * Catholics take part in the same sacrifice of the Mass and accept the same sacraments, although the same language and the same ceremonies are not used by all in the offering of Mass and in the administration of the sacraments. Everywhere the essential parts of the ceremonies are the same and substantially the same words are used in offering Mass. Hence the Church is one in worship. What Christ determined, the Church cannot change. Since Christ, however, did not determine many points of worship in non-essential matters, the Church has the authority to do so.

 * Catholics are subject to their respective bishops who rule them. They must recognize the supreme authority of the Pope in matters of religion. A person who deliberately refuses to accept the legitimate and supreme authority of the Pope and the bishops in matters of religion cannot be a Catholic. (Ed. Except in the case where a Pope or Bishop teaches heresy, he should be ignored.)

 * > "For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles: and in every place there is sacrifice and there is offered to my name a clean oblation" (Malachias 1:11).

 * > "For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another" (Romans 12:4-5).

 * > "Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17).

 * > " body and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and throughout all, and in us all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).

 * > See Scripture, question 152.


 * Q. 157. Why is the Catholic Church holy?
A. The Catholic Church is holy because it was founded by Jesus Christ, who is all-holy, and because it teaches, according to the will of Christ, holy doctrines, and provides the means of leading a holy life, thereby giving holy members to every age.


 * Holiness is a mark of the Church according to the will of Christ, as is evident from the prayer of Christ for His apostles. Even some of the enemies of the Church recognize the holiness of the doctrines which the Church teaches. The efforts of others to prove that the Church is not holy show that they acknowledge holiness as a mark of truth.

 * The lives of the saints, of the martyrs, and of good Catholics prove how effective are the means of grace with which the Church is endowed. Moreover, God has always favored the Catholic Church with miracles.

 * Bad Catholics do not disprove the holiness of the Church since they do not use the means of grace at their disposal. Christ foretold that there would be good and bad members of His Church as we read in the parables of the fishes in the net and the cockle among the wheat.

 * > "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:15-20).

 * > "...looking for the blessed hope and glorious coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us that be might redeem us from all iniquity and cleanse for himself an acceptable people, pursuing good works" (Titus 2:13-14).

 * > "And you know that he appeared to take our sins away, and sin is not in him" (1 John 3:5).14


 * Q. 158. Why is the Catholic Church catholic or universal?
A. The Catholic Church is catholic or universal because, destined to last for all time, it never fails to fulfill the divine commandment to teach all nations all the truths revealed by God.


 * Catholicity is a mark of the Church because Christ commissioned His apostles to go forth and make disciples of all nations, and to teach all that He had commanded. Christ further promised to be with them all days, even to the end of time.

 * The Church today teaches the same doctrine it received from Christ. It has existed uninterruptedly since the day it was established down to the present time. The Church exists in a more flourishing condition in some nations than in others. It is always trying to preach the gospel to all races and in all places and sends its missioners to the most remote places on earth.

 * Christian sects began later and for the most part exist in only some sections of the world. In trying to accommodate themselves to the changing conditions of the time, they have made changes in the doctrines of Christ without any divine authorization.

 * > "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world, for a witness to all nations; and then will come the end" (Matthew 24:14).

 * > "And he said to them, 'Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned' "(Mark 16:15-16).

 * > "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses for me in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and even to the very ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

 * > "Faith then depends on hearing, and hearing on the word of Christ. But I say: Have they not heard? Yes, indeed, 'their voice has gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world' " (Romans 10:1718).15


 * Q. 159. Why is the Catholic Church apostolic?
A. The Catholic Church is apostolic because it was founded by Christ on the apostles and, according to His divine will, has always been governed by their lawful successors.


 * The true Church is apostolic because it is the Church Christ founded upon the apostles, and especially upon Peter

 * > "And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

 * > "Therefore, you now no longer are strangers and foreigners, but you citizens with the saints and members of God's household: you are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:19-20).


 * Q. 160. How do we know that no other church but the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ?
A. We know that no other church but the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ because no other church has these four marks.


 * All other churches lack essential unity. They recognize no authority in religious matters vested in an individual who is the Vicar of Christ. In the worship of God many Christian sects are guided more by sentiment and personal conviction than by the objective truths given to the world by Our Lord.

 * The founders of Christian sects were not saints and generally were not holy or edifying men. The sects have not given saints to the world. Their truths are but fragments of the doctrines of the Catholic Church. The holiness of their members is due to the means that the sects have salvaged from Catholic worship. Moreover, these sects cannot point to miracles wrought in their favor.

 * Not one of the Christian sects is universal or catholic; that is, not one has universality such as that of the Catholic Church. Not one of the Christian sects can trace its origin to the apostles.

 * The Greek Orthodox or Schismatic Church began in the ninth century with its rejection of the authority of the Pope. From it have come various national churches, subject in some degree to civil authority. The Protestant churches began in the sixteenth century when their founders, rejecting certain doctrines of faith, broke away from Catholic unity. Many Protestant denominations are offshoots of the earliest sects. The Lutherans were founded by Martin Luther, the Presbyterians by Knox, and the Methodists by Wesley.


 * Q. 161. What are the chief attributes of the Catholic Church?
A. The chief attributes of the Catholic Church are authority, infallibility, and indefectibility. They are called attributes because they are qualities perfecting the nature of the Church.


 * Q. 162. What is meant by the authority of the Catholic Church?
A. By the authority of the Catholic Church is meant that the Pope and the bishops, as the lawful successors of the apostles, have power from Christ Himself to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful in spiritual matters.


 * Christ Himself gave this authority to Saint Peter

 * Outside the Church there generally is no real recognition of authority in spiritual matters and this disregard for spiritual authority has lessened the respect for civil and domestic authority.

 * The Church has authority over temporal matters which are closely connected with spiritual matters, as the administration of Church property.

 * The Pope, as the supreme head of the Church, cannot rightly be made a subject of any temporal power on earth. The present position of the Pope, as head of the Vatican City, shows to the world that he and his household are not the subjects of other temporal powers. When we speak of the temporal power of the Pope, we do not mean thereby merely to classify him with earthly rulers. The Pope's temporal power is a means to an end, guaranteeing that freedom of word and action which he must rightfully enjoy as the supreme spiritual ruler of the Church.

 * > "And if he refuse to hear them, appeal to the Church, but if he refuse to hear even the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican" (Matthew 18:17).

 * > "Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has placed you as bishops, to rule the Church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20:28).

 * > "On behalf of Christ, therefore, we are acting as ambassadors, God, as it were, appealing through us" (2 Corinthians 5:20).16


 * Q. 163. What is meant by the infallibility of the Catholic Church?
A. By the infallibility of the Catholic Church is meant that the Church, by the special assistance of the Holy Ghost, cannot err when it teaches or believes a doctrine of faith or morals.


 * Infallibility, especially papal infallibility, is a doctrine often misunderstood and derided by those outside the Church. The term "infallibility" is often distorted to mean impeccability, that is, freedom from all sin. The Church has never held that the Pope cannot sin.

 * It is unthinkable that an institution established by God for the salvation of souls could lead men into error and turn them away from God. If the Church could and did err in matters of faith or morals, it would not be a true teacher; it would fail in its ministry of sanctification and would not lead men to salvation but would be responsible for their condemnation.

 * A doctrine of faith or morals is a truth revealed by God dealing with what we must believe or what we must do in order to be saved.

 * The Church cannot change its defined teachings on faith and morals, though it may restate them more clearly and more completely.

 * We know that the Church is infallible in matters of faith or morals because Christ promised that He would be with the apostles and their successors in their work of teaching until the end of time. It would be impossible for Christ to be with the official teachers of the Church and permit them to teach error.

 * > "And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to dwell with you forever, the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16).

 * > "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your mind whatever I have said to you" (John 14:26).17


 * Q. 164. When does the Church teach infallibly?
A. The Church teaches infallibly when it defines, through the Pope alone, as the teacher of all Christians, or through the Pope and the bishops, a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by all the faithful.


 * The Holy Father must intend to use his supreme, apostolic authority when he teaches infallibly. The Pope can teach without speaking infallibly; for example, he does this in his encyclical letters. Catholics must accept such teachings, not on faith, but in obedience to the authority of the Pope and in respect for his wisdom.


 * Q. 165. What is meant by the indefectibility of the Catholic Church?
A. By the indefectibility of the Catholic Church is meant that the Church, as Christ founded it, will last until the end of time.


 * This indefectibility of the Church is in conformity with the will of Christ, who promised to be with His Church until the end of time.

 * > "For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26).


 * Q. 166. Are all obliged to belong to the Catholic Church in order to be saved?
A. All are obliged to belong to the Catholic Church in order to be saved.


 * The principle, "It makes no difference what religion a person practices so long as he leads a good life," is deceptive because it attaches the same importance to the teaching and practice of a false religion as it does to the teaching and practice of the one, true religion revealed by Christ and taught by His Church. No one can be saved without sanctifying grace, and the Catholic Church alone is the divinely established means by which grace is brought to the world and the full fruits of Our Lord's Redemption are applied to men.

 * > "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting" (John 3:14-15).

 * > "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me' " (John 14:6).

 * > "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God has raised from the dead, even in this name does he stand here before you, sound. This is 'The stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the comer stone.' Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-12).


 * Q. 167. What do we mean when we say, "Outside the Church there is no salvation?"
A. When we say, "Outside the Church there is no salvation," we mean that those who through their own grave fault do not know that the Catholic Church is the true Church or, knowing it, refuse to join it, cannot be saved.


 * "Outside the Church there is no salvation" does not mean that everyone who is not a Catholic will be condemned. It does mean that no one can be saved unless he belongs in some manner to the Catholic Church, either actually or in desire, for the means of grace are not given without some relation to the divine institution established by Christ.


 * Q. 168. Can they be saved who remain outside the Catholic Church because they do not know it is the true Church?
A. They who remain outside the Catholic Church through no grave fault of their own and do not know it is the true Church, can be saved by making use of the graces which God gives them.


 * Those who are outside the Church through no fault of their own are not culpable in the sight of God because of their invincible ignorance. Persons who make use of the graces God gives them, even though they are not members of the true Church, actually have the desire to become members inasmuch as they wish to use all the means ordained by God for their salvation.

 * We should pray and try to persuade others to investigate the teachings of the Catholic Church because charity obliges us to do all we can to lead others to salvation. We should also pray for Catholic missioners and help them in their work of bringing the faith to those outside the Catholic Church.


 * Q. 169. Why is the Catholic Church called the Mystical Body of Christ?
A. The Catholic Church is called the Mystical Body of Christ because its members are united by supernatural bonds with one another and with Christ, their Head, thus resembling the members and head of the living human body.


 * > "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they shall burn. If you abide in me, and if my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it shall be done to you" (John 15:4-7).

 * > "Yet not for these only do I pray, but for those also who through their word are to believe in me, that all may be one, even as thou, Father, in me and I in thee; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory that thou hast given me, I have given to them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be perfected in unity" (John 17:20-23).

 * > "And all things he made subject under his feet, and him he gave as head over all the Church, which indeed is his body, the completion of him who fills all with all" (Ephesians 1:22-23).

 * > "Again, he is the head of his body, the Church" (Colossians 1:18).18




 * Since Christ founded only one Church and commanded that all men should join that Church in order to be saved, it is most important to discover which of the many churches that exist in the world is the one true Church. To discover this, we have only to pick out the distinctive qualities of the Church as Christ founded it, and then find out which of the churches has these qualities. This process is quite similar to the modern methods of identifying a person by means of his fingerprints. No two persons have the same kind of fingerprints; and so, when we have a record of a person's fingerprints, we can find him in a group by having all make their fingerprints and then examining to see which one has the fingerprints of the person we are seeking. So too, we find in the Gospel a record of the fingerprints or marks of the true Church as Christ established it. The chief marks are unity, holiness, universality and apostolicity. And when we look for these marks or fingerprints among all the churches which claim to be established by Christ, we find that the marks are found in only one of these churches-the Catholic Church.

 * These marks are not the only proofs we have that the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ. We have another convincing argument in the many miracles that have always been wrought in the Catholic Church, in support of the Church's doctrines or at the intercession of a saint or a holy person. For example, in recent times many sick persons have been cured at the shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes in France, in a manner that could not have been produced naturally. These must be wrought by God as a special favor to His Mother and to the Church which venerates her. Now, the God of truth would not work miracles for a false religion, and so the Catholic religion in whose favor these miracles take place must be true. Again, the fact that the Church has survived all kinds of obstacles and persecutions for almost twenty centuries is a proof that the Catholic Church is the Church of God; since any merely human organization would have perished long ago.

 * Besides the marks, the Church has certain important attributes or qualities-authority to command its members, indefectibility or permanence; and, above all, infallibility in its official teachings. The claim of the Catholic Church to possess infallibility meets with great opposition from the enemies of the Church; yet, anyone who believes that Christ is truly God must admit that He can give the teachers of the Church a special protection whereby they are preserved from teaching error, and the Gospel clearly indicates that He willed to do so. This privilege of infallibility is possessed in the first place by the Pope, in whom the fullness of the teaching power resides; but it is present also in the bishops, not individually but as a group united with the Pope.

 * One of the attributes of the Catholic Church which is much misunderstood is the necessity of the Church for salvation. The doctrine of the necessity of the Church does not mean, as some non-Catholics claim, that everyone who dies without being an actual member of the Church will be lost for all eternity. It means that Our Lord Himself made His Church a necessary means for salvation for all men, in such wise that a person must be joined to the Church at least by desire in order to be saved. Those who through no fault of their own do not realize that the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ, but try to serve God faithfully and love Him with their whole heart, will be saved, even though they are not actual members of the Church, because they are joined to the Church by implicit desire. But such persons are deprived of many graces which they would receive as members of the true Church. Speaking of those outside the Catholic Church, Pope Pius, in his Encyclical on the Mystical Body, said: "From a heart overflowing with love we ask each and every one of them to be quick and ready to follow the interior movements of grace and to look to withdrawing from that state in which they cannot be sure of their salvation. For even though unsuspectingly they are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer in desire and resolution, they still remain deprived of so many precious gifts and helps from heaven, which one can enjoy only in the Catholic Church."

 * Oftentimes Catholics are accused of intolerance; and in the United States, where personal rights are valued so highly, it is regarded as very wrong to be intolerant. Now, the truth is this: Catholics are intolerant toward doctrines opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church; but they are tolerant toward the persons who hold those doctrines. Any intelligent person who examines this attitude of Catholics will admit that it is quite fair and reasonable.

 * When we say that Catholics are intolerant toward doctrines opposed to the teaching of the Catholic Church, we mean that Catholics regard those doctrines as false. We must do this if we are honest. Since we are convinced that the Catholic religion is true and that it is the one religion established by the Son of God for all mankind, we logically hold that all other religions are erroneous, and that their existence is not in accordance with the will of Christ, who prayed that "there should be one fold and one shepherd." For this reason we try to persuade those who hold those false doctrines to examine the claims of the Catholic Church to be the one true Church of Christ.

 * Catholics, however, are tolerant toward persons who hold false doctrines. In other words, we believe that we are obliged to show Christian charity to all such persons, to love them as our brothers and sisters, to aid them in their necessities. We should presume that they are honest and sincere in holding their religious beliefs, and we should pray that God may bless and enlighten them. Even if some of them are unkind to us and persecute us because we are Catholics, we should not manifest a like spirit of bigotry toward them.

 * It is indeed a great privilege to belong to the one true Church. Hence, it is one of the best works of Catholic Action for Catholics to try to persuade their non-Catholic friends to study the arguments for the truth of the Catholic religion. And Catholics themselves can never sufficiently thank God for the favor of being members of the true Church. They should remember the sublime teaching of St. Paul that the Church is a living body with Christ as its Head. "You are the body of Christ, member for member" (1 Cor. 12:27). Just as each member of the body receives vital power from the head, so we, if we are living members of the Church-that is, if we retain in our souls the life of grace-are constantly receiving supernatural power and vigor from Christ, our Head.




 * Thank God every day for giving you the grace of being a member of the one true Church, the Catholic Church.

 * Complete Exercises For Lesson 12





 * (Join correctly the parts of the sentences in Columns I and II, by placing the right key letter in the proper parenthesis):


 * Column I


 * (1)The Pope teaches without ordinarily speaking infallibly (...).

 * The Greek Orthodox Church (...).

 * The Protestant churches (...).

 * A person who deliberately denies one doctrine of the Catholic Church

 * (. .) .

 * The Pope has authority in temporal matters (...).

 * The bishops can teach infallibly (...).

 * The Catholic Church alone (...).

 * To be saved a person must belong to the Catholic Church (...).

 * The Head of the Mystical Body is (...).

 * St. Peter


 * Column II


 * At least by desire.

 * Was called the Rock by Christ.

 * Is the divinely established means of grace?

 * In his encyclical letters.

 * Only when they are united with the Pope.

 * Our Lord Jesus Christ.

 * Began in the ninth century.

 * When they are closely united to spiritual matters.

 * Began in the sixteenth century.

 * Cannot be a Catholic.



 * (Answer the questions orally or write them as your teacher may direct:


 * Prove to Sydney, a non-Catholic boy interested in the subject, that our Blessed Saviour established only one Church.

 * Wenceslaus, 10 years old, lives in a mining town. There are three Catholic churches close to one another on Main Street. He wonders how the Church is One when the Ukrainians and the Syrian Catholics are using different churches, different languages and different ceremonies in their services. Explain matters to him.

 * Nelson, a very fine Protestant boy, tells Sylvester, his Catholic chum, that once his whole family were on the point of joining the Catholic Church, but changed their minds because some of their Catholic neighbors were disreputable characters. In the face of Nelson's testimony, how can Sylvester uphold the claim of the Church that she is holy?

 * How many Popes have governed the Church during the present century? Name them.

 * What is the name of the territory that now is under the temporal power of the Pope?

 * Theresa, who is not a Catholic, admits that sometimes she wonders if the Catholic Church is the true Church, but she does not make further inquiries because some of the duties of Catholics are hard, and she does not wish to be convinced that she must join the Catholic Church. Will Theresa be saved if she dies in this state of mind? Explain your answer.

 * Grace, a non-Catholic high school girl, wants to know if the Pope's infallibility prevents him from mistakes in arithmetic, spelling, geography and history. Enlighten her on the point.

 * Samuel, a Jewish labor leader, listened to a Catholic priest speaking at a Labor Day celebration. The priest made several references to "Rerum Novarum" and "Quadragesimo Anno" well-known papal encyclicals. He asks Matthias a Catholic member of his local unit what is meant by the term "papal encyclicals." What should Matthias answer?

 * Does infallibility make the Pope impeccable, that is, does it mean that the Holy Father cannot commit sin?

 * Phoebe, a salesgirl in a department store, now and then remarks to her co-worker, Lillian, a member of the Blessed Virgin's Sodality, that "it doesn't make much difference what religion a person practices, as long as she leads a good life." May Lillian agree with that statement? State the reason for your answer.

 * Alfred is asked by a non-Catholic friend if the Pope claims the authority to tell the Catholics of the United States how they should vote in the presidential elections. What should Alfred answer?

 * Should we be anxious to have others become Catholics? Why?

 * Besides the four marks of the Church, what other convincing proof have we that the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ?

 * When do the bishops enjoy the privilege of infallibility?


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