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Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. Thank you. Wishing you a blessed Lenten season.

What does it mean to say that the Catholic Church is visible and has marks?

Question:

I was reading a piece on Catholic apologetics, and it said that the Catholic Church was a visible church with marks. Can you explain what is meant by this?

Answer:

The typical Protestant conception of the Church is that it is invisible. Though individuals may group together for fellowship and Bible study, their churches are really like clubs in a city. The real church, say Protestants, is the broad and unseen group of the saved.

The Catholic Church, in contrast, teaches that the Church is a visible organization. Being a visible organization, it can be identified–it has marks. The marks are that it is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic–“one” in that it is a unified organization, “holy” in that it is an organization divinely established, “catholic” in that it is to embrace all of mankind, and “apostolic” in that a line of succession has been kept with the authority Christ passed to Peter and the apostles.

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