Ask a Franciscan

Ask a Franciscan: Is the Church the ‘Pillar of Truth’?

One Catholic evangelist on TV is very fond of describing the Catholic Church as the “pillar of truth.” Doesn’t that make the Catholic Church greater than the Bible? Where in the Bible is the Church described that way? If this statement is not in the Bible, isn’t this Catholic evangelist misleading people?


Only God is absolute. Talking about God doesn’t make a person absolute. Not everyone understands that. Yes, the expression to which you object could be misunderstood.

But it is still a legitimate expression. Jesus speaks of “truth” 17 times in the Gospel of John. Pilate famously asks Jesus, “What is truth?” (18:38). That sounds like a very weary question. Jesus’ life is its living answer.

When we abide in God’s grace, we are living in the truth. We are starting to make the connections that God makes—not all of them, but we are moving in the right direction. Jesus describes himself as “the way and the truth and the life” (14:6).

“Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, ‘If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (8:31–32).

Jesus says that the Spirit of truth testifies to him (15:26) and that the Spirit of truth will guide the apostles to all truth (16:13).

The fact that Jesus’ followers sin reminds us that they are not always living “in the truth.” Every sin promises to be more reliable than God’s ways—and utterly fails.

After the Our Father at every Mass, the celebrant prays in the name of all present, “Lord Jesus Christ, who said to your Apostles: Peace I leave you, my peace I give you-, look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with your will.”

Neither the Catholic Church nor any other Christian group is greater than the word of God; all stand under God’s judgment. Our words and actions must always reflect that. We need to remember, however, that the Bible did not come with a table of contents listing all its parts. It took years for the faith community to recognize these writings as God’s special revelation.


Ask a Franciscan appears monthly in St. Anthony Messenger.

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