Is the Church not the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15)—the house Christ built? Is Christ not more powerful than Satan (cf. 1 John 4:4)? No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods (Mark 3:27), but Satan plundered your theoretical strong man’s house! The Catholic Church’s Strong Man guards His household. It is true that Satan can conquer individual Christians who choose to indulge in mortal sin, and who apostasize themselves from His household (cf. Romans 11:22, Galatians 5:4, 1 John 5:16-17); but Jesus promised the visible, identifiable, and authoritative Church He would not leave her as an orphan (cf. John 16:16-18), but would be with her until the end of the world (Matthew 20:28 King James Version).
St. Francis de Sales begged the early Calvinists to answer the same kinds of questions your community refuses to address:
When did it [the Church] cease to be what it had been?—at what time?—under what bishop?—by what means?—by what force?—by what steps did the strange religion take possession of the City and of the whole world?—what protest, what troubles, what lamentations did it evoke? How!—was everybody asleep throughout the whole world, while Rome, Rome I say, was forging new Sacraments, new Sacrifices, and new doctrines? Is there not to be found a single historian, either Geek or Latin, friend or stranger, to publish or leave behind some traces of his commentaries and memoirs on so great a matter?9
Can you not detect the importance of such questions? Is the urgency of answering them not obvious? Does your group’s silence not disturb you? Are you, unlike the Calvinists St. Francis evangelized, able to provide any blurb from the annals of history that might sympathize with your theory? Do your vaults contain any scrap that might indicate a Christian who could be construed as a pre-Restorationist, “Bible-only”, creedless, self-ordained minister, and rightful interpreter of the Holy Book? Can you recall any memory of a time when a hero who pre-dates any ancient heresy was martyred for your cause, or a story of when your movement in general pre-dates any ancient heresy?
What you have is theory and hope—hope that the Catholic Church is apostate—that it is a morphed product of fierce wolves who infiltrated your undetectable group, and they were so sly that they themselves were equally undetectable, and evaded the world for centuries until modern American imaginations conjured new ways of doing religion. How ineffective and incompetent your ancients must have been—who apparently walked away from every fight, failed to write anything down, and allowed heresy to rule the Church into near annihilation.
If your proofs are so clear, if they show without doubt that the Church was plundered, then why is the Bible so unclear as to how the household of God would be rebuilt—restored by your communities? As a “Bible-only” Christian, can you provide a single verse, however obscure, that indicates how the event would occur? Do the Scriptures indicate that men who abandon the apostolic tradition for “no creed but the Bible” (which, of course, is a creed) might one day restore the Church? How do you know your group does not simply add to the apostate traditions—is not an additional clanging cymbal? How can you assume you have deciphered the code, cracked the pattern, and mastered the languages more than other sects who have found very different conclusions than yours? In other words, if your “Bible-only” community has in fact established a biblical foundation for your understanding of the Great or near-Great Apostasy, then it is also your community’s burden to provide a biblical foundation for its Restoration. It is always easier to destroy than to create, and it is easier for your group, an accuser of our [Catholic] brethren (Revelation 12:10), to hope that the Catholic Church is evil, than to prove its own credentials—it is especially difficult when the Protestant Church of Christ’s understanding of the Apostasy is clearly ahistorical and not supported by Scripture.
9 St. Francis de Sales, 150.