It has been identified that the Western Catholic Church incorporated wholesale departures from the scriptures. What resulted out of that whether dated from 386, 606, 800 or in some other year, granted that this organization has the distinction and dishonor of being the first denomination. It came out of the original church, but it was an impostor and so remains.
This is not to say that truth had disappeared completely beginning in the fourth or fifth century. Those who seek the truth will find it. But there was serious digression starting in the first century. Scholars suggest that the suppression of education wholesale within the general public was the cause of the downturn in things, forcing events in a time which much later became known as the Dark Ages. Certainly it was aptly named. And, as far as those things go, it has been suggested that the first and most important cause within this was a lack of knowledge of the Word of God, or its lack of availability. It started with the control of the churches, those who became the only source of education outside the home for the majority.
In the marriage of church and state the truth of the Word of God was ripped from the hands and then the hearts of common men and women. The church state then proceeded to keep to themselves letters, beginning with the reading of the Holy Scriptures and in public religious discourse. The people were denied access except as it might be parlayed through some disaffected sermon. This was a useful form of control and it obtained the desired effect. Literacy and mathematics were mostly discarded. Feudalism would become the chosen form of enslavement for the soon to be uncivilized world. And things that should not have been left unattended lay forgotten for hundreds of years. For those who postulate about some unknown remnant holding to the truth, I suspect that is rather wishful. We should expect that this period was certainly not much different than at least one that was recorded for us in the OT.
Noah (whose life comprised 950 years), a righteous man, saved only his immediate family after having closed up shop as one of the least successful preachers of all time. Just eight souls were physically saved; and not a word is said about whether any of the other seven had paid much attention to the patriarch or much deserved the Lord’s rescue. I am not suggesting that they did not adhere to truth; we only know of Noah. “Mrs. Noah”, as with the son’s wives, is not mentioned by name. Of the three sons, though named, next to nothing was recorded. There has been an endless flood of conjecture and supposition as to why the record of Noah and his family is so sparse. All of it is pointless. We need to look at what is given and identify what took place. There is a lesson for us there.
The reaction to Noah and his preaching was no different than with what would later take place between the eighth and twelfth centuries. The center of it was that people had wholesale turned their backs to God – not the other way around. They had the truth and they had long before let it slip from their grasp. They turned care of their souls over to the tellers of superstitions and myths – to unscrupulous men who seek advantage. Whether led willingly or simply allowed to stray, the responsibility of maintenance lay first with the leaders, but then also with the rest. So, everyone gets a share of the blame; and there is always plenty to go around. What we do comes with consequences, as does what we allow to be done. The price to be paid is in eternity, and it is hard for us to distinguish that.
As it was in the days of Noah, so it was in the Dark Ages. That the Kingdom of heaven can never be destroyed does not mean that it could not be left unattended, just as worshipping God had been left unattended during Noah’s time. In either case we simply do not know what took place and we do not know who did what. Try though we may, we cannot find the quid pro quo beyond what we can assemble from the sparse records.
By all known historical treatises the true church appears to have ceased to exist by the first days of the Dark Ages. And if true, then it was a very dark age indeed. Truth was supplanted by pretenders who seized upon its authority and stripped it out from within. This is how the knowledge of God ceased to be known and became supplanted by idolatry before the days of Noah.
So what happened to Catholicism during the Dark Ages? It solidified itself as the power base of the newly forming Christian world, aligned with the European city states and their elites. You bowed down to cross and king or you did not fare well. But in time disagreements boiled over from within, and in more time schisms appeared and took hold. Power begets powerful problems; and in between countless millions were lost. Let us pray that we never wittingly act as a party to such things; or that we will ever unwittingly stand by and allow truth to be quickly overthrown.
Be not deceived; for whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. For he that sows to the flesh shall of his flesh reap corruption. But he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
(Galatians 6: 7, 8)