Many fundamentalists erroneously believe that the pagan Emperor Constantine invented the Catholic Church around 317 A.D. by blending paganism and Christianity. However, there is no historical basis for this whatsoever. The reality is that the Catholic Church was started by Jesus and was around long before Constantine was ever thought of.
How do we know? Well, IF the Constantine started the Catholic Church in 317 A.D., then we should find nothing Catholic before this time because Catholicism supposedly did not exist. Yet, we find Catholic Churches, beliefs and practices all going back to the first century. We also find Catholic devotions, the honoring of Mary and the saints, popes, bishops and priests, the celebration of the Catholic Eucharist, the Altar of Sacrifice, and much more all before 317 A.D.
Additionally, anyone can research the writings of the earliest Christians to confirm these facts. The early Christians claim to be part of the Catholic Church in their writings; they claim that Peter was the rock on whom Christ built his church, that the Eucharist is the true presence of Jesus, that bishops have the authority of the Lord, and much more.
One of the easiest ways to disprove this myth is to look at nearly any encyclopedia under “P” for “pope” or “papacy.” There you will find a list of 264 popes going all the way back to the time of St. Peter, the first pope. In fact, there were over ‘30 popes’ before Constantine was even born. So, ‘how’ could he have started the Catholic Church? Moreover, because of early Roman persecution against the Church, the earliest Christians were forced to worship underground in burial chambers known as the Catacombs. We know these burial sites were Catholic because they had the celebration of the Eucharist, images of Mary and the Apostles painted on the walls and ceilings, intercessory prayers to the saints, along with popes and bishops who were buried down there, etc. These catacombs go back to the first centuries, and anyone can see their Catholicity. The history on this is black and white, and anyone who still holds to the Constantine myth is choosing to be willfully blind and uninformed.
Cyprian: Catholic Bishop of Carthage (251 A.D.):
Cyprian of Carthage (251 A.D.): The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever things you bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed also in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]). … On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were also what Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair. So too, all [the apostles] are shepherds, and the flock is shown to be one, fed by all the apostles in single-minded accord. If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?”
Cyprian of Carthage: There speaks Peter, upon whom the Church would be built, teaching in the name of the Church and showing that even if a stubborn and proud multitude withdraws because it does not wish to obey, yet the Church does not withdraw from Christ. The people joined to the priest, and the flock clinging to their shepherd in the Church. You ought to know, then, that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishops; and if someone is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church. They vainly flatter themselves who creep up, not having peace with the priest of God, believing that they are secretly in communion with certain individuals. For the Church, which is one and Catholic is not split nor divided, but is indeed united and joined by the cement of priests who adhere one to another.
Irenaeus: Catholic Bishop of Lyon (180 A.D.): But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall… point out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition.
Ignatius: Catholic Bishop of Antioch (110 A.D.) Let no one do anything of concern to the Church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid Eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop or by one whom he ordains [i.e., a presbyter]. Wherever the bishop appears, let the people be there; just as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.
These are only a few. Many more could be cited…