Every intelligent Christian should know something about Roman Catholicism. Many years ago a well-known scholar wrote a series entitled "For The Plain Man". This is not a scholarly paper. It is a brief pamphlet for "the man in the street" or in the church!
I am becoming increasingly irritated and filled with righteous indignation (I hope it is righteous!) at those evangelical Christians in churches of all denominations who imagine that the ecumenical movement is the best thing since sliced bread and have no idea or understanding of the poison which lurks in the fangs of the deadly serpent known as the Roman Catholic Church system. The increase in Roman Catholicism is due to one thing only and that is a weak and flabby Protestantism which in many quarters does not know what it believes.
It is possible to be Roman Catholic and be a Christian. But such people are Christians in spite of the system, not because of it.
The first fact we should remember is that Protestantism did not come in with the 16th century Reformation. It was restored at the Reformation. Ever since New Testament times there have been people who accepted the fundamental principles now set forth in Protestantism. They took the bible as their authoritative standard of belief and practice. They were not called Protestants or Roman Catholics. They were simply called Christians.
For at least three hundred years from New Testament times there was no such thing as the Roman Catholic Church. The Christians of that time were simply bible-believing Christians. The papacy began to develop from the time of Constantine in 324 AD when he made Christianity the official religion of the empire. So it is difficult to understand how the Roman Catholic Church can claim a continuous papacy from Peter. There were Christian churches and communities in existence centuries before the Roman Catholic Church came into existence. Peter, therefore, could never have been the first Pope! He was an apostle.
Only in a few fundamentals is the Roman Catholic Church more faithful to scripture than in some of the flabby and nominal Protestant Churches although it must be admitted that these are important and essential doctrines. For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes in the deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, Heaven and Hell, the miracles of our Lordfundamentals which modern and liberal theologians in the Protestant Church would dispute (to their shame in our opinion).
But, as the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has pointed out, it is what the Roman Catholic Church has added that makes it heretical and blasphemous. Some of these additions are as follows.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that authority for the Church and the Christian lies in tradition as well as scripture. In countries where Protestantism prevails, the R.C. Church tolerates the reading of the scriptures by the faithful, but in Roman Catholic countries, it does not encourage the faithful to read the bible whereas the Protestant Church, apart from the apostate modernistic and liberal fringe, believes that the bible is the full and final revelation of God and that continuing tradition is only sinking sand. W.E. Gladstone (only a liberal in politics!) once described the bible as "the infallible rock of Holy Scripture".
Tradition takes precedence in the R.C. Church over the Word of God and the Church interprets the latter. When the Word of God is thus shackled by tradition, it ceases to be the free Grace of God offered to men and women. The Church Fathers contradicted one another. Tradition, therefore, for hundreds of years allegedly was transmitted by mere report. And it is this which Rome receives as of equal authority with scripture. So unreliable is report that it has become a proverb that "a story never loses its carriage". A story seldom retains its original character without exaggeration or addition.
The New Testament hasn't much to say about Mary yet the Roman Catholic Church has built up a most elaborate system of Mariolatry. The apostles never prayed to Mary and never showed her any special honour. Peter, Paul, John and James do not mention her once in the epistles which they wrote to the churches. The scriptures do not indicate that worship or veneration in any form is to be given to her. Mary, presumably, was in the Upper Room at the Pentecostal outpouring as an ordinary member of the group which met there. She was not the mother of our Lord's divinity but of His humanity. The bible calls Mary the "mother of Jesus", not the mother of God.
Think of the blasphemy surrounding Mariolatry. She is given the titles: Queen of the apostles, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Angels, the door of Paradise, Mother of Grace, Mother of Mercy. All are false. When she is called Queen of the Apostles, is that in scripture? When she is called Queen of Heaven, that is false. Heaven has no Queen! It has a Bride but no Queen!
The objections against prayers to Mary equally apply against prayers to the saints, for they are only creatures. How can Mary and the saints, without being God, listen to every prayer and answer millions of prayers made simultaneously in many different lands and in many languages? How can Mary be present everywhere and know the secrets of all hearts? Yet many Roman Catholics pray to Mary more than they do to God!
This is the height of folly and yet it is very difficult to convince Roman Catholic people that they can go direct to God in prayer through our great High Priest Jesus Christ. "There is One Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus". (I Tim.2.5)
Although there are few references to Mary in the bible, she is there presented as a courageous character. This is to be seen at Calvary. When most mothers would have been in a state of collapse, Mary persisted through long and agonising ordeal which only the most valiant spirit would have endured. What a contrast this is between this noble, heroic woman and the gaudily dressed doll that we see in the Roman Catholic Church. In the Roman Church so much myth and legend has been added to Mary's person that the real Mary has been largely forgotten.
Many Protestants do not understand the significance of the Roman Mass. Many think of it as simply Communion. But for Protestants it is only a remembrance, a blessed one, of course, but for the Roman Catholic, it is a sacrifice.
How blasphemous this is! Christ once and for all procured our salvation by His sacrifice on the Cross. Before His death He instituted the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. "This do in remembrance of Me."
The Roman Catholic Church declares that the bread is the actual body of Christ and that the wine is the actual blood of Christ.
This suggests that Christ is suffering all over again every time the Mass is "celebrated". Apparently the one atoning sacrifice He made on the Cross is not sufficient. Yet the scriptures tell us that it was sufficient, efficacious and acceptable to God. "There remaineth, therefore, no more sacrifice for sin . . ." (Heb. 10.26). "This Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for ever, sat down on the right hand of God." (Heb. 10.12). "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many." (Heb.9.28).
God gave His Son to die on Calvary. But that is not sufficient for the Roman Catholic Church. According to them, Christ needs to be sacrificed every time Mass is held.
CONFESSION AND THE PRIEST
Only God can forgive sin. Yet the Council of Trent declared: "Whosoever shall affirm that the priest's sacramental absolution is not a judicial act but only a ministry to pronounce, and declares that the sins of the party confessing are forgiven, let him be anathema."
Unlike the priests of the Old Testament, who merely declared the leper cleansed from his leprosy, the Roman priest actually claims power as a minister of God to forgive sin. In the Roman Catholic Church the priest is a mediator between God and man whereas the scriptures declare that there is only one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.
The scriptures invite us to come directly to our great High Priest when we have sinned. The only mediatorial priesthood recognised in the New Testament is that of Christ and to Him alone is the title "priest" given. "Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek". (Heb.7. 17).
The moment Jesus died on the Cross, the priestly caste was abolished. When He cried: "It is finished" the veil that separated the sanctuary from the holy of holies was torn from top to bottom. The way of access to God is now directly open to all. Therefore the continuing priesthood in the Church of Rome is absolutely unscriptural and unchristian. It owes its existence solely to a man-made development from the third or fourth century. The apostle Peter was content to call himself one of the many elders, a presbuteres.
All born-again believers are kings and priests unto God. There is now a priesthood of all believers. And this means two things - immediate access to God in prayer for oneself and the right and duty of intercession for others. This is the universal priesthood of all believers. And we are a royal priesthood, thus called because we have been chosen by the King of kings to be His priests before our fellow men and women. Away with the blasphemous Roman priesthood!
The papacy has been in process of development over a long period of time. Rome claims an unbroken line of succession from Peter to the present Pope. But the list has been revised several times with a considerable number who were formally listed as Popes now listed as anti- Popes! For six centuries after the time of Christ, none of the regional churches attempted to exercise authority over any of the other regional churches, therefore Peter could not have been Pope.
Rome claims that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ. What blasphemy! The Pope (whoever occupies that office) claims to be, by Divine right, the infallible ruler, the author and judge of councils, the founder of dogmas, the supreme ruler of truth, the arbiter of the world, the judge of the earth, being judged of no one, God Himself on earth. (New York Catechism).
The Pope claims to be over kings, queens, presidents, princes, prime ministers and all political and ecclesiastical Bodies. Protestants are heretics, evangelical Christians are the worst heretics but recently this has been toned down somewhat. The language is now more diplomatic. We are now "separated brethren." Have you ever known such arrogance? Rome claims supremacy over every earthly authority! Popes have excommunicated and deposed kings and governors and, as in the case of Queen Elizabeth I and emperor King Henry IV of Germany, they have attempted to arouse rebellion by releasing subjects from any allegiance to their rulers.
The Roman Catholic system, of which the Pope is the Head, denies millions of its followers the truth which was restored to us at the Reformation, namely, the truth of justification by faith alone. It believes that we must perform works as well as faith in order to be saved. The Christian believes that works will follow faith but are not necessary to salvation. It is faith that initially saves. The work of Christ on the Cross is apparently not enough for the Roman Church. It is a system, therefore, which is sending millions of its adherents to hell.
Another doctrine which was restored to us at the Reformation was that of the assurance of salvation. The R.C. Church denies its adherents such assurance. Yet the scriptures teach us that "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (John 1.9). "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (I Tim 1.15).
Certain Popes have been guilty of murder, plots, sexual immorality and cruelty beyond description. Pius XII was regarded by one writer and by many other people as "Hitler's Pope" - co-operating with the Nazis to obtain favours for the Roman Catholic Church.
I do not know if the Pope is, or is not, the anti-Christ. Many think he is but I do not know. However, I strongly believe this - the Pope (whoever he might be at any given time) is an impostor, the Church of which he is head is corrupt throughout (I speak of the system not the people) and that church is drunk with the blood of the true saints.
Time would fail to tell of the unscriptural doctrine of purgatory, the infallibility of the Pope when he speaks ex cathedra, the unscriptural practice of penance, the excessive ritualism, celibacy, the fact that Rome does not recognise the ministry of Protestant denominations and, even more preposterous, regards all Protestant marriages as invalid. All Protestant married couples are living in sin and their children are illegitimate (don't let anyone tell you this is not the case). Roman Catholics in Britain and America may tell you this is not the case. Roman Catholics in Spain and Italy will tell you this is indeed the case! It is the official belief of the Roman Catholic Church.
HAS THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH CHANGED?
In the Roman Catholic Church, countries like Italy, Spain, Mexico, etc., the R.C. Church remains the same as it always was. In Protestant countries like America, Britain and Holland, the R.C. Church has changed its attitude to some extent but not its doctrine. It is willing, in these Protestant countries, to minimise the difference between the two religions, to put on a respectable face, to be "nice", to engage in ecumenical activities but only so far. Gullible Protestants in the ecumenical movement seem to think the inter-fellowship is wonderful. But they ignore the doctrinal aspect. The Roman Catholic Church has not changed one iota in doctrine.
The late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has pointed out that the proudest boast of the Roman Catholic Church is that she never changes "semper eadem." How can she change? If she changes, she will be admitting she was wrong in the past! The Pope is infallible in spiritual matters and he claims to be the Vicar of Christ so he cannot make a mistake in doctrinal matters. If the Roman Catholic Church says she is capable of change, she is denying her central claim.
The religious revolt of the sixteenth century rescued the Bible from the Roman Catholic Priest: God grant that the twenty-first century may bring a revolt which will rescue it again from liberal theologians, the ecumenist and all gullible Protestants.
If ever there is one great world Church, it will be because the Church of Rome has absorbed all the rest and swallowed them in their ignorance and gullibility!
© Robert A. Penney 2003 <http://www.twoedgedswordpublications.co.uk/Articles/The_Pope_his_church_and_gullible_Christians.htm>