The Roman Catholic Religion Examined
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
A Conciliatory Comment
The Root Problem
The Bible and Roman Catholicism
A Religious System of Biblical Distortions
The Gradual Development of Roman Catholic Errors
Roman Catholicism and Tradition
The Virgin Mary
Mortal and Venial Sins
The Assurance of Salvation
There are hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics world-wide, yet many are largely unaware of the dramatic differences between the official teachings, practices, and positions of the Catholic Church, and the clear teaching of the Holy Bible. There are multitudes of dedicated Catholics who are spiritually uninformed concerning these differences because of a lack of sound biblical instruction and exposure.
Though many Roman Catholics give unquestioned support to their church and strongly reject any possibility that their church may be in conflict with their own Catholic Bible, there are sincere Catholics who see glaring inconsistencies and contradictions between the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and the fundamental truths contained in the sacred Scriptures.
This booklet offers Roman Catholics, who are seeking after truth, a clear-cut comparison between the major teachings of the Catholic Church and the Word of God. The Word of God is the supreme authority from which all Roman Catholics must derive their beliefs and practices. All Scripture references cited in this booklet are taken only from official Catholic translations of the Bible.
A CONCILIATORY COMMENT
While this booklet scripturally challenges many of the teachings within Roman Catholicism, it is not an attack upon the competence, sincerity, intelligence, integrity, or religious dedication of individual Catholics. This booklet doesn't deny the reality that many Catholics possess strong convictions and are deeply devoted to their religious beliefs. Neither do we deny the fact that some Catholics have had a genuine, born-again experience in Christ.
However, this booklet does challenge many of the positions and practices of the Catholic Church by using a point-by-point comparison of its major teachings and the obvious truths of the Word of God. This booklet asks Roman Catholics to carefully examine the Scriptures with an intellectually honest and open attitude (Acts 17:11), and to judge for themselves what the Bible actually says apart from official church censorship, restrictions, warnings, indoctrination, and qualifications. We believe the clear truths of the Catholic Bible will speak for themselves.
THE ROOT PROBLEM
The fundamental problem confronting the average Roman Catholic is the fact that they are almost completely unaware of what the Catholic Bible really teaches. Many sincere Catholics, including laymen and parish priests alike, have never had sufficient cause to question the teachings of their church because they have never been adequately instructed in the Scriptural truths which challenge the principle doctrines of Catholicism.
The tragic reality is that the overwhelming majority of Catholics have either never personally studied the Bible, or have only done so under the strict supervision and scrutiny of their church. Many have not been exposed to the clear, simple truths of the Bible because they have been repeatedly warned to rely on the official interpretations, opinions, and traditions of the church.
Even though Catholic versions of the Bible (Jerusalem Bible, New American, and Challoner-Rheims Version of the Latin Vulgate) encourage Bible reading and study (Deut. 6:7-9; Ps. 119:9-11; Acts 17:11), the tragic historical fact is that Catholicism, with very few exceptions, has repeatedly discouraged Bible reading and study, and even banned or restricted its use, distribution, and possession.
THE BIBLE AND ROMAN CATHOLICISM
The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally suppressed, opposed, and forbidden the open use of the Bible. It was first officially forbidden to the people and placed on the index of Forbidden Books List by the Council of Valencia in 1229 A.D. The Council of Trent (1545-63 A.D.) also prohibited its use and pronounced a curse upon anyone who would dare oppose this decree. Many popes have issued decrees forbidding Bible reading in the common language of the people, condemning Bible societies and banning its possession and translation under penalty of mortal sin and death. The Roman Catholic Church has openly burned Bibles and those who translated it or promoted its study, reading, and use (John Hus, 1415 A.D.; William Tyndale, 1536 A.D.)
Though external pressures have caused Rome to relax its restrictions and opposition against Bible reading in America, the Bible is still widely withheld and its distribution and free use discouraged in many countries which are heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism.
A RELIGIOUS SYSTEM OF BIBLICAL DISTORTIONS
Roman Catholicism is a system which is comprised of a mixture of truth and error. On the surface, it appears to many to be a brand of Christianity because it staunchly claims to embrace and defend the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. However, a closer examination proves that it is a system which actually nullifies and distorts Scriptural truth by adding erroneous, man-made teachings which openly contradict the Catholic and non-Catholic Bibles.
For example, the Roman Catholic Church claims the inspiration of the Scriptures, but dilutes the Word of God by exalting the authority of its own traditions, councils, and decrees above the Bible. Catholicism teaches the deity of Christ, but places Mary and priests as mediators between God and believers so that free access to Jesus is only possible through them. It teaches the forgiveness of sin, but only through confession to a priest and the absolution given by him. Catholicism teaches salvation, but substitutes a system of grace plus works in which human works are more important. It teaches that Christ established the Church, but exalts a man (the pope) as its head and invests absolute, infallible authority in him and his official decrees. These are just a few of the distortions we will further examine in this booklet.
THE GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF ROMAN CATHOLIC ERRORS
Before we compare the fundamental teachings of Roman Catholicism with the Catholic Bible, it should be pointed out that the distinctive features of Catholicism originated several hundred years after the early church. Though the Catholic Church argues that its roots can be traced to Christ, the historical facts do not substantiate this claim. Roman Catholic dogma has gradually evolved over the centuries. However, none of its major traditions and doctrines were taught, defended, practiced, or embraced by the apostolic church. The following list will indicate the approximate date when the various doctrines, rituals, decrees, and beliefs were instituted:
1. Prayers for the dead. (A.D. 300)
2. Making the sign of the cross. (300)
3. Wax candles. (320)
4. Veneration of angels and dead saints, and use of images. (375)
5. The beginning of mass as a daily celebration. (394)
6. The worship and exaltation of Mary and use of term "Mother of God"(431)
7. Priests begin to dress differently from laity. (500)
8. Extreme unction. (526)
9. The doctrine of purgatory, instituted by Gregory I. (593)
10. The Latin Language used in worship and prayer Gregory I. (600)
11. Prayers directed to Mary, dead saints and angels. (600)
12. Title of "Pope" or "universal bishop" first given to Boniface III.(607)
13. Kissing the pope's foot, began with Pope Constantine. (709)
14. Temporal power of the popes, conferred by Pepin, King of France. (750)
15. Worship of the cross, image, and relics authorized in (786).
16. Holy water, mixed with a pinch of salt and blessed by a priest. (850)
17. Worship of St. Joseph. (890)
18. College of Cardinals established. (927)
19. Canonization of dead saints, first by Pope John XV. (995)
20. Fastings on Fridays and during Lent. (998)
21. The mass developed as a sacrifice and attendance made mandatory. (11th Century)
22. Celibacy of the priesthood, decreed by Pope Gregory VII. (1079)
23. The rosary, used in prayer. (1090)
24. The Inquisition, instituted by the Council of Verona. (1184)
25. Sale of Indulgences. (1190)
26. Transubstantiation, proclaimed by Pope Innocent III. (1215)
27. Auricular (private) confession of sins to a priest, instituted by Pope Innocent III in Lateran Council. (1215)
28. Adoration of wafer (Host), decreed by Pope Honorius III. (1220)
29. Bible forbidden to laymen and placed on Index of Forbidden Books by Council of Valencia. (1229)
30. The Scapular, invented by Simon Stock, an English monk. (1251)
31. Cup forbidden to the people at communion by Council of Constance. (1414)
32. Purgatory proclaimed as a dogma by Council of Florence. (1439)
33. The doctrine of seven sacraments affirmed. (1439)
34. The Ave Maria (Hail Mary) invented and completed 50 years later. (1508)
35. Jesuit order founded by Loyola. (1534)
36. Tradition declared to be of equal authority with the Bible by Council of Trent. (1545)
37. The Apocryphal books added to the Bible by the Council of Trent. (1546)
38. Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX. (1854)
39. Syllabus of Errors, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX and ratified by the Vatican Council; condemned freedom of religion, conscience, speech, press, and scientific discoveries which are disapproved by the Roman Church; reasserted the Pope's temporal authority over all civil rulers. (1864)
40. Infallibility of the pope in matters of faith and morals proclaimed by the Vatican Council. (1870)
41. Public schools condemned by Pope Pius XI. (1930)
42. Assumption of the Virgin Mary (bodily ascension into heaven shortly after her death), proclaimed by Pope XII. (1950)
43. Mary proclaimed mother of the Church by Pope Paul VI. (1965)
Many other scriptural abuses and irregularities could be added to this list: Monks, nuns, monasteries, convents, forty days of Lent, holy week, Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, All Saints Day, Candlemas Day, fish day, meat days, incense, holy oil, holy palms, St. Christopher medals, charms, relics, novenas, and many more. This revealing list represents an overview of the many human inventions which have corrupted, distorted, and perverted the official positions presented as truth by the Roman Catholic Church.
ON THE FOLLOWING PAGES WE WILL COMPARE THE MORE PROMINENT POSITIONS OF ROMAN CATHOLICISM WITH THE FUNDAMENTAL TEACHINGS OF THE SCRIPTURES USING ONLY ROMAN CATHOLIC TRANSLATIONS OF THE BIBLE INCLUDING THE CHALLONER-RHEIMS VERSION (C.R.V.) OR THE JERUSALEM BIBLE VERSION (J.B.V.). The New American Bible (N.A.B.) can also be used to substantiate these comparisons.
ROMAN CATHOLICISM AND TRADITION
The church of Rome claims that the Bible is the inspired Word of God but, in reality, they supplant and undermine its absolute authority by exalting church traditions, councils, and decrees above the Scriptures. In fact, the Council of Trent (1546 A.D.) declared that church tradition was of equal authority with the Word of God.
Roman Catholicism places tradition on an equal and often higher level than the Bible. Roman Catholic traditions, commandments, papal decrees, and councils have repeatedly usurped and contradicted the clear teachings of Scripture. The fact is that many of the positions and dogmas of Roman Catholicism rest upon the foundation of human innovations, traditions, and teachings rather than the Bible. For this reason, Catholicism strongly defends its traditions and rigidly regulates any interpretations of the Bible which conflict with its positions. Rome has even added a section of uninspired books to the Bible called the Apocrypha because they provide the only semblance of support for a limited number of their teachings, beliefs, and practices. These books are not found in the Hebrew Old Testament, and were never referred to as Scripture by Christ or His disciples, and were not even sanctioned by the Catholic Church until the Council of Trent in 1546 A.D.
However, Jesus rebuked the usurping and undermining of Scriptures through man-made tradition when He said "The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations. You put aside the commandment of God to cling to HUMAN TRADITIONS. . .In this way you make God's word null and void for the sake of your TRADITION which you have handed down." (MK 7:7, 8, 13, J.B.V.).
Such prominent Roman Catholic doctrines and practices as the mass, purgatory, the priesthood, Transubstantiation, prayers for the dead, indulgences, penance, the worship of Mary, the use of images in worship, holy water, rosary beads, the celibacy of priests and nuns, the papacy, and many others are based totally upon tradition and are without the slightest shred of Scriptural support to substantiate them. In fact, the Bible gives strong witness against many of these teachings and practices.
THE VIRGIN MARY
In spite of the great emphasis upon Mary in Roman Catholicism, the Bible says very little about her. In fact, she is never even mentioned by Peter, Paul, James, or John. Furthermore, none of the New Testament epistles refer to her either. This is significant in light of the elaborate system of Mariology created by Rome with its Mary works, veneration, and devotions. What is even more surprising is the fact that some of the most significant teachings concerning Mary are of fairly recent origin (i.e., the Immaculate Conception, , and the Assumption of Mary, .
Though the Bible honors Mary as the mother of Jesus and calls her "blessed. . .among women" (not above women, Lk 1:28), it does not teach us to deify her, worship her, or pray to her. The Scriptures recognize Mary as a woman of humility, obedience, and virtue, but reject Rome's adoration of her on the grounds that it is idolatrous worship condemned by the Word of God.
On the following pages we will examine some of the more prominent Roman Catholic teachings concerning Mary in light of the Bible. The information footnoted was written by an individual canonized as a saint, and his book was officially endorsed by the church of Rome.
1. Rome claims that Mary acts as a mediator between sinners and God, and teaches that sinners receive pardon through Mary(1). This is refuted by the Scriptures. "For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5, J.B.V.). Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6, J.B.V.).
2. "The Holy Church commands a worship peculiar to Mary"(2), but the Bible rejects this demand on the ground that it is idolatry. The worship of Mary in the form of prayers (Hail Marys), songs to her, and kneeling before her statues is blatant idolatry specifically forbidden by Christ: "You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone" (Matt. 4:10, J.B.V.).
3. Catholicism teaches that Christ is a stern, wrathful judge who cannot be approached by sinners. It teaches that Mary, on the other hand, is a tender understanding, merciful intercessor who is more sympathetic and compassionate than Christ and will plead our cause to her Son with the forceful persuasion of a loving mother. But the Bible rejects Rome's claim that Mary is an intercessor or advocate who intercedes to God on our behalf in order to obtain grace for the sinner(3). The Bible declares that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God where "He stands and pleads for us" (Rom. 8:34, J.B.V.),--not Mary and that He is "living forever to intercede for all who come to God through Him" (Heb. 7:25, J.B.V.; see also Heb. 9:24).
4. The Bible rejects Rome's claim that "Mary is the Peacemaker between sinners and God"(4). The Bible states, "But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. . .For he is the peace between us. . .Through him, both of us have in the one Spirit our way to come to the Father" (Eph. 2:13, 14, 18, J.B.V.). Christ is our peacemaker, not Mary, priests, popes, dead saints, or even the Church.
5. The Bible rejects Catholic claims that Mary is ". . .the gate of heaven because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through Her"(5), that "the Way of Salvation is open to none other than through Mary, and that our salvation is in the hands of Mary."(6) "Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12, C.R.V.). "Jesus said: I am the Way. . .No one can come to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6, J.B.V.).
6. The Bible gives absolutely no support to the many exalted titles which the Roman Catholic Church has bestowed upon Mary such as, "Queen of the Angels, Prophets, Patriarchs, Apostles, Confessors, Virgins, and All Saints"(7), "The Door of Paradise," "The Gate of Heaven," "Our Life," "Mother of Grace," "Morningstar," "Refuge of Sinners," and "Mother of Mercy". These titles represent Rome's attempts to elevate Mary to a glorified position which is not taught in the Scriptures.
7. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which teaches that Mary was born without sin is contrary to the Scriptures which stress that "everyone has sinned" (Rom. 5:12, 13 J.V.B.), and "there is no man who does not sin" (1 Kg. 8:46, J.B.V.; see also Ps. 53:3, 1 Jn. 1:8, 10). Even Mary acknowledged that she was a sinner in need of a Savior: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in GOD MY SAVIOR" (Lk. 1:46, 47, J.B.V.).
8. The Roman Catholic doctrine of the Assumption of Mary which teaches that Mary's body was raised from the dead and taken to heaven as "Queen of Heaven" is a teaching which can't find the slightest support in the Bible and was not made an official doctrine in the Catholic Church until 1950.
9. Roman Catholicism's emphasis on Mary's perpetual virginity is clearly refuted in the Bible which plainly states that Jesus had brothers and sisters (Matt. 13:54-56; Mk. 6:3; Jn. 7:5, 6). Though Rome claims that these verses refer to Christ's cousins, the original Greek wording clearly refers to brothers and not cousins. After the virgin birth of Christ, Mary and Joseph lived a normal husband and wife relationship, bearing other children.
1 Bishop Alphonse de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, pp. 82, 83.
2 Ibid., pg. 130.
3 Bishop Alphonse de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, pg. 80; see also pp. 254, 257.
4 Ibid., pg. 197.
5 Bishop Alphonse de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, pg. 160.
6 Ibid., pg. 169.
7 St. Joseph's Daily Missal, pg. 1305.
The word "pope" comes from the Latin word "papa" meaning father. Most scholars agree that the first real pope was Gregory I (590- 604 A.D.). The pope claims to be the mediator between God and men with the power over souls in purgatory. However, the Bible contradicts this claim by stating that "For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus" (I Tim 2:5 J.B.V.). The papacy attempts to usurp the power and authority belonging solely to Christ by claiming the pope as the head of the church, but the Bible declares that Jesus is the head of the Church (Col. 1:18), and that "He has put all things under his feet, and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body" (Eph. 1:22, 23, J.B.V.; see also Col. 2:9, 10).
The pope also claims the titles of "His Holiness" or "The Holy Father" in direct violation of Christ's warnings to His followers: "You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9, 10, J.B.V.).
The doctrine of papal infallibility was ratified in 1870 when the Vatican Council decreed that papal judgments involving faith and morals were infallible when spoken "ex-cathedra," meaning in his official capacity as head of the church while sitting in the chair of St. Peter. However, the concept of the papacy and papal infallibility can find no justification in the Scriptures.
Most Catholics are unaware of the scandalous history of the Roman papacy. The historical record of papal corruption causes extreme embarrassment to the church in its attempts to defend papal infallibility and its moral authority. For this reason, the church hierarchy endeavors to deny, suppress, and cover-up the historical facts concerning its many doctrinal and moral abuses. What makes the idea of papal infallibility and purity so absurd is its notorious record of papal corruption, contradictions, inconsistencies, and reversals during its history. Though most popes were men of integrity and high moral character, many were wicked and corrupt. What is more, these facts can be easily substantiated by secular, Protestant, and even Catholic sources!(1)
As shocking and unbelievable as it may seem, many popes were guilty of committing nearly every crime in the catalog of sin (2) including rape, adultery, fornication, incest, murder, assassinations, robbery, conspiracy, bribery, fraud, perjury, and the purchase of the papacy with money (3). The corruption and gross immorality of twenty-nine popes was so flagrant that Rome has listed them as "anti-popes" in order to minimize the scandalous testimony of the papacy and erase this notorious blot from their history.
Furthermore, some popes have contradicted each other (Sixtus V recommended Bible reading, while Pope Pius VII condemned it); some popes condemned scientific truth (Paul V and Urban VIII tortured and imprisoned Galileo for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun); many have promoted and defended doctrinal heresies in direct conflict with the clear teachings of Scripture; and some have endorsed massacres, atrocities, torture, imprisonment, and inquisitions against Rome's opponents resulting in the deaths of millions!(4)
1 Ludwig Pastor, History of the Popes (a Roman Catholic historian).
2 H.H. Halley, Halley's Bible Handbook, pp. 767-793.
3 Glen D. Kittler, The Papal Princes (a Roman Catholic author), 358 pages.
4 John Foxe, Foxes Book of Martyrs.
The following selected examples are only a few of the many abuses demonstrated through papal decrees:
Innocent III (1198-1216 A.D.) claimed the right to dispose of kings, ordered the extermination of heretics, instituted the Inquisition, ordered the massacre of Albigenses, condemned the Magna Charta, and forbade Bible reading in the common language; Innocent IV (1241-54 A.D.) sanctioned torture of suspected heretics to extract confessions; Nicolas V (1447-55 A.D.) authorized war on African peoples and their enslavement; Sixtus IV (1471-84 A.D.) sanctioned the Spanish Inquisition; Leo X (1513-21 A.D.) declared the burning of heretics a divine appointment; Clement XI (1700-21 A.D.) issued a papal bull (pronouncement) against Bible reading; condemned all religious freedom, tolerance, Bible societies, and Bible translations; Pius IX (1846-78 A.D.) decreed papal infallibility, condemned separation of church and state, denounced Liberty of Conscience, Liberty of Worship, freedom of speech, freedom of press, decreed the Immaculate Conception and deity of Mary, condemned Bible societies, and proclaimed the right to suppress heresy by force; Leo XIII (1878-1903 A.D.) pronounced Protestants "enemies of the Christian name".
MORTAL AND VENIAL SINS
Roman Catholicism divides sins into two categories: 1.) Mortal sins which are defined as serious offenses against God that can damn a soul to eternal punishment, and 2.) Venial sins which are lesser infractions against God and man. Both can subject a soul to an indefinite stay in the purifying fires of a place referred to as "purgatory". There is no uniform agreement among priests concerning which sins are venial or mortal. Mortal sins could include not attending mass, breaking Ten Commandments, sexual offenses, reading a Protestant Bible, or going to a Protestant church.
Venial sins could be anything a priest decides. Only a priest can forgive mortal sins, but both mortal and venial sins must be paid for by temporal penance and inevitable punishment in purgatory.
However, the Bible makes no distinction between mortal and venial sins. Though some sins are worse than others, all unrepented, unforgiven sins will keep a soul out of heaven. It simply teaches that "the wage paid by sin is death" (Rom. 6:23, J.B.V.), and that "The man who has sinned, he. . . shall die" (Eze. 18:4, J.B.V.).
The Baltimore Catechism defines confession as "the telling of our sins to an authorized priest for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness." Catholicism stresses that priests have the power and authority to forgive sins without even asking God!(1) Forgiveness involves the assigning of penance, punishments in the form of good works, a certain number of prayers, fastings, or abstinence from certain pleasures as a token of repentance. Priests can forgive the guilt of mortal sins, but cannot remit the penalty which must be paid through the performance of good works which he chooses to prescribe. Under penalty of committing a mortal sin, every Roman Catholic is required to go to confession at least once a year. However, the Bible gives no support for private (auricular) confession to a priest for receiving the forgiveness of sins. Furthermore, this practice didn't originate until the 5th century and wasn't officially made compulsory until the Fourth Laterin Council in 1215 A.D. Even the Catholic Bible challenges the concept of Catholic confession on the grounds that no mortal man possesses the power to forgive or absolve sins, and clearly reveals that God alone can forgive sins; "WHO CAN FORGIVE SINS BUT ONLY GOD?" (Mk. 2:7, C.R.V.). No priest has the authority to forgive sins but "the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Matt. 9:6, J.B.V.).
By establishing a priest as the official forgiver of sins, the Catholic Church usurps Christ's exclusive position and authority to act as the mediator between God and man: "For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus" (I Tim 2:5, J.B.V.; see also Heb. 8:6; 9:15). The Bible further declares that, "if any one should sin, we have our advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is just" (I Jn. 2:1 J.B.V.).
The Scriptures also teach that each individual Christian has the privilege of going directly to God for forgiveness: "but if we acknowledge our sins, then God. . .will forgive our sins and purify us from everything that is wrong" (I Jn., 1:9, J.B.V.). Even Peter confirmed that men receive the remission of sins directly from Christ not through priests: "all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name" (Acts 10:43, J.B.V.;see also Acts 13:38, 39).
1 Instructions for Non-Catholics, pg. 93.
The sacrament of penance involves the performance of good works which the priest assigns after confession. According to Catholic teaching, God does not cancel out all the punishment due the sinner when he is forgiven, and thus requires works of penance to help relieve the penalty. Those sins which cannot be fully paid by simple penance (such as "The Act of Contrition," the recital of a given number of "Hail Marys," "Our Fathers," or stations of the cross) must eventually be paid for by suffering in purgatory until the debt is cleared.
However, the Scriptures say nothing about penance. God does not demand outward penance but inward repentance, and a turning from sinful practices: "Let the wicked man abandon his way. . .Let him turn back to Yahweh who will take pity on him, to our God who is rich in forgiving" (Isa. 55:7, J.B.V; see also Prov. 28:13) The Bible clearly teaches that our sins are completely cleansed and forgiven through Christ when we repent directly to Him; "but if we acknowledge our sins, then God. . .will forgive our sins and purify us from everything that is wrong" (I Jn. 1:9 J.B.V.). God bases complete, unconditional forgiveness and cleansing upon sincere repentance and a forsaking of sin.
The main error in penance is the false assumption that Christ's sacrifice was insufficient to totally atone for sin and must be supplemented by human works. The Roman Catholic teaching that "penance is necessary for salvation"(1) and "whosoever shall affirm that men are justified solely by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. . .let him be accursed"(2) is a blatant perversion of the biblical teaching of justification by faith apart from works.
The fundamental error of Catholicism is its unscriptural emphasis upon a complicated system of salvation by good works and human effort. Though good works are a natural outgrowth of genuine faith and salvation, they can never save us--they are the result, not the cause of salvation. No man can earn salvation by meritorious works. Only through the justifying grace of God through faith are we saved: "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not from yourselves, for it is the gift of God: not as the outcome of works, lest anyone may boast" (Eph 2:8, 9, C.R.V.). Catholicism contradicts the truth that "Man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. . .because by the works of the Law no man will be justified" (Gal. 2:16, C.R.V.; see also Rom. 1:17; 3:21, 22, 28; 5:1; 10:3; 11:6; Gal 2:21; Titus 3:5).
1 The Catholic Almanac, pp. 269, 559.
2 The Council of Trent.
Rome teaches that when Catholics die in an unperfected state, they must enter an intermediate realm of punishment called "purgatory" before being released to heaven. Those who have accumulated sins which have not been sufficiently atoned for through penance must endure the sufferings of purgatory until the soul is refined and God's justice has been satisfied. The torments of this halfway hell can vary in intensity, severity, and duration depending upon the guilt, impurity, lack of proper penance, or sorrow of the sufferer.
Catholics are kept in fear all their lives by the prospects of going to this imaginary place. But Rome teaches that the period of suffering in purgatory can be shortened by gifts of money, prayers by the priests, and masses. Catholicism also stresses that friends and relatives can help lessen the time that loved ones remain in purgatory and even relieve their suffering by financing masses on their behalf. Rome collects millions of dollars each year from grieving individuals who willingly pay to alleviate the agonies of those in purgatory.
However, this frightening doctrine cannot find a single verse in the entire Bible to support it. Rome has had to rely on ingenious twistings of the Scriptures to defend this terrifying teaching, along with an isolated passage from the apocryphal book of II Maccabees (12:39-45).
The concept of purgatorial sufferings after death challenges the very work of Christ on our behalf. The Bible declares that "Christ himself. . .had died once for sins" (I Pet. 3:18, J.B.V.). There is no more need for further sufferings in purgatory. To demand further suffering and sacrifice is to deny that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient the first time! Jesus said that "he who hears my word. . .has life everlasting and does not come to judgment, but has passed from death to life" (Jn. 5:24, C.R.V.). The Bible also teaches that "if we acknowledge our sins, then God. . .will forgive our sins and purify us from everything that is wrong" (1Jn. 1:9, J.B.V.); that God remembers our sins no more (Heb. 10:17); that to die is gain, not torment (Phil. 1:21, 22); that to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8, 9); and that those who die in Christ are blessed and receive rest from their labors and not excruciating pain (Rev. 14:13).
An indulgence is "the remission or limited release from the temporal punishments one must suffer in this life or in purgatory for the sins a person has committed." Indulgences can even be granted to souls already in purgatory to shorten their stay. Both penance and indulgences originated during the Middle Ages and have been commonly associated with fraud and corruption. At times, Rome has openly sold indulgences to raise revenues. Money raised from the selling of indulgences by emissaries appointed by Pope Leo X (1513-21 A.D.) helped finance the construction of St. Peter's Basilica. It was the public selling of them by Friar Tetzel who claimed that "a soul is released from purgatory and carried to heaven as soon as the money tinkles in the box" That outraged Martin Luther and helped launch the Protestant Reformation (1517 A.D.).
The whole system of indulgences violates Scriptural truth and cannot be supported by the Bible. Its practice amounts to placing a price tag on salvation and perverting the message of salvation by grace.
THE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
The consequence of the doctrines of penance, indulgences, and purgatory is that Roman Catholics can never have assurance or a genuine sense of spiritual security concerning their salvation. All that a dying Catholic can be sure of after death is that he will suffer an indefinite period of excruciating punishment in the flames of purgatory. In fact, the Council of Trent even pronounced a curse upon any who presumed to say that he had assurance of salvation, or that the whole punishment for sin is forgiven along with that sin.
However, the Bible says that "the blood of Jesus. . .purifies us from all sin" (I Jn. 1:7, J.B.V.). It also assures us of our salvation and eternal life. "This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son" (I Jn. 5:11, J.B.V.; see also 5:13). Jesus also guaranteed us that "he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has life everlasting, and does not come to judgment, but has passed from death to life" (Jn. 5:24, C.R.V.), and "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; he who is believing towards the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him" (Jn. 3:36, C.R.V.).
Roman Catholicism endeavors to defend the papacy by claiming that Peter was the first pope and was personally appointed by Christ. They base this claim upon their interpretation of Matthew 16:13-19 in which Jesus responds to Peter's confession that He is the Christ by declaring that upon this rock He will build His Church and will give the keys of the kingdom to Peter to bind and loose upon the earth. The papacy claims that Peter is the rock, and the keys represent the pope's absolute authority and infallibility over the Church. However, Jesus was not saying He would build His church upon Peter, but upon the simple foundational confession of faith which Peter made that Jesus is the Christ. The church is not built upon Peter, but Christ--Christ is the rock, not Peter (I Cor. 3:11, 12; Eph. 2:20, 21).
The "keys" symbolize the authority to open the way of salvation through the preaching of the gospel to all those who are bound in darkness and sin. Peter was first entrusted with the keys because he was the first to give this confession of faith in Jesus and was instrumental in initially opening the door of salvation to the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2), as well as the Gentiles at Cornelius' house (Acts 10).
However, all true disciples possess the keys when proclaiming the way of salvation to unbelievers and offering them spiritual liberty through Christ (Matt. 18:18).
Furthermore, the Scriptures disprove Catholic claims concerning Peter. Neither the Bible nor Peter ever claim to be a pope, head over the church, or in a superior position over the other apostles. He simply referred to himself as an elder among many (I Pet. 5:1). Peter challenged the dictatorial nature of the papacy by warning ministers not to lord over the flock. (I Pet. 5:3). Peter refused to receive homage from men (Acts 10:25-27). Peter proved he wasn't infallible when Jesus sharply rebuked him for challenging the need of the crucifixion (Matt. 16:23), and Paul scolded him for his vacillation, inconsistency, and spiritual hypocrisy (Gal. 2:11-14). Peter was married (Matt 87:14; Lk. 4:38; I Cor. 9:5). When Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans, he greeted many believers but never mentioned Peter (Rom.16); and what is more, apart from Catholic tradition, there is no biblical, historical, or credible archaeological evidence that Peter ever went to Rome or presided as its supreme bishop.
Roman Catholicism has established a priesthood which serves as mediator between God and man to offer blood sacrifices for an individual's sins in the form of the mass. The function and structure of the Catholic priesthood, which includes a sacrificial system (mass), is of Jewish origin and was abolished through Christ. Christians no longer require human priests to serve as mediators by offering sacrifices for them or forgiving and remitting their sins through confession.
The Bible gives no support to Rome's attempt to place the priest between the confessor of sins and the forgiveness of sins, or to exalt the priesthood as mediator between the sinner and God. The Bible declares that "For there is only one God, and. . .one mediator between God and mankind. . .Christ Jesus" (I Tim 2:5, J.B.V.), regardless of the religious title, no man has the power to forgive sins (Mk.2:7). Furthermore, every believer has free, unrestricted access to God's grace through prayer (Rom. 5:2; Heb. 4:16). There is no need to repeat Christ's sacrifice for sins because it has been accomplished once and for all (Heb.9:26; 10:10-14). Any attempts to do so is an abomination before God.
Though the New Testament lists various kinds of ministries and offices within the church (Eph. 4:11, 12; I Cor. 12:28, 29; I Tim 3), it never mentions the Roman Catholic concept of a priesthood. According to Peter, the Christian priesthood is a universal priesthood consisting of all true believers and is not the exclusive privilege of a select few: "so that you too, THE HOLY PRIESTHOOD that offers the spiritual sacrifices. . .you are a chosen race, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a consecrated nation, a people set apart" (I Peter 2:5, 9, J.B.V.; see also Rev. 1:5, 6).
The Catholic concept of the priesthood is unscriptural and didn't even originate until the 3rd century. Furthermore, there is no reference to such titles as archbishop, cardinal, or pope, and the requirement of the celibacy of the priesthood is an idea condemned by the Apostle Paul (I Tim. 4:1-3). In fact, when Paul listed the qualifications for bishops (elders), he stated that they must "not have been married more than once" (I Tim. 3:2, J.B.V.; see also Titus 1:6).
The biblical teachings concerning communion are radically opposed to the official Roman Catholic position regarding the mass.(1) While Protestants view communion as a source of spiritual blessing and a symbolic sacrament commemorating Christ's sacrifice on our behalf, Catholics claim that it is the same sacrifice as Christ's death on the cross, and view it as a reenactment of Christ's crucifixion on Calvary in an unbloody manner.(2) Mass is a ritual officiated by a priest it which Christ's body is recrucified and resacrificed for the atonement of an individual's sins. Catholicism further teaches that the physical presence of Christ is in the sacrifice, and that the wine and wafer ("host") are miraculously changed into the actual blood and body of Jesus Christ (the doctrine of Transubstantiation).
The Catholic concept of the mass was unheard of in the early church and was not invented until 831 A.D. by a Benedictine monk named Radbertus. It did not become an official doctrine until the Fourth Laterin Council in 1215 A.D. The doctrine of Transubstantiation wasn't proclaimed until 1215 A.D. by Pope Innocent the III, and did not become an official creed until 1564 A.D.
The elaborate ritualism associated with the mass is unscriptural in that it stresses that Christ's sacrifice for sins was insufficient the first time. The Bible repeatedly stresses the finality and completeness of Christ's sacrifice and challenges any need for it to be repeated, reoffered, renewed, or perpetuated through mass: "And every priest indeed stands daily ministering and often offering the same sacrifice which can never take away sins. But Jesus, having offered ONE SACRIFICE for sins, has taken his seat forever at the right hand of God. . .For by ONE OFFERING he has perfected forever those who are sanctified. . .Now where there is a forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin" (Heb. 10:11, 12, 14, 18, C.R.V.; see also 7:27; 9:12, 22-28).
Even Jesus challenged the need for repeating His sacrifice for sins when He declared: "It is finished" (Jn. 19:30, C.R.V.); and Peter confirmed that "Christ himself. . .died ONCE for sins, died for the guilty, to lead us to God" (I Pet. 3:18, J.B.V.).
1 II Vatican Council documents on the mass.
2 John A. O'Brian, The Faith of Millions, pg. 382 (Roman Catholic).
1. Roman Catholic Ritualism can find no basis of support in the Bible. The gorgeous vestments, colorful processions, exotic pageantry, mystifying symbolism, stately music, dim cathedral lighting, flickering candles, tinkling bells, and sweet-smelling incense is contrary to the character, conduct, and spirit of Christianity. The dazzling theatrical display of pomp and pageantry, the splendor of priests arrayed in costly jewels and apparel, and the elaborate spectacle of ceremonies and liturgies associated with Roman Catholicism is hardly in keeping with the purity and simplicity demonstrated by Christ, the apostles, and the early church. Even Peter warned against the wearing of gold, jewelry, or the putting on of rich robes (I Pet. 3:3, 4). The external ritualism of Roman Catholicism is a superficial, religious display designed to impress the natural senses, but lacks the transforming power of the gospel and the Spirit of Christ to change the heart or save a soul from hell.
2. Images, Statues, Shrines, and Pictures—The Roman Catholic Church officially sanctioned the worship of images and pictures in 787 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea. However, the veneration of images, statues, pictures, and shrines of Christ, Mary, dead saints, and angels is nothing more than blatant idolatry strictly forbidden by the Bible: "Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of ANYTHING that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath. . .Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them" (Ex. 20:4,5, C.R.V.; see also Lev. 26:1). In fact, the Bible pronounces a curse upon all those who do! (Deut. 27:15).
3. The Use of Relics—The widespread use of relics consisting of a piece of bone, a fragment of a saint's body, or some article which a deceased saint touched during his life for the purpose of adoration, worship, or the impartation of blessings and miracles is simply fetishism and rank superstition borrowed from pagan practices. It has no support in the Scriptures. The attributing of supernatural power to such relics is simply another form of idolatry condemned by the Word of God.
4. The Use of the Rosary—The rosary is a device consisting of a chain of beads used in the ritualistic counting of repetitious prayers such as Hail Marys and The Lord's Prayer. It was first introduced by a monk named Peter the Hermit (1090 A.D.), but was not officially sanctioned until the 16th century. The repetitious recital of prayers is a heathen practice specifically condemned by Christ: "In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them" (Matt. 6:7,8, J.B.V.; see also N.A.B.).
5. The Wearing of the Scapular—The Scapular is a piece of brown cloth with the picture of the Virgin Mary which is worn over the shoulders next to the skin for the purpose of protecting the wearer from evil and danger. It was introduced by Simon Stock, an English monk, in 1287 A.D. This, like the wearing of St. Christopher medals, is nothing but superstition and fetishism which is practiced by pagan religions and primitive tribes in heathen countries, and condemned as idolatry by the Bible.
6. The Use of Incense, Candles, and Holy Water in Roman Catholic worship can find no grounds of support in the Bible. Christians are called to worship the Father in Spirit and truth. This is what the Father is seeking for among believers (Jn. 4:23). Our worship is not to be adulterated with the trappings of pagan idolatry and empty ritualism. The use of none of these elements can be found in the New Testament or the practice of the early church.
7. Prayers, Masses, and Other Rituals for the Dead—A common practice among Roman Catholics are prayers for the dead in order to improve their condition in purgatory and eternal destiny. However, these practices are in conflict with the Bible which teaches that the status of the dead, whether they be righteous or wicked, is fixed and irrevocable. The only opportunity men have for determining their eternal destiny is in this present life. All of our ritualism on their behalf after death avails nothing and cannot alter their condition, for "men only die once, and after that comes judgment" (Heb. 9:27, J.B.V.).
We have carefully compared the major teachings of Roman Catholicism with the Bible and have shown it is a religious system composed of many manmade practices and teachings which often contradict the clear truths contained in the Word of God. The Scriptural facts should offer a sobering challenge to all Roman Catholics who love God and earnestly desire to follow the truth.
Though this booklet has not attempted to question the religious sincerity, devotion, and dedication of Catholics nor deny that some have had a genuine, "born-again" experience in Christ, it does endeavor to inform Catholics of the Scriptural errors of Roman Catholicism and challenge them accordingly.
We must each recognize that it is difficult to serve God acceptably and be approved by Christ if we willfully continue to condone teachings or participate in practices which violate the Holy Scriptures. Jesus revealed that the true test of commitment and love for God is obedience and loyalty to the truth: "If you love me you will keep my commandments" (Jn. 14:15, J.B.V.; see also I Jn. 2:3, 4; II Jn. 9). An important fruit of salvation is obedience to those truths which have been revealed to us in the Bible.
A persistent unwillingness to respond to Scriptural truth is usually an indication that an individual has not fully surrendered his life to Christ's Lordship. Furthermore, the Scriptures clearly caution us that "Everyone who knows what is the right thing to do and doesn't do it commits a sin" (James 4:17, J.B.V.).
The inevitable challenge confronting Catholics is whether they are willing to risk salvation and eternal life by continuing to rely upon a religious system which openly contradicts the Bible. Will you take the steps to embrace God's Word without reservation and follow Christ in absolute obedience? This is a courageous decision which each Roman Catholic must personally settle in his or her own heart. It is a crucial choice which confronts all conscientious Catholics who sincerely desire to embrace the truth and trust solely in Jesus Christ for their salvation. For a more comprehensive treatment of this important subject, we recommend reading Roman Catholicism, by Lorraine Boettner, and Foxes Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe. For a brief overview of the main points covered in this booklet, please reread the boldly printed words on each page.
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