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By Loraine Boettner
[With added Emphasis and brackets]
BUT HOW VERY FOOLISH IS THE PRACTICE OF IDOLATRY!
FOR LIFE, MAN PRAYS TO THAT WHICH IS DEAD.
FOR HEALTH, HE PRAYS TO THAT WHICH HAS NO HEALTH OR STRENGTH.
FOR A GOOD JOURNEY HE PRAYS TO THAT WHICH CANNOT MOVE A FOOT.
FOR SKILL AND GOOD SUCCESS, HE PRAYS TO THAT WHICH CANNOT DO ANYTHING.
FOR WISDOM AND GUIDANCE AND BLESSING, HE COMMITS HIMSELF TO A SENSELESS PIECE OF WOOD OR STONE.
R OMAN CATHOLICS often attempt to represent Protestantism [Christianity] as something comparatively new...but the basic principles, and the common system of doctrine taught, go back to the New Testament, and to the first century Christian church.
The positive and formal principle of this system is that the Bible is the Word of God, and therefore, the authoritative rule of faith and practice. Its negative principle is that any element of doctrine or practice in the church which cannot be traced back to the New Testament is no essential part of Christianity.
THE BASIC FEATURES OF PROTESTANT BELIEF THEREFORE ARE:
* The supremacy of the Bible in all matters of faith and practice.
* Justification by faith, not by works, although works have their necessary and logical place as the fruits and proof of true faith.
* The right of the individual to go directly to God in prayer apart from the mediation of any priest or other human intermediary.
* Individual freedom of conscience and worship, within the authority of the Bible.
[And I will add the dictionary definition of ‘Christian’: “1. A monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role of JESUS AS SAVIOR.”]
For more than a thousand years before the Reformation, the popes had controlled Europe and had said that there was only one way to worship God. That period is appropriately known as the "Dark Ages." In the church and, to a considerable extent, in the state, too, the priests held the power. They suppressed the laity until practically all their rights were taken away. They constantly pried into private affairs, interfering even between husband and wife, and between parents and children, by means of the confessional. All marriage was in their hands. They interfered in the administration of public affairs, in the proceedings of the courts, and in the disposition of estates. The revenues of the state built new churches and paid the salaries of the priests in much the same manner as in present day Spain. Anyone who dared resist ran the risk of losing his job, his property, and even his life. Life under such tyranny was intolerable. From that condition the Reformation brought deliverance.
Our American freedoms are being threatened today by two totalitarian systems: Communism and Roman Catholicism [now even the Islamic invasion].
MOST PEOPLE HAVE ONLY A VERY HAZY NOTION AS TO WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE ROMAN SYSTEM. And yet the one consuming purpose of the Vatican is to convert the entire world, not to Christianity, but to Roman Catholicism. Its influence is being applied vigorously at every level of our local, state, and federal government. It is particularly significant that in this country, the hierarchy has taken as its slogan, not, "Make America Christian," but, "Make America Catholic." And in that slogan are the strong overtones of a full scale attack upon our Protestant [real Christian] heritage and those precious rights of freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, and freedom of speech.
We cannot adequately understand this problem unless we realize that the kind of Roman Catholicism that we see in the United States is, for the most part, not real Roman Catholicism at all, that is, not Roman Catholicism as it exists where it is the dominant force in the life of a nation, but a modified and compromised form that has adjusted itself to life with a Protestant [Christian] majority. Here, it is comparatively reticent about asserting its claims to be the only true church, the only church that has a right to conduct public religious services, its right to suppress all other forms of religion, its superiority to all national and state governments, its control over all marriage, its right to direct all education, and the obligation of the state to support its churches and schools with tax money. That this is no visionary list of charges, but a cold and realistic appraisal, is shown by the fact that in Spain, which is governed under the terms of a concordat with the Vatican, and which is often praised by Roman Catholic spokesmen as the ideal Catholic state, the Roman Church is now exercising most of these so-called "rights" or privileges.
In order to see clearly what Roman Catholicism really is, we must see it as it was during the Middle Ages, or as it has continued to be in certain countries such as Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Southern Ireland, and Latin America—where it has had political as well as ecclesiastical control. In those countries where it has been dominant for centuries, with little or no opposition from Protestantism [Christians], we see the true fruits of the system in the lives of the people, with all of their poverty, ignorance, superstition, and low moral standards. In each of those countries, a dominant pattern is discernible.
SPAIN IS A PARTICULARLY GOOD EXAMPLE, FOR IT IS THE MOST ROMAN CATHOLIC COUNTRY IN EUROPE, YET IT HAS THE LOWEST STANDARD OF LIVING OF ANY NATION IN EUROPE. The Latin American nations have been predominantly Roman Catholic for four centuries, and today the illiteracy rate ranges from 30 to 70 percent. The veteran radio political analyst, Howard K. Smith, recently reported that "The average per capita income in the United States is eight times that of any country in South America" (March 3, 1960). The average per capita income in South America is $280, one ninth that in the United States.
But, even in those countries, we do not see the ultimate fruits of the system. For over a period of years, they have been influenced to some extent by Protestantism [Christianity], and they have been receiving assistance from the Protestant nations, particularly from the United States and England, so that their present condition, economic, social, political, and religious, is not nearly as bad as it would have been had they been left to themselves. Substantial aid has been given since the close of the First World War. American foreign aid, economic and military, granted to other nations since the Second World War through 1977, amounted to $200 billion (Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 1978). And probably $50 billion more has been granted since that time, making a total of approximately $250 billion. The Roman Catholic nations of Europe and Latin America have profited greatly through this assistance.
American Catholicism, so different on the surface from that found in Spain, Italy, and Latin America, is, nevertheless, all a part of the same church, all run from Rome, and by the same man who is the absolute ruler over all of the branches and who has the authority to change policy in any of those branches as he deems it safe or expedient. If he chose to give his subjects in Spain or Colombia relatively more freedom and better schools, such as are enjoyed by those in the United States, he could readily do so by directing his priests and financial resources to that end. Undoubtedly, Romanism in the United States would be much the same as that found in other countries were it not for the influence of evangelical Christianity as set forth by the Protestant [true Christian] churches.
Contrast Between Protestant and Roman Catholic Countries
It is a fact beyond challenge that the Protestant countries of Europe and the Americas have been comparatively strong, progressive, enlightened, and free, while the Roman Catholic countries have remained relatively stationary, or have stagnated and have had to be aided economically and politically by the Protestant nations. The Middle Ages were dark because Romanism was dominant and unchallenged.
The lesson of history is that Romanism means the loss of religious liberty and the arrest of national progress. If after living in the United States one who was not aware of the contrast between Protestant [Christian] and Roman Catholic cultures were to visit some Roman Catholic countries in Europe or Latin America, not merely to see places that have been fixed up to attract tourists but to live for some time among the common people, IT WOULD MAKE HIM SICK AT HEART TO SEE THE IGNORANCE, POVERTY, SUPERSTITION, ILLITERACY, SUPPRESSION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, AND LEGALIZED PROSTITUTION which particularly in Latin America is found in practically every town of any size, a fairly consistent pattern in all of those areas—characteristics of heathenism, characteristics of Romanism.
In Latin America, where the Roman Church has been dominant for four centuries with practically no competition from Protestantism, it has had ample opportunity to bring forth the true fruits of the system. And there, as a church, it has failed miserably. About 90 percent of the people have been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, but probably not more than 10, or at most 15, percent are practicing Roman Catholics.
The present writer is in receipt of a letter from a missionary in Bolivia who writes: "The Roman Catholic Church in Bolivia is not a Christian church at all, but an unholy device for keeping the people in ignorance and poverty." He added that Romanism the world over is one unified system, all under the control of the pope in Rome, and that it probably would be as bad in the United States if it were not for the restraining influence of the evangelical churches. Those are strong words, but he was writing of a situation concerning which we know but little in this country.
Governments in Roman Catholic countries have been extremely unsteady. Repeatedly the people shoot up their governments, or overthrow them. Practically all of those countries have been ruled by dictators at various times, and sometimes for long periods of time. Since the Second World War, France has had repeated governmental crises, until a more stable situation was reached making General de Gaulle president, and giving him dictatorial powers. Italy has had 32 governmental crises in 25 years, usually, as in France, characterized by resignation of the government, followed by a period of uncertainty and paralysis until a new election was held, or a new alignment of parties was worked out.
Spain, which is often pointed to as the model Catholic state, is governed under a concordat with the Vatican, has only one political party, the clerical-fascist party of General Franco, and has been under the dictatorship of Franco since 1938 [which died in 1975]. Portugal, too, is a clerical-fascist state, under dictator Antonio Salazar. In that country, the fall of the monarchy in 1910 was followed by a period of economic and political chaos, with 40 governmental changes in 18 years, until Salazar became minister of finance in 1928, and prime minister with dictatorial powers in 1932, which position he has held ever since. In the Latin American nations, the overthrow of national governments, followed by periods of dictatorship, has occurred repeatedly during the past 15 years—those in Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Peru, Cuba, Chile, and Nicaragua having been the most recent.
We behold a strange phenomenon in the world today. While people in the predominantly Roman Catholic countries are struggling to throw off the yoke of the Roman Church, Protestant countries are welcoming it with open arms and allowing it to dictate policies of state, education, medicine, social life, entertainment, press, and radio [just like they are also doing today with the Muslims and homosexuals]. And, in no Protestant country is this tendency more clearly seen than in the United States.
The hold that Roman Catholicism is able to maintain over large numbers of people, not only in Europe and Latin America, but also in the United States, is due in part to its appeal to unregenerate human nature. The Roman concept of sin is quite different from that of Protestantism [true Christianity]. ROME DOES NOT DEMAND REFORM IN HER PEOPLE. As long as they acknowledge the church and meet the external requirements, they are allowed to do as they please. In our country, witness the many corrupt politicians and gangsters in our cities in recent years who have been members of that church and who have remained in good standing while continuing their evil course over long periods of time.
But the real cause of Roman Catholic growth and success is not to be found so much in its aggressive policy in infiltrating governments, schools, press, radio, etc., nor in its lax moral code. It is to be found rather in the indifference of Protestants and their lack of devotion to their own evangelical message. Modernistic and liberal theology has so enervated many of the churches that they have little zeal left to propagate their faith. Let Protestantism [pure and undefiled Christianity] return to its evangelical message and to the type of missionary zeal that governed the early Christians, and let Protestants challenge Rome to full and open debate regarding the distinctive doctrines that separate the two systems, and it will be seen that the one thing Rome does not want is public discussion. Rome prefers to assert her alleged "rights" and to have them accepted without too much question. But Protestantism [real Christianity] has the truth, and can win this battle any time that it is willing to force the issue.
In this regard, J. Marcellus Kik, former associate editor of Christianity Today, has written:
"That there is still a remnant of paganism and papalism in the world is chiefly the fault of the church. The Word of God is just as powerful in our generation as it was during the early history of the church...These enemies could be completely vanquished if the Christians of this day and age were as vigorous, as bold, as earnest, as prayerful, and as faithful as Christians were in the first several centuries..." (Revelation Twenty, p. 74).
[Christians] Protestants do not desire controversy merely for the sake of controversy, and often shrink from engaging in it. But, in this time of rising tensions, CERTAIN ISSUES MUST BE FACED. Rome continues to press her propaganda drive. Where she is in the majority, she takes special privileges for herself and places restrictions on, or prohibits, other churches. Where she is in the minority she asks for special favors, favors which by no stretch of the imagination are ever given to Protestants in Roman Catholic countries, and seeks quietly to infiltrate the government, schools, press, radio, hospitals, etc.
The kind of society that Roman Catholicism has produced in other countries where it has been dominant should serve as a fair warning as to what we can expect if it becomes dominant here. What clearer warning do we need? Let us take a good look at conditions in those countries and then ask ourselves if a Roman Catholic America is the kind of heritage we desire for ourselves and the kind we want to pass on to later generations. Through the indifference of Protestants and the aggressiveness of Romanists, we are in danger...
The Church Definition
The Bible teaches that Christ founded His church, the Christian church, and that He is both the foundation on which it rests, and the head of the church which is His body: "For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11); "...being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph. 2:20); "And he put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body" (Eph. 1:22-23); "...Christ also is the head of the church" (Eph. 5:23).
The church is composed of all who are true Christians, those who have been "born again," or "born anew" (John 3:3), from all nations and denominations...And, while they are many, they are all members of the one church of Christ: "For even as we have many members in one body...so we, being many, are one body in Christ" (Rom. 12:4-5). This is the true church.
The marks of a true church are [among others]:
The true preaching of the Word of God.
The right administration of the sacraments.
And, The faithful exercise of discipline.
[And with much significance, I will add: Communion with, and obedience to Jesus Christ as Savior and LORD.]
Dr. Louis Berkhof says concerning the faithful exercise of discipline: "This is quite essential for maintaining the purity of doctrine and for guarding the holiness of the sacraments. Churches that are lax in discipline are bound to discover sooner or later within their circle an eclipse of the light of the truth and an abuse of that which is holy" (Systematic Theology, p. 578).
Usually the word "church," as used in the New Testament, means a local congregation [ekklesia] of Christians, such as "the church of God at Corinth," "the church in Jerusalem," "the churches of Galatia," "the church in thy house." At other times, it may refer to the church at large, as when we are told that "Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for it" (Eph. 5:25). Or again it may refer to the whole body of Christ in all ages, as when we read of "the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" (Heb. 12:23). Christ had this idea of church in mind, as is made clear by the fact that He illustrated that unity by the relationship which exists between Himself and the Father: "even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee."
[Let us also take note of Romans 6:16: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” We can keep in mind that we can judge the tree by the fruit produced. If we look at the parable of the sower, we see that being born again (sown) does not mean one will grow.]
What is the Hierarchy System?
Bishops are usually nominated by the archbishops, but receive their appointments directly from the pope and remain immediately subject to him. Each bishop is required to appear before the pope in Rome for ordination and to make his vows of allegiance personally to him. They also have to pledge complete allegiance in an impressive and colorful ceremony, and also prostrate themselves before him and to kiss his foot. They are the pope's chief liaison officers through which he maintains contact with the church throughout the world. Each reports regularly to the pope concerning the affairs of the church in his diocese, that is, the district over which he has charge, and each must present himself in person to the pope at least once every five to ten years.
Next step down the ladder are the priests. They are immediately subject to the bishop of the diocese. The bishop supervises their course of training, inquires into the fitness of candidates, chooses those who shall be ordained, ordains them, assigns them to churches, transfers them, and removes them from office as he sees fit, without explanation if he wishes. Each priest pledges complete allegiance to his bishop, and submits reports to him. No priest who has had difficulties with his bishop will be accepted for work in any other diocese until he has made satisfaction to his own bishop. He must at all costs remain on good terms with his bishop, otherwise he is helpless.
The people in turn are expected to obey the priest and to support him and the church through their services and money. They are trained and disciplined to that end from childhood. No one is to question the authority of the priest, even in domestic or family affairs. Democratic processes are discouraged. Lay organizations have only very limited scope, usually are not encouraged, and are excluded from authority in the church at large.
The Roman Catholic Church is, therefore, a totalitarian, autocratic organization from top to bottom. And the pope, claiming jurisdiction over from 300 million to 450 million Roman Catholics, the owner of fabulous wealth, and holding life tenure in his office, is by all odds the most absolute ruler in the world. And through the years, the people, even in freedom-loving America, have shown amazing docility in accepting the rule of the hierarchy.
In every Roman Catholic diocese, unless there are special corporation laws in the state favorable to the hierarchy, the title to all church property-grounds, churches, schools, monasteries, convents, cemeteries, and commercial businesses and properties owned by the church is held by the bishop as an individual, often as a "CORPORATION SOLE," WHICH IS A LEGAL DEVICE BY WHICH HE IS PERMITTED TO HOLD CHURCH PROPERTY. He can mortgage, lease, or sell such properties at will without consulting the people or the local church or diocese, nor does he render any financial report to the people concerning such sales or transactions. He reports only to the pope in Rome. Local church finances are in the hands of the priest, or of the bishop to whom he reports. Control of church finances and property by lay trustees such as is the custom in practically all Protestant churches is forbidden, having been abolished by papal decree in the last century. The bishop in turn, under Canon Law, that is, Roman Catholic Church law, holds the property in trust for and subject to the control of the pope.
The purpose of the Roman Church in having all such property recorded in the name of the bishop, rather than treating it as a corporation, is to avoid the necessity of making public financial reports. Canon law does not permit the incorporating of such properties unless the laws of the state are so drawn that they grant special favors to the hierarchy...which in this Protestant country they usually do not.
WHERE THE MONEY COMES FROM, AND WHERE IT GOES, IS ALL A DEEP, DARK SECRET-ENABLING the hierarchy to accept money from various sources and for various causes which if known might subject it to public criticism, also enabling it to channel money into various projects at home and abroad to suit the purpose of the hierarchy without the criticism that would be sure to arise if it were generally known how the money was used. The implicit trust demanded by the Roman Church extends not only to theological and ecclesiastical matters, but to financial matters as well.
If anyone doubts that the finances of the Roman Church are a closely guarded secret, let him try to find out how much money is received, where it comes from, how it is expended in the local church, how much is given to the bishop, and how much is sent to Rome. He will find that the priest reports only to the bishop, and that the bishop reports only to the pope. Ironical as it may seem, THIS NATION, MOSTLY PROTESTANT, IS THE MAIN SUPPORT OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH in her world work.
The Office of the Priest
The office or work of the priest is perhaps the most difficult to present, and the least understood of any part of the Christian system. In the Old Testament, the work of Christ was prefigured under the three offices of prophet, priest, and king. Each of these was given special prominence in the nation of Israel. Each was designed to set forth a particular phase of the work of the coming Redeemer, and each was filled, not by men who voluntarily took the work upon themselves, but only by those who were divinely called to the work.
The prophet was appointed to be God's spokesman to the people, revealing to them his will and purpose for their salvation. The priest was appointed to represent the people before God, to offer sacrifices for them and to intercede with God on their behalf. And the king was appointed to rule over the people, to defend them, and to restrain and conquer all His, and their, enemies.
In the present study, we are concerned only with the priesthood. The essential idea of a priest is that of a mediator between God and man. In his fallen estate, man is a sinner, guilty before God, and alienated from Him. He has no right of approach God, nor does he have the ability, or even the desire, to approach Him. Instead, he wants to flee from God, and to have nothing to do with Him. He is, therefore, helpless until someone undertakes to act as his representative before God.
In ancient Israel, the priests performed three primary duties: they ministered at the sanctuary before God—offering sacrifices to Him in behalf of the people—they taught the people the law of God, and they inquired for the people concerning the divine will. Christ fulfills that office in that He once offered up Himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, thereby making unnecessary and putting an end to all other sacrifices. He paid the debt for the sin of His people, and so opened the way for renewed fellowship between them and God. And as the risen and exalted
Savior of His people, He intercedes effectually for them with God the Father.
All of this is clearly set forth by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews who in the ninth chapter says that "Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption" (vv. 11-12); that we are redeemed through "the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God" (v. 14); that "Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us" (v. 24); that "now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (v. 26); and in 8:1-2, that "We have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man."
Thus under the figure of Israel's sacrificing priesthood, particularly through the figure of the high priest who entered into the holy of holies on the day of atonement with blood that had been offered, we are shown that Christ, who is our High Priest, has entered into the heavenly sanctuary with the merits of His atoning sacrifice, that its atoning and cleansing power may be constantly applied to all who put their trust in Him.
"Ye also," says Peter, "as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ....Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession" (1Pe. 2:5; 1Pe. 2:9). In making that statement, Peter was not addressing a priestly caste, but all true believers, as is shown by the fact that his epistle was addressed to Jewish Christians who were scattered throughout the various nations, "sojourners of the Dispersion" (1:1), even to those who are as "newborn babes" in the faith (2:2).
Thus the New Testament sets forth a new and different kind of priesthood: first, Christ, the true High Priest, who is in heaven; and second, the universal priesthood of believers, through which they offer the "spiritual" sacrifices of praise, of gifts, and of themselves in Christian service. It, thereby, repudiates the pretentious claims of the Roman priesthood, which would perpetuate the Jewish priesthood...Every believer now has the inexpressibly high privilege of going directly to God in prayer, without the mediation of any earthly priest, and of interceding for himself and for others. We are told: "Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you" (Mat. 7:7); "If ye shall ask anything of the Father, he will give it you in my
name" (John 16:23); "Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21).
The believer, of course, approaches God not in his own merits but only through the merits of Christ who has made a perfect sacrifice for him. It is precisely at this point that the Roman Catholic fails to see God's true way of salvation, for he thinks that man still must approach God as in Old Testament times through a priest, or now perhaps through Mary or some saint whose merits can work for him.
But Paul says, "By grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). Christians have, by virtue of their union with Christ, free access to God at all times. This right is one of the finest things in the Christian faith, and it is a present possession. Yet Rome would rob us of this privilege and would interpose her priests and dead saints between the soul and God. Rome's teaching and practice is heresy, for in many places, the Bible invites us to come to God through Christ, without any reference to priests or other intercessors.
The Bible teaches that "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 2:5). The Church of Rome teaches that there are many mediators: the priests, Mary, a host of saints, and the angels, and that it is right and proper to pray to them.
No New Testament Authority for a Human Priesthood
The really decisive answer to all theories concerning a human priesthood is found in the New Testament itself. It is very inconsistent for the Roman Church to retain the priesthood while discarding the other elements of that system.
Paul enumerates the different kinds of ministers and agents in the Christian church, and the office of priest is not among them: "And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers" (Eph. 4:11). And again, "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers..." (1Co. 12:28). There is never any mention of priests. The only mediatorial priesthood recognized in the New Testament is that of Christ, the great High Priest, and to Him alone is the title "priest" (hiereus) given: "Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 7:17); "But he, because he abideth for ever, hath his priesthood unchangeable. Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such a high priest became us, holy, guiltless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people: for this he did once for all, when he offered up himself" (Heb. 7:24-27), "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).
Since the priesthood occupied such an important place in the Old Testament dispensation and in the thinking of the Jewish people, it is inconceivable that, had it been continued in the New Testament dispensation, God would have made no mention of it at all—how priests were to be chosen, and ordained, and how they were to carry out their functions in this radically different dispensation. The priesthood as an order of clergy has been abolished.
But the veil which had been torn by the hand of God was patched up again by priestly hands, and for forty years, until the fall of Jerusalem, sacrifices continued to be offered in a restored temple service, and in Judaism the veil continued to stand between God and men. In our day, the Roman priesthood has again patched up the veil. THROUGH THE USE OF SPURIOUS SACRAMENTS, THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS, THE CONFESSIONAL, INDULGENCES, AND OTHER SUCH PRIESTLY INSTRUMENTS, IT INSISTS ON KEEPING IN PLACE THE CURTAIN THAT GOD HIMSELF HAS REMOVED. It continues to place fallible human priests, the Virgin Mary, and dead saints as mediators between the sinner and God, although the Bible declares most clearly that "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5).
Hence, the continuing priesthood in the Church of Rome is absolutely unscriptural and unchristian. It owes its existence solely to a man-made development that can be traced in detail in the history of the church, for it was not until the third or fourth century that priests began to appear in the church. That system has been a source of untold evil. But papal dominance has been built upon that practice and is dependent on its continuance. Without a hierarchical priesthood, the papal system would immediately disintegrate.
The Apostle Peter, far from making himself a priest or a pope, was content to call himself one of the many elders, a presbuteros. And he specifically warned the elders against that most glaring error of the Roman Catholic priests, lording their power over people, above and beyond the charge allotted to them. He urged rather that they serve as examples to the flock: "The elders therefore among you I exhort, who am a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, who am also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Tend the flock of God which is among you, exercising the oversight, not of constraint, but willingly, according to the will of God; nor yet for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as lording it over the charge allotted to you, but making yourselves examples to the flock" (1 Pet. 5:13).
Claims of the Roman Priesthood
The Council of Trent, whose decrees must be accepted by all Roman Catholics under pain of mortal sin or excommunication, says:
"The priest is the man of God, the minister of God...He that despiseth the priest despiseth God; he that hears him hears God. The priest remits sins as God, and that which he calls his body at the altar is adored as God by himself and by the congregation...It is clear that their function is such that none greater can be conceived. Wherefore, they are justly called not only angels, but also God, holding as they do among us the power and authority of the immortal God."
In a similar vein, a Roman Catholic book, carrying the imprimatur of the Archbishop of Ottawa, Canada, says:
"Without the priest, the death and passion of our Lord would be of no avail to us. See the power of the priest! By one word from his lips, he changes a piece of bread into a God! A greater fact than the creation of a world. If I were to meet a priest and an angel, I would salute the priest more than saluting the angel. The priest holds the place of God."
To millions of Christians who are outside the Roman Church, such words border on [definitely are] BLASPHEMY, if indeed they are not blasphemy. Surely, such declarations are a usurpation of the power that belongs only to God.
It is surprising how little Scripture authority even the Roman Church cites as a basis for her doctrine of the priesthood. Her main and almost only support is found in two verses—Mat. 16:18-19, which she has misinterpreted, and then, by adding one human tradition to another, has built up an elaborate system which not only has no real support in Scripture, but which actually is contrary to Scripture.
There is probably no other doctrine revealed in Scripture that the Roman Church has so obviously turned upside down as that of the priesthood. The function of no New Testament minister or official resembled that of a priest of the Roman Church. The titles of "archbishop," "cardinal" ("prince of the church," as they like to be called), and "pope" are not even in the Bible. The term "bishop" (overseer, or shepherd of the flock) designated an entirely different office than does that term in the present day Roman Church. In fact, the terms "bishop" (episcopos) and "elder" (presbyteros) were used interchangeably. Elders could be of two kinds: what we term the teaching elder, or pastor, and the ruling elder, who represented the congregation in the general affairs of the church.
The feeling of fear and dread of the priest, so characteristic of the people in Romanist lands, is comparable only to the fear and dread that pagan people have for the witch doctor. Someone from Southern Ireland, who has had ample opportunity to observe from within the workings of that system, says: "You who have never been under this influence, who have from childhood been allowed freedom of speech, liberty of conscience, and who see no distinction between your clergy and laity, you cannot, you never will, understand the influence that Roman Catholic priests have over the laity of their own nationality" (Margaret Shepherd, My Life in the Convent, p. 46).
Romanism puts the priest between the Christian believer and the knowledge of God as revealed in the Scriptures, and makes him the sole interpreter of truth. It puts the priest between the confession of sins and the forgiveness of sins. It carries this interposition through to the last hour, in which the priest, in the sacrament of extreme unction, stands between the soul and eternity, and even after death, the release of the soul from purgatory and its entrance into heavenly joy is still dependent on the priest's prayers which must be paid for by relatives or friends. THE ROMAN PRIESTS, IN DESIGNATING THEMSELVES, THE VIRGIN MARY, AND THE SAINTS AS MEDIATORS, AND IN MAKING MEMBERSHIP IN THEIR CHURCH THE INDISPENSABLE REQUIREMENT FOR SALVATION, PLACE A SCREEN BETWEEN GOD AND THE PEOPLE. And where does Christ come in, in this system? If you search, you will find Him in the background, behind the priest, behind the Virgin, behind the church. The inevitable result is that the spiritual life of the Roman Catholic is weak and anemic, and that Roman Catholic countries are immersed in spiritual darkness.
No matter what the moral character of a priest, his prayers and his ministrations are declared to be valid and efficacious because he is in holy orders. The Council of Trent has declared that "Even those priests who are living in mortal sin exercise the same function of forgiving sins as ministers of Christ." Such a declaration was necessary at that time, in the middle of the 16th century, if the Roman Church was to continue to function at all, because of the general and well-known immorality of the priests. Just as the medicine given by the doctor is supposed to cure the patient regardless of the moral character of the doctor, so the priest's official acts are supposed to be valid and efficacious regardless of his personal character. He is accounted as a "good priest" so long as he remains loyal to the church and the rituals and ceremonies performed by him are correct. Says one writer, "When you see the way the system of the priesthood works out in daily life, be glad you are a Protestant." Few Protestants realize the nature and significance of the vast chasm which separates the Roman Catholic priesthood from the people.
Training for the Priesthood
Protestants [Christians] who have made any effort to talk with Roman Catholics about spiritual things know that they have received but very little Bible instruction from their priests. But that lack of Bible knowledge is but a natural consequence of THE FACT THAT THE PRIESTS THEMSELVES HAVE ONLY A MINIMUM OF BIBLE STUDY in their seminary training. L. H. Lehmann, a former priest who founded The Converted Catholic Magazine (now Christian Heritage), says that only in the last years of their training in seminary did they have any Bible study, and that even then it was in Latin. "The Scripture course itself," he says, "was merely an apologetic for papal interpretation of certain texts of Scripture to suit the past historical development and aims of the papal power. Nothing was taught or indicated to us about the spiritual, individual message of Christ in the Gospel itself. Hence, what was sought in teaching the Bible was a glib use of tag-ends of texts in defense of papal power. The letter of texts, apart from their content, supplied the pretext for Roman Catholic use of Scripture. The spirit of the word was overlooked" (The Soul of a Priest, p. 54).
Much to his surprise, and contrary to all that he has been taught, he finds that Protestantism [Christianity] is very simple, very clear, and profoundly attractive. He finds that its doctrines are based solidly on the Bible, which is the true manual and code of Christianity.
Would that thousands of those men could be persuaded to turn from that false and subversive system to the clear teachings of Scripture! The key to the whole problem is the priest. And the task before us is to PERSUADE HIM TO READ THE BIBLE WITH AN OPEN MIND.
It may seem surprising that it takes so long for a priest to discover the truth. But the fact is that a candidate for the priesthood enters the twelve-year course of training from parochial school as just a boy—the preferable age is 16—that during his training, he is quite effectively cut off from the surrounding world, and that he is an adult before he completes his training. He has not known any other kind of life. During that long and intensive course, practically all of those who show signs of independent thinking, those whose dispositions indicate that they might not be obedient to their superior, and those in whose make-up there are any traits which might indicate lack of perseverance or failure for any reason, are weeded out. Not all who finish the course are chosen by the bishop for ordination. But those who are chosen are pretty much of a type that can be reasonably depended upon to continue loyal and submissive to the church. Those who become priests are not so much those who have volunteered for that service, but rather those who have been chosen by the hierarchy and carefully screened and trained for that occupation. They are what we may term "hard-core Romanists."
What Tradition Is
As Roman Catholicism works out in actual practice, the traditions of the church at any time are what the church says they are, Scripture means what the church says it means, and the people are permitted to read the Bible only in an approved version and within the limits of a predetermined interpretation. In professing to interpret the Bible in the light of tradition, the Roman Church in reality places tradition above the Bible, so that the Roman Catholic is governed, not by the Bible, nor by the Bible and tradition, but by the church itself, which sets up the tradition and says what it means. Theoretically, the Roman Church accepts the Bible, but in practice she does not leave her members free to follow it. The errors that are found in her traditions obscure and nullify much of the truth that she professes to hold. One example of what this means in actual practice is as follows: The Roman Catholic Church, in professing allegiance to the Bible, must agree with the Protestant [Christian] churches that there is "one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). [However,] she introduces a host of other mediators: the Virgin Mary, the priests, and hundreds of saints and angels, which effectively sets aside the truth contained in the Scripture statement.
When a Roman Catholic priest is ordained, he solemnly vows to interpret the Scriptures only according to "the unanimous consent of the fathers." BUT SUCH "UNANIMOUS CONSENT" IS PURELY A MYTH. The fact is they scarcely agree on any doctrine. They contradict each other, and even contradict themselves as they change their minds and affirm what they previously had denied.
The Question of Authority
We have said that the most controversial issue between Protestants [Christians] and Roman Catholics is the question of authority—“What is the final seat of authority in religion?” and that Protestants hold that the Bible alone is the final rule of faith and practice, while Roman Catholics hold that it is the Bible and tradition “as interpreted by the church.” In actual practice, the Roman Church, since the infallibility decree of 1870, holds that the final seat of authority is the pope speaking for the church.
It is true, of course, that the person who has not been born again, that is, the one who has not been the object of the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, and who therefore is not a Christian, is not able to understand spiritual truth. This too, is clearly taught in Scripture: "Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged" (1 Cor. 2:14).
If it be asked how the Church of Rome, which contains important elements of truth, has become honeycombed with paganism, how even a professedly Christian church has managed to build up a semi-pagan organization, the answer is that the illegitimate authority that Rome has given to uninspired tradition has produced the effect. That development had an almost exact parallel in the nation of Israel. Israel had the inspired prophets, but she preferred the pleasing and flattering teachings of the false prophets, and so developed a set of traditions which in time came to supplant the true teachings of the true prophets. In the teachings and writings of the false prophets, the rulers of the Jews found the things they wanted, just as the popes and bishops have found in the manmade traditions of their church things which appeal to their selfish and prideful natures and which gave them what they wanted under the cover of religion.
THUS THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE IS EVERYWHERE ASSUMED. In all these cases, our Lord and the New Testament writers referred to Scripture as clear, authoritative, and final.
Interpreting the Bible
While the Roman Catholic people in the United States have access to the Bible, they are told that they cannot understand it, and that it must be interpreted for them by the church speaking through the priest. People ordinarily do not waste their time reading a book that they are persuaded they cannot understand.
The priests, in turn, are pledged not to interpret the Bible for themselves, but only as the church interprets it, and according to "the unanimous consent of the fathers." But the church has never issued an official commentary giving that interpretation. And as we have pointed out earlier, the unanimous consent of the fathers is purely a myth, for there is scarcely a point of doctrine on which they do not differ. The doctrine of the immaculate conception, for instance, was denied by Anselm, Bonaventura, and Thomas Aquinas, three of the greatest Roman theologians. Yet Rome presumes to teach that Mary was born without sin, and that that is the unanimous teaching of the fathers.
In their insistence on following an official interpretation, the Roman Catholics are pursuing a course similar to that of the Christian Scientists, who also have the Bible but insist that it must be interpreted by Mary Baker Eddy's book, Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures, and that of the Mormons, who likewise have the Bible but interpret it by the Book of Mormon.
THE PRACTICAL RESULT OF THE PRIESTS AND PEOPLE BEING TOLD THAT THEY CANNOT INTERPRET THE BIBLE FOR THEMSELVES IS THAT THEY READ IT BUT VERY LITTLE. Why should they? They cannot understand it. They may read a few pages here and there, but even among the priests, there is scarcely one in twenty who reads it from beginning to end and really studies it. Instead, the priests spend hours reading their breviaries, books of daily devotions and prayers, as required by their church, but which are of human origin. This practice of representing the Bible as a mysterious book is a part of Rome's over-all program of presenting Christianity as a mystery religion, in which the mass in particular, as well as various other practices, are set forth as mysteries which are not to be understood but which are to be accepted with implicit faith.
The priests and the people alike look upon the Bible as a mysterious book, and anyway the interpretation is given to them in pope's decrees and church council pronouncements, are declared to be clearer and more easily understood. For this reason, the average Roman Catholic is faithful to his church, but neglects his Bible. Instead of following the teachings of God, the priests and people follow the traditions of men.
The Rise of the Papacy
As the high priest of the Old Testament was the mediator between God and men, so the pope also claims to be the mediator between God and men, with power over the souls in purgatory—so that he can release them from further suffering and admit them to heaven, or prolong their suffering indefinitely.
But Christ alone is the mediator between God and men: "For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). And He alone is the true Head of the church. It was He who founded the church and redeemed it with His own blood. For the pope or any other man to claim to be the head of the church, and the mediator between God and men, is arrogant and sinful.
The papal system has been in process of development over a long period of time. Romanists claim an unbroken line of succession from the alleged first pope, Peter, to the present pope, who is said to be the 262nd member in that line. But the list is in many instances quite doubtful. The list has been revised several times, with a considerable number who formerly were listed as popes now listed as anti-popes. It simply is not true that they can name with certainty all the bishops of Rome from Peter to the present one. A glance at the notices of each of the early popes in the Catholic Encyclopedia will show that they really know little or nothing about the first ten popes. And of the next ten only one is a clearly defined figure in history. The fact of the matter is that THE HISTORICAL RECORD IS SO INCOMPLETE that the existence of an unbroken succession from the apostles to the present [pope] can neither be proved nor disproved.
The Claims of the Papacy
When the triple crown is placed on the head of a new pope at his "coronation" ceremony, the ritual prescribes the following declaration by the officiating cardinal:
"Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns, and know that thou art the Father of Princes and Kings, Ruler of the World, the Vicar of our Saviour Jesus Christ...." (National Catholic Almanac).
The New York Catechism says:
"The pope takes the place of Jesus Christ on earth...By divine right the pope has supreme and full power in faith and morals over each and the pastor and his flock. He is the true Vicar of Christ, the head of the entire church, the father and teacher of all Christians. He is the infallible ruler, the founder of dogmas, the author of and the judge of councils; the universal ruler of truth, the arbiter of the world, the supreme judge of heaven and earth, the judge of all, being judged by no one, God himself on earth."
And Pope Leo XIII, in his encyclical, The Reunion of Christendom (1855), declared that the pope holds "upon this earth the place of God Almighty."
The pope thus demands a submission from his people, and indeed from all people insofar as he is able to make it effective, which is due only to God. Sometimes that submission takes a particularly servile form, with even the cardinals, the next highest ranking officials in the Roman Church, prostrating themselves before him and kissing his feet! The popes have gone so far in assuming the place of God that they even insist on being called by His names, e.g., "the Holy Father," "His Holiness," etc. Such titles applied to a mere man are, of course, blasphemous and unchristian. We cannot but wonder what goes through the mind of a pope when people thus reverence him, carrying him on their shoulders, kissing his hands and feet, hailing him as the "Holy Father," and performing acts of worship before him. By such means this so-called “vicar of Christ" accepts the position of ruler of the world which the Devil offered to Christ, but which Christ spurned with the command, "Get thee hence, Satan!"
THE TRIPLE CROWN THE POPE WEARS SYMBOLIZES HIS AUTHORITY IN HEAVEN, ON EARTH, AND IN THE UNDERWORLD—AS KING OF HEAVEN, KING OF EARTH, AND KING OF HELL—in that through his absolutions, souls are admitted to heaven. On the earth he attempts to exercise political as well as spiritual power, and through his special jurisdiction over the souls in purgatory and his exercise of "the power of the keys," he can release whatever souls he pleases from further suffering; and those whom he refuses to release are continued in their suffering—the decisions he makes on earth being ratified in heaven.
It is impossible to denounce strongly enough the folly and guilt of such glorification of man. The papacy, however, is the direct consequence and end result of the exaltation of the priests as necessary mediators between God and men.
Mary's Place in Scripture
The apostles never prayed to Mary, nor, so far as the record goes, did they show her any special honor. Peter, Paul, John, and James do not mention her name even once in the epistles which they wrote to the churches. John took care of her until she died, but he does not mention her in any of his three epistles, or in the book of Revelation.
When the church was instituted at Pentecost, there was only one name given among men whereby we must be saved, that of Jesus (Acts 4:12). Wherever the eyes of the church are directed to the abundance of grace, there is no mention of Mary. Surely this silence is a rebuke to those who would build a system of salvation around her. God has given us all the record we need concerning Mary, and that record does not indicate that worship or veneration in any form is to be given to her. How complete, then, is the falsehood of Romanism that gives primary worship and devotion to her!
"MOTHER OF GOD"
The doctrine of "Mary, the Mother of God," as we know it today is the result of centuries of growth, often stimulated by pronouncements of church prelates. And yet the full-fledged system of Mariolatry is a comparatively recent development in Roman Catholic dogma. In fact, the last one hundred years have quite appropriately been called the "Century of Mariolatry."
As late as the fourth century, there are no indications of any special veneration of Mary. Such veneration at that time could begin only if one were recognized as a saint, and only the martyrs were counted as saints. But since there was no evidence that Mary had suffered a martyr's death, she was excluded from sainthood. Later, the ascetics came to be acknowledged as among the saints. That proved to be the opening age for the sainthood of Mary, for surely she of all people, it was alleged, must have lived an ascetic life! The church acknowledged that Christ was born of the virgin Mary. Apocryphal tradition built on those possibilities, and slowly the system emerged.
The phrase "Mother of God" originated in the Council of Ephesus, in the year 431. It occurs in the Creed of Chalcedon, which was adopted by the council which met in that city in 451, and in regard to the person of Christ, it declared that He was "born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God according to the manhood," which the latter term means: according to the flesh of human nature. The purpose of the expression as used by the Council of Ephesus was not to glorify Mary, but to emphasize the deity of Christ over against those who denied His equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Hence the term today has come to have a far different meaning from that intended by the early church. It no longer has reference to the orthodox doctrine concerning the person of Christ, but instead is used to exalt Mary to a supernatural status as Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Angels, etc., so that, because of her assumed position of prominence in heaven, she is able to approach her Son effectively and to secure for her followers whatever favors they ask through her. When we say that a woman is the mother of a person, we mean that she gave birth to that person. But Mary certainly did not give birth to God, nor to Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God. She was not the mother of our Lord's divinity, but only of His humanity. Instead, Christ, the second person of the Trinity, has existed from all eternity, and was Mary's Creator. Hence, the term as used in the present day Roman Church must be rejected.
In the life and worship of the Roman Church, there has been a long course of development, setting forth Mary's perpetual virginity, her exemption from original sin and from any sin of commission, and now her bodily assumption to heaven. In the Roman Church, Mary is to her worshippers what Christ is to us. She is the object of all religious affections, and the source whence all the blessings of salvation are sought and expected.
The Bible calls Mary the "Mother of Jesus," but gives her no other title. All that the Roman Church has to substantiate the worship of Mary is a sheaf of traditions entirely outside the Bible, telling of her appearances to certain monks, nuns, and others venerated as saints. At first glance, the term "Mother of God" may seem comparatively harmless. BUT, THE ACTUAL CONSEQUENCE IS THAT THROUGH ITS USE, ROMAN CATHOLICS COME TO LOOK UPON MARY AS STRONGER, MORE MATURE, AND MORE POWERFUL THAN CHRIST. To them, she becomes the source of His being and overshadows Him. So they go to her, not to Him. "He came to us through Mary," says Rome, "and we must go to Him through her." Who would go to "the Child," even to "the holy Child," for salvation—when His mother seems easier of access and more responsive? Romanism magnifies the person that the Holy Spirit wants minimized, and minimizes the person that the Holy Spirit wants magnified.
Furthermore, if the Roman terminology is correct, and Mary is to be Called God's mother, then Joseph was God's stepfather; James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas were God's brothers; Elizabeth was God's aunt; John the Baptist was God's cousin; Heli was God's grandfather, and Adam was God's 59th great grandfather. Such references to God's relatives sound more like a page out of Mormonism than Christianity.
The correct statement of the person of Christ in this regard is: As His human nature had no father, so His divine nature had no mother.
It is not difficult to trace the origin of the worship of the Virgin Mary. The early church knew nothing about the cult of Mary as it is practiced today; and we here use the word "cult" in the dictionary sense of "the veneration or worship of a person or thing; extravagant homage."
The first mention of the legend about Mary is found in the so-called Proto-Evangelism of James, near the end of the second century, and presents a fantastic story about her birth. It also states that she remained a virgin throughout her entire life. Tertullian, who was one of the greatest authorities in the ancient church, and who died in 222, raised his voice against the legend concerning Mary's birth. He also held that after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived in a normal marriage relationship. The first known picture of Mary is found in the Priscilla catacomb in Rome and dates from the second century.
Thus, the Christian church functioned for at least 150 years without idolizing the name of Mary. The legends about her begin to appear after that, although for several centuries, the church was far from making a cult of it. But after Constantine's decree making Christianity the preferred religion, the Greek-Roman pagan religions with their male gods and female goddesses exerted an increasingly stronger influence upon the church.
Thousands of the people who then entered the church brought with them the superstitions and devotions which they had long given to Isis, Ishtar, Diana, Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite, and other goddesses, which were then conveniently transferred to Mary. Statues were dedicated to her, as there had been statues dedicated to Isis, Diana, and others, and before them the people kneeled and prayed as they had been accustomed to do before the statues of the heathen goddesses.
Many of the people who came into the church had no clear distinction in their minds between the Christian practices and those that had been practiced in their heathen religions. Statues of pagan gods and heroes found a place in the church and were gradually replaced by statues of saints. The people were allowed to bring into the church those things from their old religions that could be reconciled with the type of Christianity then developing. HENCE MANY WHO BOWED DOWN BEFORE THE IMAGES OF MARY WERE IN REALITY WORSHIPPING THEIR OLD GODS UNDER A NEW NAME. History shows that in several countries, Roman Catholicism has absorbed local deities as saints, and has absorbed local goddesses into the image of the Madonna. One of the more recent examples is that of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a goddess worshipped by the Indians in Mexico, which resulted in a curious mixture of Romanism and paganism, with sometimes one, sometimes the other predominating; some pictures of the Virgin Mary, now appearing, show her without the Child in her arms.
As we have seen, the expression "Mother of God," as set forth in the decree of the Council of Ephesus gave an impetus to Mary worship, although the practice did not become general until two or three centuries later. From the fifth century on, the Mary cult becomes more common. Mary appears more frequently in paintings, churches were named after her, and prayers were offered to her as an intercessor. The famous preacher Chrysostom, who died in 407, resisted the movement wholeheartedly.
The spiritual climate of the Middle Ages was favorable to the development of Mary worship. Numerous superstitions crept into the church and centered themselves in the worship of the Virgin and the saints. The rosary became popular; poems and hymns were written in honor of the "god-mother." Stories of miracles performed by her started in response to prayers addressed to her.
In Romanism, Mary Usurps the Place of Christ
A striking phenomenon in Roman Catholicism is the effective way in which they have caused Mary to usurp the place of Christ as the primary mediator between God and men. Christ is usually represented as a helpless babe in a manger or in His mother's arms, or as a dead Christ upon a cross. The babe in a manger or in His mother's arms gives little promise of being able to help anyone. And the dead Christ upon a cross, with a horribly ugly and tortured face, is the very incarnation of misery and helplessness, wholly irrelevant to the needs and problems of the people.
Such a Christ might inspire feelings of pity and compassion but not of confidence and hope. He is a defeated, not a victorious, Christ. The Roman Church cannot get its people to love a dead Christ, no matter how many masses are said before Him or how many images are dedicated to Him. There can be no real love for Christ unless the worshipper sees Him as his living Savior, who died for him, but who arose, and who now lives gloriously and triumphantly—as indeed He is presented in Protestantism [genuine Christianity].
In the Roman Church, the people prefer a living Mary to a dead Christ. And the result is that THE CENTER OF WORSHIP HAS SHIFTED FROM CHRIST TO MARY.
This most blessed of women, the mother of Jesus, is thus made His chief rival and competitor for the loyalty and devotion of the human heart. Mary becomes the executive director of deity, the one through whom the prayers of the people are made effective.
Mary has nothing whatever to do with our salvation. All who think she does are simply deceived. And yet in Romanism, probably ten times as much prayer is directed to her as to Christ. The most popular prayer ritual of Roman Catholics, the rosary, has ten prayers to Mary for each one directed to God. The prayer book contains more prayers which are to be offered to Mary and the saints than to Christ. Mary is unquestionably the chief object of prayer.
In The Glories of Mary, Liguori pictures Christ as a stern, cruel Judge, while Mary is pictured as a kind and lovable intercessor. Among other things, Liguori says: "If God is angry with a sinner, and Mary takes him under her protection, she withholds the avenging arm of her Son, and saves him" (p. 124); "O Immaculate Virgin, prevent thy beloved Son, who is irritated by our sins, from abandoning us to the power of the devil" (p. 248)...
The same reasoning is found among Roman Catholics today. Christ still is looked upon as a stern judge. But Mary, being a mother, is looked upon as having a mother's heart and therefore as more capable of understanding the problems of her children. She can go to her Son with her requests and petitions, and He can never refuse to grant any favor that she asks.
But what a travesty it is on Scriptural truth to teach that Christ demands justice, but that Mary will extend mercy! HOW DISHONORING IT IS TO CHRIST TO TEACH THAT HE IS LACKING IN PITY AND COMPASSION FOR HIS PEOPLE, THAT HE MUST BE PERSUADED TO THAT END BY HIS MOTHER! When He was on earth, it was never necessary for anyone to persuade Him to be compassionate. Rather, when He saw the blind and the lame, the afflicted and hungry, He was "moved with compassion" for them, and lifted them out of their distress.
He had immediate mercy on the wicked but penitent thief on the cross, and there was no need for intercession by Mary although she was there present. His love for us is as great as when He was on earth; His heart is as tender; and we need no other intermediary, neither His mother after the flesh, nor any saint or angel, to entreat Him on our behalf.
Thus Christ, because He is both God and man, is the only Saviour, the only Mediator, the only way to God. Not one word is said about Mary, or a pope, or the priests, or the saints, as mediators.
The Assumption of Mary
The latest addition to the long list of Roman Catholic beliefs ("inventions" might be a more accurate term) came on November 1, 1950, with the ex cathedra pronouncement by Pope Pius XII from St. Peter's chair, that Mary's body was raised from the grave shortly after she died, that her body and soul were reunited, and that SHE WAS TAKEN UP AND ENTHRONED AS QUEEN OF HEAVEN. And to this pronouncement there was added the usual warning that "anyone who may henceforth doubt or deny this doctrine is utterly fallen away from the divine and Catholic faith." That means that it is a mortal sin for any Roman Catholic to refuse to believe this doctrine.
Thus Mary's body was miraculously preserved from corruption, and her resurrection and ascension are made to parallel Christ's resurrection and ascension. And she, like Him, is said to be enthroned in heaven where she makes intercession for the millions of people throughout the world who seek her assistance. This was a natural consequence of the 1854 pronouncement of the immaculate conception of Mary—a supernatural entrance into life, calls for a supernatural exit from life.
The Mass Definitions
"The Holy Eucharist: And while they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed and brake, and gave it to his disciples, and said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.' And taking a cup, he gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, ‘All of you drink this; for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the forgiveness of sins'" (Confraternity Version, Mat. 26:26-28).
In the New York Catechism, we read: "...The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross. Holy Communion is the receiving of the body and blood of Jesus Christ under the appearance of bread and wine."
The Nature of the Mass
The words in Mat. 26:26-28 and 1 Cor. 11:23-26, particularly the words, "This is my body," and "This is my blood," may seem to be quite simple and easy to understand. But the fact is that they probably are the most controverted words in the history of theological doctrine, and probably have caused more division within the church than any others.
It is surprising how many Protestants [Christians] do not understand the significance of the Roman Catholic mass. Some think of it as merely a church ritual and dismiss it as just another form of the Lord's Supper or holy communion. But that is far from being the case. For Protestants and Roman Catholics alike, the Lord's Supper or holy communion is a sacrament. For Protestants, it is a means of spiritual blessing and a memorial service, recalling to mind the glorious person of Christ and the great service that He rendered for us on Calvary. But for Roman Catholics, it is something quite different. FOR THEM IT IS ALSO A SACRIFICE, PERFORMED BY A PRIEST. And its sacrificial element is by far the most important. In fact, the sacrifice of the mass is the central point in their worship, while even the preaching of the Gospel is assigned a subordinate role, and is not even held to be an essential of the priestly office.
But what a miserable form of play-acting is all of that! What a poor substitute for the Gospel do the people depend on for eternal life! In contrast, how simple was the scene in the upper room as Christ instituted the Lord's Supper! In 1 Cor. 11:23-26, in just four verses, Paul outlines the whole simple service: The Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; He gave thanks; He broke the bread; and He gave it to them as a memorial of His body which was to be broken for them. Just four simple actions concerning the bread. Then two actions are recorded concerning the wine: He took the cup, and He gave it to them as a symbol of His blood which was to be shed for them. All that we are asked to remember is that He died to save sinners and that we are so to commemorate His death until He returns. But this simple event, the Church of Rome has magnified into the glaring, elaborate, showy pageantry and drama of the mass!
The word "transubstantiation" means a change of substance. The Church of Rome teaches that the whole substance of the bread and wine is changed into the literal physical body and blood of Christ. A Catechism of Christian Doctrine asks the question: "What is the Holy Mass?" and the answer is given:
"The Holy Mass is the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, really present on the altar under the appearance of bread and wine, and offered to God for the living and the dead."
The doctrine of transubstantiation and the power of the priests is clearly stated by Liguori in the following words:
"With regard to the power of the priests over the real body of Christ, it is of faith that when they pronounce the words of consecration, the incarnate God has obliged Himself to obey and come into their hands under the sacramental appearance of bread and wine. We are struck with wonder when we find that in obedience to the words of His priests—Hoc est corpus meum (This is my body)—God Himself descends on the altar, that He comes whenever they call Him, and as often as they call Him, and places Himself in their hands, even though they should be His enemies. And after having come, He remains, entirely at their disposal, and they move Him as they please from one place to another. They may, if they wish, shut Him up in the tabernacle, or expose Him on the altar, or carry Him outside the church; they may, if they choose, eat his flesh, and give Him for the food of others. Besides, the power of the priest surpasses that of the Blessed Virgin because she cannot absolve a Catholic from even the smallest sin" (The Dignity and Duties of the Priest).
The priest supposedly is endowed with power by the bishop at the time of his ordination to change the bread and wine into the literal living body and blood of Christ, which is then known as the "host," and to bring Him down upon the altar. And that body is said to be complete in all its parts, down to the last eyelash and toenail! How it can exist in thousands of places and in its full proportions, even in a small piece of bread, is not explained, but is taken on faith as a miracle.
IT MUST NOT BE SUPPOSED FOR A MINUTE THAT MODERN ROMAN CATHOLICS DO NOT LITERALLY BELIEVE THIS JUMBLE OF MEDIEVAL SUPERSTITION. They have been taught it from infancy, and they do believe it. It is the very finest doctrine of their church. It is one of the chief doctrines, if indeed it is not the chief doctrine, upon which their church rests. The priests preach it literally and emphatically several times a year, and Roman Catholic laymen do not dare express any doubt about it.
Jesus' words, "This do in remembrance of me," show that the Lord's Supper was not some kind of magical operation, but primarily a memorial, instituted to call Christians throughout the ages to remember the wondrous cross of the crucified Lord and all its marvelous benefits and lessons for us. A memorial does not present the reality, in this case His true body and blood, but something quite different, which serves only as a reminder of the real thing.
We often show a friend a photograph and say, "This is my wife"; "This is my son"; "This is my daughter." Such language is readily understood in ordinary conversation. Nobody takes such words literally. The Bible is written in the language of the common people. Hence, it is perfectly obvious to any observant reader that the Lord's Supper was intended primarily as a simple memorial feast, in no sense a literal reincarnation of Christ.
The Mass and Money
One very prominent feature of the mass as conducted in the Roman Church is the financial support which it brings in. It is by all odds the largest income producing ceremony in the church. An elaborate system has been worked out. In the United States, low mass, for the benefit of a soul in purgatory, read by the priest in a low tone of voice and without music, costs a minimum of one dollar. The high mass, on Sundays and holydays, sung by the priest in a loud voice, with music and choir, costs a minimum of ten dollars. The usual price for high mass is twenty-five to thirty-five dollars. THE HIGH REQUIEM MASS (AT FUNERALS), AND THE HIGH NUPTUAL MASS (AT WEDDINGS), MAY COST MUCH MORE, EVEN HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS [in the 1970's], depending on the number and rank of the priests taking part, the display of flowers, the music, candles, etc. Prices vary in the different dioceses and according to the ability of the parishioners to pay. No masses are said without money. The Irish have a saying: “High money, high mass; low money, low mass; no money, no mass.”
In regard to the various kinds of masses, there are (1) votive masses, made for various purposes, such as relief of one suffering in purgatory, recovery from sickness, success in a business venture, a safe journey, protection against storms, floods, droughts, etc; (2) requiem or funeral masses, in behalf of the dead; (3) nuptual masses, at marriages; and (4) pontifical masses, conducted by a bishop or other dignitary. Each of these is available in high or low mass, and at various prices.
On Purgatory Day, November 2 of each year, three masses are said, for the souls in purgatory and one for the "intentions" of the pope—which "intentions," we may assume, are directed for the good of the offerer. Every member of the church is urged to attend on that day. The priest of a church of 500 members may reasonably expect to take in from $500 to $5,000 on that day.
The most popular mass is that to alleviate or terminate the suffering of souls in purgatory. The more masses said for an agonizing soul the better. Sometimes ads are placed in church papers in which multiple or repeated masses are offered for a price. Purgatorial societies and mass leagues offer blanket masses recited for beneficiaries en masse, in which anyone who sends, say, $10, can secure for a departed soul a certain number of high masses celebrated daily for a month, or longer.
The present writer, who lives in Missouri, has for the past two Christmases received solicitations by mail from a priest and church in Maryland for a thousand masses, euphemistically called "spiritual bouquets," for the apparently reasonable price of $10. The need for such large numbers of masses, continued over long periods of time, surely casts doubt on the claim that the mass is of such high value in matters of salvation.
Historical Development of Mass
In view of the prominent place given the mass in the present day Roman Church, it is of particular interest to find that it was unknown in the early church, that it was first proposed by a Benedictine monk, Radbertus, in the ninth century, and that it did not become an official part of Romanist doctrine until so pronounced by the Lateran Council of 1215 under the direction of Pope Innocent III. It was reaffirmed by the Council of Trent in 1545. Transubstantiation is not mentioned in the Apostles' Creed, or in the Nicene or
Athanasian creeds. Its first creedal mention is by Pope Pius IV, in the year 1564.
The Nature of the Confessional
The Baltimore Catechism defines confession as follows:
"Confession is the telling of our sins to an authorized priest for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness."
"An authorized priest is one who has not only the power to forgive sins by reason of his ordination to the priesthood, but also the power of jurisdiction over the persons who come to him. He has this jurisdiction ordinarily from his bishop, or by reason of his office" (p. 315).
The important words here are "authorized priest." And to be genuine, a confession must be heard, judged, and followed by obedience to the authorized priest as he assigns a penance, such as good works, prayers, fastings, abstinence from certain pleasures, etc. A penance may be defined as a punishment undergone in token of repentance for sin, as assigned by the priest—usually a very light penalty.
Mortal and Venial Sins
The Roman Church divides all sin into two classes, making an important and elaborate distinction between so-called "mortal" and "venial" sins. Mortal sin is described as "any great offense against the law of God," and is so called because it is deadly, killing the soul and subjecting it to eternal punishment. Even after a penitent has received pardon, a large but unknown amount of punishment remains to be expiated in purgatory.
Venial sins, on the other hand, are "small and pardonable offenses against God, or our neighbor." Technically, venial sins need not be confessed since they are comparatively light, and can be expiated by good works, prayers, extreme unction, purgatory, etc. But the priests are not to be outdone by this technicality. The terms are quite elastic, and permit considerable leeway on the part of those who want to probe more deeply into the affairs of the penitent. It is generally advised that it is safer to confess supposed venial sins also, since the priest alone is able to judge accurately which are mortal and which are venial. The Baltimore Catechism (written, of course, by priests) says: "When we have committed no mortal sins since our last confession, we should confess our venial sins or some sin told in a previous confession for which we are again sorry, in order that the priest may give us absolution" (p. 329). What chance has a poor sinner against such a system as that?
THERE IS NO AGREEMENT AMONG THE PRIESTS AS TO WHICH SINS ARE MORTAL AND WHICH ARE VENIAL.. But they all proceed on the assumption that such a distinction does exist. What is venial according to one may be mortal according to another. If the pope were infallible in matters of faith and practice, as claimed by the Roman Church, he should be able to settle this important matter by accurately cataloging those sins which are mortal, as distinguished from those which are venial. But such a list, no pope has ever been able to produce. Instead, what they have is an elaborate system of compromise which is designed to promote the authority of the church, and to give a considerable amount of leeway to the priest as to what seems expedient in individual cases.
Sometimes violations of the rules of the church are treated as mortal sins, while transgressions of the commandments of God are treated as venial sins. All mortal sins must be confessed to the priest in detail, or they cannot be forgiven. The theory is that the priest must have all the facts in order to know how to deal with the case and what penance to assign. The real reason, of course, is to place the penitent more fully in the hands of the priest.
But the Bible makes no such distinction between mortal and venial sins. There is in fact no such thing as venial sin. All sin is mortal. It is true that some sins are worse than others. But it is also true that all sins, if not forgiven, bring death to the soul, with greater or lesser punishment as they may deserve. The Bible simply says: "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23), and there Paul was not speaking of any particular kind of sin, but of all sin. Ezekiel says: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (18:4). When James said, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is become guilty of all" (2:10), he meant, not that the person who commits one sin is guilty of all other kinds of sin, but that even one sin unrepented of, shuts a person out of heaven and subjects him to punishment, just as surely as one puncture of the eyeball subjects a person to blindness, or as one misstep by the mountain climber plunges him to destruction in the canyon below. In the light of these statements, the distinction between mortal and venial sins is shown to be arbitrary and absurd.
The Bible teaches that it is the privilege of every penitent sinner to confess his sins directly to God: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn. 1:9). What did the Lord Jesus say when He spoke of the Pharisee and the publican? The publican had no priest, and he did not go to a confessional. All he did was to cry with bowed head, "God, be thou merciful to me a sinner." He went directly to God. And Jesus said that he went down to his house justified (Luke 18:9-14). Indeed, why should anyone confess his sins to a priest when the Scriptures declare so plainly: "There is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus" (1Ti. 2:5)? And yet the priest presumes to say, "I absolve you," "I forgive your sins."
Nowhere do the Scriptures tell us that God appointed a special class of men to hear confessions and to forgive sins.
Rome's Teaching Concerning Purgatory
The Roman Catholic Church has developed a doctrine in which it is held that all who die at peace with the church, but who are not perfect, must undergo penal and purifying suffering in an intermediate realm known as purgatory. Only those believers who have attained a state of Christian perfection go immediately to heaven. All unbaptized adults and those who after baptism have committed mortal sin go immediately to hell. The great mass of partially sanctified Christians dying in fellowship with the church, but who nevertheless are encumbered with some degree of sin, go to purgatory where, for a longer or shorter time, they suffer until all sin is purged away, after which they are translated to heaven.
The Roman Church holds that baptism removes all previous guilt, both original and actual, so that if a person were to die immediately after baptism, he would go directly to heaven. All other believers, except the Christian martyrs but including even the highest clergy, must go to purgatory to pay the penalty for sins committed after baptism. The sacrifices made by the martyrs, particularly those that reflect honor upon the church, are considered adequate substitutes for the purgatorial sufferings.
The doctrine of purgatory rests on the assumption that while God forgives sin, His justice nevertheless demands that the sinner must suffer the full punishment due to him for his sin before he will be allowed to enter heaven. But such a distinction is illogical even according to human reasoning. For it manifestly would be unjust to forgive a criminal the guilt of his crime and still send him to prison to suffer for it.
The Roman Catholic people are taught that the souls of their relatives and friends in purgatory suffer great torment in the flames, that they are unable to help themselves, that not even God can help them until His justice has been satisfied, and that only their friends on earth can shorten or alleviate that suffering. Purgatory is supposed to be under the special jurisdiction of the pope, and it is his prerogative as the representative of Christ on earth to grant indulgences (i.e., relief from suffering) as he sees fit. This power, it is claimed, can be exercised directly by the pope to alleviate, shorten, or terminate the sufferings, and within limits it is also exercised by the priests as representatives of the pope. It is, of course, impossible, but that power of this kind could be abused even in the hands of the best of men. Vested in the hands of ordinary men, as generally must be the case, or in the hands of mercenary and wicked men, as too often has happened, the abuses are bound to be appalling. The evils that have flowed from this doctrine, and which are its inevitable consequences, means that it cannot be of divine origin.
History of the Purgatory Doctrine
The germ of what afterward grew into the doctrine of purgatory is to be found in the idea of a purification by fire after death among ancients long before the time of Christ, particularly among the people of India and Persia. It was a familiar idea to the Egyptian and later to the Greek and Roman mind. Plato accepted the idea and gave expression to it in his philosophy. He taught that perfect happiness after death was not possible until one had made satisfaction for his sins, and that if his sins were too great, his suffering would have no end. Following the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek influences spread through all the countries of western Asia, including Palestine.
We need only read church history to discover how this doctrine developed by slow processes into its present form. In the early Christian era, following the Apostolic age, the writings of Marcion and the Shepherd of Hermes (second century) set forth the first statement of a doctrine of purgatory, alleging that Christ after His death on the cross went to the underworld and preached to the spirits in prison (1 Pet. 3:19) and led them in triumph to heaven. Prayers for the dead appear in the early Christian liturgies and imply the doctrine since they suggest that the state of the dead is not yet fixed. Origen, the most learned of the early church fathers (died a.d. 254), taught, first, that a purification by fire was to take place after the resurrection, and second, a universal restoration, a purifying by fire at the end of the world through which all men and angels were to be restored to favor with God.The Money Motive in the Doctrine of Purgatory
Every year, millions of dollars are paid to obtain relief from this imagined suffering. No exact figures are available. In contrast with the custom in Protestant churches, in which itemized financial statements of income and expenses are issued each year, Roman Catholic finances are kept secret, no kind of budget or balance sheet ever being published which would show where their money comes from, how much it amounts to, how much is sent to Rome, how or where the remainder is spent. In this, as in other things, the people must trust their church implicitly.
THE DOCTRINE OF PURGATORY HAS SOMETIMES BEEN REFERRED TO AS "THE GOLD MINE OF THE PRIESTHOOD" SINCE IT IS THE SOURCE OF SUCH LUCRATIVE INCOME. The Roman Church might well say, "BY THIS CRAFT WE HAVE OUR WEALTH."
In general, it is held that the period of suffering in purgatory can be shortened by gifts of money, prayers by the priest, and masses, which gifts, prayers, and masses can be provided by the person before death or by relatives and friends after death. The more satisfaction one makes while living, the less remains to be atoned for in purgatory.
At the time of death, the priest is summoned to the bed of the dying person. He administers extreme unction, and solemnly pronounces absolution. Yet after death occurs, money is extracted from the mourning relatives and friends to pay for masses to be said in order to shorten the period of torment in purgatory. The result, particularly among ignorant and uneducated people, has been that the Roman Church sells salvation for money, not outwardly and directly, but nevertheless in reality.
It is due in no small measure to this doctrine of purgatory that the Roman Catholic Church has been able to amass large sums of money and to build magnificent cathedrals, monasteries, and convents, even in regions where the people are poor. This has been particularly true in the Latin American countries. It is a common experience in Mexico, for instance, to find in almost every town an impressive Roman Catholic church surrounded by the miserable huts of the natives.
Scripture’s Teaching on Purgatory
That the doctrine of purgatory is unscriptural can be shown easily. The Bible says nothing about any such place, and in fact the most devastating arguments against purgatory come from those inspired pages. Christ made not even so much as a passing allusion to purgatory. Instead He said: "He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life" (John 5:24)...And again: "And I heard a voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them" (Rev. 14:13).
Definition of Papal Infallability
The Vatican Council, which met in Rome, in 1870, defined the doctrine of the infallibility of the pope as follows:
"...We teach and define that it is a dogma divinely revealed that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of pastor and doctor of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith and morals to be held by the universal Church, by the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrines regarding faith and morals, and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff of themselves, and not by virtue of the consent of the Church, are irreformable."
To this pronouncement, there was attached the inevitable anathema of the church on all who dare to disagree:
"But if any one—which may God forbid!—presume to contradict this our definition: let him be anathema:"
In actual practice, however, the term "faith and morals" is broad enough and elastic enough to cover almost any and every phase of religious and civil life. Practically every public issue can be looked upon as having some bearing on faith or morals or both. The Vatican takes full advantage of this, and the result is that WITHIN THE ROMAN CHURCH ALMOST ANY STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE POPE IS ASSUMED TO BE AUTHORITATIVE.
Probably no other element of the papal system causes the Romanists more embarrassment than this doctrine of papal infallibility. In the first place, it asserts a doctrine that can be easily disproved, and in the second place, it serves to focus attention on the utter unreasonableness of the powers claimed by and for the pope. To Protestants, the whole ex cathedra business appears on the one hand, as particularly monstrous and vicious, and on the other, as just a big joke—a joke perpetrated on the Roman Catholic people who are so docile and unthinking and so poorly informed as to believe in and submit to such sophistry.
...Another catechism defines an indulgence more briefly as "a remission of that temporal punishment which even after the sin is forgiven, has yet to be suffered either here or in purgatory."
An indulgence, therefore, is an official relaxation of law which shortens or cancels one's sufferings which are due to sin, and it usually has reference to the sufferings in purgatory.
Indulgences are granted by the pope, who the Roman Church teaches has personal jurisdiction over purgatory; and they usually are granted through the priests in return for gifts or services rendered to the church or as a reward for other good deeds.
This release from punishment is said to be possible because the church has a vast treasury of unused merits which have been accumulated primarily through the sufferings of Christ, but also because of the good works of Mary and the saints who have done works more perfect than God's law requires for their own salvation. Thus, not only the suffering and death of Christ, but also the good works of Mary and the saints, are the grounds of forgiveness of sins. The church claims to be able to withdraw merits from that store and to apply them to any member of the church just as if he had suffered what was necessary for the forgiveness of sins.
Assurance of Salvation
The dying Roman Catholic, after he has done all that he can do and after the last rites have been given to him, is told that he still must go to purgatory. There he will suffer unknown torture, with no assurance as to how long it will continue, but with the assurance that if his relatives pay with sufficient generosity, his suffering will be shortened.
But what a contrast with all of that is the death of the true believer, who has the assurance that he goes straight to heaven into the immediate presence of Christ! What a marvelous blessing is the evangelical faith, both in life and at the time of death!
The Council of Trent even pronounced a curse upon anyone who presumed to say that he had assurance of salvation, or that the whole punishment for sin is forgiven along with that sin. Such assurance is pronounced a delusion and a result of sinful pride. Rome keeps her subjects in constant fear and insecurity. Even at death, after extreme unction has been administered and after thousands of rosary prayers have been said "for the repose of the soul," the priest still cannot give assurance of salvation. The person is never "good enough," but must serve in purgatory prison to be purified of venial sins before he can be admitted to the celestial city. No one can be truly happy without the assurance of salvation; and particularly in spiritual matters, a state of doubt and uncertainty is a state of misery.
A very curious thing happened in connection with the death of Pope Pius XII, in 1958. His personal physician, Dr. Galeazzi-Lisi, shortly afterward wrote an article for publication in a Rome newspaper in which he described "the agonizing death of Pope Pius XII," and told of the POPE'S FEAR AND INSECURITY REGARDING THE FUTURE. But the article met strong disapproval on the part of the church authorities. COPIES OF THE NEWSPAPER WERE CONFISCATED BEFORE THEY COULD BE DISTRIBUTED, AND DR. GALEAZZI-LISI WAS PROMPTLY DISMISSED FROM HIS POSITION. Dr. Walter M. Montano, at that time editor of Christian Heritage, recalled that when Pope Benedict XV died in 1922 a similar report was given of his death...
Such is the background of ritualism and superstition against which the Roman Catholic people have to struggle. Forms and ceremonies and rich clerical vestments impress the eye, but they deaden the soul to spiritual truth. They are like opiates in that they take the attention of the worshipper and cause him to forget the truths they were originally intended to convey. By absorbing his attention, they tend to hide God—rather than to reveal Him. And the people, like wide-eyed children at a circus [perhaps even a carnival/fair], see the showy ritualism, but nothing of the shoddy meanness that lies behind it.
Multitudes of Roman Catholics, ensnared in a religion that teaches salvation by works and merit, are searching for the truth that makes men free. [True Christianity] Protestantism has that truth, due largely to its emphasis on the reading and study of the Bible. That truth is set forth as a life to be lived, not as a formula or a ritual. Its emphasis is upon a change of heart and a life of fruitful service.
A System Tested By Its Fruits
The Roman Church has long boasted that she never changes—Semper Idem, "Always the Same," is her motto. We accept that motto at face value, not that she has not changed or added to the Christian faith which she inherited from the apostolic church, for she certainly has done that; but that the Roman Church has now been frozen into a definite pattern from which she cannot change and which is basically the same today as it was in the days of the Inquisition...SHE CHANGES HER METHODS, BUT NOT HER SPIRIT.
In view of what the Roman Church teaches her children in the parochial schools concerning her mission as the only true church, her right to suppress all other religions by force if necessary, together with her political and economic policies in those lands where she presently is in control, WHY SHOULD ANYONE DOUBT THAT A NEW INQUISITION MERELY AWAITS THE SUPREMACY OF ROMAN POWER when it will again burn and pillage and slaughter the "heretics"—all in the name of religion as it did in the earlier ages?
It is hard to believe that Christianity actually has in its record the dark chapters of persecution that we read of. But the facts cannot be denied.
The Christian method of promoting the faith is persuasive, kind, and peaceable. It seeks to win people by love and by the power of truth. As Dr. Woods has said:
"Persecution on account of religious belief is both foolish and wicked. It is foolish because the use of force never makes an honest man change his beliefs. His convictions are really deepened by suffering for conscience sake. Only weak men yield to persecution, and are made hypocrites by it; they profess to change their faith merely to escape torture. It is wicked because it is unjust and cruel. Torture, imprisonment, confiscation of property, disgrace, and death, not only cause suffering to the individual, but also to his innocent family and friends" (Our Priceless Heritage, p. 181).
[Christianity] Protestantism does not fear competition. It does not need to persecute. It believes that true religion is too strong to be shaken by the attacks of atheists, doubters, or advocates of rival religions. It asks no special aid from the state, either to suppress its rivals or to pay its bills, but only to be left free, that it may present its case openly and fairly. No Protestant persecutions have even remotely approached those of the Inquisition in Spain, the extermination of the Waldensians in Italy, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in France, or the recent slaughter in Yugoslavia, to mention only a few.
We have now examined the distinctive features of Roman Catholicism and have found that each one of them is false and truly formidable in its consequences of leading people astray from the Gospel. These things have been shown to be not peripheral, but to concern the very heart of the Christian message as set forth in the New Testament. To an unbelievable extent, Rome has apostatized from the faith. While she has been so quick to hurl the epithet "heretic" at others, she herself is honeycombed with heresies.
ALL OF THIS IS A STRONG INDICTMENT OF THE ROMAN SYSTEM. BUT IT IS NO STRONGER THAN THE FACTS JUSTIFY. How incredible that a religious system so obviously false as judged by the standard of Scripture should attain such power, hold that power for centuries, and be so widespread as the Roman system is today!
We have attempted to show that the Achilles heel of Romanism is the false theological basis on which the system rests, and that the strength of evangelical Protestantism is its rigid adherence to what the Scriptures teach.
The time has come to put aside false tolerance and to LET THE WORLD KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT ROMANISM. The public has been duped too long, and it must be given the facts that it may know what is true Christianity and what is falsely so called. Before the true Christian doctrines of the evangelical faith can be accepted, the false and unscriptural doctrines of Romanism must be bluntly exposed and its superstitions destroyed. [Christian] Protestants must be made to see the great danger that threatens them. The hierarchy makes no secret of the fact that it is out to "make America Catholic." The Knights of Columbus, at the direction of the hierarchy, spend millions of dollars for propaganda in newspaper and magazine advertising. The hierarchy seeks to gain control, and to a remarkable degree is gaining control, by placing its agents in key positions in the government, the press, radio, television, movies, education, and labor movements, all over the nation. AND FOR THE MOST PART PROTESTANTS ARE FAST ASLEEP!
We must, therefore, be prepared to engage in controversy. The Scriptures exhort us to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 1:3). We must carry the battle to our adversaries. Not one Roman Catholic in a hundred, priest or layman, knows the true story of his own church. They are forbidden to read the truth. What they are given under the name of "Catholic Truth" is a gross perversion of theology, church history, science, and secular history. There are millions of Roman Catholics who were born and raised in that church but who find its doctrines of Mariolatry and papal dominance repugnant to the Scriptures, to common sense, and to all concepts of freedom and democracy. There are millions who haven't been to mass for years and who are quite ready to say that they do not believe the doctrines of their church. Many of these can be won to the Gospel. Yet they are almost completely ignored, or even shunned, by Protestants.
The condition of the present day Roman Church would seem to be in many ways similar to that of Judaism at the time of Christ. There was much truth in Judaism, and there were many sincere believers among the people. But, the priesthood was largely indifferent to the needs of the people, as were the ruling classes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. Like the Roman priests, the Jewish priests withheld the Word of God from the people, and their chief concern was their own advancement. The primary opposition that Christ encountered came from the priests, and it was they whom He denounced most severely, as it was also they who were primarily responsible for having Him put to death. Similarly, in the Roman Church, the priesthood has departed so seriously from the simplicity of the Gospel, and the teachings of the Bible have been so thoroughly covered over with manmade rituals and canon laws that the features of the apostolic church are hardly recognizable.
The admonition in Scripture is: "By their fruits ye shall know them." Surely the fruits of Romanism as they have been manifested throughout history and in the various parts of the world are sufficient to disprove its arrogant claim that it is "the only true church." Indeed, when seen at its best, it is a badly deformed type of Christianity, and when seen as it more often manifests itself, in lands where it has long been dominant, it is primarily not a church at all, but a gigantic business and political organization that merely uses religion as a cloak. In those lands, it makes little effort to hide its greed for power and its avarice for wealth. It victimizes first of all its own people, and then all others who come under its sway. In general, it has sought to weaken or destroy free governments. Its traditional policy toward other churches and other Christians who do not acknowledge its authority has been one of bitter opposition, oppression, and, when expedient, PERSECUTION, WITH TENS OF THOUSANDS HAVING BEEN PUT TO DEATH FOR THEIR FAITH AND MILLIONS MORE SUBJECTED TO UNSPEAKABLE PHYSICAL TORTURE AND MENTAL ANGUISH. Such actions are contrary to the teachings of the Bible, and they certainly are not the marks of the true church. Its interpretation of the Scriptures is so erroneous and its practices are so persistently unchristian that over the long period of time, its influence for good is outweighed by its influence for evil. It must, therefore, as a system, be judged to be a false church.