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Rome and Sin
T HE ROMISH doctrine in regard to sin is on the whole the most dangerous, deceptive, and deleterious of any of the dogmas propagated by that church. It is not in harmony with the teachings of Holy Scripture respecting sin, nor is it in its practical working conducive to the highest state of morals. It encourages a degree of laxity in certain lines of moral conduct that militates against the unbuilding of a Christian character after the pattern of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Rome teaches that there are two kinds of sin—mortal and venial. The former is deadly and exposes the soul to eternal punishment, the latter is of trifling moment, such as little deceptions, fibs, idle foolish words, petty thefts, etc., etc. Such sins need not be confessed to the priest, as they only subject one who dies in that state to the fires of purgatory. The doctors of the church, however, have always been sorely puzzled concerning the dividing line between the two kinds of sin. And well they may be, for being of the same nature, and both springing from the same root, they are kith and kin.
There is a passage in Baroness Von Zedtwitz's new book, "The Double Doctrine of the Church of Rome," relevant to this subject, and worthy of being quoted. The "Baroness," before her marriage, was Miss Caldwell, of Philadelphia, Pa., who founded the Roman Catholic University of Washington, D.C. In view of her wealth, literary culture, and high social position, she was brought into close contact with the Roman prelacy in America and Catholic countries of Europe. Even in America in her "early girlhood", she had serious misgivings in regard to the "Unchristian conduct of almost all the prelates with whom she came in contact," but "never ceased to hope and believe that when womanhood had ripened her judgment, those apparent inconsistencies would be fully explained."
But when she came to travel abroad in Catholic countries, especially the seat and centre of Roman power, her eyes were fully opened to the "true inwardness" of the papacy. She says, "Romanism, to be understood, must be traced to its source, and it is to the College of Cardinals in Rome, and the 'Propaganda,' one must look for the true confirmation of its spirit."
"Revolt," she says, "was the inevitable result of my search for enlightenment, and I struggled to be free; but from the desert waste of Esoteric Catholicism but few can find the true path back to Christianity, and mine was a long and dreary search." Finally, after a patient, persistent, prayerful sincere search after the truth, she records this decision : "IN THE NAME OF CHRIST, WHOSE PURE IMAGE HAD BEEN LONG BLURRED BY DROSS OF POPERY, IN THE NAME OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND DUTY, I CAST FROM ME WHAT WAS LEFT OF THE GARB OF ROMANISM, AND RESOLVED TO STAND BEFORE MY GOD, AS AN UPRIGHT, [EVEN] IF AN UNCLOTHED SOUL."
The following is the quotation referred to: "The standard of veracity in the Church of Rome differs seriously from that used by moralists in general. The principal and most influential guide upon questions of morals, in the Roman Catholic Church, is always Alphonsus de Liguori, who is not only a saint of the Church (since 1836), and declared by the fact of his canonization to be perfectly sound in all his doctrine, but is also a ‘Doctor' of the same Church (since 1871), which means that he is one whose teaching deserves to be accepted and followed by everyone. His work on Moral Theology is accordingly the standard now in use, and the others currently employed adopt its principles. Here is what he lays down on the subject of speaking the truth. ‘Every kind of equivocation or quibbling which comes short of direct lying, but is intended to deceive the hearer, and does in fact deceive him, is always lawful for 'a just cause.'" An example of each kind will help to make the matter plainer. A man asked if a particular thing be true, which he knows to be true, but does not wish to admit, may lawfully reply: "I say, No," meaning thereby only, "I utter the word, No," and not, "I declare the thing did not happen." This and many others of a similar character are put by Liguori himself (Theol. Mor., IV.: 151-167).
On turning to the words of Jesus in the Gospel we find a very different interpretation of those sins that the Roman Church calls venial. Says Jesus: "Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil;" "I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment, For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
And Saint Paul gives expression to some very plain truths to certain Christians to whom he wrote concerning those sins that Romanists count venial. Says he: "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient." Place this bugle-blast of Paul in the interest of sincerity and truth against the deceptive Romish casuistry of Liguori: "Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy we faint not, but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty; not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God."
Innumerable quotations and illustrations from the Bible might be given to show that the Romish idea of sin has no foundation in the Word of God. The heart is the seat of all sin. "Out of the heart," says Jesus, "proceed evil thoughts;" "He that committeth sin," says the Apostle John, "is of the devil." Sin is the transgression of the law. All unrighteousness is sin. And the Holy Spirit has come into the world to convict of sin. All sin is of the devil.