THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH is by far the largest and wealthiest of all the so-called "Christian Denominations." It has consistently claimed to be the only true Church--the Church which was founded by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. In addition, especially in this generation, it has embellished its image and attracted and held members by the claim that it is the one Church which has never changed, All of these claims are false. However, in recent years, the Roman Catholic Church has done a complete about-face, actually boasting of the many changes it has instituted to meet the changing needs of Catholics and non-Catholics alike in this modern age.
Is the Roman Catholic Church the one true Church? Are its past and present teachings and practices Scriptural? How has the Roman Catholic Church changed through the centuries? How much has it changed in our lifetime? Have these changes been basic or superficial? Where is the Roman Catholic Church headed?
The purpose of this article is to turn the spotlight of truth upon Roman Catholicism both as to its past history and present teachings. Our sincere desire is to be of help to Catholics, many of whom are well aware that, in recent years, their church has been Instituting many changes, most of which have left them confused, uncertain, and deeply troubled. For the first time in their lives, many Catholics are raising serious questions about their Church, its leaders, its teachings and its practices. They now realize that their church is not united but divided over issues such as birth control, abortion, divorce, celibacy for priests, women clergy, gay clergy, Papal infallibility, prayer, worship, music, purgatory, confession and even the meaning of the Mass. The moral degeneracy and financial scandals which have rocked the Charismatic movement have also been exposed in the Roman Catholic Church, all the way from the Vatican to the local parish. Confusion reigns supreme and Catholics who take their religion seriously don't know which way to turn.
A source of further confusion for many is the fact that for centuries Roman Catholics were taught that all those outside its membership were heretics to be shunned, persecuted or even killed. It was not until the middle of this century that the Roman Catholic Church modified and softened its stand by first calling non-Catholics, "separated brethren." More recently, even that negative connotation has been eliminated so that today, Catholics are to consider "all Christians" to be "brothers and sisters in Christ."
Also See The Two Faces of Catholicism
However, these changed outward attitudes on the part of Roman Catholics toward non-Catholics, and their increasing usage of evangelical terminology, has unfortunately resulted in many evangelicals mistakenly believing that the basic false doctrines and heresies of Romanism have changed, something that simply is not true. Thus, both Catholics and non-Catholics alike should take a fresh look at Biblical, historical and current look-at this largest supposedly Christian denomination in the world. If it is the one true Church as it claims to be, then every believer in Christ should become a part of it. But, if it is and always has been a false church, then all who truly believe the Bible and trust Jesus Christ as Saviour will separate from it, warn about it, and urge others to do likewise.
Through our extensive radio and literature ministries, it has been a great blessing to hear from many former Roman Catholics who have been delivered from the bondage of the false doctrines of Romanism; who have experienced the new birth by faith in Jesus Christ alone; and who are doing their best to reach their Catholic loved ones and friends with the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. At the same time, it has been a real heartache to realize that so many non Roman Catholics who profess to know Christ as Saviour, have been deceived by the new attitudes and vocabulary of Catholicism so that the Roman Catholic Church is now being accepted by many evangelicals as a sister church with only minor differences rather than the false church which it actually is.
The Truth About the Roman Catholic Church is that it always has been and continues to be a false church. Those Biblical doctrines it professes to believe and teach are vitiated by Roman Catholic dogma based upon tradition which contradicts God's holy, infallible Word, the Bible. Error is never more deceptive than when it is presented with a veneer of truth. Throughout its entire history, Roman Catholic leaders fit the description of the false teachers who God warned in advance would come on the scene in the last days, deceiving many by their "feigned' (pretended or hypocritical) words... their "great swelling words of vanity, " as described in 1 Peter 2:1.-3, 18, 19,
Before examining and refuting some of the well known false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, it is essential to understand that two basic false teachings of Roman Catholicism (even apart from its many other errors), clearly classify it as a religious cult rather than a true church. These two basic errors are:
First- Roman Catholicism, although teaching that the Bible is the Word of God, adds the spurious apocryphal books to the Scriptures, and also elevates church tradition and the edicts of popes and councils (the words of men), to the same or an even greater level of authority than the Word of God. This amounts to adding to the Word of God, thereby placing Roman Catholicism under God's curse. Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18, 19.
Second- Roman Catholicism, although teaching that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation, actually denies the truth of the Gospel by adding sacraments, good works, and purgatory as additional requirements for forgiveness of sin and eternal life. This amounts to the preaching of a false Gospel which places the Roman Catholic Church under God's curse. Gal. 1:6-10. (For more information see The Catholic Catechism in this section.
Thus, by Scriptural standards, the Roman Catholic Church is a false church which can only expect God's judgment, not a true church which can claim God's blessing. No amount of outward change should be permitted to obscure this fact.
As for the claims of the Roman Catholic Church that its history can be traced back to Jesus Christ, Peter, or the other apostles, such claims lack both historical and Scriptural support. The true Church of Jesus Christ was not founded upon Peter, but upon Peter's confession of Christ's deity as recorded in Matthew 16:16: ".. Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. " Peter was not the first pope nor is there any Scriptural justification whatever for such an office. Peter's own inspired testimony as to his position and ministry is given in I Peter 5:1-4. He further identifies himself in 2 Peter 1:1 as "a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ....' History confirms the fact that there were no popes in the early church nor even in the Roman Catholic Church during the first centuries of its existence.
Furthermore, the long-held claim that the Roman Catholic Church was the only church which never changed is not supported by church history not even Roman Catholic history. How sad to realize that this false claim influenced so many to join or to stay in this false church which actually is the product of centuries of changes. Most of these changes came as a result of yielding to heathen customs and practices which were subsequently incorporated into Roman Catholic teachings and worship. The following is a partial list of heathen, unscriptural practices which became a part of Roman Catholic dogma over a period of seventeen centuries. Some of the dates given are approximate. In many cases, these heresies were even debated for years before being given the status of required beliefs:
1 . Prayers for the dead .
2. Making the sign of the cross
3. Veneration of angels & dead saints
4. Use of images in worship
5. The Mass as a daily celebration
6 Beginning of the exaltation of Mary; the term, "Mother of God" applied a Council of Ephesus
. 431 A.D.
7 Extreme Unction (Last Rites)
8. Doctrine of Purgatory-Gregory 1
9. Prayers to Mary & dead saints
10. Worship of cross, images & relics
11 Canonization of dead saints
12. Celibacy of priesthood
13. The Rosary
15. Transubstantiation-Innocent III
16. Auricular Confession of sins to a priest
17. Adoration of the wafer (Host)
18. Cup forbidden to the people at communion
19. Purgatory proclaimed as a dogma
20. The doctrine of the Seven Sacraments confirmed
21 Tradition declared of equal authority with Bible by Council of Trent
22. Apocryphal books added to Bible
23. Immaculate Conception of Mary
24, Infallibility of the pope in matters of faith and morals, proclaimed by the Vatican Council
25. Assumption of the Virgin Mary (bodily ascension into heaven shortly after her death)
26. Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church
Although some of the preceding Roman Catholic heresies are now being questioned by many, both inside and outside the church, none have been officially repudiated and all continue to be practiced by millions of Catholics around the world. The urgent need today is for Roman Catholics; yes, and all who claim to be Christians, to examine their own beliefs and the teachings of their churches by the only sure standard-the Bible. Whatever contradicts, adds to or subtracts from the sixty-six books of the Old and the New Testaments, is error no matter how many may cling to it.
Roman Catholics who read the Bible will soon discover that many Catholic teachings and practices are specifically forbidden by Jesus Christ Himself. Note carefully the following warnings given by the Lord Jesus Christ to the religious leaders of His day concerning vain worship, vain tradition and vain repetitions. All of these are particularly applicable to Roman Catholicism today.
Vain Worship -In Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus said,
'This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the command men of men." (Emphasis added)
All worship is indeed vain when it is based upon the commandments of men rather than the Word of God.
Vain Tradition- In Matthew 15:6b, Jesus said, 'Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition." (Emphasis added)
(Note): Valid tradition is based upon Scripture and confirms it. Vain tradition is based upon man's teachings and violates it. In Roman Catholicism, tradition is consistently elevated above the Scripture which results in vain worship (no matter how sincere) and makes the commandment of God of no effect-a very serious matter.
Vain Repetitions- In Matthew 6:7, Jesus said, "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking." A basic part of Roman Catholic worship is the frequent repetition of The Rosary whose origin is clearly tied to heathen religions such as Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism. Roman Catholics should listen to the words of Christ forbidding vain repetitions, rather than using the vain repetitions of Catholicism.
During the past forty years, at least three important trends in the Roman Catholic Church are clearly observable. These are: (1) A greater emphasis upon the place of Mary. (2) A major emphasis upon ecumenical activities with a view to seeking the full visible unity of all religions. (3) The acceptance of the so-called Charismatic renewal within the Church with new emphasis upon the claimed "ministry of the Holy Spirit." There is every reason to believe that all of these major trends will continue and increase; and, all of them are very deceptive, very dangerous, very unscriptural. See The Two Faces of Catholicism
The place accorded Mary in the Roman Catholic Church is not Scriptural nor is it new, but it cannot be denied that, during the last one hundred years, veneration of Mary has dramatically increased, Note in the historical chart given earlier in this article that the exaltation of Mary and the term, Mother of God, became official Catholic dogma in 431 A.D.). with prayers to her proclaimed in 600 A.D. But, note also that the "Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary" was not proclaimed until 1854; her "Assumption" not until 1950; and her title "Mother of the Church" not until as recently as 1965. See Mary Worship
Some Roman Catholic observers believe it may not be much longer until Mary is officially proclaimed "Co-redemptrix with Christ." In fact, the premier issue of a new Roman Catholic publication, Catholic Heritage (Vol. 1, No. 1, Sept.-Oct. 1991) has the front page title: "Mary, Mother of the Church," and, in a Question and Answer column, the question is asked, "At the foot of the cross, Mary shared in the mystery of the passion. True or False? Answer: True. Mary united her sorrows to those of hey Son. The sorrowful and immaculate heart of Mary bled with her Son for all of mankind. For this reason, we invoke her under the title of Co-redemptrix."
All of the popes during the past thirty years have done their part to increase the influence of Mary in the Roman Catholic Church based completely on tradition rather than upon the Bible. In the August 28, 1975 issue of the official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Paul VI, speaking of the ceremony celebrated the day before in St. Peter's in honor of the Madonna at the Feast of the Assumption of Mary said,
"Her venerated image, known as Salus Populi Romani' was carried in procession from St. Mary Major's as part of the Holy Year ceremonies, so that the overflow crowd of pilgrims, coming from all parts of the world, could see it and thus increase their devotion to her. In this way we should all be reminded of the meaning and practice of the cult of Mary, inseparable from the unique and central cult of Christ
Let us pray to her with humble, trusting and childlike faith."
Did you know that the present pope, John Paul II, has dedicated himself completely to Mary? In 1985, during his visit to Vancouver, B.C., the special souvenir edition of B. C. Catholic carried a full I page color photo of the pope under the caption, Totus Tuus which, in Latin, means" all yours ."The following explanation was given, "When Karol Wojtyla was consecrated bishop of Cracow by Pius XII in 1958 he took, 'Totus Tuus' (all yours) as his motto, thus presenting himself to Mary. In his first Urbi et Orbi message immediately after being elected pope he said, "At this difficult hour, full of fear, we must turn our thoughts with filial devotion to the Virgin Mary who always lives in the midst of Christ and exists as his mother. We must repeat the words, Totus Tuus which 20 years ago were inscribed into our heart and soul."' See Mary Worship
Pope John Paul II has visited many of the major Shrines to Mary. He attributed his escape from death at the hands of a would-be assassin and the overthrow of communism in Eastern Europe to the intervention of Mary. Millions of Catholics are making pilgrimages to the various Marian shrines, seeking and often claiming miracles of healing and answers to their prayers to Mary. New apparitions of Mary and special messages from her are being claimed in various parts of the world. Yet, there is absolutely no Scriptural foundation for any of these beliefs or practices. Mary was indeed a virgin (pure sexually) so that she could fulfill the Old Testament prophecy that Christ would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14). She was a godly woman, but not sinless. As with all true believers in Christ, when Mary died, her soul and spirit went to heaven, but her body awaits the resurrection; she did not bodily ascend to heaven as did Jesus Christ. Nothing in Scripture indicates that prayers were ever offered to Mary nor that she was worshipped by anyone. Most of Roman Catholic teaching concerning Mary is based entirely on human tradition and contradicts the Bible, the Word of God.
The present ecumenical emphasis and activities of the Roman Catholic Church are also of recent origin. When Vatican Council I was held in 1869-1870, the invitation of the pope to the Orthodox Churches to participate was refused; and, his public appeal to "Protestants and all non-Catholics" to return to the only true fold" received resentful refusals. However, in the intervening years it became increasingly obvious to the Roman Catholic hierarchy that their church needed some serious updating, particularly with regard to relationships with other churches. In 1960, Pope John XXIII established the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity; and, in 1962, he convoked Vatican Council II which he called "An ecumenical council for the universal church." Also See The Two Faces of Catholicism
Less than a year later, Pope John XXIII died, but his successor, Pope Paul VI, who had attended four sessions of Vatican 11 before becoming pope, did everything possible to continue and expand the ecumenical emphasis. His expressed position was that the Roman Catholic Church could best demonstrate the validity of its teaching, not by condemnation or severity, but with the "medicine of mercy." His emphasis was upon "working for the full visible unity in truth among all Christians" and that this unity should extend also to non-Christians. This new approach of Vatican 11 was successful in gaining the co-operation of the major Orthodox Church bodies as well as 38 delegated observers from almost all the major Protestant denominations. Of course, Pope John Paul 11 has expanded the ecumenical emphasis in the Roman Catholic Church to unprecedented heights. While this has received high praise from religious leaders and denominations, the kind of unity sought by the Roman Catholic Church is contrary to the Bible. All unity purchased at the expense of doctrinal purity is satanic and deceptive. 2 Cor. 6:14-18, Eph. 5:11, 2 Tim. 3:1-17; 4:1-8. All who join hands in ecumenical fellowship with those who preach a false Gospel are under God's curse. Gal. 1:6-10.
The Roman Catholic Church was infiltrated by the false teachings and unscriptural practices of the Charismatic Movement in the early 1960's. Its influence within Roman Catholicism is growing rapidly. As always, the devil has a very clever way of compounding error while giving the results a more respectable appearance. Space limitations prevent a more comprehensive consideration of its past and present approaches but we have prepared other articles providing important details to all who might be interested in knowing why the Charismatic Movement and its teachings are so deceptive and dangerous. Once this movement became entrenched in the Roman Catholic Church, RCC leaders were quick to see that it would be to their advantage to encourage these teachings rather than to oppose them. They discovered that they could use the Charismatic doctrines and practices to help build the Roman Catholic Church by considering it a logical and needed "renewal movement within the church." An added factor was that those who had supposedly experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit felt a greater love and respect than ever for the Roman Catholic Church, including the Mass, the other sacraments, the veneration of Mary and all the other false teachings of Roman Catholicism. Many people are attracted to the displays of hearings, miracles, and other supposed demonstrations of Holy Spirit presence and power, not realizing that if this were a true ministry of the Holy Spirit it would lead them to a recognition and repudiation of the false teachings of Roman Catholicism. The Charismatic Movement, both within and outside of the Roman Catholic Church is not a movement of the Holy Spirit, but of a false spirit. John 16: 7-14; 2 Cor. 11:13-15.
Adding to the religious confusion of our day is the inconsistent, compromising position taken by the world's two outstanding evangelical leaders, Billy Graham and Dr. Bill Bright. Both of these men now praise and work with ecumenical apostates, charismatic deceivers and Roman Catholics which represents a complete reversal of their original, Biblical positions. Both are widely respected and have charming personalities, but their present willingness to work with anybody who "calls Jesus, Lord" completely ignores the warning Christ gave in Matthew 7:21-23. target="_blank" onClick='alert("ON-site link will open in a new window. To return here, simply close the new browser window.")'Billy Graham now sends Catholics who make "decisions" in his crusades back to the Roman Catholic Church with no warning of the false Gospel it preaches. Bill Bright even has Roman Catholics on his Campus Crusade staff. Both men thus disobey the Bible.
What about the Mass which lies at the very heart of Roman Catholic theology and worship? Is its observance based upon Scripture or Catholic tradition? What does Roman Catholicism teach as to its meaning and importance?
The Baltimore Catechism says: "It is a mortal sin not to hear Mass on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation, unless we are excused for a serious reason. They also commit mortal sin who, having others under their charge, hinder them from hearing Mass without a sufficient reason."
The Creed of pope Pius IV, an official creed of the Roman Catholic Church says, "I profess that in the Mass is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice (that is, a sacrifice which satisfies the justice of God and so offsets the penalty for sin) for the living and for the dead; and that in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist there is truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that there is a conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood, which the Catholic Church calls Transubstantiation."
The Council of Trent declared: "The sacrifice (in the Mass) is identical with the sacrifice of the Cross, inasmuch as Jesus Christ is a priest and victim both. The only difference lies in the manner of the offering, which is bloody upon the cross and bloodless on our altars"; and, in Canon I stated: "Whosoever shall deny that in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist there are truly, really, and substantially contained the body and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, together with his soul and divinity, and consequently Christ entire, but shall affirm that he is present therein only in a sign and figure, or by his power, let him be accursed.,,
But what does the Bible say concerning the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the Cross?
Hebrews 10:10-14, "By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man [Jesus Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God,- From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. "
What a difference there is between what the Bible teaches and what Roman Catholicism believes and teaches regarding the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross! The supposed continual offering up of Christ by the priests negates His finished work on the Cross. The Bible says, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." I Peter 3:18.
Roman Catholicism makes salvation a long, complicated process with no assurance of eternal life and forgiveness of all sin; to faith in Jesus Christ is added Baptism, the Mass, Confession, prayers to Mary and the Saints, good works, and purgatory. By contrast the Bible teaches salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone, not by sacraments, prayers or works. Eph. 2:8, 9; Titus 2:13. Bible salvation is God's free gift to any sinner who believes with the heart that Christ died for his sins and rose again for his justification. I Coy. 15:1-4; Rom. 10:9-13. Bible salvation gives immediate assurance of eternal life. I John 5:10-13. Carefully read and believe John 1: 12; 3:1618; 3:36; 5:24; 14:1-6; 20:30, 31. No church ever saved anyone, but Christ can and will save everyone who will come and trust Him as their Saviour. Acts 4:12; John 6:37; 10:27-30. Trust Christ today and be saved for all eternity! See Salvation
[By M.H. Reynolds, reprinted from
Foundation Magazine, Vol. XIII, Issue 1]
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