An Ex-Catholic's Perspective on Catholicism

Though I don't feel I'm qualified to do an indepth analysis of Catholic theology and practice, not having been involved with that church for over 30 years, I was raised as a Catholic all the way through the Vatican II changes until college when I was saved and became an Evangelical Christian. Catholicism today has perhaps changed a bit for the better from the time in which I left that church. I know that it is presently more ecumenical, though I'm not sure whether Catholics today are more informed of what the Bible teaches.

Religious Elitism

As I see it Catholicism is a hyperinstitutionalized version of Christianity and as such has suffered many shortcomings from that fact. (See also The Shortcomings of Institutionalized Christianity) Its ecclesiology goes more by the model of a Levitical priesthood than by the New Testament model. And so also it has carried along with it the trappings of legalism which Jesus and his apostles criticized. In Catholicism there is an elitist division between clergy and laity which though present to some extent in Protestant churches is even more so in the Catholic church. Indeed in a discussion with a defender of the Catholic elite, he said, "There is a big difference between an ordinary Catholic, and a Catholic who is educated in their faith." He of course is saying that "ordinary Catholics" are not educated in their faith. Why is it that ordinary evangelical Christians are much more educated in their faith - much more knowledgable about the Bible - than the "ordinary Catholic"? Doesn't that say something?

It could be argued that Catholic priests at various times throughout history are really not much different than the priests and Pharisees of Jesus' time who sought to put him to death. But of course much like the Pharisees, lacking humility, the Catholic elite are not open to criticism. Consider for example how Jesus speaks of them in Matthew 23 which among other things says, "And do not call anyone on earth Ďfather,í for you have one Father, and he is in heaven." Jesus spoke against the usage of elitist titles. Yet Catholic priests not only take on the title father, but even capitalize it to "Father so-and-so". So also they dress in religious garbs so as to once again distinguish themselves from ordinary Catholics.  Ordinary Catholics generally don't know much about Catholicism because they're not supposed to. How many Catholics have actually read the Vatican II documents? Before Vatican II even the Mass itself was in Latin, and ordinary Catholics generally don't read the Bible, let alone study it. That's the priest's job. They are not allowed to interpret the Bible. The Church is supposed to do that for them. And so why should they read the Bible if they are not allowed to interpret it? The teachings of the Catholic church are quite vague from my standpoint. I remember having been a Catholic for many years, faithfully going to mass, if someone asked me what exactly a person had to do to go to heaven I couldn't tell him. It had been my experience that the church didn't even tend to speak on such essential subjects.

A friend of mine converted from Catholicism and his mother who remains a Catholic told her priest about it. The priest told her that because her son left the Catholic church, she was going to hell. I guess he got that idea from a misinterpretation of 1Tim 2:15"But women will be saved through childbearingó if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety." And so since my friend didn't continue in the Catholic faith, his mother was reckoned as lost. I don't know if that's the official Catholic position. In fact I doubt that priest even knows as Catholic theology is so vague.

More recently I've been in discussion with a Catholic speaking on behalf of the Catholic religious elite, and the overinflated view such people have of their kind and contempt for non-Catholic Christians is quite evident. Overlooking his derogatory comments, I've updated this page responding to some of his opinions. The word "Church" he primarily uses to denote not the whole of the Christian community, nor even the whole of the Catholic community, but rather exclusively of the religious elite in the Catholic church.

In contrasting Biblical faith with the Catholic faith he advocated I would generally say that  Biblical faith is being convinced that what the Bible says is true, not because the Bible says it, but because what the Bible says is convincing. In contrast to this Catholic faith is believing what the Catholic church teaches just because the Catholic church teaches it.

What Constitutes The Word of God?

In my discussion with him I mentioned that Paul letters, for example, were written to ordinary Christians to understand and apply. In religious elitest fashion he objected to such an idea and went on to say that Paul wrote to church leaders mostly. Of course if you actually read the New Testament letters you find quite the contrary. Only his letters to Timothy and Titus could be characterized in that manner, but such is the attempt to divert the Bible away from the public.

But more significantly the Catholic hierarchy believe that it is their exclusive authority to determine what constitutes the Word of God. In attempting to downlplay the role of the Bible in the developing saving faith so he can exalt man-made Catholic dogma in its place he says, "No where does Scripture say the Christian faith is based solely on a book." His argument is that people can't just read the Bible and believe and be saved. They have to have the Catholic church explain to them what it means or else they will not be able to develop saving faith. This in contrast to what the Bible says, "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ."Rom 10:17 And what is the message? "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Rom 10:9 While the Catholic church may object, that is what the Bible says.

Contrary to the Catholic idea that what constitutes "the Faith" has been evolving through Catholic councils over the ages, the Bible says, "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints." Jude 1:3 Once for all time what constitutes the faith had been delivered to the saints, of which we can read in the Bible. Catholicism attempts to change the faith. Jude goes on, "For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." Jude 1:4 Catholicism changed the gospel into something it is not.

Concerning Paul's letters he says, "Paul didn't even think they were Scripture." Now let's compare that proposition with what Paul actually said:

Ac 13:46  Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.
Notice that Paul already knew what the Word of God was and the he was preaching it.
1Th 2:13  And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
Paul believed his words were the very words of God.
Col 1:25  I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullnessó
Peter of course also acknowledges Paul writings as scripture as well.
2Pet 3:16 He (Paul)  writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Now the Catholic elite demand that their interpretation be not scrutinized but be accepted as infallible. But what does the Bible say of such a proposition? Even Paul considered it a noble thing that people subject his writings to scrutiny.
Acts 17:11  Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
While the Catholic elite make the baseless proposition that only their interpretation of the Bible is legitimate, many of us ordinary Christians find not only their attitude but many of their interpretations to be at odds with what the Bible says. If their interpretation is to be considered the infallible Word of God then why does even their Bible end with Revelation - a first century letter? Interpretations and other propositions such as the assumption of Mary and her sinlessless are not even in the Catholic Bible.

Listen you Catholic elitist types. Listen to the Word of the Lord through Paul:

"Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lordís command." 1Cor 14:36,37
Does all this sound that Paul didn't know that he was speaking the Word of God?

Furthermore the Catholic elite type says to me, "Scripture is not mandatory"  Well it seems that most Catholics get that message loud and clear. How many of them view the scriptures as mandatory to their Christian life?

Maryology

When I was saved in college I read through the New Testament. It seemed completely different than Catholicism. One thing that struck me was where's all the stuff about Mary? Nowhere from Romans to Revelations is Mary every mentioned. And from the few times she is mentioned in the gospels and in Acts there's no doctrine teaching nor implying the Catholic Maryology dogma. The Catholic church makes a big deal about Mary. They practically made her into a goddess. The Bible doesn't make a big deal about her.

Mary's Sinlessness?

For example one Catholic doctrine of Mary was that she herself was born without original sin - nor did she even sin in her lifetime. This contrary to many verses like "No one is good but One, that is, God." Mark 10:18; "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Rom 3:22;  "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." Ecc 7:20 They based their doctrine not on the Bible but the reasoning that Jesus could not have been born sinless if his mother was a sinner. But in fact the Bible indicates that God has no problem inhabiting sinful vessels. For He lives in us, sinners justified by faith. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit - 1Cor 6:19 But let's follow this Catholic line of thinking. Now if Mary was sinless, then her mother "logically" must also have been sinless, if we make the Catholic assumption that a sinner cannot bear a sinful person. But wait a minute - that means that Mary's grandmother, greatgrandmother and all the way back to Eve must have been sinless. And what about the fathers? Now granted that Jesus' father was God, but not so with Mary's father, grandfather, and so forth. So using catholic logic since the embryo is compose of sperm and egg, for it to be sinless both parents must be sinless - again all the way back to Adam. So the catholic line of thought would lead us to believe that sin in the line of Adam and Eve was never a problem to begin with as sin never entered the world.

Mary's Perpetual Virginity?

Most Catholics are ignorant of the fact that the Bible seems to indicate that Mary lost her virginity to Joseph after Jesus was born. Matthew 1:24,25"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son." Joseph was commanded to take Mary as his wife. But Mary would not have been his wife if they had not consummated the marriage. For though it is true that the Jews had a betrothal period prior to consummation in which they were called husband and wife, it was presumed the two would become one flesh - that is, they would engage in sex. Notice that prior to Jesus being born Luke speaks of Joseph as being pledged to be married, "He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child." Luke 2:5 For they had yet to consummate the marriage. Notice how Jesus defines marriage in Mt 19:5 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?  But if they never had become one flesh - that is they never had sex - they were never legitimately married. Indeed why need Joseph even marry her at all? The prophecy the angel alludes to of a virgin giving birth could just as well fulfilled if she were unmarried altogether.  But the command to get married incorporates in it a command to have sex.  Therefore the ďuntilĒ is to be interpreted in its normal sense, indicating at what point they started having sex.  When do Catholics teach that Mary and Joseph become one flesh? They teach that they never became one flesh.  And thus they were never actually married in a Biblical sense as Jesus taught.

In contrast to this here's what a Catholic theologian wrote to me:

It was because in Jewish culture this would have meant that Joseph acknowledged biological fatherhood over Jesus. Because he refused to do this he was saying in essence that he did not accept Jesus as his biological son though he would accept him as his legal son. By refusing to consummate his marriage with Mary he was in conformity with the Jewish Law. By not having intercourse with Mary before the birth of Jesus he is acknowledging in principle that he was also forbidden to have intercourse with her thereafter. A woman found to be with child that is not her husbandís is forbidden forever more to him and to the man who impregnated her. (In fact, a woman caught in adultery is likewise penalized.) Under Jewish law, because Mary was found to be with child before she had consummated her marriage to Joseph she was forever forbidden to him. He could keep her as his wife but he was not allowed intimate relations with her. Had Mary born any children after Jesus she would have been stoned to death under the Law. Had Joseph claimed those children to be biologically his, he would have been stoned to death also.
Thatís completely bogus! What Jewish Law was he in conformity with? There is no such law. At the least the Law indicates divorce in such circumstances (which is what Joseph had considered before the angel showed up), and at most the penalty was death. But under Jewish law the penalty CERTAINLY WAS NOT being forced to be married to the woman without ever being able to have sex. Itís a complete Catholic fabrication. And what is this foolishness about being stoned to death if she had other children!!! And not only that but Joseph being stone to death as well!!  The Law of Moses says nothing of the kind.

And so also it was spoken of Jesus, "Isnít this the carpenterís son? Isnít his motherís name Mary, and arenít his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? ? And His sisters, are they not all with us?" Matt 13:55,56

And so also the Catholic Church never teaches how at one time Mary though Jesus was crazy. "Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'" Mark 3:20,21 Then if we continue on to verse 31 when they actually arrived it says: Then Jesusí mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you." "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked.  Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does Godís will is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:31-35 Now we understand the sense of what Jesus meant. For at this point his mother and brothers were not doing the will of God in attempting to take him away from his ministry. And we see further evidence in John 7 that his brothers held him in contempt. This was kind of a rebuke, an insult to Mary who came to interfere with his mission. Who did Jesus say was his "mother" here? He looked away from Mary and look at those seated around him and viewed them as his mother instead. We can at least deduce from this that Jesus didn't make a big deal about his mother Mary. And certainly didn't make her into a goddess as the Catholic Church has done.  And when it comes to incidents like this where she is not doing God's will she is less than no big deal. In view of her behavior here Christ wouldn't even acknowledge her as his mother until she repents.

Secondly when Jesus said, "Whoever does Godís will is my brother and sister and mother" this brings up the idea of members of a common household - an immediate family. This issue was intimacy with Jesus. I don't read this as saying "Whoever does Godís will is my second cousin twice removed on my father's side". I read this as one's immediate family, the members of whom grow up in a common household.

Blessed Among Women

One justification Catholics may give for their idolatrous veneration of Mary is the fact that she was "blessed" in bearing the Messiah.

Luke 1:41 "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"
Luke 1:48 "From now on all generations will call me blessed."
But Jesus said that lots of people are blessed, yet Catholics don't likewise worship them.
Luke 6:20 Blessed are you poor
Luke 6:21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
Luke 6:21 Blessed are you who weep now
Luke 6:22 Blessed are you when men hate you
1Peter 1:14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you.
But in contrast notice Jesus response to this idea of Mary's blessedness.
While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed." But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it." Luke 11:27,28
Thus in contrast to hearing and doing the Word of God, Jesus thought little of the blessedness of his mother bearing him - and so also his followers. For the New Testament authors speak very little of Mary.

Praying to Mary and consulting the dead

As I will mention further on, the occultic practice of the Catholic church to pray to dead people is contrary to the Bible. Praying to Mary - a dead woman - through their Rosary prayer is the primary example of this occultic practice. But also is the practice of consulting the dead. Deut 18:11 "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead." Yet Catholic mediums claim to have had visions of Mary who spoke to them and instructed them to do such things as pray the Rosary and to build her a temple and also in accordance with their practice of necromancy they claim this dead woman foretells the future that the God will consecrate Russia to her. She is as the Catholic's goddess. And if they need guidance to find something they lost they will pray to Saint Anthony - the saint of lost things. Indeed the list of Catholic saints reads like a list of Chinese kitchen gods. Indeed the saints would have to be omnipresent gods if they were to hear all the catholics praying to them.

Catholics try to justify speaking to the dead saying that they are not dead, whereas they are actually physically dead. But since they are alive in spirit in the afterlife, therefore Catholics feel justified in praying to them. But besides violating the principle of Deut 18:11, there is no instruction or example in the New Testament of praying to dead saints. Some bring up the transfiguration incident. But Jesus is Lord of the dead and the living and thus it doesn't apply to him. Secondly consider the state they are spoken of being in. For dead saints are spoken as being asleep. If they are asleep, they are not listening to you. They don't have contact with what goes on here. Consider Luke 16 concerning how Jesus portrayed the afterlife in the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Did Lazarus have contact with the world? Could he hear people praying for him? No. He would have to be raised from the dead.

The Queen of Heaven?

Many Catholics refer to Mary as "the Queen of Heaven".

"She has been appointed by God to be the Queen of heaven and earth", Pius IX, 1854

Oh yes, the Bible does refer to the "Queen of Heaven". Mary worshippers are like the people Jeremiah spoke of saying, "The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger." Jeremiah 7:18

Co-Redeemer?

Pope Benedict XV, in 1918 - "Mary suffered with Christ and nearly died with Him when He died, thus she may rightly be said to have redeemed the human race with Christ."

Pope Pius XI, in 1923 - "The virgin of sorrows shared the work of redemption with Jesus Christ."

Pope Leo XIII, in 1891 "No one can approach Christ except through His mother."

Bishop of Asti: 'the dogma of the singular privilege granted by the Divine Redeemer to His pure mother, the Co-redemptress of the world.'

Bishop of Gallipoli wrote, 'the human race, whom the Son of God, from her, redeemed; whom, together with Him, she herself co-redeemed.'

Pope John Paul II "Membership in the Militia means complete dedication to the Kingdom of God and to the salvation of souls through Mary Immaculate."

Pope Benedict XV: "One can justly say that with Christ, she herself redeemed mankind."

St. Germanus: "No one is saved but through Mary."

Pope Pius IX: "Our salvation is based upon the holy Virgin..."

Idolatry

This leads into the subject of Catholic Idolatry. Of course they don't consider it idolatry, but for example I remember a ceremony in the Catholic church where they bring out a six foot crucifix and Catholics line up to kiss the feet of the idol. Catholics pray to statues and religious trinkets. Why else would a year old grill cheese sandwich sell for $28,000 on ebay just because it allegedly contained an image of the virgin Mary? 
Let us consider when Satan made the proposal to Jesus, "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." To which Jesus responded, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ĎWorship the Lord your God, and serve him only.í" Matt 4:9,10 That should be our response to those who would try to get Christians to bow down to idols. As a Catholic I used to have a crucifix hanging on my wall but when I was saved I took it down, smashed into pieces and threw it away. Concerning the worship of "holy relics", in John 3 Jesus made reference to the serpent on the rod which Moses had made in accordance with God's command in Number 21:8,9 as symbolic of his coming death on the cross. Yet rather than bow down and worship it, Hezekiah "broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it." 2Kings 18:4 And it is written of his action "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD." And let Catholics take heed to the warning in Psalm 115:4-8  "But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see;  they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell;  they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats.  Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them." For we take on the characteristics of what we worship.

And as for praying to dead people for help and guidance, it is written "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead." Deut 18:10,11 It is an occultic practice to replace God as the one whom we should be praying to with a dead woman or other dead saints.  "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."1Timothy 2:5 Nor are there any examples in the Bible advocating praying to dead saints.

Concerning the worship of heavenly beings, the apostle John himself was corrected twice on this matter:

Rev 19:9,10  Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God." At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!

Rev 22:8,9  I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"

And while Catholics may deny worshipping angels, Peter also gave the same instruction concerning veneration of saints:
As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself." Acts 10:24,25
While all the standard arguments catholics use for "venerating" (as they call it) the saints could be applied to the action of Cornelius here, Peter reveals that such action to be inappropriate.  So who are these Catholic priests to instruct Christians otherwise? While the Pope has people bow to him and kiss his ring, Peter would not stand for such a thing. Yet Catholics will kneel to statues of the saints like Peter and Mary. What's up with that? Their idea of honoring the saints is like Chinese ancestor worship. There seems little difference between how Catholics worship God and how they "venerate" the saints.

But ordinary Catholics are not allowed to discern for themselves how the Bible should be applied. They are not allowed to disagree with Church authorities. Blindly they follow these blind guides.

Ornate Buildings

There are a number of corrupting effects which have been generally characteristic of institutionalizing Christianity. But such effects are more clearly evident in the hyper-institutionalized versions of Christianity - namely Catholicism and the Orthodox churches.

The snobbish religious elistist attitude among the institutionally elite itself is one such effect. A number of others are the obsession of form over function, religious rituals over worshipping in spirit, programs over people, and in this case wasting money on ornate buildings rather than meeting the real needs of people.

While Christians in the New Testament didn't obsess over such things - even meeting primarily in homes, and reckoning what constitutes the "Church" to be the Christian community, we can credit hyper-institutionalize Catholicism for the misconception that the "Church" is the building. Thus for a Catholic to direct resources away from the poor and needy in order to waste on their ornate buildings to house their religious elite types, they do so with the idea they are serving Christ.

The catholic elite type I mentioned says that this is not even an option but rather, "the Lord commands us to build elaborate places of worship." This they allegedly base on 1 Kings 6,7,8 concerning the building of the temple in Jerusalem. And they further justify this saying, "We create our churches with beauty because Christ our King lives in the churches in the blessed Eucharist." Notice as I said he uses word "church" to refer to the building - as opposed to the people. And it seems he thinks Christ lives in their piece of bread which the building houses - but apparently not in the Christians themselves. The Bible says, "God does not dwell in temples made by hands." Acts 17:24 They fail to realize is that while God had them build a temple, that temple in Jersulam was to be the only such building of its kind. This was for the Old Covenant - for the Jews - not Christians. Jesus spoken to the Samaritan woman of John 4 of a transition to take place concerning buildings and monuments and "places of worship" saying, "a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." It seems the Catholic religious elite are not the kind of worshippers God seeks. Further Paul writes, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you." 1Cor 6:19  "And Donít you know that you yourselves are Godís temple and that Godís Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys Godís temple, God will destroy him; for Godís temple is sacred, and you are that temple." 1Cor 3:16,17 But Catholics appear to be ignorant of this concept. Yet they invoke Matthew 26 about the woman who anointed Jesus for his burial as a justification for wasting money on ornate buildings. For them the building is the Church. Anointing the building with ornate designs is anointing Christ. But for the rest of us who actually read the Bible we see the apostles "wasting" themselves not on building buildings, but rather wasting themselves on the Christian community. Col 1:24 "Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christís afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church."

Tradition vs. The Word of God

While Catholics may think that Catholicism is Biblical, in fact much of it is driven by post-Biblical traditions and doctrines of men some of which are contrary to the Bible itself, as I point out throughout this web page. And concerning a number of such traditions I would say to them as Jesus said, "you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that." Mark 7:13 That was the primary reason for the Reformation. Catholicism feels the fact that things were "handed down" validates such traditions. But Jesus was speaking against things which were in fact "handed down" which nullified the word of God. Catholicism had deviated significantly from Biblical Christianity for which the Pope has recently to some degree apologized. But even the Reformation didn't go far enough. It took many generations to sift out the leaven of Catholic theology and yet still we can find traces of it in versions of Protestant Christianity.

Catholic Historical Legitimacy and the Reformation

Just like the Orthodox, Catholics also may try to justify their version of Christianity as the true legitimate form by pointing out its post-Biblical historic nature, claiming that Protestant theology didn't start until the 1500's. But first of all Catholic history has little to be proud of. Until recent days, the history of Catholicism is similar to the attitudes and practices of the religious elite who crucified Christ and persecuted Christians. In fact those same Jewish religious leaders could have made the same claim to the historical continuity of their version of Judaism, to whom Jesus appears as a "Protestant" you might say. Just as Christianity came out of Judaism, so also the Protestant Reformation came out of Catholicism. For Christianity is the true spiritual Judaism and Protestantism a more Biblical form of Christianity than Catholicism. Judaism had gotten off track, and so had Catholicism.

The Pope

Who is the head of the Catholic church? I think the vast majority of ordinary Catholics would answer "The Pope".  (And much as the official church position may deny that sort of rhetoric, where do you think ordinary Catholics got that impression from?)  But Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:18 say that Christ is the head of the church. The idea of instituting a Papal authority is simply unBibilical. Though they claim that the Pope is the successor of Peter, have they ever read the book of Acts? Peter did not behave as a Pope figure. And there was not the kind of heirarchical structure in the New Testament church as there is in Catholicism. Peter was given the keys to the kingdom mentioned in Matthew 16:19 to open heaven to the Jews, the Samaritan and the Gentiles and this he did in Acts chapter 2 when he preached to the Jews at Pentecost, and in Acts 8 to the Samaritans, and in Acts 10 to the Gentile Cornelius. But having unlocked the gates of the Kingdom to these people groups by preaching the gospel, the keys no longer serve a function. And thus as we read in Acts Peter's role becomes less significant as the Lord uses Paul to establish the Church among the Gentiles, while Peter stayed most of the time in Jerusalem. Notice what Paul says in Galatians, "On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles." Not only was most of the book of Acts about Paul's ministry, but also most of the New Testament letters were written by Paul, while Peter only had two, one of which was addressed to Jewish believers. Nor did Peter oversee Paul's ministry. In fact at one time Paul had to rebuke Peter. (See Galatians 2) So much for "Papal Infallibility".

The papal authority structure is contrary to the model that Jesus presented. What kind of apostles did Jesus chose? He didn't chose those who went by religious titles, dressing in religious garbs and holding religious positions. He chose ordinary working men who were even looked down upon by the religious elite. Furthermore when Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders did he not instruct them saying, "I have not coveted anyoneís silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.  In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ĎIt is more blessed to give than to receive.í" Acts 20:33-35 But the religious leaders in the Catholic church don't follow this example. They get paid for their service.

Religious Eunuchs

And what is this idea that religious leaders must be unmarried. For Catholic priests and nuns aren't allowed to marry. While such an option as remaining single is advocated by Paul in Romans 7 to help free one from unnecessary distractions, it was only optional and not required for positions of leadership. Many Catholics seem unaware that the apostle Peter himself was married. Matthew 8:14  "When Jesus came into Peterís house, he saw Peterís mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever."1Cor 9:5 "Donít we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lordís brothers and Cephas (Peter)?" Furthermore 1Tim 3:1,2 says "if a man seeks the office of an overseer {Or, bishop}, he desires a good work.  The overseer therefore must be without reproach, the husband of one wife ..." But the married are not allowed to serve in such positions in the Catholic church.

Forgiveness

As I said, "there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." 1Timothy 2:5 Priests usurp the authority of God by claiming to have the power to absolve people of their sins. The ordinary Catholic is taught that to be forgiven of sin they have to confess to a priest and then the priest can absolve the person of sin. They get it from an elitist interpretation of John 20:23  "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." But this concept actually applies to all Christians and not just to the apostles. (See also the Biblical Forgiveness study)

Catholicism holds that as a requirement of salvation you have to confess your sins to a Catholic priest ALONE. By this doctrine it excludes from salvation all non-Catholic Christians.

FOURTEENTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF PENANCE: "If anyone denies that sacramental confession was instituted by divine law or is necessary to salvation; or says that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always observed from the beginning and still observes, is at variance with the institution and command of Christ and is a human contrivance, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance, Canon 7). Council of Trent

Penance vs. Repentance

Catholicisms rejects the Biblical concept of the forgiveness of sins and institutes a penance system in its place.
FOURTEENTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF PENANCE: "If anyone says that God always pardons the whole penalty together with the guilt and that the satisfaction of penitents is nothing else than the faith by which they perceive that Christ has satisfied for them, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance, Canon 8). Council of Trent
Catholicism teaches penance. The Bible teaches repentance. Repentance is a change of attitude and behavior away from sin. Penance is the absolution a priest grants after confession and  for example what the priest tells you to do afterwards complete the absolution of your sin, which they refer to as "imposing satisfaction" - namely knelling at the altar and saying so many "Hail Marys" and so many "Our Fathers" as if they were sort of magical incantations. As it is Jesus teaches against vain repititious prayers. But as for "satisfaction", Christ's atoning work on the cross is God's satisfaction. Not some vain repetition of prayers.

The Eucharist - An Idol

Catholics claim the Eucharist is the corporeal Christ. And as such they make it into an idol.The "corporeal" Christ is contrary to scripture. Christ came in the flesh, died and was resurrected. He then ascended to heaven and will not return in corporeal form until the second coming. To reckon the Eucharist to be Christ - to worship it - is idolatry.

Furthermore the Bible says, "Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them." Heb 13:9 and yet Catholicism teaches the eating of this piece of bread, which is their "Christ", is essential to one's sanctification.

The Mass - A Levitical Sacrifice

The following are quotes from a Catholic web site which states the Catholic position concerning the Mass.
http://www.therealpresence.org/eucharst/link/e-litur.html
"The Sacrifice of the Mass is not merely an offering of praise and thanksgiving, or simply a memorial of the sacrifice on the Cross. It is a propitiatory sacrifice which is offered for the living and dead, for the remission of sins and punishment due to sin, as satisfaction for sin and for other necessities."

"whereas on Calvary, this sacrificial adoration was bloody, causing Christ's physical death by crucifixion, in the Mass the same Jesus is now sacrificing Himself in an unbloody manner because he is now glorified, immortal, and incapable of suffering or dying in His own physical person."

"in the Mass the same Jesus Christ who offered Himself on Calvary now offers Himself on the altar"

Or if you'd like more official statements by the Catholic church, the following are statements of the Council of Trent which met in the 1500's as a Catholic reaction against the Protestant reformation.
TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS: "If anyone says that in the mass a true and real sacrifice is not offered to God; or that to be offered is nothing else than that Christ is given to us to eat, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 1).

TWENTY-SECOND SESSION, CANONS ON THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS: "If anyone says that the sacrifice of the mass is one only of praise and thanksgiving; or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross but not a propitiatory one; or that it profits him only who receives, and ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on the Sacrifice of the Mass, Canon 3).

CHAPTER II: THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS IS PROPITIATORY BOTH FOR THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

And inasmuch as in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner the same Christ who once offered Himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross, the holy council teaches that this is truly propitiatory and has this effect, that if we, contrite and penitent, with sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence, draw nigh to God, <we obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid.>[10] For, appeased by this sacrifice, the Lord grants the grace and gift of penitence and pardons even the gravest crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. The fruits of that bloody sacrifice, it is well understood, are received most abundantly through this unbloody one, so far is the latter from derogating in any way from the former. Wherefore, according to the tradition of the Apostles,[11] it is rightly offered not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those departed in Christ but not yet fully purified.

For more statements by the Council of Trent see http://www.blessedquietness.com/journal/housechu/trent.htm

What Jesus intended by the Last Supper which later became communion, was a commemoration of his death, and not a sacrament.  It's written in 1Cor 11:23-26  For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,"This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lordís death until he comes.

The bread of communion, which Catholics refer to as the eucharist, has no inherent magical powers to do anything. Communion was supposed to be a meal eaten in the manner of the Last Supper commemorating Christ's death until he comes. But Catholicism has turned it into an occultic ritual, or a Levitical sacrifice in which the priest crucifies Christ each week and turns him into a piece of bread. And Catholics partake of it to get their share of Christ for that week. And then next week they'll crucify Christ all over again. (And if you attend a Catholic mass, listen carefully to the words of the priest when he's going through this ritual. For while the phrase has changed over time and from church to church, this is the exact phrase I learned growing up in my catholic church as I recall, "Accept this offering made by our hands to the praise and glory of your name" Yet it is written in Heb 6:6 "if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." Yet week after week they crucify the Son of God all over again. Of Levitical priests it is written, "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins." But of Christ it is written, "But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." Heb 10:11,12  and "Unlike the other high priests, he (Christ) does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, (or week after week) first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself." Heb 7:27

Is the Kingdom of God 
a Matter of Eating and Drinking?

The Mortal Sins of Catholicism

Under Catholicism "mortal sins" are those for which you will go to hell if you do not confess them to a catholic priest. For example if you fail to take Holy Communion, that is a mortal sin. This in contrast to the Bible which says, "the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" Rom 14:17 Another mortal sin is "Missing Mass on Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation without a serious reason". Another, "Intentional failure to fast or abstain on appointed days." And how about this one, "Requiring employees to work on Sunday in non-essential occupations" - that's a mortal sin. Furthermore their Councils also declare:

Canon XVIII. IF any one, under pretence of asceticism, shall fast on Sunday, let him be anathema.

Canon XXIX. CHRISTIANS must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lordís Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.

Amazing! They declare it's a sin to rest on the Sabbath! So they both condemn those who don't observe their holy days, and condemn those who observe the Sabbath rest. This in contrast to the Bible, "do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day." Col 2:16 and "One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." Rom 14:5

Catholic Ecumenicalism and Islam

While there are positive aspects of the present atmosphere of Catholic Ecumenicalism post Vatican II, yet they go too far in embracing the god of Islam and reckoning Muslims among the saved.
"The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day." Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 841
But Muslims don't hold the faith of Abraham as they reject the Biblical Christ, and replacing him with a false Islamic Jesus. The Catholic embracing of Islam reveals their ignorance, either of Islam or of the Bible (See also Islam and the Bible)

Purgatory

Concerning it's position on purgatorial suffering, I have similar objections to the Catholic position as I have against the purgatory theology of the Local Church. Both hold similar positions, which I've commented upon elsewhere.

Baptism

Catholicism holds a legalistic view concerning water baptism, like the group of the circumcision do of circumcision. (Galatians),  and rejects all other Christians, like baptists, who view baptism in accordance with the Bible.
SEVENTH SESSION, CANONS ON BAPTISM: "If anyone says that in the Roman Church, which is the mother and mistress of all churches, there is not the true doctrine concerning the sacrament of baptism, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on Baptism, Canon 3). Council of Trent
SEVENTH SESSION, CANONS ON BAPTISM: "If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on Baptism, Canon 5). Council of Trent

Infant Baptism

Infant baptism is unBiblical, though it is practiced in Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, and among Calvinist types like Presbyterians. But the fact is that the Bible indicates that faith in Christ is a prerequisite to baptism. And though I had been baptized as a baby in the Catholic church, having studied the Bible it was quite clear to me that I should get baptized as a believer. And so I received believers baptism, which should be the only baptism practiced in Christianity. (See also the Baptism study guide)
SEVENTH SESSION, CANONS ON BAPTISM: "If anyone says that children, because they have not the act of believing, are not after having received baptism to be numbered among the faithful, and that for this reason are to be rebaptized when they have reached the years of discretion; or that it is better that the baptism of such be omitted than that, while not believing by their own act, they should be baptized in the faith of the Church alone, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons on Baptism, Canon 13).  Council of Trent

Salvation by Works

Catholicism teaches that works are not merely the fruit and sign of justification, but also the cause of one's justification
SIXTH SESSION, CANONS CONCERNING JUSTIFICATION: "If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA" (Canons Concerning Justification, Canon 24). Council of Trent

Apocryphal Additions to the Bible

The Catholic Old Testament has a few more books than the Bible Protestants use. It's not such a big deal. The Catholic Old Testament is from the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, but which has some Apocryphal books as an addendum. But the Hebrew Old Testament contains no such books. The Protestant Old Testament is the Hebrew Bible which Jews today consider their scripture, while the Jews uniformly denied the canonical status to the apocryphal books. They don't really contain much doctrine though. And as it is Catholics seldom read their Bible anyhow.

Are Catholics Christians?

Certainly! After all the Bible uses the word "Christian" in the context of what outsiders call those who claim to follow Christ. But whether a Christian has been born of God, whether he has past from death to life as Jesus says in John 5:24  is a different matter. (See also the 1st John study guides) Anyone who claims to follow the Biblical Christ I reckon as brethren in the Lord unless there are significant indications to the contrary. But there's a diversity of opinion in the Christian community as to what such indications may be.

Steve Amato
Updated 12/07
 

Related links:
Ecumenism and the Council of Trent
Catholic Concerns



The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015