For Phoebe & Joseph: RCC Cult or Not?

For Phoebe and Joseph.

Phoebe has made the claim that the RCC is a cult. Joseph responded that it was not. Phoebe’s response is below. So that both don’t take over the comments section of the Top 10 Hymns, I’m posting Phoebe’s comments here, so they can respond on this post.

I welcome both of their input to the topic. However, I don’t wish to engage right now. This is not my battle.

The following is Phoebe’s response:

Joseph, I just noticed your comment:

>If you’re going to call Catholics a “cult,” anyway, you should have a precise understanding of how you’re using that word. What about the Catholic Church do you suppose makes it a “cult”? I do hope you have something more in mind than “people we disagree with.<
_________________________________
I always try to have a reason for any opinion, Joseph.

In recent years there’s been an explosion of new–usually highly-attenuated–definitions of what constitutes “a cult of Christianity”, most of them clearly tailored by one group or another to exclude itself :D . But in my day–I am 77–there was just one venerable, consensual (among non-Catholics) five-point definition; any one of the five points being a red flag, all five inarguably defining the accursed “another Gospel” of Galatians 1:6-9.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if the RCC fits the classic definition.

1) Extra-Biblical Revelation accorded authority equal to or greater than the Bible’s’;

[“Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture make up a single sacred deposit of the Word of God . . .” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 97)
“The apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority.'” (Par. 77).
“This living transmission, accomplished through the Holy Spirit, is called tradition…” (Par. 78).
“Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (Par. 82).]

2) Leader[s] claiming supernatural powers, knowledge, authority via a special or unique relationship with God;

[Re: Papal infallibility. Here’s what catholic.com has to say about it (I won’t give the link lest I run into the “too many links” problem):

“As Christians began to more clearly understand the teaching authority of the Church and of the primacy of the pope, they developed a clearer understanding of the pope’s infallibility. This development of the faithful’s understanding has its clear beginnings in the early Church. For example, Cyprian of Carthage, writing about 256, put the question this way, ‘Would the heretics dare to come to the very seat of Peter whence apostolic faith is derived and whither no errors can come?’ (Letters 59 [55], 14). In the fifth century, Augustine succinctly captured the ancient attitude when he remarked, ‘Rome has spoken; the case is concluded” (Sermons 131, 10).

So the 1870 dogma of papal infallibility was simply rubber-stamping what “Christians” had long accepted? Not according to this fascinating account of Vatican 1:
[http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/papaldogma.aspx]

3) Subtracts from the Bible: Denial of one or more central doctrines of NT/apostolic Christian faith;
[http://excatholic.baptist.org/faith-alone/]

4) Adds to the Bible: dogma foreign to or in contradiction to the NT.

[Too much to list: infant baptism, purgatory, indulgences, Mariology (“co-Mediatrix”, etc.), confession, celibacy of priests & nuns, sole authority to correctly interpret Bible, calling priests “father…..

“In the 1490’s an Oxford professor, the personal physician to King Henry the 7th and 8th, Thomas Linacre, decided to learn Greek. After reading the Gospels in Greek, and comparing it to the Latin Vulgate, he wrote in his diary, “Either this (the original Greek) is not the Gospel… or we are not Christians.”]

5) Claims to be the one true, essential-for-salvation church.

[According Pope Benedict in 2007, “Protestant and other Christian denominations [are] not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore [do] not have the “means of salvation.”
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/19692094/ns/world_news-europe/t/pope-other-denominations-not-true-churches/ ]

It is MY position that the Roman Catholic Church is apostate and not a cult. Our history as Protestants is in the Roman Catholic Church, but out of a desire to be true to the Bible and standards found in Scripture, Protestants felt a need to pull out of the RCC and press on for His glory apart from the pope, bishops, Mary worship, saint worship, etc. But this post is more for the benefit of Joseph and Phoebe.

Blessings

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “For Phoebe & Joseph: RCC Cult or Not?

  1. phoebehb

    Brilliant! Thank you! I debated about even posting that because I was enjoying the hymn thread & hated to distract from it.

    Like

  2. Forgive me if I offend someone here, but Timothy, what is your motive in posting this, it appears contentious. I read through much of the earlier (lengthy) debate and it was evident that both parties are grounded in what they believe. I’m sorry but this just appears to be baiting regarding Joseph’s beliefs. I don’t know Phoebe or Joseph personally but they seem to be sincere in their beliefs as well as their love for the Lord. Of course it’s your blog and your prerogative as to what you post. Again, not trying to offend, just don’t understand the point.
    Blessings, Julie
    This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you. John 15:12

    Like

    1. phoebehb

      “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

      The Gr. word for “contend earnestly” is epagonizomai, “to wrestle, as a combatant”. In it is the English word “agonize”, and any Christian who doesn’t agonize for the millions of people trapped in cultic–or “apostate”; at what point does apostasy become “another gospel” (i.e., a cult), Pastor T? The Roman church’s first recorded prayer to Mary dates 250 AD.)

      The churches are dying of terminal Nice-Nellyism: cowed, compromising, ineffectual, afraid to speak what they know to be true, to defend “the faith once delivered” for fear of offending the right people and having their tax-exempt status revoked.)

      Spend some time on any atheist/”rationalist”/”humanist” site and see how vigorously & fearlessly THEY contend for their non-faith.

      IS there a proper forum for discussions of this kind between Christian believers, Julie? If so, where? In a sound-proofed isolation box in the church basement?

      Like

      1. Exactly, my point…your sarcasm and self-righteous attitude are not delivered in a loving manner. You come across arrogant and would you honestly say these things if Jesus were present. And God forbid any lost person seeking God’s love through the people of God see your statement. I do forgive you but will not return to this particular post as there is no edification but bludgeoning.
        May God bless you richly with humility and love.
        By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another. ~John 13:35

        Like

    2. Hi Julie,
      This was posted purely for Joseph and Phoebe’s benefit. I’m not baiting Joseph, since he knows my positions already. It really was just to give the two of them avenue for discussions because they are both committed to their cause. I’m confident that both of them can work it out together, and will have to. I must admit, I don’t read the lengthy responses. It’s too much for me right now.

      I hope that explains it and that you are OK with it. Again, I’m not trying to beat up on Joseph at all. I get the impression he enjoys the debate as well as Phoebe. But I’m willing to be wrong.

      Like

    3. Thanks. I am okay with this. I am glad for any opportunity to defend my faith, and I’m glad Pastor Timothy and Phoebe have been patient and willing to listen. I am not interested here in converting anybody, but there is a lot of misinformation out there about the Catholic Church, and I hope that if I can show that it simply isn’t true, then we will all be able to love each other as Christian brothers and sisters as we should.

      I was an Evangelical Protestant for thirty years of my life, and I didn’t make the decision to join with Rome lightly or blindly, but only after years of careful study and prayer. And I’m a good student. If there were anything to any one of these charges, I would not have gone very far before turning back.

      Like

  3. phoebehb

    In the meantime, the Roman church is proving remarkably resistant to the Nice-Nelly virus:

    …violent persecution of Protestants in Mexico has been going on for decades now. In just one district alone, San Juan Chamula, it is believed that in the past 40 years over 50 000 people have been expelled from their homes due to religious and political conflicts. And what is vital to understand is that this modern-day persecution of Protestants in Mexico, and other Latin American countries, is not a spontaneous uprising of fanatical Papists: it is being deliberately orchestrated, and has been for many years now, in response to the urging of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and of the pope of Rome himself! Here are the facts:

    As far back as May 1986 the pope of Rome, John Paul II, issued a worldwide directive to all bishops and priests to work against what he called “sects” and “cults”. Rome is in the habit of referring to all evangelical Protestants (of whatever type, and not all are true Christians, of course) as “sects” and “cults”, lumping them all together with such cults as the Moonies and others. Among those referred to in this way were fundamentalist evangelical churches active in Latin America.

    A Vatican official said the Romish authorities wanted to “take action” to “deal with them”. Now when simple peasant Papists in remote rural parts of Mexico and other Latin American countries hear such remarks, how do they interpret them? How do they understand “taking action” to “deal” with Protestants? The dead bodies of pastors and the burnt-down church buildings are mute testimony to how such remarks are interpreted by Papists in these places.

    On the 7th February 1987, during his meeting with Guatemala’s ambassador to the Vatican, John Paul II expressed concern over the evangelistic efforts of what he termed “fundamentalist-type sects” in Guatemala, which, he said, were sowing “confusion and division”. And two years later, on the 20th January 1989, he addressed the bishops of Guatemala and encouraged them to combat the “aggressive proselytising campaign” of Protestant fundamentalists.Also in 1989 the pope told a group of Latin American bishops and Vatican officials that the spread of “sects” threatened the Roman Catholic “Church” in Latin America, and that their activity was a “pastoral worry”.

    As he had done in Guatemala in January 1989, so John Paul II did again in Mexico a month later, on the 24th February: he urged Mexico’s bishops to combat the “growing proselytism” of what he termed “fundamentalist sects and new religious groups”, saying that this proselytism “sows confusion among the faithful” and “attacks the Catholic culture of your people.”

    In October 1991 John Paul II visited Brazil, where he said that one of the problems facing the Brazilian Roman Catholic “Church” was the rapid growth of fundamentalist “sects”. He again repeated what he had said in previous years, that these “sects” were deceptive and were sowing confusion. And again, ignorant, devout Papists took his words to heart and continued to violently persecute Protestants.

    In an interview in 1992, Vatican delegate to Mexico, Girolamo Prigione, attacked all evangelicals, saying, “Sects, like flies, should be chased out.” He also said, in the context of discussions regarding Mexico’s proposed constitutional amendments on religion: “Authentic justice does not mean giving the same [treatment] to everyone.” And Mexican cardinal, Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, said, “There cannot be equal treatment in the laws for all religious groups in an indistinct manner”. With statements like these being made by high-ranking Roman Catholic officials, is it any wonder that ignorant Roman Catholics undertook to use force to eliminate Protestants in their communities?

    In October 1992, during his visit to the Dominican Republic, John Paul II again used strong words to describe the Protestant “sects” which he saw as a threat to the Roman Catholic religion in Latin America. He called them “rapacious wolves” and said they were responsible for division and discord in Roman Catholic communities throughout the region. And he added that their “expansion and aggressiveness” needed to be confronted. Well, when devout Papists hear the one they believe to be Christ’s Vicar on earth branding Protestants as “rapacious wolves”, they readily resort to violence against them.

    In January 1993 Roman Catholic archbishop, Prospero Penados de Barrio of Guatemala City, said that Guatemalan Roman Catholics should make a new year’s resolution to stop the spread of “evangelical sects” in Guatemala. He quoted John Paul II as saying that “the proselytising of the sects suffocates the Christian [i.e. Papist] faith” and that their message “dilutes the coherence and unity of God’s Word.” And on the 26th February that year, in Mexico’s Chiapas state, an evangelist was holding a service in the home of a member of a Protestant church when a mob of 500 Papists broke down the doors and attacked the 150 people inside. 17 male members of the church were beaten, stoned, and then jailed for four days without food.

    And further inflammatory statements continued to be made by high-ranking Papist officials across Latin America. For example, in 1994 a Brazilian archbishop named Bohn, addressing the national conference of bishops in Brazil, said: “We will declare a holy war; don’t doubt it… the Catholic Church has a ponderous structure, but when we move, we’ll smash anyone beneath us.”

    He said that an all-out holy war was unavoidable unless the 13 largest Protestant churches and denominations signed a treaty requiring them to stop all evangelism efforts in Brazil. In exchange, Roman Catholics would agree to stop all persecution of Protestants (an admission that Papists were persecuting Protestants, and absolutely no remorse for it!). He called his proposal an “ultimatum”, saying it would leave no room for discussion. This man’s war talk would have been broadcast throughout the Latin American countries.

    Also in 1996 the UK’s Sunday Telegraph reported: “John Paul II summoned all his strength for a fiery anathema against the Protestant sects [in Central America], rebuking them for their insolence and malice. He was flanked by Central American bishops in full regalia, a striking display of the splendour and magisterium of the Catholic Church.” Such words, such anger from the pope, would have been taken to heart by the fanatical Roman Catholics of Latin America.

    In 2001 the Roman Catholic cardinal, Maradiaga, of Honduras, attacked “evangelical sects” in Honduras, and appealed to the government to review the work of such “sects”. And also in 2001, Protestants in three Mexican villages were threatened with imprisonment, expulsion from their homes, denial of access to water and electricity, and death. In San Nicolas, in the central state of Hidalgo, Protestants were given a deadline to renounce their faith, or they would be forced to leave their homes and community.

    Yet again in 2002, the Roman pope urged Brazilian bishops to counter the influence of “sects”…….

    …violent persecution of Protestants in Mexico has been going on for decades now. In just one district alone, San Juan Chamula, it is believed that in the past 40 years over 50 000 people have been expelled from their homes due to religious and political conflicts. And what is vital to understand is that this modern-day persecution of Protestants in Mexico, and other Latin American countries, is not a spontaneous uprising of fanatical Papists: it is being deliberately orchestrated, and has been for many years now, in response to the urging of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and of the pope of Rome himself! Here are the facts:

    As far back as May 1986 the pope of Rome, John Paul II, issued a worldwide directive to all bishops and priests to work against what he called “sects” and “cults”. Rome is in the habit of referring to all evangelical Protestants (of whatever type, and not all are true Christians, of course) as “sects” and “cults”, lumping them all together with such cults as the Moonies and others. Among those referred to in this way were fundamentalist evangelical churches active in Latin America.

    A Vatican official said the Romish authorities wanted to “take action” to “deal with them”. Now when simple peasant Papists in remote rural parts of Mexico and other Latin American countries hear such remarks, how do they interpret them? How do they understand “taking action” to “deal” with Protestants? The dead bodies of pastors and the burnt-down church buildings are mute testimony to how such remarks are interpreted by Papists in these places.

    On the 7th February 1987, during his meeting with Guatemala’s ambassador to the Vatican, John Paul II expressed concern over the evangelistic efforts of what he termed “fundamentalist-type sects” in Guatemala, which, he said, were sowing “confusion and division”. And two years later, on the 20th January 1989, he addressed the bishops of Guatemala and encouraged them to combat the “aggressive proselytising campaign” of Protestant fundamentalists.Also in 1989 the pope told a group of Latin American bishops and Vatican officials that the spread of “sects” threatened the Roman Catholic “Church” in Latin America, and that their activity was a “pastoral worry”.
    As he had done in Guatemala in January 1989, so John Paul II did again in Mexico a month later, on the 24th February: he urged Mexico’s bishops to combat the “growing proselytism” of what he termed “fundamentalist sects and new religious groups”, saying that this proselytism “sows confusion among the faithful” and “attacks the Catholic culture of your people.”

    In October 1991 John Paul II visited Brazil, where he said that one of the problems facing the Brazilian Roman Catholic “Church” was the rapid growth of fundamentalist “sects”. He again repeated what he had said in previous years, that these “sects” were deceptive and were sowing confusion. And again, ignorant, devout Papists took his words to heart and continued to violently persecute Protestants.

    In an interview in 1992, Vatican delegate to Mexico, Girolamo Prigione, attacked all evangelicals, saying, “Sects, like flies, should be chased out.” He also said, in the context of discussions regarding Mexico’s proposed constitutional amendments on religion: “Authentic justice does not mean giving the same [treatment] to everyone.” And Mexican cardinal, Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, said, “There cannot be equal treatment in the laws for all religious groups in an indistinct manner”. With statements like these being made by high-ranking Roman Catholic officials, is it any wonder that ignorant Roman Catholics undertook to use force to eliminate Protestants in their communities?

    In October 1992, during his visit to the Dominican Republic, John Paul II again used strong words to describe the Protestant “sects” which he saw as a threat to the Roman Catholic religion in Latin America. He called them “rapacious wolves” and said they were responsible for division and discord in Roman Catholic communities throughout the region. And he added that their “expansion and aggressiveness” needed to be confronted. Well, when devout Papists hear the one they believe to be Christ’s Vicar on earth branding Protestants as “rapacious wolves”, they readily resort to violence against them.In January 1993 Roman Catholic archbishop, Prospero Penados de Barrio of Guatemala City, said that Guatemalan Roman Catholics should make a new year’s resolution to stop the spread of “evangelical sects” in Guatemala. He quoted John Paul II as saying that “the proselytising of the sects suffocates the Christian [i.e. Papist] faith” and that their message “dilutes the coherence and unity of God’s Word.” And on the 26th February that year, in Mexico’s Chiapas state, an evangelist was holding a service in the home of a member of a Protestant church when a mob of 500 Papists broke down the doors and attacked the 150 people inside. 17 male members of the church were beaten, stoned, and then jailed for four days without food.

    And further inflammatory statements continued to be made by high-ranking Papist officials across Latin America. For example, in 1994 a Brazilian archbishop named Bohn, addressing the national conference of bishops in Brazil, said: “We will declare a holy war; don’t doubt it… the Catholic Church has a ponderous structure, but when we move, we’ll smash anyone beneath us.”

    He said that an all-out holy war was unavoidable unless the 13 largest Protestant churches and denominations signed a treaty requiring them to stop all evangelism efforts in Brazil. In exchange, Roman Catholics would agree to stop all persecution of Protestants (an admission that Papists were persecuting Protestants, and absolutely no remorse for it!). He called his proposal an “ultimatum”, saying it would leave no room for discussion. This man’s war talk would have been broadcast throughout the Latin American countries.

    Also in 1996 the UK’s Sunday Telegraph reported: “John Paul II summoned all his strength for a fiery anathema against the Protestant sects [in Central America], rebuking them for their insolence and malice. He was flanked by Central American bishops in full regalia, a striking display of the splendour and magisterium of the Catholic Church.” Such words, such anger from the pope, would have been taken to heart by the fanatical Roman Catholics of Latin America.

    In 2001 the Roman Catholic cardinal, Maradiaga, of Honduras, attacked “evangelical sects” in Honduras, and appealed to the government to review the work of such “sects”. And also in 2001, Protestants in three Mexican villages were threatened with imprisonment, expulsion from their homes, denial of access to water and electricity, and death. In San Nicolas, in the central state of Hidalgo, Protestants were given a deadline to renounce their faith, or they would be forced to leave their homes and community.

    Yet again in 2002, the Roman pope urged Brazilian bishops to counter the influence of “sects”…….

    Like

      1. phoebehb

        That last was part of my last post to you on the other thread–the one that never got “approved”. At that time I was responding to your statement that there has been no persecution by the RCC since the Reformation. I salvaged & added it here to make the point that only present-day “evangelicals” (I hate that word) seem to be afraid to “contend earnestly for [their] faith”.

        Set it aside for now. It is excerpted from a much longer article listing many specific cases of ghastly persecution of non-Catholics in Mexico & Latin America.
        The point at issue right now is my contention that what the RCC teaches is “another Gospel”.

        Like

  4. phoebehb

    I am so sorry that this pasted twice. It is hard to check our comments in the tiny box before we post them. I wish there was an “Edit” option. If you can, Pastor T., delete the bottom half.

    Like

      1. phoebehb

        Exactly. “….the old Roman Creed….does not address some Christological issues defined in the Nicene and other Christian Creeds. It thus says nothing explicitly about the divinity of either Jesus or of the Holy Spirit. This makes it acceptable to many Arians and Unitarians….”

        Forget it. You may claim it. I’m not into creeds.

        Like

      2. I was only responding to the commenter who suggested that I read it, and to your suggestion that I wasn’t “sticking to the facts.”

        For what it’s worth, since you bring it up, we say the Nicene Creed at every Mass.

        Like

  5. phoebehb

    I’m sorry you’re leaving before you C&P anything I’ve written to Joseph that displays a sarcastic or self-righteous attitude. Is it even possible that critics of the RCC–or LDS, or the Emergent church….–are not “contentious” or “baiting” but deeply concerned for the victims of false teachers?

    By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another. ~John 13:35

    Like

  6. Thank y’all for giving me the opportunity to speak. I hope that you will prayerfully consider what I have say.

    To your five points that define a “cult”:

    1) Extra-Biblical Revelation accorded authority equal to or greater than the Bible’s

    First, let’s be careful not to get our wires crossed here. Your charge here refers to Tradition between “equal to or greater than Scripture,” but you also bring the doctrine of apostolic succession into it. That’s a related issue, but a different one, and we shouldn’t conflate them. Both Tradition and apostolic succession have a firm basis on Scripture — and neither sets Tradition to be “equal to or greater than” the authority of the Bible. (“Tradition” only means that which has been handed down, from Latin trans + do, “to hand over” something to the next generation. In a very real sense, the Scriptures themselves are part of Tradition: they have been preserved and handed down from the Apostles to us.)

    Yes, the Catholic Church holds that the oral teachings of the Apostles are an important part of divine revelation, too, and that we shouldn’t discard them just because they were not written down. Paul himself urges us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by spoken word or by our letter” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). He exhorts Timothy to “entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” the teachings “[that] you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses” (not what I have written) (2 Timothy 2:2).

    It’s very clear from Scripture that the primary mode of teaching the Christian faith, for the first century or two, was oral teaching. The Book of Acts tells us that Paul and Barnabas spent a whole year in Antioch teaching the Gospel (Acts 11:26). Now, there is a lot of material in Paul’s letters, but I don’t think they quite make up a year of teaching! I heard one scholar recently (an Anglican, John Dickson, not a Catholic) argue that probably less than 1 percent of all of Paul’s teachings were written down. The Apostles were far too busy preaching the Gospel to all nations to spend much of their time in writing; and the majority of people couldn’t read anyway.

    You quote several paragraphs from the Catechism. Most of these deal with apostolic succession and I won’t address them here. The last one deserves a word:

    “Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (82)

    It says, “equal sentiments” (that is, feelings) “of devotion and reverence.” This does not mention or refer to authority. The point of this is, just because something was not written in Scripture doesn’t give us the right to disrespect it or ignore it. As the Catechism rightly says, both Scripture and Tradtion together make up the deposit of faith we have received.

    Now, to your suggestion that “extrabiblical revelation” is accorded authority “equal or greater than the Bible”: First, what kind of “revelation” are we talking about here, that we would dare to say is a part of the Word of God? What is this blasphemy? Well, what we are talking about are the teachings that Jesus taught to the Apostles, which they then taught to the next generation of Christians. If we are right that these are the very teachings of Christ, then they can rightly be called the Word of God.

    But of course, the problem with Tradition is that it’s not written down. Or at least, it wasn’t written down immediately. It’s pretty certain that over the first few generations of Christians — the learned people we call the Church Fathers — most of these oral teachings of Christ and the Apostles were written down by somebody or another. The Church makes an important distinction between Scripture and Tradition, and Tradition is not “greater to or equal” to Scripture. Scripture alone is the divine, infallible, written Word of God. In Tradition — that is, in the writings of the Church Fathers — we trust that we have the teachings that Christ gave to the Apostles and the Apostles gave to us. But unlike Scripture, they are not in a pure form. The Church Fathers weren’t divinely inspired. The problem, then, if sifting through their writings and determing what actually constitutes apostolic tradition. It’s a job that the teachers of the Church have been engaged in for 2,000 years, and it’s not one that’s taken lightly. Many Protestants think that “Tradition” is “whatever the Church says it is,” but in fact it’s very limited in scope to only what we can say with confidence, based on good evidence, originates in the teachings of Christ and the Apostles.

    We disagree on the idea that “Scripture alone” (sola scriptura) is the only rule of faith. But sola scriptura was not a doctrine that early Christians held or that anyone held until the time of Martin Luther. Scripture itself does not teach sola scriptura; in fact it teaches that the oral traditions of the Apostles were to be handed down and preserved. But the Catholic Church does not, as you charge, give Tradition an authority “greater than or equal to” Scripture. They are both important, but they are not the same.

    2) Leader[s] claiming supernatural powers, knowledge, authority via a special or unique relationship with God.

    Very simply: “Papal infallibility” is not what you think it is. It is not a claim that the pope has “supernatural powers, knowledge, [or] authority” or “a special or unique relationship with God.” The pope is a man like any other man, and sometimes note even a very good man. It really has nothing to do with the pope as a man at all, but with the office of the pope as pastor. What in fact has the “unique relationship with God” is the Church. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide His Church into all truth (John 16:13). All papal infallibity means is that the pope, even if he’s corrupt to the teeth, can’t screw it up — not because he’s anything special, but because the Holy Spirit won’t let him. It doesn’t mean that the pope is perfect or that everything he says is true; what it means is that in matters of doctrine or morals, he can’t speak error — because the Holy Ghost has him in a stranglehold.

    There have been popes in history, I’m sure you will agree, who have been terrible people, even criminals. But through all of them, no one has ever taught anything that’s contrary to the clear Word of God. Now, I know you will argue with that, and say that some Catholic doctrines are clearly contrary to the Word of God — but that’s not what I mean here. I mean, things are flagrantly contrary to the Word of God. No pope, for example, has ever taught that adultery is not sin, or that the pope is divine, or that Jesus wasn’t divine. Even the worst popes in history have managed to keep the Church on an even keel. And that’s papal infallibility. All it really means is that no pope, no matter how terrible, can run the Church off the rails — the Holy Spirit will not let him. Papal infallibility is a protection and a burden, not a privilege.

    In practice, papal infallibility is very rarely used. The pope is not infallible, for example, when he talks about football scores, or his favorite foods, or even what he thinks about current affairs. He’s not even infallible when he writes encyclicals or major theological works. He is only infallible when infallibility is formally invoked (what we call speaking ex cathedra, “from the chair”), and that can only happen in very limited circumstances — only in a crisis, when a doctrine of the faith is threatened. No pope ever wants to have to invoke infallibility, and it has only ever happened a few times in history.

    (I made a post a couple of weeks ago called “The Pope’s Holiness and Infallibility” which deals with this issue at greater length. I won’t link to it, but you can find it by going to my blog — it’s still on the first page.)

    3) Subtracts from the Bible: Denial of one or more central doctrines of NT/apostolic Christian faith.

    The Catholic Church has never done this. The Church has been studying Scripture for a lot longer than Protestants have been in existence, and no part of Scripture is “subtracted” or “denied.” You point specifically to the doctrine of sola fide, salvation “by faith alone.” We read the same letters of Paul that Luther read and that you read — but in fact, those letters never do say that we are “justified by faith alone.” In fact, the only time anywhere in Scripture that the words “faith alone” is in James:

    You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. . . . For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:24,26)

    The argument over justification has been going on for 500 years and we are not going to resolve it here. But the Catholic Church does not subtract or ignore from Scripture: we just read the whole of Scripture, in context, and not just cherry-pick a few verses (as this article you linked to does, for example). We interpret Scripture differently than you; or rather, Martin Luther interpreted Scripture differently than anybody ever had before. That doesn’t mean that we are “subtracting” from Scripture.

    You picked a real lunker to go after for this one, and to fully argue with you would require writing a book to deal with the sola fide issue. I will say, briefly, that the Catholic Church fully affirms salvation “by faith alone” in the sense of initial justification. For, as Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” No works we can do can earn our salvation; we can’t even approach God apart from his gift of grace. It is only by faith, the gift of God, that we come to salvation.

    Now, is there anything else in Scripture that you suppose the Catholic Church “subtracts”? Or is this the only issue? This is not an issue of “subtracting,” but of different interpretations.

    4) Adds to the Bible: dogma foreign to or in contradiction to the NT.

    You have a real laundry list here: but each of these in fact have firm foundations in Scripture. It is true, as I discussed above, that we do regard the Traditions of the Apostles to be a valid source of doctrine; but there is nothing in Tradition that contradicts Scripture (else we wouldn’t hold it), and everything we believe is at least suggested and supported by Scripture. Rather than being “foreign” to Scripture, we believe it complements it and completes it.

    I’ll pick a few of the simplest ones, just to show you:

    Infant baptism:

    There is a plenty of scriptural support for infant baptism; not to mention the fact that the Church has been doing it since apostolic times, and every Christian sect, including most Protestants other than Baptists, practices it.

    “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

    Salvation is a promise for all the people present, Peter says, even their children. Don’t you suppose there were some young children among that crowd?

    [Of Paul and Silas and the Philippian jailer:] And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (Acts 16:31-34)

    Neither Paul nor Luke the author makes any exception to “all his household” or “all his family.”

    I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. (1 Corinthians 1:16)

    Again Paul makes no exceptions.

    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus seems to think that salvation was for children. Scripture does suggest that infant baptism was practiced even in the days of the Apostles, and the early records of the Church indiate that it was in fact an apostolic practice. Scripture certainly doesn’t prohibit infant baptism; the most you can say is that it is silent. You cannot rightly claim that infant baptism contradicts Scripture.

    Confession:

    Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 15:16a)

    If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

    Very plainly, the Church was encouraged to confess their sins so that they might be forgiven and “cleansed from all unrighteousness.” And this had plenty of Old Testament antecedents:

    He shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. (Numbers 5:7)

    “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, . . . then I will remember my covenant with Jacob, and I will remember my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. (Leviticus 26:40-42)

    Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. (Nehemiah 9:1-2)

    What about the idea of confessing to a priest? And the idea that a priest can absolve you of your sins?

    Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:21-23)

    On the contrary, there is very good support for the practice of confession in Scripture. You just differ, apparently, on how to interpret these passages; but you cannot claim that confession is “contrary to Scripture.”

    Celibacy of priests:

    First of all, clerical celibacy is a discipline of the Church, not a doctrine. It is a rule that’s voluntarily followed, and the Church could relax it an any time. In fact, there are many exceptions: Married men can be ordained to the priesthood in the eastern rites of the Church, and there are many married priests even in the West, especially among priests who have converted from, say, Anglicanism, and were already married, and were there ordained as Catholic priests. It is very clear that many priests and bishops were married in the first centuries of the Church, including St. Peter himself. Celibacy developed as a discipline over the first two or three centuries.

    And it is based in Scripture. Paul himself suggests in 1 Corinthians 7 that celibacy is the ideal state for a minister of the Gospel (“I wish that all were as I myself am”) — not as a command, but Paul does represent an admirable example. Priests of the Old Testament were required to abstain from sexual relations during their periods of temple service (Exodus 19:15, 1 Samuel 21:4-5), providing an example for priests of God’s New Covenant. Again, it is plain that clerical celibacy is not “contrary to Scripture.”

    I’ll continue with the others if you’d like; but it’s late and I want to finish this post for tonight.

    5) Claims to be the one true, essential-for-salvation church.

    I was upset about this 2007 statement, too, at the time; but the media took it grossly out of its proper context, and in fact the article you link to actually misquotes Pope Benedict (who did not say that Protestant communities, “do not have the means of salvation,” but in fact said the opposite). Bottom line: The Catholic Church believes that non-Catholics can be saved; in fact, we don’t ever go about saying who can’t be saved. We believe that the Catholic Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church affirmed in the Nicene Creed, and the Church Jesus said He would build upon the Peter the Rock (Matthew 16:18), and the One Body of Christ through Baptism that Paul proclaimed (1 Corinthians 12:12, Ephesians 4:4-5, Colossians 1:18). But that’s just it — there’s only One Church that Jesus established for the salvation of mankind; there’s only One Body of Christ. We fallen humans can create human divisions, but Christ remains undivided (1 Corinthians 1:13). Other churches can break away, but in truth, in the Spirit, they are still part of the One Church, the One Body of Christ. Protestant bodies are “not true churches” because there is only One Church, One Body of Christ, and you are still a part of it.

    I’m going to give you a lengthy quote from Unitatis Redintegratio (“The Restoration of Unity”), a document from the Second Vatican Council, because it clearly states the Church’s position toward Protestant communities (emphases mine):

    Even in the beginnings of this one and only Church of God there arose certain rifts (cf. 1 Cor. 11:18–19; Gal. 1:6–9; 1 Jn. 2:18–19), which the Apostle strongly condemned (cf. 1 Cor. 1:11 sqq; 11:22). But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church — for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame. The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church — whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church — do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body, and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.

    Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ. . . .

    It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.

    And with that, I’m heading to bed. It’s 1 a.m. We can continue this tomorrow.

    Like

  7. Joseph, don’t think for a minute I’ve quit this conversation. It’s just that every time I start to respond to you I’m overcome with the fatigue of hopelessness. How does one challenge an organization that’s had a millennium & a half to polish up its plausible deniability, revise history to its advantage, censor/confiscate/destroy documents that told a different story…… So whatever I say I must say carefully & prayerfully.

    Like

  8. Earl Curtis

    As an Episcopalian, I see the Episcopal church as being the middle, the golden mean. I disagree with calling the Roman Catholic a cult. It harms the unity of the faith. I believe in the universal church that is the Body of Christ. For one member of the body to call another member of the body, a cult is doing disservice to whole body of Christ. Likewise, for the Roman Church to call Protestants “heretics” is doing more harm than good.

    Like

      1. Earl Curtis

        There is not only tradition but scriptural basis for infant baptism (see Joseph’s). Being baptized in the name of The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is something we share with the Roman faith. In our 39 articles there are some differences pointed out. For instance, we do not believe in transubstantiation (article 28). The Episcopal church did not throw out the baby with the water. If something holds up to tradition, reason, and scripture then it is likely that we kept it.

        Like

      2. Hi Earl,
        Where we (Reformed Presbyterians) would differ on infant baptism with Rome is that we do not believe in baptismal regeneration. The child is still in need of conversion. The Holy Spirit “could” convert the child at baptism, but we are not saying that He does. He moves when and where and how He pleases.

        Like

Comments are closed.