“Leaders of the nation’s Roman Catholic Church arrived here [Dallas, Texas] one by one from across the country Wednesday, checking into a downtown hotel where they will spend the next three days reckoning with the most insidious and damaging crisis ever in their church. The task before the nearly 300 bishops…is to create a uniform national policy on sexual misconduct by priests — and, in so doing, to restore confidence in their ability to lead the church.”
The Hartford Courant (June 13, 2002)
“We’ve never had a crisis this serious in the Catholic Church in the United States. We have to show that we will act swiftly and decisively.”
Bishop Peter A. Rosazza, New Haven, CT
And what were the results of this meeting?
“`We came to Dallas seeking zero tolerance. We got zero accountability,’ said Mark Serrano, a victim and member of the group Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests.”
The Hartford Courant (June 15, 2002)
An expose of any institution should make us examine our relationship with that institution. If a bank scandal is revealed, we examine the evidence and decide whether we should take our money out of that bank. If a political scandal is revealed, we examine the evidence and decide whether we should change parties. But when a religious scandal is revealed, it should make all of us examine our own beliefs and practices in the light of the Scriptures to see whether they conform to the instructions laid down by God for his people.
“…Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.” Luke 12:1, 2
Christians everywhere should examine the claims of the Catholic Church in the midst of their “crisis” because not only will it help to solidify our own views on church organization, but we should know what the Scriptures teach and be ready to help others learn the truth.
Catholic Church Claim #1
In examining the Catholic Church, we must first look at their doctrines or teachings. Their fundamental belief is the claim that the Roman Catholic Church is the Kingdom of God on earth. This claim goes back to the 4th Century, but it wasn’t until AD 800 that the French King Charlemagne formally presented the Papacy with the Papal States over which they exercised full civil authority.
In centuries past the popes crowned and uncrowned kings, illustrating their “right” to decide who would have the authority over the nations. The Papacy was not always strong enough to wield that political power, but in presiding at the coronations of European kings and emperors and physically placing the crowns on their heads, they were making the claim that they had that God-given right.
No church has played a greater role in government and world power politics than the Vatican. Time Magazine has observed that heads of state compete to meet with the Pope. The Vatican is treated like a civil government in that it exchanges ambassadors with other countries. It is obvious that a Christian organization exercising civil authority, no matter how noble its ideals, will be at odds with its tenet of sacrifice. The inherent contradictions between power and professions of humility will cause serious problems. We have seen this happen during the 20th Century when the Vatican signed a concordant with both Mussolini and Hitler. The Vatican is still countering accusations of complacency during the Holocaust.
But most importantly, this claim is unscriptural. John 18:36 says, “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world…”
Catholic Church Claim #2
Pope John Paul II has been hailed as the moral conscience of our time. He readily addresses the evils of our social order and offers criticism that implicates not only religious and social institutions, but also governments. But the claim of the Catholic Church goes far beyond this. The Pope, as the representative of Papacy, claims to be in the place of Christ. One of the Pope‘s titles is “Vicar of Christ.” Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “vicar” as “any person who acts in place of another” and “Vicar of Christ” as “the Pope regarded as earthly representative of Christ.”
This claim makes the Pope and his priesthood much different than Protestant ministers. A minister is there to instruct the flock. A Catholic priest is necessary to intercede for the flock. As we can see in the present scandal, such power invested in an individual often leads to corruption.
But most importantly, this claim is unscriptural. 1 Timothy 2:5, 6 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
Romans 5:1, 2 says, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand…”
While it is right and proper for us to examine the various religious claims of the churches, let us not forget that God is going to do his own examination. As 1 Peter 4:17 says, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” God will judge them not just according to their practices, but according to their claims. To the extent that the churches have been involved in the evil practices of this “present evil world,“ they will come under this judgment of God. When humanity learns the futility of its own endeavors and cries unto the Lord for the desired peace, then Christ will be recognized in authority and power and the blessings of his kingdom will begin to be experienced.
Hartford Bible Students * P.O. Box 493 * Manchester, CT 06045