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What’s Wrong with Catholicism?

February 21, 2011 by Wes Moore
Posted by Permission CHRISTIAN READER  http://christianreader.com/

A few weeks ago I caused quite a stir. In an article entitled “Positively Discouraging K-Love,” which was about the increasingly shallow teaching of Protestant churches in America, I made a passing but strong comment about Catholicism.

In that article I listed several things you’ll rarely hear on Christian radio (and, by extension, from the average pulpit). One of the bullets I wrote said this: “Non-politically correct issues: Homosexuality, false religions like Mormonism, Catholicism, and Islam, and most of the other items on this list.”

I expected some aggressive comments regarding my critique of Christian radio, but I didn’t anticipate the pushback on this brief phrase. However, the firestorm helped me see the need to do more teaching on this subject, and, in a sense, supported the very point of the article: Nobody teaches on politically incorrect issues anymore.

Why would I critique Catholicism?

First of all, let me say Protestants and Catholics have much in common. The Catholic Church upholds many important biblical doctrines, such as the Trinity, deity of Christ, virgin birth, the Holy Spirit, and the Resurrection. For this I am thankful.

Furthermore, I applaud the Catholic Church for its stand on ethical issues such as abortion, abstinence, and traditional marriage. I also admire their commitment to causes of mercy around the world, including feeding and clothing the poor and caring for orphans.

And, more than this, I’ve had several Catholic friends over the years that I have both loved and respected. In fact, my two main sources for Catholic belief and doctrine (the 1995 edition of The Catechism of the Catholic Church and Unabridged Christianity by Fr. Mario P. Romero) were given to me years ago by one of my Catholic friends.

In critiquing the teachings of the Catholic Church, I am not saying Protestants have it all figured out and are not lacking biblically in their doctrine or practical obedience (my article “Positively Discouraging K-Love” should be evidence enough of that).

So what’s the core issue?

The core issue is the many layers of Catholic teaching that have been laid upon the core biblical doctrines I named earlier. These layers of false teaching (by “false” I mean “not true,” or “not biblically-sound”) have distorted, covered over, or completely altered the truth about critical subjects, such as the gospel, salvation, and Scripture (to name a few).

To illustrate this point, in this article I want to take up the issue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. First, I’ll list the official teachings of the Catholic Church regarding her, and then compare that teaching to what the Bible says.

Catholic teachings about Mary

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, authorized by Pope John Paul II as a “reference text” for the entire Catholic Church [1], here are eight key teachings regarding Mary:

  1. She was born without the stain of original sin: “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary…was redeemed from the moment of her conception.” (Note the phrase in italics, added by me, for later discussion.)

  2. She committed no personal sins (she was sinless): “The Fathers of the Eastern tradition…celebrate her as ‘free from any stain of sin…” [2]

  3.  She was perpetually a virgin, never sleeping with a man even after Jesus’ birth: “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity…” [3] (Note the phrase in italics, added by me, for later discussion.)

  4.  She was unified with Jesus in his work of salvation: “‘This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to his death.’” [4]

  5.  She, by virtue of her union with Christ, is said to be the “cause” of salvation: “As St. Irenaeus says, ‘Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.’” [5] [emphasis mine]

  6.  She is the symbol and most perfect realization of the church: “At once the virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and most perfect realization of the Church…” [6]

  7.  She never died, but was taken directly into heaven and exalted as “Queen”: “Finally the Immaculate Virgin… was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things…” [7]

  8.  She is due, therefore, devotion from every Christian, without which Christian worship cannot be complete: “‘The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.’” [emphasis mine]

Biblical problems with these teachings

So, what’s the problem? Let me list and explain several briefly.

1. The New Testament, while giving honor to Mary for her godliness and role as Christ’s earthly mother, all but overlooks her after Jesus’ birth. To read the claims above, you would think she would be everywhere in the New Testament, the constant source of gospel and apostolic teaching. But she isn’t.

In his book, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics, Ron Rhodes says this, “We would naturally think that if Mary plays the important roles attributed to her…there would be at least something about all this in the pages of Scripture. Yet there is nothing. In the Epistles, Mary’s name is virtually absent, and these books are precisely where one would expect Mary’s name to be most prominent if the Roman Catholic Church…were correct.” [8] [emphasis original]

2. Jesus never elevated his mother the way Catholic teaching does. If she was all the Catholic Church claims, why doesn’t Jesus teach this throughout his ministry?

One verse that could be used to claim Jesus exalted Mary is John 2:1-11. In this passage, Jesus, at the request of his mother, turns the water to wine. This, it could be claimed, shows not only the intercessory role of Mary in Jesus’ ministry, but also how He exalted her by obeying her request to perform this miracle.

But in context, He didn’t work this miracle because of the exalted status of his mother. How do I know this? Because He gently rebuked her in verse 4. “Woman,” He said, “what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come.”

3. The verses used to justify these teachings don’t teach what is claimed. As with the passage from John just mentioned, the vast majority of verses (if not all) used to justify these eight claims (and many others) simply don’t say what they’re purported to say.

Another example is John 19:27, where Jesus’ words to the apostle John are used to support the idea that Mary is the “Mother of the Church.” Jesus says, “‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household.”

First of all, nothing is said in the text about Mary being the “Mother of the Church.” In fact, the church is not mentioned at all. In context, Jesus is about to die, and, as the oldest son, He’s concerned that His mother be cared for after His death, especially since his brothers were unbelievers. He chose John for this task (His closest disciple, and the only one who had the courage to appear with Him at the cross) and made it known to them both in His final hour. Again, to quote Rhodes, “To read into this that Mary became the ‘Mother of the Church’ is a wild, wild stretch.” [9]

What does all this mean?

Earlier I asked you to remember the words in italics in a couple of the bullets about Mary. Here are the words: “Through the centuries the Church has become more aware…” and “The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood lead the Church to confess…” Note the phrases, “Through the centuries” and “the deepening faith…lead the Church.” Why did they say this? Because these teachings just did not exist in New Testament times; the Catholic Church developed them on their own as time went by.

Rhodes comments, “On a historical note, it is highly revealing that it was not until the Council of Trent in A. D. 1547 that the Roman Catholic Church proclaimed the sinlessness of Mary as dogma. Further, most of the significant doctrines concerning Mary have been [declared] in little more than the past 100 years.” [10]

In this lies the truth about much of Catholic doctrine: Over the years it has been developed, added to, and distorted not by the apostles, the Scriptures, or God, but by men.

So, you ask me why I would be critical of the Catholic Church. This is why.

What now?

Thankfully, we have the cure for this unfortunate error—the Bible itself. Regardless of the doctrine under consideration, or whether you’re Protestant or Catholic, God has preserved the only certain weapon against false teaching, the Scriptures themselves. To give up that protection for the opinions of men, whether Catholic priests or Protestant pastors, is foolish and bound to bring deception and apostasy.

So to Catholic and Protestant alike I say this—Make sure what you are taught at your church is actually taught in the Bible. Otherwise, you too may become a convert of a false religion.

Notes: [1] United States Catholic Conference (English Translation), Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 3.
[2] Ibid, paragraph 493.
[3] Ibid, 140, paragraph 499.
[4] Ibid, 273, paragraph 964.
[5] Ibid, 139, paragraph 494.
[6] Ibid, 142, paragraph 507.
[7] Ibid, 274, paragraph 966.
[8] Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2000), 281.
[9] Ibid, 316. This text and response taken from this source.
[10] Ibid, 271.

Recommended further reading:
Wes Moore: Forcefully Advancing John Calvin:
The Institutes of the Christian Religion Tim Challies:
The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

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Addendum

This picture was taken from an Italian Catholic magazine

Salvami Regina means "Save me Queen"

How can Mary save anybody when she claimed to be in need of a Saviour herself?
“And Mary said, My soul does magnify the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luk 1:46-47)
 

Regarding Mary's perpetual virginity, Scripture says the contrary:
“Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took to him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.” (Mat 1:24-25)

"and knew her not ..." in the Biblical sense it is to make sex as illustrated in Gen 4:1,25, were Adam "knew" Eve and afterwards she gave birth, a thing that requires prior sex.
Besides, obviously, here it is meant to know carnally, for both Adam and Joseph did know already their wives personally,


Do note:
the Crown
the Papal Tiara
the keys of the "Kingdom"
and the host inside sun symbol