I wrote these series of articles (see menu sidebar to the left) as a Catholic for Catholics, but I no longer accept Catholic teaching as the authoritative source of truth.I have not attempted to align these articles with my current views.
I am a former fundamentalist, evangelical Protestant who once believed the anti-Catholic nonsense I was taught. But in deciding to convert to Catholicism I discovered an awful truth. These Protestants grossly misrepresent the teachings, practice, doctrines, and history of the Catholic Church in nearly every detail. Shame on them!
I get a lot of emails in which people repeat these anti-Catholic claims. Rather than personally debate each one individually, which is very time-consuming, I wrote this article.
More info: Protestant vs Catholic Comparison.
Mary | Is Roman Catholicism Unbiblical? | Infant Baptism | Salvation by Works | Idols | Invented Doctrines | Church Corruption | Jesus Repeatedly Sacrificed in Mass | Problems with the Eucharist | Traditions of Men | Sacraments Necessary for Salvation | Repetitive Prayer | The Church as an Institution | Saints | Evolution | Freemasonry | Pope is Antichrist? | Scripture Only | Reformers and "True" Christian Doctrine | Apostasy | State Religion | Inquisition | Call No Man Father | Purgatory | Biblical Interpretation
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically insist that Catholics worship Mary. This is false. The teaching of the Catholic Church is that Mary is a created human just like everyone else. She deserves our honor, respect, and devotion because of the special grace that God has given her in her role as the mother of Jesus. Since Jesus is God, Mary is, and always will be, the mother of God. To consider her as less is to diminish the deity of Christ.
Christ desires that we rule and reign with Him on this earth and in heaven. Mary's role as a mediator in heaven is a result of her special relationship with Jesus as His mother. She is a suitable vessel for God to use as He permanently takes on human nature as His nature. We can pray to her and God has provided a way for her to assist us who are still here on the earth.
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically claim that the doctrines regarding Mary cannot be found in the Bible but this is not correct. I address this elsewhere (read it).
In addition, Protestant anti-Catholicstypically claim that the Catholic doctrines of Mary were invented very late but this is not the case. The main doctrines of Mary appear fully developed in the writings of the Early Church Fathers (info).
Most Protestant anti-Catholicsare not aware that Luther, Calvin and the other reformers had a devotion to Mary (info).
More info about Mary.
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically claim that the teachings, practice, and doctrine of the Catholic Church are unbiblical. This claim is simply incorrect. I list here passages from the Bible that support the main views that these Protestants object to. They may object to the interpretation of these passages but they cannot honestly say that there is no Biblical support for the claims of the Catholic Church:
Baptized for the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:29)
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son." (John 19:26)
Where were Jesus' supposed brothers? The proper thing to do was for them to take care of Mary.
This is my body. (Matthew 26:26)
This is my blood. (Matthew 26:28)
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life (John 6:54)
And I tell you that you are Peter [rock], and on this rock I will build my church. (Matthew 16:18)
Even some Protestant scholars agree that this is not referring to Peter's confession of faith but to Peter himself.
When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine." "Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied. "My time has not yet come." His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:3-5)
Jesus did the miracle at Mary's request even though his time had not yet come.
The prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5:8)
Note that these saints are in heaven.
To be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God. (Romans 15:16)
In a loud voice she [Elizabeth] exclaimed: Blessed are you among women. (Luke 1:42)
Notice that Elizabeth honors Mary in addition to the as yet unborn Jesus.
From now on all generations will call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)
Catholics are obedient to this passage but anti-Catholics are not.
No prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20)
Anyone who receives instruction in the word. (Galatians 6:6)
If the Bible was all we needed there would be no need for instruction from others.
The foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands. (Hebrews 6:1,2)
In the context of this passage laying on of hands is a salvation issue requiring a priest.
When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan. (1 Corinthians 5:4,5)
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15)
Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13)Preaching and teaching by someone other than an apostle has value equal to the scripture.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)
This passage does not say that scripture is all you need, only that scripture is useful.
Faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)
You can't separate the deeds from the faith.
Many Protestant anti-Catholicsobject to the Catholic practice of baptizing infants claiming that this is invalid since infants can't properly receive salvation through faith. This objection is based on a faulty understanding of the Catholic view.
Christian Baptism removes original sin and the judgment of God which results in eternal separation from Him. But any baptized Christian can at any time reject God's grace and willfully choose to commit a mortal sin. Once a person does this God is justified in judging them with eternal separation from Him. I should remark that mortal sins are very severe and involve such acts as murder, adultery, bearing false witness, and willfully turning away from God.
In addition to the salvation aspect, Christian baptism has another benefit. It is the way in which a person is joined to the church. Certainly an infant in being baptized is joined to the church in this manner since, in baptizing their child, the parents are committing to raise them as a Christian. Unless the child later rejects the church and God, they will possess faith in God and Christ as demonstrated by their good works of faith.
Protestants assume that no one is saved unless there is a moment in time in which they believe the gospel. What they fail to consider is that a child who is raised as a Christian will naturally believe what they are taught from childhood unless they at some time choose to reject it. Thus for a baptized child it is the rejection of the gospel which causes them to lose their salvation. Of course, Calvinists will reject this view since they don't believe it is possible for one chosen of God to lose their salvation. But that is a different topic.
If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema [subject to excommunication].
The Protestant teaching which originated with Martin Luther is that salvation comes through faith without works. Then, after salvation, this faith will result in good works. But Luther had difficulty in explaining why saved people didn't display good works (more info).
The problem with the Protestant view is that it artificially separates faith from works. Certainly it is true that works can be performed without faith; that happens all the time by unbelievers. But faith cannot be separated from good works because there is no faith without works. Even the thief on the cross displayed good works of faith as he defended Jesus' righteousness and innocence of guilt. This is why John the Baptist and Jesus both taught the necessity of repentance:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Mathew 4:17)
Repentance implies that good works are performed. Repentance is not merely an intellectual assent to a set of facts. The Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide (faith only) is simply incorrect. The Catholic doctrines regarding faith and salvation are the correct understanding of these issues.
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically claim that Catholics worship idols in their devotion expressed through images, statues, and icons. This claim is false.
In order for an icon to be an idol there needs to be either: (1) the accompanying belief in a false God, or (2) the attributing of power to the object itself rather than to God. If someone actually believes that a statue of St. Joseph is God, then that would be idolatry. But Catholics use the icons and images to remind them of the reality that they represent. In expressing devotion to Mary by kneeling or kissing a statue of Mary, Catholics are actually expressing their devotion to Mary who resides in heaven. They are not worshipping the statue as claimed by Protestant anti-Catholics.
The New Testament also has images and icons:
Protestants who wear crosses, who have pictures of Jesus and other Bible characters, and who place nativity scenes on their lawns are being inconsistent in claiming that images are idolatry. In looking at a picture of Jesus you recall details of His life and you worship Him as your mind and spirit focuses on Him and His deeds. That's all there is to it.
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically claim that the Catholic Church has invented doctrines and the Reformers such as Martin Luther correctly re-discovered the Biblical doctrines as they were believed by the Apostles who wrote the New Testament. This claim is simply false.
Catholic doctrines appear in a mature form in the writings of the Early Church Fathers even in the next generation after the apostles (more info).
Protestants themselves accept doctrines which took centuries to develop. Examples are the Trinity, the formulation of the Canon, and Inerrancy. To be true to their claims they should reject doctrines which were formulated through interpretation of the Bible by using principles of hermeneutics (more info).
Protestant anti-Catholicsoften claim that the Catholic Church has invented doctrines. Typically these objections take the form of remarks of how such and such a doctrine was developed only very recently. A few comments on the development of doctrine will help to clarify the issue.
The church only "officially" proclaims doctrine when it needs to. Thus, it took hundreds of years to determine the canon and over 400 years for the final statement on the Trinity. She has been very busy defending against heresy and only recently has had the time and interest to deal with the modern doctrines. But they are very old.
Protestant anti-Catholicsclaim that the Catholic Church is not the church that Jesus Christ intended to establish because of historical examples of corruption. If examples of corruption invalidate the ability of people or institution to be used of Christ as He works in this world then He would be unable to do anything in this world. I address this topic in more detail elsewhere (read more).
Another problem with these claims is that there is generally little or no discrimination applied in assessing the guilt. For example, every questionable event is automatically used as if it were strong evidence that the Roman church is corrupt. If a historical secular ruler implemented corrupt policies, then that is blamed on the church. Or if a friar or even a bishop was corrupt, then that is used as "proof" that the church was corrupt. Or, even if the pope was involved in immoral or abusive acts, that evidence is applied to all popes, all church leaders of all times, and the church as a whole.
First of all I need to say that there are examples in the church of corruption, abuses of power, immoral lifestyles among church leaders, emphasis on materialism and secular political power rather then on the spiritual welfare of the church. But the question is whether these events disprove the claims of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church has done much that is good and honorable throughout her long history. Unfortunately, this is overlooked by Protestant anti-Catholics.In addition, it is necessary to understand the historical context to properly evaluate the actions of the church. This too, is not done by these Protestant anti-Catholics.
The claim that the church should never be involved in politics is rather arbitrary. Even Protestant denominations are involved in politics in some manner. They rely on their tax exempt status to remain financially solvent, they raise money for building projects, they manage church property and assets, and they must be concerned with having influence in secular laws in order to provide a cultural environment which is conducive to their ministry.
The church would not have survived as an institution if it had not been involved in secular politics. The message of the gospel would have died out or been corrupted beyond recognition if it were not for the efforts of those who saw the necessity of building the church as an entity which had sufficient power to compete with the power of secular rulers and the culture at large. These facts are ignored by Protestant anti-Catholics.Even Jesus himself chose disciples and entrusted them with the mission of evangelizing the world. This mission required boldness and sacrifice on their part and it required that they pass on the banner to the next generation. Protestant anti-Catholicstypically ignore the importance of continuing the work from one generation to the next as the church has done.
Martin Luther and the other Reformers assumed that the Roman Church was corrupt beyond recovery and that they, therefore, had to split and start their own pure church. In the process they committed the same kind of atrocities that they were accusing the Roman Church of and they structured their churches with the same kind of repressive discipline that they objected to in the Roman Church. The Protestant churches had their own inquisitions, their own massacres of dissidents, their own formulations of doctrine which superceded the Bible, their own church councils which defined required practice for church members, and their own entanglement with the secular rulers who were needed to enforce their decrees. I'm not saying that these things are bad, rather, I'm merely pointing out that in this world inhabited by humans, it is inevitable that such politics occur since humans are political creatures. The Catholic Church is not only justified to be concerned with such things, but demonstrates responsibility in carrying out her mission by her concern for such things. In their attempts to discredit the church established by Jesus, anti-Catholics have missed the point in a big way.
Jesus' solution to the problem of corruption of church leaders was not to split off the way the Reformers did. Instead, He instructed the Jews to follow their spiritual leaders even though these leaders had misrepresented the truth. This is the correct response to corruption in the Catholic Church.
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. (Matthew 23:2,3)
But note that the people disobeyed this in following the high priest in shouting "crucify him." The people were to discern when the leaders were teaching error. Just so, Catholics should be discerning when Church leaders lead them into error.
The scathing condemnation of the Catholic Church's actions in history by anti-Catholics ignores a couple of key points:
Yes, there were some examples of abuses but nothing like what these accusations declare. Remember, the authority of the church and state were all tangled up together in those days. We need to be careful not to blame the church for the actions of the secular rulers.
Jesus' sacrifice on the cross occurred once. In the mass we mystically join Him in that event. It is an awesome experience to be mystically present at the cross.
Protestant anti-Catholicshave various complaints concerning the Eucharist.
One complaint is that transubstantiation could not be true because anyone can see that the bread is still bread and the wine is still wine. But the Eucharist is a mystical and miraculous event and it defies our understanding just as miraculous healings can't be adequately explained.
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically claim that the traditions of the Catholic Church are merely the traditions of men. This objection is based on the assumption that the only valid beliefs and practices are those which are explicitly specified in the New Testament. Protestants who make this objection have many of the same kind of "traditions of men" as those of the Catholics that they are objecting to. Some examples:
I am not saying that there is anything wrong with the above mentioned traditions, but I am merely showing that Protestantism is not free from these so-called "traditions of men." Also, I have not proven the Catholic doctrine of the validity of the traditions of the church. Rather, I have merely highlighted that the anti-Catholic argument is absurd.
The Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura (scripture only) is without foundation (more info).
The Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide (faith only) is also without foundation (more info).
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically claim that the Catholic Church teaches that the sacraments are necessary for salvation. But the sacraments are all performed in the context of membership in the church. For someone outside the church the sacraments have no meaning.
A key question is, can someone be saved if they are not baptized? Some Protestant denominations believe that not only do you have to be baptized to be saved, but that you must be baptized in their denomination. Many denominations don't take such an extreme view and believe instead that baptism is merely an act of obedience taken by one who has already received salvation by their profession of faith.
As the following quote from Vatican II demonstrates, the Catholic Church does not believe that the only people who can be saved are those Catholics who are in good standing with the church and who regularly receive the Sacraments:
16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues; But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature," the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. (Vatican II, The Mystery of the Church, Chapter II, On the People of God)
Some object to the repetitive prayer of Catholics. This includes such things as reciting the "Our Father" and the Rosary. The verse used to support this objection is:
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7)
Notice that Jesus' objection to the practice concerns being seen by men and the need for repetition in order for God to hear them. Catholics do not pray repetitively for either of these reasons but, rather, as a form of meditation in which the mind meditates and reflects on the words being spoken. It is interesting that immediately after the passage quoted above we find the passage containing the "Lord's Prayer."
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically object to the Catholic Church by claiming that God never intended the church to be a human institution with a hierarchy and a pope. I should mention that in spite of this, some Protestant denominations consider themselves to be the true institutional church that Jesus founded. Some even go so far as to claim that their denomination was founded in New Testament times and have been in existence as an underground and persecuted church since then. This last claim is simply ridiculous (read more).
Those who deny that the church is a visible human institution have a hard time justifying the existence of ministers, pastors, and other church leaders since these all exist in the context of a visible institution which can discipline its members when needed (more info).
The church that Jesus established had apostles, elders, overseers, bishops, deacons, prophets, and teachers. Jesus established the church as a visible institution, not just the mystical body of Christ. All institutions by their very nature require some sort of hierarchical authority with a head. (Yes, Jesus is ultimately the head). By establishing the church as a visible institution, Jesus intended that she organize herself.
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically object to the notion of Saints (with a capital "S") because the Bible says that all believers are all saints. Yes, the Bible says that all believers are saints (with a lowercase "s"). But the word Saint with a capital "S" is used specifically to refer to certain believers, specifically those who:
Shame on the anti-Catholics for confusing the meaning of these two words!
There is Biblical support for the Catholic doctrine of Saints:
The twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Revelation 5:8)
The 24 elders (the Saints) are offering the prayers of the saints (believers on earth) to God. This is a perfect description of the heavenly intercession of the Saints.
Some assume that in order for the Saints to hear our prayers and intercede for us that they must be omnipresent. But perhaps Jesus has provided a way to route messages (prayers) to them. We really can't say what powers people in heaven have. Apparently they are beyond our physical constraint of time and can hear and answer prayers from many people at once. But in any case the Saints approach God on our behalf through the mediation of the cross and His blood. And any power that they have derives from Christ's work. For it is through the Cross that God hears us.
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically claim that the Catholic Church teaches evolution. This is false.
Some claim that the Catholic Church is favorable to Freemasonry. This is incorrect.
Martin Luther was fond of calling the pope the Antichrist and the Roman Church "the beast" of the book of Revelation. Needless to say, these so-called exegetical identifications are based on the preexisting bias of Luther. The proper identification of these images are:
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which is an authoritative and complete overview of Catholic teachings):
The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment.
Examples are Socialism, Communism, and other utopian visions.
The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.
Protestants claim that they can properly interpret scripture with the Holy Spirit guiding them. But alas, they have so many contradictory doctrines that I wonder if the Holy Spirit is really with them as they claim. But the Bible is not so easy to interpret and so we have several options:
I vote for option (4) — none of the others are acceptable (more info).
Protestant anti-Catholicswould seem horrified that Catholics would prefer to trust the church to provide the correct interpretation of the Bible. But should they trust themselves to interpret it? If so, then I agree with the Catholic interpretation because she seem to me to have gotten it correct. The typical Protestant interpretation seems contrived to me.
The basic Protestant assumption is that the Roman Church fell into apostasy and the Reformers restored the true New Testament doctrines.
Luther invented a half dozen doctrines. I'm amazed at how much time Protestants spend talking circles around the flaws with the Sola Fide doctrine. The Catholic doctrine of justification solves all the problems.
The typical view of Protestant anti-Catholicsis that the church fell into apostasy and the Reformers fixed it.
One problem with this view concerns identifying when the apostasy took place. Some say that it happened in the very first generation of the church after the last apostle died. This doesn't give much credit to Jesus' and the Holy Spirit's ability to create a church.
Martin Luther indicated that the church got really corrupt about 300 years before his time but that it was somewhat corrupt even before that.
John Foxe in the book "Fox's Book of Martyrs" seems to place the apostasy at the time of the Waldenses at around 1000 A.D.
Some Protestants believe that their denomination is the true New Testament church and that it somehow survived as an underground church from the time of the apostles. Some Baptists think this. This is an absurd claim if you consider the doctrinal teachings of their so-called "true" church (more info).
I suspect that if Martin Luther were alive today that he would agree that his objections to the Roman Church have been fixed within the Catholic Church and its reforms. Yes, there were serious abuses in his day but the church was in the process of reform even as he was in the process of founding the Protestant Reformation. (But the Catholic Church has never cleaned-up all the corruptions and never will.)
Non-traditional so-called Christian groups such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses typically claim that they are the true church which has been founded to "fix" the problems in the apostate church. They are usually founded by a single leader who claims to be a prophet of God and who received a vision from God. Of course, this vision contradicts the established traditional doctrines. Martin Luther seems to me to have something in common with these so-called prophets. He single-handedly derived the "true" doctrines and therefore corrected the so-called "false" doctrines which were then in place. He created a violent rift in the church of his day and had a radical, reactionary, and revolutionary mentally.
In my opinion, the revolution of the Protestant Reformers was no better than the existing Roman Church although it did bring some refreshing new views of Christianity. However, it did not reinstate the Apostolic Church.
Did Jesus forbid the church from becoming a state religion? Certainly in the Roman empire of His day such a thing was impossible. But with Constantine, all that changed. Certainly there are problems with having a state religion, but is it evil? I think not. And remember, God instituted capital punishment so why should the church not use it? Is it better to let known criminals loose so they can hurt others? But the Catholic Church's current view on capital punishment is that it should be used sparingly, if at all, and only in the most extreme cases. Was the church wrong to support capital punishment in the past? I agree that torture is never justified nor has it ever been.
Yes, the church was intended by Jesus to have a human institutional component and to be managed by fallible humans. And as such, she would accomplish her mission. But the church is also the mystical body of Christ. She is both.
I disagree with the typical anti-Catholic assessment of the mission of the Catholic Church. It is not to conquer the world with a political, secular kingdom. Rather, the mission of the church is to:
The Catholic Church has fulfilled, and continues to fulfill this mission.
When I read history written to a secular audience I find it to be in line with history as written by Catholics. When I read history written by anti-Catholic Protestants I find it to not match either of the others, which is to be expected since it has the intended purpose to paint the Catholic Church in the worst light possible rather than provide a balanced account of events.
Some claim that the Catholic Church is no different than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah's Witnesses. However, the gospel of the Catholic Church has nothing in common with them. The gospel of the Catholic Church is:
Anyone who claims that the Catholic Church has a different gospel is simply incorrect. Nor has it ever had a different gospel.
In stating the Roman Church's role in secular politics it is common for Protestant anti-Catholicsto overstate the church's influence with the kings and princes. There was a tension always in place. The pope did not always get his way and often had to compromise with the kings. Later, as the societies changed (evolved) the political power of the popes declined. I see the Holy Spirit working in the history of the world to adjust the church's role to match society's needs as society changes (evolves). Protestant anti-Catholicsseem to want to divorce the workings of the church from society and history but I see them as tightly integrated.
We should keep in mind that the persecuted church of the early centuries found it to be a relief when Constantine endorsed Christianity as the state religion. For centuries after this the church struggled with the state in a power struggle. If it wasn't for this, the church might have disappeared. We should remember the many heresies that the church fought against during this time. Likely, one (or many) of them would today be the form of Christianity in practice if the church were not maintaining its power as it did. The Holy Spirit is guiding the church through history.
Some claim that in Medieval times that the secular rulers were "ruled" by the Vatican, but this is not true. Certainly the church had power and influence but she was never in absolute control of the state. There was always a battle going on as each side tried to increase its power and influence, just as in today's world the church has influence but not absolute control. People still have free will and often violate the requests/command of the church.
Some claim that although the church never ruled 100% of the monarchs, it did so to such a degree that it virtually had its way. All the church had to do was mention the word "excommunication" and the monarch in question usually bowed their way. There is some truth to this.
The real objection concerns the question, "What is the church doing getting mixed up with the state?" To answer this we need to consider that it is inevitable that any human institution will get mixed up with the other institutions of society. Even Jesus got mixed up with the state — that is why He was crucified.
In my study of church history I have noticed that the so-called "atrocities" are in the distant background when seen in the larger context of history. What I see as the focus instead is the spread of the gospel to an entire civilization and the church's battle against heresy; heresy which often endangered the social order and threatened anarchy and violent revolution. I have studied in some detail the Inquisitions, the Crusades, and Galileo. Based on this study I am compelled to stand by my claims that anti-Catholics have grossly misrepresented the historical facts and have chosen to emphasize a very narrow set of the facts rather than consider all the historical events in their proper context. At this point, I am rather saddened that the anti-Catholics are so willing to misrepresent the facts of history in order to make their case — this is very un-Christian behavior.
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically accuse the Roman Church of terrible atrocities. Yes, there have been incidents in which church leaders have been involved in atrocities. And yes, the leadership of the Roman Church has occasionally authorized atrocities, but usually they condemned them. Sometimes the friars, bishops, and priests have ignored the decrees of the pope and done bad things anyway. The anti-Catholic tone makes it sound like the church leaders were always in every case corrupt, but this is far from the truth. Even popes who did bad things also did many good things. The brush the anti-Catholics use to paint with is very wide.
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically refer to the Inquisition as if were all bad and had no good associated with it. But actually, the various inquisitions for the most part were good even though there were a few abuses here and there. Usually, however, the abuses were done by the secular leaders, not the church. The church often specified that the secular leaders should not be abusive according to the societal norms of the day, but the secular leaders often ignored the church's message.
To claim that the Inquisition is all bad would be like stating that in today's world, laws which limit people's freedom to commit acts against society, such as murder and theft, impinge on people's freedom and are therefore bad. But in every society there must be a code of behavior and values which is enforced or the society will collapse into anarchy. In Medieval times Christianity was one of the "glues" that held the society together. To allow heresy (and the Inquisitions for the most part were against real heretics) would result in disaster.
If you think about it, the moral decline in our day and age has had very bad effects including abortion, promiscuity, violence, children with only one parent, divorce, drug usage, foul language, and emphasis on sexual pleasure. It would have been better to have had high moral standards and some form of enforcement of these standards. That is what the Inquisitions were all about.
Good benefits of the inquisitions:
This being said, I need to mention that, yes, the church did have an involvement with the inquisition — after all, it was an office of the church. There were priests trained in torture and special church buildings for torture. And the methods of justice in those days were cruel and idiotic: for example, torture someone to extract a confession but if they don't confess it means they are guilty. And if they do confess, naturally they are guilty. People who inadvertently fell into the hands of the inquisition were very unfortunate indeed, unless they happened to fall into the hands of the secular judicial system which was far, far worse.
Many Protestant anti-Catholicsseem to think it is a very big deal that Catholic refer to their priests as father. They base this on the passage in Matthew 23:9. But a closer look at the passage shows that their view has a fatal flaw:
They [the teachers of the law] love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them "Rabbi." But you are not to be called "Rabbi," for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth "father," for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called "teacher," for you have one Teacher, the Christ. (Matthew 23:6-10)
Jesus is dealing with their lack of humility, in which they derive personal meaning from the honor they get through the use of titles. But Catholic Priests use these titles merely to define their role in the church. I don't sense that Priests think of themselves in an exalted way because of their title.
The apostle Paul refers to himself as father and doesn't see it as a problem:
You do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. (1 Corinthians 4:15)
Notice that in this passage Paul affirms that there are many fathers and that Paul, himself, is their only father. There is no reason that Catholics should consider that they can't use the word father to refer to one another.
If Protestant anti-Catholicswere consistent in their interpretation of the passage in Matthew 23 they should also refrain from calling one another "teacher" as well. They forget to mention this concern since they often use this title for one another.
In addition many of these same Protestants call their own male parents "father". In Matthew 23:9 Jesus makes no distinction between spiritual fathers and biological fathers.
It is a common misunderstanding that people are saved in purgatory, but this is not correct. Anyone in purgatory will gain access to heaven when the work of purification is completed. Prayers for the dead are strictly to assist those in purgatory to learn what they need to learn.
For those who die in an unredeemed condition, they will not go to purgatory at all but will go to hades. For these, there is no chance for redemption; no hope of purgation in purgatory; no hope of ending up in heaven.
It is hard to explain the following passage in any other way than supporting the doctrine of purgatory:
Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? (1 Corinthians 15:29)
A couple of other purgatory passages from the Bible:
His work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:13,15)
These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:7)
As a Protestant I thought the doctrine was invalid, bit it makes perfect sense. Why would God let someone into heaven until He cleaned them up first?
Protestant anti-Catholicstypically assume that the Bible is easy to understand. To highlight the flaw in this assumption I provide the following passages which seem to contradict. In specifying the criteria for a person to be considered an apostle, Peter seems to rule out the possibility that Paul could be considered as an apostle:
Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. (Acts 1:21,22)
Yet Paul does not hesitate to call himself an apostle:
Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? (1 Corinthians 9:1)
Apostles had to have seen the risen Christ and to be an eyewitness of His resurrection. Therefore, Acts 1:21 disqualifies Paul as an apostle because Paul was not with the disciples during Jesus' earthly ministry. You either have to accept Peter's criteria and reject Paul as an apostle or you have to reject Peter's criteria and accept Paul. You can't have it both ways. The point is that this apparent contradiction is impossible to reconcile without the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
The point is that almost everything in the Bible requires some sort of interpretation to make any sense out of it. Who makes those decisions? Me? Anti-Catholics? Luther? If the Holy Spirit gives it to us as individuals then why are there so many disagreements?