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 clarify the teachings of the Catholic Church. There is a ton of misinformation being passed-around by Protestant critics. Shame on them!
The following claims provide the basis for the Catholic Church:
If these claims are true then anyone who wants to follow the truth should convert to Catholicism. If they are false then the Catholic Church is not what she claims to be.
Really, the issue comes down to what aspects of the modern Catholic Church represent the apostolic Church?
The Catholic Church is the sole authority in determining the nature of the Christian faith
In declaring this claim to be untrue we are left with the question, "how are we to determine the truth about the nature of the Christian faith?" The typical answer is that the Bible is the authority. But in order to be understood the Bible must be interpreted, and herein lies the problem. Nobody can agree on how to interpret the Bible. (Read Sola Scriptura.)
My answer to this dilemma: How to know what is true
The Catholic Church is authoritative in her interpretation of the Bible
The Protestant reformers declared that the Bible is the sole authority and then they proceeded to define what they considered to be the true teachings of the Bible. In doing so they changed some major doctrines which had been the teachings of the church for over a thousand years. Why should we believe that the reformers got it right? After all they could not agree with each other and they themselves accepted many of the doctrines of the Catholic church which Protestants only later threw out.
My answer to this dilemma: Church History
Jesus intended to establish an institutional church, which is the true church
Some Protestant denominations claim their denominational institution is the true church. Some even go so far as to say you are not saved unless you are baptized in their denomination. Even churches not having these extreme views usually have a strong institutional structure and believe they are justified to do so because the Bible teaches the church was intended to be a visible institution. But if this is true then the institution the apostles established would have to have a continuity from the first generation and there would be no need for the Reformers to split the church as they did.
My answer to this dilemma: The Early Church Fathers
The Catholic Church is this true church
The typical view of Protestants is that the early church was the true church but it quickly fell into apostasy. (Of course, there is no general agreement on when this apostasy began.) Then the Reformers finally recreated the true church by studying the Bible. But this claim can't be true. Consider that the Reformers themselves can't agree on many of the important details and that they disagree about many key doctrines and practices. In discussing the foundation for their faith I have observed that many Protestants will quickly abandon Martin Luther. But he is the one who came up with the distinctive Protestant doctrines such as Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide.
My answer to this dilemma: The Church — Good & Bad
This article is the outcome of my intensive study of Catholicism. The Catholic Church makes remarkable claims about the Bible in relationship to (1) tradition, and to (2) Christian doctrine. A few of the claims are:
Most Protestants have ideas about the Catholic Church and Catholic doctrine which are completely wrong. This is because the Protestant church has made a concerted effort to discredit Catholicism.
The following are the correct views of what the Catholic Church really teaches.
There are many biblical passages that provide the foundations for Catholicism. But note that these passages don't "prove" the claims of Catholicism, rather, it is the interpretation of these passages by the Catholic Church which provides the basis for understanding them as supporting the Catholic view. Protestants will typically be horrified by a statement like this, but really, this is no different than what Protestants do. A theologian, such as Martin Luther or John Calvin, derives a doctrinal formulation from a particular interpretation of various biblical passages and declares it to be correct. The real question is "who is the proper authority for interpreting the Bible?"
Following are some key Catholic doctrines and the Catholic interpretation of some of the biblical passages used to support them:
(1) Jesus intended to create one true institutional church in which the hierarchy of leaders can be traced back to the apostle Peter
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:18-19)
This passage is the cornerstone of Catholicism. Here is the Catholic interpretation:
(1) All leaders of the Catholic Church can trace their authority back to Peter. After Peter, a successor is appointed — after him another successor is appointed, and so forth.
(2) Peter was the first Pope and the seeds of the institution of the papacy are in this verse.
(3) As the leader of the Church in Rome, Peter established the supremacy of the Church in Rome.
(4) For more read Peter is the Rock
We see that Peter has a prominent role in the apostolic church as the following passages demonstrate:
Jesus said [to Peter], "Feed my sheep." (John 21:17) But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. (Mark 16:7)
Christ singles out Peter.
Then after three years, I [Paul] went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. (Galatians 1:18)
Even Paul acknowledges that it is important to get his work approved and sanctioned by Peter.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. (Acts 2:14)
Peter definitely had no qualms about accepting his role as leader of the other apostles.
(2) The Eucharist (communion) as the primary Sacrament
I am the bread of life. . . . Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. (John 6:48,53)
The context of this passage is that the people who were miraculously fed the previous day have followed Jesus across the lake and are insistently pleading with Him to feed them again. He attempts to instruct them that the manna of the Israelites in the desert was physical but that He is the true spiritual manna. They refuse to hear the message so He tells them that they must eat Him to have life. They abandon Him because their hearts are focused on the material benefits they received rather than on the spiritual blessing of having life in Christ.
The Catholic Church interprets this passage to refer to the Eucharist in which the bread (wafer) and wine are literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ (transubstantiation).
This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. . . . This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:24-25 Also, Matthew 26:26-28)
In the context of the Jewish Passover meal the bread and wine symbolically represent God's promise to free His chosen people from the bondage to the Egyptians and the redemption of the nation of Israel by Moses. These statements by Christ at the Last Supper reflect that Christ is the redeemer who frees us from the bonds of sin by His sacrificial death.
When taken literally, this passage provides the basis for the Eucharist.
Many of the Reformers including Luther and Calvin, held the same views on Mary as the Catholic Church does. The Catholic Church has these doctrines concerning Mary:
"The angel went to her [Mary] and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you'" (Luke 1:28). "From now on all generations will call me blessed" (Luke 1:48).
Only the Catholic Church takes this passage literally. Protestants typically water it down by stating that we call Mary blessed because she was the mother of Jesus. But taken literally, this passage means that as believers, we should call her blessed.
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved [John] standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:26-27)
In this passage John represents all believers and Christ is establishing the family of God with Christ's mother as the mother of all believers. This verse refutes the idea that Jesus had other blood brothers because if He did they would be the ones who would take care of Mary after His death.
(4) Baptism is necessary for salvation
Baptism is one of the Sacraments. According to the Catholic Church it is during the act of Baptism that a new believer's sins are forgiven. Many Protestant denominations also believe this.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2:38)
Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. (Acts 22:16)
(5) Confession to a priest and penance for sins committed after baptism
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
The sacrament of penance is an institutionalized application of this passage.
(6) The priesthood vs. laity
Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. (Hebrews 5:1)
The writer is referring to the high priests of Israel and other nations. It is reasonable that the Catholic Church would have similar institutions to the Old Testament nation of Israel that God established. This is the model for the kind of institution the church is.
(7) The sacraments
The Sacraments were instituted by Christ and were prefigured by certain signs in the Old Testament. Certain denominations also believe in sacraments but they have fewer than the Catholic Church. There are biblical passages that support each of the seven particular Sacraments.
(8) Purgatory and the necessity to be purified from the effects of sin before entering into the presence of God
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.
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)
It is difficult to come to any other conclusion than the doctrine of purgatory without completely ignoring the literal meaning.
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)
I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:26)
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:32)
Implies that people can have their sins forgiven [in purgatory] after death. This is not referring to sins leading to death which prevent a person from receiving eternal life.
Protestants typically claim that the only biblical support for the doctrine of purgatory comes from the "apocryphal" book of Second Maccabees. (Note: the book of 2 Maccabees is considered part of the Old Testament Canon by Catholics.) Here is the passage in question:
Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin. (2 Maccabees 12:46)
This demonstrates that the Jews did believe in baptizing for the dead. But there is a similar passage in the New Testament:
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)
The best way to literally interpret this passage is the doctrine of purgatory. Protestants who wish to deny this doctrine must jump through hoops to explain away the natural meaning.
(9) Icons (statues of Mary and the Saints) and altars
Old Testament Israel had a very rich set of symbolic images just as the Catholic Church does.
(10) Monastic orders (monks, nuns and asceticism)
Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20)
Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24)
For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it. (Matthew 19:12)
I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:32)
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect. . . (Hebrews 5:7-9)
(11) Celibacy for priests
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. (1 Corinthians 7:8,25,26,32)
Paul states that there is a certain value in remaining celibate.
Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas? (1 Corinthians 9:5)
This verse clearly states that the apostles could be married. But the Catholic Church can change its practices over time. Certainly the New Testament church changed even within the few decades of time reported in the book of Acts and the various Epistles.
They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. (1 Timothy 4:3)
This verse refers to a heresy in which celibacy is plays a part. It does not of necessity pertain to the practice of celibacy for priests.