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.
Many Catholic doctrines and practices can be derived from the Bible and most can be supported from the Bible.
Many non-Catholic Christians claim that communion is merely symbolic, but the Catholic Church teaches that in some mystical but real way, the body and blood of Christ is literally transformed into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:26-28)
A literal reading of this passage indicates that communion is not merely symbolic. There is no reason to interpret this passage figuratively.
I am the living bread . . . . Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. (John 6:51,53)
Eating the blood of Christ and drinking his blood is a prerequisite for salvation.
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. (John 6:66)
If Jesus were speaking metaphorically, why did he not correct their misunderstanding?
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)
This exactly matches Catholic communion.
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils. (1 Corinthians 10:21)
Those who partake of food sacrificed to idols in pagan rituals do not consider these rituals to be merely symbolic. Just so, Catholic communion is not symbolic.
Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. . . . For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. (1 Corinthians 11:27,29)
These verses don't make any sense if communion is merely symbolic.
But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. (1 Corinthians 11:28)
This exactly matches Catholic teaching.
For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (1 Corinthians 11:30)
Why would people get sick and die if communion were merely symbolic?
It is clear from the many references to the Eucharist in the writings of the early church fathers that the early church did not believe that communion was merely symbolic. In fact, it is clear that the early church believed and practiced the Catholic view of the Eucharist. Read more:
There are many biblical passages which state that baptism results in the remission of sins. Thus, we must be baptized to be saved. Certainly saving faith is also required but baptism is not merely an act done in obedience after salvation, rather, baptism is the means by which God imparts the grace of salvation.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38)
The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us. (1 Peter 3:21)
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God. (Colossians 2:12)
It is clear from the many references to baptism in the writings of the early church fathers that the early church believed and taught that baptism resulted in the remission of sins. Read more:
Sacraments | Letter 51 by St. Cyprian of Carthage, para. 22 | Letter 54 by St. Cyprian of Carthage, para. 13 | Letter 62 by St. Cyprian of Carthage, para. 8 | Treatise 1 by St. Cyprian of Carthage, para. 11 | The First Apology of Justin Martyr, Chapter LXI | On Baptism by Tertullian, Chapter IV, VI. XII, XIII | The Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter XI | The Seventh Council of Carthage Under Cyprian
There are several New Testament passages in which whole households are baptized. Presumably this includes children and infants as well. At the very least, the New Testament does not unambiguously state that children and infants are not to be baptized.
And when she was baptized, and her household. (Acts 16:15)
And I baptized also the household of Stephanas. (1 Corinthians 1:16)
And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. (Acts 16:31-33)
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. (1 Corinthians 7:14)
In a like manner, the parents can sanctify their children and infants who are baptized before the age of reason.
This is a very complex topic.
It is a common misconception that indulgences are used to earn salvation. The actual teaching of the Catholic Church is that indulgences have nothing to do with salvation — indulgences only have value for those who are already on their way to heaven.
Indulgences provide a way for God to bless those who are already saved. He does this by removing the temporal effects of sin.
Here is how indulgences work. The church determines (through the power of binding and loosing) that when a penitent (one who repents of a sin) performs certain actions with true contrition (Godly sorrow, 2 Corinthians 7:10,11) that some or all of the temporal effects of that sin will be removed. People who are perfectly clean at the time of death will go straight to heaven, otherwise they will spend some time in purgatory before going to heaven.
The ingredients of indulgences are:
Note: As a Protestant, many of the following verses seemed very weird and unintelligible. Bit now they make perfect sense.
Afterward Jesus findeth him [the former paralytic] in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. (John 5:14)
The man's sin resulted in his paralysis. Jesus forgave him and healed him, but if the man were to continue to sin after this it would result in an even worse condition. Notice that sin has an effect in the temporal world. Indulgences are a way to remove the temporal effects of sins already committed (not future sins yet to be committed).
I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. (Romans 6:19,20)
When we sin we drive out righteousness, even if we are still saved. But we cannot enter heaven in this unclean condition so we must first be cleansed of our sin. The temporal effects of our sin prevents us from entering heaven even though we are saved.
And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie. (Revelation 21:27)
The unclean cannot enter heaven. Therefore, we must do something about the temporal effects of our sins before entering heaven. This can occur during purgatory.
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Our goal is perfection. Our sins are not merely covered over — God sees them and hates them.
I have not found thy works perfect before God. (Revelation 3:2)
God expects us to be perfect. This implies that something has to happen to make us perfect if we are not perfect.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:10)
We all sin. Therefore, we are all imperfect and cannot enter heaven (Revelation 21:27) until we become perfect.
There are six things the LORD hates. (Proverbs 6:16)
Following in verses 17-19 is a list of sins. God hates sin.
[Paul,] Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church. (Colossians 1:24 )
Paul's sufferings are a continuation of Christ's sufferings and it benefits the church. This verse seems to say more than merely that Paul was able to share the gospel with people but he had to suffer in doing so.
Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:18)
We are rewarded by God for our righteous deeds. Note that this is not a salvation issue because we are not saved by our works.
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. (Matthew 6:20)
Our works on earth provide merit for us in heaven. This is the basis of the Catholic view of the Treasury of Merit; that the Saints (including the Blessed Virgin Mary) have stored up an overwhelming abundance of this treasure which is available to be distributed to others who are worthy. However, this verse doesn't say anything like this at all.
Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. (Matthew 5:26)
We must pay retribution for our sinful deeds.
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. (1 Corinthians 3:12,13)
We can be purified from the temporal effects of our sins through fire (not eternal hell-fire, but purifying fire.) This passage doesn't state how this is to be accomplished.
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. (1 John 5:16)
Here is the essence of the doctrine of indulgences. We can do things (such as pray) for ourselves and for others to remove the death caused by particular sins. This death is not eternal death but, rather, the bad effects due to the temporal effects of the sin. Sins that lead to death (mortal sins) result in eternal damnation if not addressed. But the effects of venial sins (sins that don't lead to eternal damnation) can be removed. One way is through indulgences.
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? (1 Corinthians 15:29)
The believers were baptizing for the dead and Paul does not condemn the practice. Apparently this practice had benefit for those believers who had died. Actions (including prayers) performed on earth can affect those believers who have died.
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18)
Jesus gave the church the power to bind and loose. The church (in union with the pope) has the power to determine which actions must be performed with true contrition in order for the penitent to gain the good effects of the indulgence. The church has this power only because Jesus gave her this power.
Here's how I use indulgences. Since the various actions are determined by the church to provide superior benefit when compared to other actions (since the temporal effects of sin are removed when performing them), I use these actions as a guide for how to live a holy life. When I am gaining a plenary indulgence daily I know that I am living a holy life and am therefore pleasing to God. I know we are not supposed to trust our emotions but I must say that when I do this I feel very holy.
Sometimes God uses various objects including bones of a dead saint to bless people.
And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet. (2 Kings 13:21)
So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. (Acts 19:12)
Prayers to Saints
There are several verses which support the Catholic teaching that we can (and should) pray to the Saints, and that they will hear and answer our prayers.
Golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. (Revelation 5:8)
The Saints are in heaven praying for people here on earth. It seems reasonable to assume that their prayers are based on our prayer requests to them, otherwise how will they know what to pray for? The dynamics of intercessory prayer is that the intercessor learns of someone's needs and then prays for those needs on their behalf.
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16)
Certainly the Saints in heaven are righteous. Shouldn't we wish for them to pray for us?
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. (Luke 16:26)
One objection to praying to the Saints is the claim that the boundary between life and death cannot be crossed. Certainly there is a gulf in the afterworld between those who are redeemed and those who are not. But the next couple of examples demonstrate that there is no such gulf between the living and those in heaven.
And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself. (1 Samuel 28:14)
An example of Samuel, who was dead, appearing to Saul. This verse demonstrates that it is possible for there to be communication across the boundary between life and death. We are not to do this in the way Saul did, through the use of a medium. But it is okay to pray to Saints in heaven.
And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. (Matthew 17:3)
This verse demonstrates that it is not always forbidden for the Saints to interact with this world.
There are several common objections to the Rosary:
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Psalm 136:1)
This psalm repeats the phrase "for his mercy endureth for ever" 26 times. Certainly if the Bible contains repetitive prayer it is not forbidden.
And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. (Luke 11:2-4)
Jesus commands us to pray this prayer.
The Rosary is based on biblical verses. Since when is it wrong or bad to recite the Bible?
And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. (Luke 1:28)
The lines from the Rosary use this verse and several verses following: Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
There are 20 events from the life of Jesus and Mary which are, in turn, meditated upon. All of them are from the Bible or from doctrines that can be supported from the Bible. Since when is it wrong or bad to recall these biblical scenes?
The Bible teaches that the use of contraception is gravely sinful; worthy of the death penalty.
And if the man like not to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate unto the elders, and say, My husband's brother refuseth to raise up unto his brother a name in Israel, he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother. Then the elders of his city shall call him, and speak unto him: and if he stand to it, and say, I like not to take her; Then shall his brother's wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother's house. And his name shall be called in Israel, The house of him that hath his shoe loosed. (Deuteronomy 25:7-10)
The Old Testament penalty for not performing this duty was not the death penalty. Therefore, God punished Onan for more than merely not performing his duty. Once he entered into union with her, he had an obligation which he failed to accomplish or to take seriously. But God took it seriously.
And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. (Genesis 38:8-10)
The Catholic Church teaches that God administered the death penalty to Onan for using a form of contraception.
Certainly using contraception was not Onan's only transgression — he also abused a cultural means of taking care of widows (an immoral means involving adultery, I should add) to his own advantage, to satisfy his immoral lusts.
Some people mistakenly think that an annulment is merely another word for a Catholic divorce. This is not the case.
When two people get married the question is: Are they really married? Who decides whether or not they are really married? Who defines what marriage is? For example, if the civil government marries two people of the same sex are they really married? The issue is that we must determine whether these people are married in God's eyes. True marriage is marriage that God honors.
A Catholic annulment is a statement that the couple was not truly married in God's eyes.
They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. (Matthew 19:7-9)
Jesus does not allow divorce and remarriage at all. The only case in which a man may "put away" his wife is when their relations are fornication — in other words, their marriage is not valid in the eyes of God. If Jesus meant to refer to having sexual relations outside of marriage he would have used the word adultery instead of fornication.
I am not here addressing the topic of whether or not Catholic annulments are abused by being given out when they should not be. The question is whether the Bible supports this doctrine and the answer is that, yes it does.
A couple of verses:
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5)
This verse provides support for the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. (Luke 1:48)
Mary states that all generations will call her blessed. Catholics do this.
And she [Elizabeth] spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (Luke 1:42)
Elizabeth says this under the power of the Holy Spirit. She is expressing devotion to Mary.