What the Roman Catholic Church Teaches

By Thomas Williamson



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What the Roman Catholic Church Teaches


Many evangelical Christians today are supporting and endorsing ministries such as Billy Graham, Luis Palau and Promise Keepers whose declared purpose is to send their contacts into the Roman Catholic Church. Before we join in this cause of seeking converts for the Catholic Church, it would be wise to pause long enough to find out just what the Catholic Church believes and teaches.

The Catholic Doctrine on Salvation

The Catholic Church believes that salvation must be attained by both faith and works, and that baptism is necessary for salvation. Official Catholic doctrine proclaims that anyone who believes in salvation by faith alone, or that baptism is not essential for salvation, is Anathema, or cursed. Here is what the Council of Trent has to say:

"If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA." Canon 5

"If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA." Canon 12

Some are under the false impression that since Catholic priests are participating in Promise Keepers, this proves that Catholics have the true doctrine of salvation. This reasoning is faulty - Mormons and Campbellites are also participating in PK, but that does not prove that they have the true doctrine of salvation. Roman Catholics most certainly do not have the true understanding of how to be saved, since they make baptism and good works to be essential for salvation.

Current Catholic Teaching on the Confessional

As of 1996, the Catholic Church was insisting that the faithful go to their priests for confession: "The pope has issued a warning to all Catholics, saying they must provide their priest with a 'specific and numerically complete' list of their sins when going to confession. A recent Ecumenical News International press release quoted Pope John Paul !I as saying that many Catholics do not 'make a complete list of mortal sins in the way called for by the Council of Trent ....' Pope John Paul says he wants Catholics to realize that this is not an 'arbitrarily imposed burden, but a means of liberation and serenity."' (Source, Foundation, May-June 1996)

The Sacrifice of the Mass

Here is what the new "Catechism of the Catholic Church" teaches about the Sacrament of Eucharist, or Communion: "The Eucharist cleanses us from past sins and preserves us from future sins.... " It is called the "Holy Sacrifice, because it makes present the one sacrifice of Christ the Savior and includes the Church's offering.... As sacrifice, the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the dead and to obtain spiritual or temporal benefits from God."

Catholics do not believe that the death of Christ on the Cross was sufficient to forgive sins. For this reason, they continually sacrifice what they believe to be the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ at the sacrifice of the mass. Priests believe they have the power to turn the wafer into Christ - thus, the consecrated wafer becomes an object of worship, which is idolatry, which is very strongly forbidden by the Word of God.

Mary is Presented as Savior of Mankind

On April 9, 1997, Pope John Paul II issued this statement on the saving role of Mary:

"In union with Christ and yielding to Him, She collaborated to obtain the grace of salvation for all humanity.... Having created man male and female, in the Redemption too, the Lord wanted to put the New Eve next to the New Adam .... Mary, the New Eve, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church. She, in the divine plan, represents under the Cross redeemed humanity, which, needy of salvation, is made capable of offering a contribution to the development of the saving work." (Source, O Timothy, Issue 5, 1997)

The Catholic Catechism presents Mary as co-redeemer of mankind, saying "Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race .... 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…. She is inseparably linked with the saving

work of her Son."

Mary as an Object of Worship

On May 7, 1997, Pope John Paul I proclaimed, based on John 19, that "it is possible to understand the authentic meaning of Marian worship, in the ecclesial community … which furthermore is based on the will of Christ .... the history of Christian piety teaches that Mary is the path that leads to Christ." (Source, O Timothy, Issue 6, 1997.)

The Catholic Catechism teaches that "The Church's devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.... The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer such as the rosary, an epitome of the whole Gospel, expresses this devotion to the Virgin Mary."

The encyclical "Redemptoris Mater" dated March 25, 1987, informs us, "As a rule, the first Saturday of each month, Pope John Paul II prays the Holy Rosary before an image of the Virgin Mary, either in the Hall of Benedictions above St. Peter's Basilica, or in the larger Paul IV Audience Hall." This is idolatry, and the Bible forbids us to associate with idolaters in religious work, demanding that we separate from them, 2 Cor. 6:14-18.

The Pope Pontificates on Evolution

In 1950, Pope Plus XII declared that Darwinian evolution was a serious hypothesis, and that it was permissible for Catholics to believe in it. In October, 1996 Pope John Paul II went further declaring "New knowledge leads us to recognize in the theory of evolution more than a hypothesis.... The convergence, neither sought nor induced, of results of work done independently one from the other, constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory." (Christian News, Nov. 18, 1~96)

Some conservative Catholics were alarmed by this statement, and it was suggested that the Pope's commendation of Darwinian evolution was perhaps a mistranslation of his remarks. Further investigation has confirmed that the Pope's remarks were translated correctly, and that he did indeed endorse the theory of evolution.

The Roman Catholic Church no longer takes a strong stand for the inerrancy of the Word of God. Many leading Catholic theologians have accepted the conclusions of the liberal "higher criticism" of the Bible and have denied cardinal doctrines of the faith, including the Holy Trinity. Evangelicals looking for allies in their battle for the fundamentals of the faith need not waste their time with the Catholic Church, which is rapidly slipping into modernism.

Current Catholic Teaching on Baptism

The latest word from the Catholic Church on the subject of baptism can be found in the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" issued in February, 1997 and approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States in August, 1997. According to this declaration, salvation is by baptism:

"By the action of the Holy Spirit in baptism, they are granted the gift of salvation, which lays the basis for the whole Christian life .... Catholics hold that the grace of Jesus Christ imparted in baptism takes away all that is sin in the proper sense and that is worthy of damnation."

Here is what the new Catholic Catechism says about infant baptism: "The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless Grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer Baptism shortly after birth." "By Baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin."

Defenders of the ecumenical movement insist that Baptists must join with Catholics in evangelistic work, on the basis that the Catholics are now sound on the doctrine of salvation. Obviously, this is not true. Official Catholic doctrine teaches that salvation comes by baptism, not by faith in Christ. Those who believe that Catholic priests are somehow preaching the true gospel message to their people would do well to read the primary documents of Catholicism, to find out what Catholics really believe.

The Faith of Chicago's Cardinal Bernardin

In March, 1995, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago surprised a lot of people when he stated that the Gospel of John in the New Testament contains erroneous, anti-Semitic teaching, and that Christians must repudiate such teaching. (See Christian News, April 10, 1995.) This story was carried on page 1 of the Chicago Sun-Times. Bernardin was not a believer in biblical inerrancy.

When Bernardin was dying of a terminal illness, the Chicago newspapers reported at length on his hopes for the afterlife. Bernardin expressed the hope that he might be found worthy of heaven because of the physical sufferings and pain he was experiencing. No explanation was given as to how a person who died peacefully and without pain might earn his way into heaven. Bernardin, a man respected and looked up to by Chicagoans of all faiths, had no understanding of the Bible plan of salvation.

To this day, the 2.3 million members of the Chicago Archdiocese still do not have the light of the gospel nor the knowledge of how to be saved. Thousands of their homes in Chicago are adorned with anti-Protestant placards stating that they will not accept any non-Catholic Gospel literature.

The Council of Trent - What Catholics Really Believe

We have already seen that the Council of Trent condemns any belief in salvation by faith alone, and insists that infants are saved by baptism. Let us take a look at some of the other decrees of the Council of Trent:

"8. I firmly hold that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful.

"Likewise, that the saints reigning with Christ are to be honored and invoked, and that they offer up prayers to God for us; and that their relics are to be held in veneration.

"9. I most firmly assert that the images of Christ and of the perpetual Virgin, the Mother of God, and also of other saints, ought to be had and retained, and that due honor and veneration are to be given them."

The decrees of the Council of Trent issued in 1563, are still official Catholic doctrine today. The New Catholic Catechism of 1994 refers to Trent approximately 100 times, and in 1995 Pope John Paul II declared that the conclusions of Trent "naturally maintain all their value."

In 1997, various Southern Baptist theologians, including Paige Patterson, refused to sign an unofficial document in which some Catholic scholars supposedly agreed that they believe in salvation by faith alone. Patterson stated, "Baptist evangelicals don't have any business signing any doctrinal consensus papers with Rome until Rome disassociates itself from the Council of Trent." (Source, Christian News, December 15, 1997)

CONCLUSION: Catholic Church is Not Christian and We Have No Business Sending Anyone into the Church of Rome

Sufficient information has been presented here, from official Roman Catholic sources, to show that the Catholic Church preaches a false Gospel which is not Christian in nature. It goes without saying that the Catholic "churches" are not true churches, nor do they have the true baptism, or the true Lord's Supper.

For Baptists, who have the true gospel, the true Church, the true baptism and the true Lord's Supper, there can be no possible justification or excuse before a holy God, under any circumstances whatsoever, for us to withhold the blessings that we have from anyone, by sending religious inquirers into the Catholic Church.

This should eliminate from our consideration any possibility of our cooperation with ecumenical movements such as Promise Keepers and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which openly proclaim their intentions of feeding their inquirers into the Catholic Church and of assisting Catholics in deepening their devotion to their mistaken beliefs.


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