Roman Catholic Doctrine
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
1> A Conciliatory Comment
2> The Root Problem
3> The Bible and Roman Catholicism
4> A Religious System of Biblical Distortions
5> The Gradual Development of Roman Catholic Errors
6> Roman Catholicism and Tradition
7> The Virgin Mary
8> The Papacy
9> Papal Infallibility
10> Papal Decrees
11> Mortal and Venial Sins
16> The Assurance of Salvation
18> The Priesthood
There are hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics world-wide, yet many are
largely unaware of the dramatic differences between the official teachings,
practices, and positions of the Catholic Church, and the clear teaching of
the Holy Bible. There are multitudes of dedicated Catholics who are
spiritually uninformed concerning these differences because of a lack of
sound biblical instruction and exposure.
Though many Roman Catholics give unquestioned support to their church and
strongly reject any possibility that their church may be in conflict with
their own Catholic Bible, there are sincere Catholics who see glaring
inconsistencies and contradictions between the official teachings of the
Roman Catholic Church and the fundamental truths contained in the sacred
This booklet offers Roman Catholics, who are seeking after truth, a clear-
cut comparison between the major teachings of the Catholic Church and the
Word of God. The Word of God is the supreme authority from which all Roman
Catholics must derive their beliefs and practices. All Scripture
references cited in this booklet are taken only from official Catholic
translations of the Bible.
A CONCILIATORY COMMENT
While this booklet scripturally challenges many of the teachings within
Roman Catholicism, it is not an attack upon the competence, sincerity,
intelligence, integrity, or religious dedication of individual Catholics.
This booklet doesn't deny the reality that many Catholics possess strong
convictions and are deeply devoted to their religious beliefs. Neither do
we deny the fact that some Catholics have had a genuine, born-again
experience in Christ.
However, this booklet does challenge many of the positions and practices
of the Catholic Church by using a point-by-point comparison of its major
teachings and the obvious truths of the Word of God. This booklet asks
Roman Catholics to carefully examine the Scriptures with an intellectually
honest and open attitude (Acts 17:11), and to judge for themselves what the
Bible actually says apart from official church censorship, restrictions,
warnings, indoctrination, and qualifications. We believe the clear truths
of the Catholic Bible will speak for themselves.
THE ROOT PROBLEM
The fundamental problem confronting the average Roman Catholic is the
fact that they are almost completely unaware of what the Catholic Bible
really teaches. Many sincere Catholics, including laymen and parish
priests alike, have never had sufficient cause to question the teachings
of their church because they have never been adequately instructed in the
Scriptural truths which challenge the principle doctrines of Catholicism.
The tragic reality is that the overwhelming majority of Catholics have
either never personally studied the Bible, or have only done so under the
strict supervision and scrutiny of their church. Many have not been
exposed to the clear, simple truths of the Bible because they have been
repeatedly warned to rely on the official interpretations, opinions, and
traditions of the church.
Even though Catholic versions of the Bible (Jerusalem Bible, New American,
and Challoner-Rheims Version of the Latin Vulgate) encourage Bible reading
and study (Deut. 6:7-9; Ps. 119:9-11; Acts 17:11), the tragic historical
fact is that Catholicism, with very few exceptions, has repeatedly
discouraged Bible reading and study, and even banned or restricted its use,
distribution, and possession.
THE BIBLE AND ROMAN CATHOLICISM
The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally suppressed, opposed, and
forbidden the open use of the Bible. It was first officially forbidden to
the people and placed on the index of Forbidden Books List by the Council
of Valencia in 1229 A.D. The Council of Trent (1545-63 A.D.) also
prohibited its use and pronounced a curse upon anyone who would dare
oppose this decree. Many popes have issued decrees forbidding Bible
reading in the common language of the people, condemning Bible societies
and banning its possession and translation under penalty of mortal sin and
death. The Roman Catholic Church has openly burned Bibles and those who
translated it or promoted its study, reading, and use (John Hus, 1415 A.D.;
William Tyndale, 1536 A.D.)
Though external pressures have caused Rome to relax its restrictions and
opposition against Bible reading in America, the Bible is still widely
withheld and its distribution and free use discouraged in many countries
which are heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism.
A RELIGIOUS SYSTEM OF BIBLICAL DISTORTIONS
Roman Catholicism is a system which is comprised of a mixture of truth and
error. On the surface, it appears to many to be a brand of Christianity
because it staunchly claims to embrace and defend the essential doctrines
of the Christian faith. However, a closer examination proves that it is a
system which actually nullifies and distorts Scriptural truth by adding
erroneous, man-made teachings which openly contradict the Catholic and
For example, the Roman Catholic Church claims the inspiration of the
Scriptures, but dilutes the Word of God by exalting the authority of its
own traditions, councils, and decrees above the Bible. Catholicism teaches
the deity of Christ, but places Mary and priests as mediators between God
and believers so that free access to Jesus is only possible through them.
It teaches the forgiveness of sin, but only through confession to a priest
and the absolution given by him. Catholicism teaches salvation, but
substitutes a system of grace plus works in which human works are more
important. It teaches that Christ established the Church, but exalts a man
(the pope) as its head and invests absolute, infallible authority in him
and his official decrees. These are just a few of the distortions we will
further examine in this booklet.
THE GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF
ROMAN CATHOLIC ERRORS
Before we compare the fundamental teachings of Roman Catholicism with the
Catholic Bible, it should be pointed out that the distinctive features of
Catholicism originated several hundred years after the early church.
Though the Catholic Church argues that its roots can be traced to Christ,
the historical facts do not substantiate this claim. Roman Catholic dogma
has gradually evolved over the centuries. However, none of its major
traditions and doctrines were taught, defended, practiced, or embraced by
the apostolic church. The following list will indicate the approximate
date when the various doctrines, rituals, decrees, and beliefs were
1. Prayers for the dead. (A.D. 300)
2. Making the sign of the cross. (300)
3. Wax candles. (320)
4. Veneration of angels and dead saints, and use of images. (375)
5. The beginning of mass as a daily celebration. (394)
6. The worship and exaltation of Mary and use of term "Mother of God"(431)
7. Priests begin to dress differently from laity. (500)
8. Extreme unction. (526)
9. The doctrine of purgatory, instituted by Gregory I. (593)
10. The Latin Language used in worship and prayer Gregory I. (600)
11. Prayers directed to Mary, dead saints and angels. (600)
12. Title of "Pope" or "universal bishop" first given to Boniface III.(607)
13. Kissing the pope's foot, began with Pope Constantine. (709)
14. Temporal power of the popes, conferred by Pepin, King of France. (750)
15. Worship of the cross, image, and relics authorized in (786).
16. Holy water, mixed with a pinch of salt and blessed by a priest. (850)
17. Worship of St. Joseph. (890)
18. College of Cardinals established. (927)
19. Canonization of dead saints, first by Pope John XV. (995)
20. Fastings on Fridays and during Lent. (998)
21. The mass developed as a sacrifice and attendance made mandatory. (11th
22. Celibacy of the priesthood, decreed by Pope Gregory VII. (1079)
23. The rosary, used in prayer. (1090)
24. The Inquisition, instituted by the Council of Verona. (1184)
25. Sale of Indulgences. (1190)
26. Transubstantiation, proclaimed by Pope Innocent III. (1215)
27. Auricular (private) confession of sins to a priest, instituted by Pope
Innocent III in Lateran Council. (1215)
28. Adoration of wafer (Host), decreed by Pope Honorius III. (1220)
29. Bible forbidden to laymen and placed on Index of Forbidden Books by
Council of Valencia. (1229)
30. The Scapular, invented by Simon Stock, an English monk. (1251)
31. Cup forbidden to the people at communion by Council of Constance.
32. Purgatory proclaimed as a dogma by Council of Florence. (1439)
33. The doctrine of seven sacraments affirmed. (1439)
34. The Ave Maria (Hail Mary) invented and completed 50 years later. (1508)
35. Jesuit order founded by Loyola. (1534)
36. Tradition declared to be of equal authority with the Bible by Council
of Trent. (1545)
37. The Apocryphal books added to the Bible by the Council of Trent. (1546)
38. Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX.
39. Syllabus of Errors, proclaimed by Pope Pius IX and ratified by the
Vatican Council; condemned freedom of religion, conscience, speech, press,
and scientific discoveries which are disapproved by the Roman Church;
reasserted the Pope's temporal authority over all civil rulers. (1864)
40. Infallibility of the pope in matters of faith and morals proclaimed by
the Vatican Council. (1870)
41. Public schools condemned by Pope Pius XI. (1930)
42. Assumption of the Virgin Mary (bodily ascension into heaven shortly
after her death), proclaimed by Pope XII. (1950)
43. Mary proclaimed mother of the Church by Pope Paul VI. (1965)
Many other scriptural abuses and irregularities could be added to this
list: Monks, nuns, monasteries, convents, forty days of Lent, holy week,
Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, All Saints Day, Candlemas Day, fish day, meat
days, incense, holy oil, holy palms, St. Christopher medals, charms,
relics, novenas, and many more. This revealing list represents an overview
of the many human inventions which have corrupted, distorted, and perverted
the official positions presented as truth by the Roman Catholic Church.
ON THE FOLLOWING PAGES WE WILL COMPARE THE MORE PROMINENT POSITIONS OF
ROMAN CATHOLICISM WITH THE FUNDAMENTAL TEACHINGS OF THE SCRIPTURES USING
ONLY ROMAN CATHOLIC TRANSLATIONS OF THE BIBLE INCLUDING THE CHALLONER-
RHEIMS VERSION (C.R.V.) OR THE JERUSALEM BIBLE VERSION (J.B.V.). The New
American Bible (N.A.B.) can also be used to substantiate these comparisons.
ROMAN CATHOLICISM AND TRADITION
The church of Rome claims that the Bible is the inspired Word of God but,
in reality, they supplant and undermine its absolute authority by exalting
church traditions, councils, and decrees above the Scriptures. In fact,
the Council of Trent (1546 A.D.) declared that church tradition was of
equal authority with the Word of God.
Roman Catholicism places tradition on an equal and often higher level than
the Bible. Roman Catholic traditions, commandments, papal decrees, and
councils have repeatedly usurped and contradicted the clear teachings of
Scripture. The fact is that many of the positions and dogmas of Roman
Catholicism rest upon the foundation of human innovations, traditions, and
teachings rather than the Bible. For this reason, Catholicism strongly
defends its traditions and rigidly regulates any interpretations of the
Bible which conflict with its positions. Rome has even added a section of
uninspired books to the Bible called the Apocrypha because they provide the
only semblance of support for a limited number of their teachings, beliefs,
and practices. These books are not found in the Hebrew Old Testament, and
were never referred to as Scripture by Christ or His disciples, and were
not even sanctioned by the Catholic Church until the Council of Trent in
However, Jesus rebuked the usurping and undermining of Scriptures through
man-made tradition when He said "The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations. You put aside the
commandment of God to cling to HUMAN TRADITIONS. . .In this way you make
God's word null and void for the sake of your TRADITION which you have
handed down." (MK 7:7, 8, 13, J.B.V.).
Such prominent Roman Catholic doctrines and practices as the mass,
purgatory, the priesthood, Transubstantiation, prayers for the dead,
indulgences, penance, the worship of Mary, the use of images in worship,
holy water, rosary beads, the celibacy of priests and nuns, the papacy, and
many others are based totally upon tradition and are without the slightest
shred of Scriptural support to substantiate them. In fact, the Bible gives
strong witness against many of these teachings and practices.
THE VIRGIN MARY
In spite of the great emphasis upon Mary in Roman Catholicism, the Bible
says very little about her. In fact, she is never even mentioned by Peter,
Paul, James, or John. Furthermore, none of the New Testament epistles
refer to her either. This is significant in light of the elaborate system
of Mariology created by Rome with its Mary works, veneration, and
devotions. What is even more surprising is the fact that some of the most
significant teachings concerning Mary are of fairly recent origin (i.e.,
the Immaculate Conception, , and the Assumption of Mary, ).
Though the Bible honors Mary as the mother of Jesus and calls her
"blessed. . .among women" (not above women, Lk 1:28), it does not teach us
to deify her, worship her, or pray to her. The Scriptures recognize Mary
as a woman of humility, obedience, and virtue, but reject Rome's adoration
of her on the grounds that it is idolatrous worship condemned by the Word
On the following pages we will examine some of the more prominent Roman
Catholic teachings concerning Mary in light of the Bible. The information
footnoted was written by an individual canonized as a saint, and his book
was officially endorsed by the church of Rome.
1. Rome claims that Mary acts as a mediator between sinners and God, and
teaches that sinners receive pardon through Mary(1). This is refuted by
the Scriptures. "For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator
between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5, J.B.V.).
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the
Father except through me" (Jn 14:6, J.B.V.).
2. "The Holy Church commands a worship peculiar to Mary"(2), but the Bible
rejects this demand on the ground that it is idolatry. The worship of Mary
in the form of prayers (Hail Marys), songs to her, and kneeling before her
statues is blatant idolatry specifically forbidden by Christ: "You must
worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone" (Matt. 4:10, J.B.V.).
3. Catholicism teaches that Christ is a stern, wrathful judge who cannot
be approached by sinners. It teaches that Mary, on the other hand, is a
tender understanding, merciful intercessor who is more sympathetic and
compassionate than Christ and will plead our cause to her Son with the
forceful persuasion of a loving mother. But the Bible rejects Rome's
claim that Mary is an intercessor or advocate who intercedes to God on our
behalf in order to obtain grace for the sinner(3). The Bible declares
that Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God where "He stands and pleads
for us" (Rom. 8:34, J.B.V.),--not Mary and that He is "living forever to
intercede for all who come to God through Him" (Heb. 7:25, J.B.V.; see also
4. The Bible rejects Rome's claim that "Mary is the Peacemaker between
sinners and God"(4). The Bible states, "But now in Christ Jesus, you that
used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood
of Christ. . .For he is the peace between us. . .Through him, both of us have
in the one Spirit our way to come to the Father" (Eph. 2:13, 14, 18,
J.B.V.). Christ is our peacemaker, not Mary, priests, popes, dead saints,
or even the Church.
5. The Bible rejects Catholic claims that Mary is ". . .the gate of heaven
because no one can enter that blessed kingdom without passing through
Her"(5), that "the Way of Salvation is open to none other than through
Mary, and that our salvation is in the hands of Mary."(6) "Neither is
there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12, C.R.V.). "Jesus said:
I am the Way. . .No one can come to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6,
6. The Bible gives absolutely no support to the many exalted titles which
the Roman Catholic Church has bestowed upon Mary such as, "Queen of the
Angels, Prophets, Patriarchs, Apostles, Confessors, Virgins, and All
Saints"(7), "The Door of Paradise," "The Gate of Heaven," "Our Life,"
"Mother of Grace," "Morningstar," "Refuge of Sinners," and "Mother of
Mercy". These titles represent Rome's attempts to elevate Mary to a
glorified position which is not taught in the Scriptures.
7. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception which teaches that Mary was
born without sin is contrary to the Scriptures which stress that "everyone
has sinned" (Rom. 5:12, 13 J.V.B.), and "there is no man who does not sin"
(1 Kg. 8:46, J.B.V.; see also Ps. 53:3, 1 Jn. 1:8, 10). Even Mary
acknowledged that she was a sinner in need of a Savior: "My soul proclaims
the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in GOD MY SAVIOR" (Lk. 1:46,
8. The Roman Catholic doctrine of the Assumption of Mary which teaches
that Mary's body was raised from the dead and taken to heaven as "Queen of
Heaven" is a teaching which can't find the slightest support in the Bible
and was not made an official doctrine in the Catholic Church until 1950.
9. Roman Catholicism's emphasis on Mary's perpetual virginity is clearly
refuted in the Bible which plainly states that Jesus had brothers and
sisters (Matt. 13:54-56; Mk. 6:3; Jn. 7:5, 6). Though Rome claims that
these verses refer to Christ's cousins, the original Greek wording clearly
refers to brothers and not cousins. After the virgin birth of Christ, Mary
and Joseph lived a normal husband and wife relationship, bearing other
1 Bishop Alphonse de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, pp. 82, 83.
2 Ibid., pg. 130.
3 Bishop Alphonse de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, pg. 80; see also pp.
4 Ibid., pg. 197.
5 Bishop Alphonse de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, pg. 160.
6 Ibid., pg. 169.
7 St. Joseph's Daily Missal, pg. 1305.
The word "pope" comes from the Latin word "papa" meaning father. Most
scholars agree that the first real pope was Gregory I (590- 604 A.D.). The
pope claims to be the mediator between God and men with the power over
souls in purgatory. However, the Bible contradicts this claim by stating
that "For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God
and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus" (I Tim 2:5 J.B.V.). The papacy
attempts to usurp the power and authority belonging solely to Christ by
claiming the pope as the head of the church, but the Bible declares that
Jesus is the head of the Church (Col. 1:18), and that "He has put all
things under his feet, and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head
of the Church; which is his body" (Eph. 1:22, 23, J.B.V.; see also Col. 2:9,
The pope also claims the titles of "His Holiness" or "The Holy Father" in
direct violation of Christ's warnings to His followers: "You must call no
one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in
heaven" (Matt. 23:9, 10, J.B.V.).
The doctrine of papal infallibility was ratified in 1870 when the Vatican
Council decreed that papal judgments involving faith and morals were
infallible when spoken "ex-cathedra," meaning in his official capacity as
head of the church while sitting in the chair of St. Peter. However, the
concept of the papacy and papal infallibility can find no justification in
Most Catholics are unaware of the scandalous history of the Roman papacy.
The historical record of papal corruption causes extreme embarrassment to
the church in its attempts to defend papal infallibility and its moral
authority. For this reason, the church hierarchy endeavors to deny,
suppress, and cover-up the historical facts concerning its many doctrinal
and moral abuses. What makes the idea of papal infallibility and purity
so absurd is its notorious record of papal corruption, contradictions,
inconsistencies, and reversals during its history. Though most popes were
men of integrity and high moral character, many were wicked and corrupt.
What is more, these facts can be easily substantiated by secular,
Protestant, and even Catholic sources!(1)
As shocking and unbelievable as it may seem, many popes were guilty of
committing nearly every crime in the catalog of sin (2) including rape,
adultery, fornication, incest, murder, assassinations, robbery, conspiracy,
bribery, fraud, perjury, and the purchase of the papacy with money (3).
The corruption and gross immorality of twenty-nine popes was so flagrant
that Rome has listed them as "anti-popes" in order to minimize the
scandalous testimony of the papacy and erase this notorious blot from their
Furthermore, some popes have contradicted each other (Sixtus V recommended
Bible reading, while Pope Pius VII condemned it); some popes condemned
scientific truth (Paul V and Urban VIII tortured and imprisoned Galileo
for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun); many have promoted
and defended doctrinal heresies in direct conflict with the clear teachings
of Scripture; and some have endorsed massacres, atrocities, torture,
imprisonment, and inquisitions against Rome's opponents resulting in the
deaths of millions!(4)
1 Ludwig Pastor, History of the Popes (a Roman Catholic historian).
2 H.H. Halley, Halley's Bible Handbook, pp. 767-793.
3 Glen D. Kittler, The Papal Princes (a Roman Catholic author), 358
4 John Foxe, Foxes Book of Martyrs.
The following selected examples are only a few of the many abuses
demonstrated through papal decrees:
Innocent III (1198-1216 A.D.) claimed the right to dispose of kings,
ordered the extermination of heretics, instituted the Inquisition, ordered
the massacre of Albigenses, condemned the Magna Charta, and forbade Bible
reading in the common language; Innocent IV (1241-54 A.D.) sanctioned
torture of suspected heretics to extract confessions; Nicolas V (1447-55
A.D.) authorized war on African peoples and their enslavement; Sixtus IV
(1471-84 A.D.) sanctioned the Spanish Inquisition; Leo X (1513-21 A.D.)
declared the burning of heretics a divine appointment; Clement XI (1700-21
A.D.) issued a papal bull (pronouncement) against Bible reading; condemned
all religious freedom, tolerance, Bible societies, and Bible translations;
Pius IX (1846-78 A.D.) decreed papal infallibility, condemned separation
of church and state, denounced Liberty of Conscience, Liberty of Worship,
freedom of speech, freedom of press, decreed the Immaculate Conception and
deity of Mary, condemned Bible societies, and proclaimed the right to
suppress heresy by force; Leo XIII (1878-1903 A.D.) pronounced Protestants
"enemies of the Christian name".
MORTAL AND VENIAL SINS
Roman Catholicism divides sins into two categories: 1.) Mortal sins which
are defined as serious offenses against God that can damn a soul to
eternal punishment, and 2.) Venial sins which are lesser infractions
against God and man. Both can subject a soul to an indefinite stay in the
purifying fires of a place referred to as "purgatory". There is no uniform
agreement among priests concerning which sins are venial or mortal. Mortal
sins could include not attending mass, breaking Ten Commandments, sexual
offenses, reading a Protestant Bible, or going to a Protestant church.
Venial sins could be anything a priest decides. Only a priest can forgive
mortal sins, but both mortal and venial sins must be paid for by temporal
penance and inevitable punishment in purgatory.
However, the Bible makes no distinction between mortal and venial sins.
Though some sins are worse than others, all unrepented, unforgiven sins
will keep a soul out of heaven. It simply teaches that "the wage paid by
sin is death" (Rom. 6:23, J.B.V.), and that "The man who has sinned, he. . .
shall die" (Eze. 18:4, J.B.V.).
The Baltimore Catechism defines confession as "the telling of our sins to
an authorized priest for the purpose of obtaining forgiveness."
Catholicism stresses that priests have the power and authority to forgive
sins without even asking God!(1) Forgiveness involves the assigning of
penance, punishments in the form of good works, a certain number of
prayers, fastings, or abstinence from certain pleasures as a token of
repentance. Priests can forgive the guilt of mortal sins, but cannot remit
the penalty which must be paid through the performance of good works which
he chooses to prescribe. Under penalty of committing a mortal sin, every
Roman Catholic is required to go to confession at least once a year.
However, the Bible gives no support for private (auricular) confession to a
priest for receiving the forgiveness of sins. Furthermore, this practice
didn't originate until the 5th century and wasn't officially made
compulsory until the Fourth Laterin Council in 1215 A.D. Even the Catholic
Bible challenges the concept of Catholic confession on the grounds that no
mortal man possesses the power to forgive or absolve sins, and clearly
reveals that God alone can forgive sins; "WHO CAN FORGIVE SINS BUT ONLY
GOD?" (Mk. 2:7, C.R.V.). No priest has the authority to forgive sins but
"the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" (Matt. 9:6,
By establishing a priest as the official forgiver of sins, the Catholic
Church usurps Christ's exclusive position and authority to act as the
mediator between God and man: "For there is only one God, and there is
only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus" (I
Tim 2:5, J.B.V.; see also Heb. 8:6; 9:15). The Bible further declares
that, "if any one should sin, we have our advocate with the Father, Jesus
Christ, who is just" (I Jn. 2:1 J.B.V.).
The Scriptures also teach that each individual Christian has the privilege
of going directly to God for forgiveness: "but if we acknowledge our sins,
then God. . .will forgive our sins and purify us from everything that is
wrong" (I Jn., 1:9, J.B.V.). Even Peter confirmed that men receive the
remission of sins directly from Christ not through priests: "all who
believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name" (Acts
10:43, J.B.V.;see also Acts 13:38, 39).
1 Instructions for Non-Catholics, pg. 93.
The sacrament of penance involves the performance of good works which the
priest assigns after confession. According to Catholic teaching, God does
not cancel out all the punishment due the sinner when he is forgiven, and
thus requires works of penance to help relieve the penalty. Those sins
which cannot be fully paid by simple penance (such as "The Act of
Contrition," the recital of a given number of "Hail Marys," "Our
Fathers," or stations of the cross) must eventually be paid for by
suffering in purgatory until the debt is cleared.
However, the Scriptures say nothing about penance. God does not demand
outward penance but inward repentance, and a turning from sinful practices:
"Let the wicked man abandon his way. . .Let him turn back to Yahweh who will
take pity on him, to our God who is rich in forgiving" (Isa. 55:7, J.B.V;
see also Prov. 28:13) The Bible clearly teaches that our sins are
completely cleansed and forgiven through Christ when we repent directly to
Him; "but if we acknowledge our sins, then God. . .will forgive our sins
and purify us from everything that is wrong" (I Jn. 1:9 J.B.V.). God
bases complete, unconditional forgiveness and cleansing upon sincere
repentance and a forsaking of sin.
The main error in penance is the false assumption that Christ's sacrifice
was insufficient to totally atone for sin and must be supplemented by
human works. The Roman Catholic teaching that "penance is necessary for
salvation"(1) and "whosoever shall affirm that men are justified solely by
the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. . .let him be accursed"(2) is
a blatant perversion of the biblical teaching of justification by faith
apart from works.
The fundamental error of Catholicism is its unscriptural emphasis upon a
complicated system of salvation by good works and human effort. Though
good works are a natural outgrowth of genuine faith and salvation, they can
never save us--they are the result, not the cause of salvation. No man can
earn salvation by meritorious works. Only through the justifying grace of
God through faith are we saved: "For by grace you have been saved through
faith; and that not from yourselves, for it is the gift of God: not as the
outcome of works, lest anyone may boast" (Eph 2:8, 9, C.R.V.). Catholicism
contradicts the truth that "Man is not justified by the works of the Law,
but by the faith of Jesus Christ. . .because by the works of the Law no man
will be justified" (Gal. 2:16, C.R.V.; see also Rom. 1:17; 3:21, 22, 28;
5:1; 10:3; 11:6; Gal 2:21; Titus 3:5).
1 The Catholic Almanac, pp. 269, 559.
2 The Council of Trent.
Rome teaches that when Catholics die in an unperfected state, they must
enter an intermediate realm of punishment called "purgatory" before being
released to heaven. Those who have accumulated sins which have not been
sufficiently atoned for through penance must endure the sufferings of
purgatory until the soul is refined and God's justice has been satisfied.
The torments of this halfway hell can vary in intensity, severity, and
duration depending upon the guilt, impurity, lack of proper penance, or
sorrow of the sufferer.
Catholics are kept in fear all their lives by the prospects of going to
this imaginary place. But Rome teaches that the period of suffering in
purgatory can be shortened by gifts of money, prayers by the priests, and
masses. Catholicism also stresses that friends and relatives can help
lessen the time that loved ones remain in purgatory and even relieve their
suffering by financing masses on their behalf. Rome collects millions of
dollars each year from grieving individuals who willingly pay to alleviate
the agonies of those in purgatory.
However, this frightening doctrine cannot find a single verse in the entire
Bible to support it. Rome has had to rely on ingenious twistings of the
Scriptures to defend this terrifying teaching, along with an isolated
passage from the apocryphal book of II Maccabees (12:39-45).
The concept of purgatorial sufferings after death challenges the very work
of Christ on our behalf. The Bible declares that "Christ himself. . .had
died once for sins" (I Pet. 3:18, J.B.V.). There is no more need for
further sufferings in purgatory. To demand further suffering and sacrifice
is to deny that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient the first time! Jesus
said that "he who hears my word. . .has life everlasting and does not come to
judgment, but has passed from death to life" (Jn. 5:24, C.R.V.). The Bible
also teaches that "if we acknowledge our sins, then God. . .will forgive our
sins and purify us from everything that is wrong" (1Jn. 1:9, J.B.V.); that
God remembers our sins no more (Heb. 10:17); that to die is gain, not
torment (Phil. 1:21, 22); that to be away from the body is to be at home
with the Lord (II Cor. 5:8, 9); and that those who die in Christ are
blessed and receive rest from their labors and not excruciating pain (Rev.
An indulgence is "the remission or limited release from the temporal
punishments one must suffer in this life or in purgatory for the sins a
person has committed." Indulgences can even be granted to souls already in
purgatory to shorten their stay. Both penance and indulgences originated
during the Middle Ages and have been commonly associated with fraud and
corruption. At times, Rome has openly sold indulgences to raise revenues.
Money raised from the selling of indulgences by emissaries appointed by
Pope Leo X (1513-21 A.D.) helped finance the construction of St. Peter's
Basilica. It was the public selling of them by Friar Tetzel who claimed
that "a soul is released from purgatory and carried to heaven as soon as
the money tinkles in the box" That outraged Martin Luther and helped
launch the Protestant Reformation (1517 A.D.).
The whole system of indulgences violates Scriptural truth and cannot be
supported by the Bible. Its practice amounts to placing a price tag on
salvation and perverting the message of salvation by grace.
THE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION
The consequence of the doctrines of penance, indulgences, and purgatory
is that Roman Catholics can never have assurance or a genuine sense of
spiritual security concerning their salvation. All that a dying Catholic
can be sure of after death is that he will suffer an indefinite period of
excruciating punishment in the flames of purgatory. In fact, the Council
of Trent even pronounced a curse upon any who presumed to say that he had
assurance of salvation, or that the whole punishment for sin is forgiven
along with that sin.
However, the Bible says that "the blood of Jesus. . .purifies us from all
sin" (I Jn. 1:7, J.B.V.). It also assures us of our salvation and eternal
life. "This is the testimony: God has given us eternal life and this life
is in his Son" (I Jn. 5:11, J.B.V.; see also 5:13). Jesus also guaranteed
us that "he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has life
everlasting, and does not come to judgment, but has passed from death to
life" (Jn. 5:24, C.R.V.), and "He who believes in the Son has everlasting
life; he who is believing towards the Son shall not see life, but the
wrath of God rests upon him" (Jn. 3:36, C.R.V.).
Roman Catholicism endeavors to defend the papacy by claiming that Peter was
the first pope and was personally appointed by Christ. They base this
claim upon their interpretation of Matthew 16:13-19 in which Jesus responds
to Peter's confession that He is the Christ by declaring that upon this
rock He will build His Church and will give the keys of the kingdom to
Peter to bind and loose upon the earth. The papacy claims that Peter is
the rock, and the keys represent the pope's absolute authority and
infallibility over the Church. However, Jesus was not saying He would
build His church upon Peter, but upon the simple foundational confession
of faith which Peter made that Jesus is the Christ. The church is not
built upon Peter, but Christ--Christ is the rock, not Peter (I Cor. 3:11,
12; Eph. 2:20, 21).
The "keys" symbolize the authority to open the way of salvation through the
preaching of the gospel to all those who are bound in darkness and sin.
Peter was first entrusted with the keys because he was the first to give
this confession of faith in Jesus and was instrumental in initially opening
the door of salvation to the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2), as well as the
Gentiles at Cornelius' house (Acts 10).
However, all true disciples possess the keys when proclaiming the way of
salvation to unbelievers and offering them spiritual liberty through Christ
Furthermore, the Scriptures disprove Catholic claims concerning Peter.
Neither the Bible nor Peter ever claim to be a pope, head over the church,
or in a superior position over the other apostles. He simply referred to
himself as an elder among many (I Pet. 5:1). Peter challenged the
dictatorial nature of the papacy by warning ministers not to lord over the
flock. (I Pet. 5:3). Peter refused to receive homage from men (Acts
10:25-27). Peter proved he wasn't infallible when Jesus sharply rebuked
him for challenging the need of the crucifixion (Matt. 16:23), and Paul
scolded him for his vacillation, inconsistency, and spiritual hypocrisy
(Gal. 2:11-14). Peter was married (Matt 87:14; Lk. 4:38; I Cor. 9:5).
When Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans, he greeted many believers but
never mentioned Peter (Rom.16); and what is more, apart from Catholic
tradition, there is no biblical, historical, or credible archaeological
evidence that Peter ever went to Rome or presided as its supreme bishop.
Roman Catholicism has established a priesthood which serves as mediator
between God and man to offer blood sacrifices for an individual's sins in
the form of the mass. The function and structure of the Catholic
priesthood, which includes a sacrificial system (mass), is of Jewish origin
and was abolished through Christ. Christians no longer require human
priests to serve as mediators by offering sacrifices for them or forgiving
and remitting their sins through confession.
The Bible gives no support to Rome's attempt to place the priest between
the confessor of sins and the forgiveness of sins, or to exalt the
priesthood as mediator between the sinner and God. The Bible declares that
"For there is only one God, and. . .one mediator between God and
mankind. . .Christ Jesus" (I Tim 2:5, J.B.V.), regardless of the religious
title, no man has the power to forgive sins (Mk.2:7). Furthermore, every
believer has free, unrestricted access to God's grace through prayer (Rom.
5:2; Heb. 4:16). There is no need to repeat Christ's sacrifice for sins
because it has been accomplished once and for all (Heb.9:26; 10:10-14).
Any attempts to do so is an abomination before God.
Though the New Testament lists various kinds of ministries and offices
within the church (Eph. 4:11, 12; I Cor. 12:28, 29; I Tim 3), it never
mentions the Roman Catholic concept of a priesthood. According to Peter,
the Christian priesthood is a universal priesthood consisting of all true
believers and is not the exclusive privilege of a select few: "so that you
too, THE HOLY PRIESTHOOD that offers the spiritual sacrifices. . .you are a
chosen race, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a consecrated nation, a people set apart"
(I Peter 2:5, 9, J.B.V.; see also Rev. 1:5, 6).
The Catholic concept of the priesthood is unscriptural and didn't even
originate until the 3rd century. Furthermore, there is no reference to
such titles as archbishop, cardinal, or pope, and the requirement of the
celibacy of the priesthood is an idea condemned by the Apostle Paul (I Tim.
4:1-3). In fact, when Paul listed the qualifications for bishops (elders),
he stated that they must "not have been married more than once" (I Tim.
3:2, J.B.V.; see also Titus 1:6).
The biblical teachings concerning communion are radically opposed to the
official Roman Catholic position regarding the mass.(1) While Protestants
view communion as a source of spiritual blessing and a symbolic sacrament
commemorating Christ's sacrifice on our behalf, Catholics claim that it is
the same sacrifice as Christ's death on the cross, and view it as a re-
enactment of Christ's crucifixion on Calvary in an unbloody manner.(2)
Mass is a ritual officiated by a priest it which Christ's body is
recrucified and resacrificed for the atonement of an individual's sins.
Catholicism further teaches that the physical presence of Christ is in the
sacrifice, and that the wine and wafer ("host") are miraculously changed
into the actual blood and body of Jesus Christ (the doctrine of
The Catholic concept of the mass was unheard of in the early church and was
not invented until 831 A.D. by a Benedictine monk named Radbertus. It did
not become an official doctrine until the Fourth Laterin Council in 1215
A.D. The doctrine of Transubstantiation wasn't proclaimed until 1215 A.D.
by Pope Innocent the III, and did not become an official creed until 1564
The elaborate ritualism associated with the mass is unscriptural in that it
stresses that Christ's sacrifice for sins was insufficient the first time.
The Bible repeatedly stresses the finality and completeness of Christ's
sacrifice and challenges any need for it to be repeated, reoffered,
renewed, or perpetuated through mass: "And every priest indeed stands daily
ministering and often offering the same sacrifice which can never take away
sins. But Jesus, having offered ONE SACRIFICE for sins, has taken his seat
forever at the right hand of God. . .For by ONE OFFERING he has perfected
forever those who are sanctified. . .Now where there is a forgiveness of
these, there is no longer offering for sin" (Heb. 10:11, 12, 14, 18,
C.R.V.; see also 7:27; 9:12, 22-28).
Even Jesus challenged the need for repeating His sacrifice for sins when
He declared: "It is finished" (Jn. 19:30, C.R.V.); and Peter confirmed
that "Christ himself. . .died ONCE for sins, died for the guilty, to lead
us to God" (I Pet. 3:18, J.B.V.).
1 II Vatican Council documents on the mass.
2 John A. O'Brian, The Faith of Millions, pg. 382
1. Roman Catholic Ritualism can find no basis of support in the Bible. The
gorgeous vestments, colorful processions, exotic pageantry, mystifying
symbolism, stately music, dim cathedral lighting, flickering candles,
tinkling bells, and sweet-smelling incense is contrary to the character,
conduct, and spirit of Christianity. The dazzling theatrical display of
pomp and pageantry, the splendor of priests arrayed in costly jewels and
apparel, and the elaborate spectacle of ceremonies and liturgies associated
with Roman Catholicism is hardly in keeping with the purity and simplicity
demonstrated by Christ, the apostles, and the early church. Even Peter
warned against the wearing of gold, jewelry, or the putting on of rich
robes (I Pet. 3:3, 4). The external ritualism of Roman Catholicism is a
superficial, religious display designed to impress the natural senses, but
lacks the transforming power of the gospel and the Spirit of Christ to
change the heart or save a soul from hell.
2. Images, Statues, Shrines, and Pictures -- The Roman Catholic Church
officially sanctioned the worship of images and pictures in 787 A.D. at
the Council of Nicaea. However, the veneration of images, statues,
pictures, and shrines of Christ, Mary, dead saints, and angels is nothing
more than blatant idolatry strictly forbidden by the Bible: "Thou shalt
not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of ANYTHING that is
in heaven above, or in the earth beneath. . .Thou shalt not adore them, nor
serve them" (Ex. 20:4,5, C.R.V.; see also Lev. 26:1). In fact, the Bible
pronounces a curse upon all those who do! (Deut. 27:15).
3. The Use of Relics -- The widespread use of relics consisting of a piece
of bone, a fragment of a saint's body, or some article which a deceased
saint touched during his life for the purpose of adoration, worship, or
the impartation of blessings and miracles is simply fetishism and rank
superstition borrowed from pagan practices. It has no support in the
Scriptures. The attributing of supernatural power to such relics is
simply another form of idolatry condemned by the Word of God.
4. The Use of the Rosary -- The rosary is a device consisting of a chain
of beads used in the ritualistic counting of repetitious prayers such as
Hail Marys and The Lord's Prayer. It was first introduced by a monk named
Peter the Hermit (1090 A.D.), but was not officially sanctioned until the
16th century. The repetitious recital of prayers is a heathen practice
specifically condemned by Christ: "In your prayers do not babble as the
pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make
themselves heard. Do not be like them" (Matt. 6:7,8, J.B.V.; see also
5. The Wearing of the Scapular -- The Scapular is a piece of brown cloth
with the picture of the Virgin Mary which is worn over the shoulders next
to the skin for the purpose of protecting the wearer from evil and danger.
It was introduced by Simon Stock, an English monk, in 1287 A.D. This, like
the wearing of St. Christopher medals, is nothing but superstition and
fetishism which is practiced by pagan religions and primitive tribes in
heathen countries, and condemned as idolatry by the Bible.
6. The Use of Incense, Candles, and Holy Water in Roman Catholic worship
can find no grounds of support in the Bible. Christians are called to
worship the Father in Spirit and truth. This is what the Father is seeking
for among believers (Jn. 4:23). Our worship is not to be adulterated with
the trappings of pagan idolatry and empty ritualism. The use of none of
these elements can be found in the New Testament or the practice of the
7. Prayers, Masses, and Other Rituals for the Dead -- A common practice
among Roman Catholics are prayers for the dead in order to improve their
condition in purgatory and eternal destiny. However, these practices are
in conflict with the Bible which teaches that the status of the dead,
whether they be righteous or wicked, is fixed and irrevocable. The only
opportunity men have for determining their eternal destiny is in this
present life. All of our ritualism on their behalf after death avails
nothing and cannot alter their condition, for "men only die once, and
after that comes judgment" (Heb. 9:27, J.B.V.).
We have carefully compared the major teachings of Roman Catholicism with
the Bible and have shown it is a religious system composed of many manmade
practices and teachings which often contradict the clear truths contained
in the Word of God. The Scriptural facts should offer a sobering challenge
to all Roman Catholics who love God and earnestly desire to follow the
Though this booklet has not attempted to question the religious sincerity,
devotion, and dedication of Catholics nor deny that some have had a
genuine, "born-again" experience in Christ, it does endeavor to inform
Catholics of the Scriptural errors of Roman Catholicism and challenge them
We must each recognize that it is difficult to serve God acceptably and be
approved by Christ if we willfully continue to condone teachings or
participate in practices which violate the Holy Scriptures. Jesus revealed
that the true test of commitment and love for God is obedience and loyalty
to the truth: "If you love me you will keep my commandments" (Jn. 14:15,
J.B.V.; see also I Jn. 2:3, 4; II Jn. 9). An important fruit of salvation
is obedience to those truths which have been revealed to us in the Bible.
A persistent unwillingness to respond to Scriptural truth is usually an
indication that an individual has not fully surrendered his life to
Christ's Lordship. Furthermore, the Scriptures clearly caution us that
"Everyone who knows what is the right thing to do and doesn't do it commits
a sin" (James 4:17, J.B.V.).
The inevitable challenge confronting Catholics is whether they are
willing to risk salvation and eternal life by continuing to rely upon a
religious system which openly contradicts the Bible. Will you take the
steps to embrace God's Word without reservation and follow Christ in
absolute obedience? This is a courageous decision which each Roman
Catholic must personally settle in his or her own heart. It is a crucial
choice which confronts all conscientious Catholics who sincerely desire to
embrace the truth and trust solely in Jesus Christ for their salvation.
For a more comprehensive treatment of this important subject, we recommend
reading Roman Catholicism, by Lorraine Boettner, and Foxes Book of Martyrs,
by John Foxe. For a brief overview of the main points covered in
this booklet, please reread the boldly printed words on each page.
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