Roman Catholicism: The One True Church?
By Steve Meehan
For years, growing up as a Roman Catholic, we were taught that we were members of the one true Church. It was impressed upon us regularly by the parish priest during Mass, while giving his homily; by the nuns all throughout my Catholic parochial school years of 2nd through 7th grade; during our preparation to receive for the first time the sacraments of Penance, Communion and Confirmation; and while attending CCD classes all the way through high school (the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine is an association established at Rome in 1562 for the purpose of giving religious education, normally designed for children). It was an established fact that we understood and we never questioned the validity of it. And to be honest, it was a matter of pride, that we were privileged enough to be a member of the correct Church, while all others had belonged to something else that didn’t quite measure up to the status of the Roman Catholic Church.
After all, how could it be possible that Roman Catholicism is not the One True Church? Look at what Rome has to offer: it has the priests, the nuns; the bishops; the cardinals; and of course, the Pope. They have the Sacraments; the statues; the holy water; the incense; the Stations of the Cross; the Eucharist – in which Christ physically manifests Himself into the wafer after the consecration by the priest during the Mass; the Marian apparitions – which appear mainly to Roman Catholics; and they have the Vatican – where the Vicar of Christ (Christ’s representative on Earth) governs the faithful and makes infallible proclamations and doctrine. How can this not be The One True Church? No other organization on the face of the Earth comes close to offering to its flock what Rome provides for its faithful.
But, of course, to be true, one must adhere to what has been established as truth and not teach or practice what is contrary to the truth. We read in Scripture a few passages that declare what is truth and what is not. Jesus proclaimed in John 14:6:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.”
He also professed in John 8:31-32:
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, ‘If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’.”
It is clear then, by just these two verses, that Jesus Christ has described Himself as Truth, and that those who adhere to His Word and practice what He taught, will be living and worshipping truthfully, and that only His truth will set us free; not in anything else that detracts or subtracts from His truth. In fact, the verse is worded in a way (“you shall know the truth”) that suggests that it is imperative to know His Word, to know His Truth, by studying the scriptures, in order to avoid any false doctrine being taught by some other source that may later try to establish itself as the bearer of truth but is actually offering a false truth.
Jesus also proclaimed that it is only possible to worship Him correctly in spirit and in truth:
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” John 4:23, 24
So for a person or an organization to call themselves true, they must teach his Word correctly and abide by His Word. Unless one is doing that, the above verse says, that they are not true worshippers.
Another purveyor of Truth is the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised His disciples, that when He would depart from them and return to Heaven, that He would send in His stead the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s role in the world – and who indwells those who have accepted Christ’s free gift of salvation – is to point us to Jesus Christ and not to anything or anyone else as the sole means of salvation.
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells within you, and shall be in you.” John 14:17
It takes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit into the believer to be able to discern what is written in God’s Word and to be able to understand and to apply His truth in our Christian walk. Without His assistance, it is too easy to be lead astray and to accept false doctrine. The Holy Spirit, after all, inspired the Jewish scribes and later the Apostles, to write the books of the Holy Bible and it takes His discernment in our lives for us to properly comprehend the Word and understand it correctly.
It also stands to reason, that if one is not aware of what is contained in the Scriptures, then they can easily accept doctrines of men that may be inspired by another source. Growing up as a Roman Catholic, I was completely ignorant of what was contained in the Bible – regarding Jesus, salvation and His gospel of grace. Like most Catholics, the Holy Bible was in the home, but just collected dust and was never read. We accepted all that was taught us by the priests, the nuns, the lay teachers in the CCD classes, and in their catechism. Whatever they told us had to be correct, as they assured us that they were the One True Church. Why would they ever steer us wrong? This was the mindset of my siblings, my parents, grandparents, and going back generations of all past family members who trusted in and were raised in the Roman Catholic system. We were ignorant of anything else but their plan of salvation.
The Roman Catholic Church tells their members that only they, through their Magisterium – the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, as exercised by the bishops or the pope – can properly interpret scripture for their faithful. So, while they say they encourage the reading of the Holy Writ, it is only by their guidance and authority can one fully understand what the verses are meant to convey. They are not open to private interpretation, and must be filtered through their teachings to understand their version of the truth.
It wasn’t until my early 20s, that the Lord led me to start reading His Word. At that point of my life, I wasn’t even a marginal Catholic. I stopped going to Mass, stopped going to the normally required weekly confessions to a priest, and had pretty much given up on their version of the faith. I got tired of the repetitiveness of the Mass: the rote prayers; genuflecting before the figure on the cross; the lighting of votive candles before a statue – usually of Mary; dipping my hand in the “Holy Water” and making the ‘sign of the cross’; receiving the Eucharist wafer and giving my assent when the priest said “the Body of Christ” that I was consuming the physical body of Jesus; and the whole bit. It was all very ritualistic, legalistic, lacking any real passion and completely devoid of the presence of Christ.
But in reading the Word, I began to see that what God has revealed to us through the scriptures doesn’t completely mirror the teachings of Rome; in fact, most of it doesn’t. You would think that the One True Church would certainly follow what Christ and the Apostles taught. Why would they teach something different? If they are in fact the One True Church, wouldn’t they follow and teach all that scripture reveals to us and they wouldn’t deviate from the Truth? Have they got the ultimate authority to change God’s Word or trump His commandments?
For instance, Exodus 20:4 – the second commandment – forbids us from worshipping graven images, and yet Rome has deleted this commandment and subdivided the last one, which tells us not to covet our neighbor’s belongings. How can they delete a commandment? Christ said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” – not delete them (John 14:15). Is it that important for Rome to disregard a commandment, so that the parishioners can dress up, light candles before, and parade behind statues or graven images, as the Bible calls them? Was the prohibition of worshipping before a graven image only meant for the Jews, but Christians are free to do so? Over and over throughout the Word, we are told that God detests that kind of activity.
Rome calls the pope the Vicar of Christ (Christ’s representative on Earth) but that title is more befitting the Holy Spirit: He is the Comforter that Christ promised; He is the one who indwells each believer; and He is the one who seals us, points us to Jesus Christ, and gives us discernment in reading the Word.
Rome calls the pope the Holy Father, but Jesus used this term only once in scripture referring to God the Father as the Holy Father:
“And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom thou has given me, that they may be one, as we are.” John 17:14
Neither Jesus, nor the Apostles would ever use that term in addressing a man; only God the Father is the Holy Father. In fact, Christ even told His followers not to refer to any man as our father (spiritual father):
“And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” – Matthew 23:9
If Christ told us not to do it, why does Rome give that title to their priests? Is this something that a One True Church should be doing – flaunting God’s Word? Are they exempt from this restriction and can override Christ’s teachings? It doesn’t add up. If we are truly Christians, we should be following Christ’s examples and His admonitions. If they are truly the One True Church, shouldn’t they be abiding by His Word instead of disregarding it?
There are countless other examples of where the teachings of Rome fly in direct contrast to the teachings of Jesus and His disciples. Perhaps the biggest is the question of our salvation. Repeatedly in the gospels and in the other books of the New Testament are verses telling us that Christ’s Gospel is a gospel of grace and is freely given – to all those who would accept it. It is not by works and it cannot be earned. Grace is God’s unmerited favor; it is impossible to work for it, neither can one ever be good enough to attain it:
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God Not of works, lest any man should boast” – Ephesians 2:8, 9
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” – Titus 3:5
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” – Romans 6:23
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved…” – Acts 16:31, 32
Why would Rome insist that we have to work along with God’s grace (what they refer to as “cooperating grace”) in order to be saved? The very expression of cooperating grace or cooperating with grace is a contradiction in terms. If Grace is unmerited favor and is freely given by God, how can one then co-operate or work alongside with it to receive it? Co-operating with grace would nullify grace; it wouldn’t be freely received.
Their works for attaining salvation include: going to weekly Mass; partaking of the sacraments; paying a penalty or Penance for one’s sins (which denies the sufficiency of Christ’s death on the cross to cover all sins); and then finally spending time in a fictitious place called Purgatory, to purge away any leftover sins that Christ’s blood couldn’t cover, or not enough Penance was performed.
Purgatory is just another means of denying the sufficiency Christ’s atonement for our sins; it is the ultimate declaration that his agonizing crucifixion on a wooden cross – the plan of salvation that was established before the foundation of the world was laid – was not enough to pay the cost of all of our sins. In other words, when Christ uttered those final words “It is finished” – signifying that He had satisfied the wrath of God against us for the sins we have committed and that all our sins were “paid in full”, Rome declares that no it is not finished and the paying of penances and time spent in Purgatory is required. It is a rejection of what Christ accomplished.
Their gospel is a complete distortion of the gospel of grace, and is in fact another gospel – as the Apostle Paul warned against:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel. Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9
Why would Rome teach another gospel? They are leading their followers astray and the gospel they teach can’t possibly save anyone. A gospel of works nullifies God’s free gift of grace:
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” Romans 11:6
“Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” – 2 Timothy 1:9
It should be clear that a true church would never teach a false gospel. Along with the aforementioned false teachings – and there are many others – Rome has taken upon itself to invent new teachings over the centuries that neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever taught. Here is a brief list of some of their “infallible” doctrines that they have implemented:
* Prayers for the Dead and the Sign of the Cross – 300ad
* Veneration of Angels and Dead Saints – 375ad
* The Mass, as a daily celebration adopted – 394ad
* The worship of Mary, and the use of the term “Mother of God” – 431ad
* Priests begin to dress differently from the laity – 500ad
* Extreme Unction or Last Rites as a sacrament – 526ad
* Doctrine of Purgatory established (denies Christ’s sufficiency) – 593ad
* Latin language used in prayer and worship in churches (not all Catholics understood Latin, rendering the words meaningless) – 600ad
* Prayers directed to Mary (even though Jesus taught to pray to the Father) – 600ad
* Title of Pope bestowed upon the Bishop of Rome – 610ad
* Kissing of the Pope’s feet – 709ad
* Temporal power of the Popes – 750ad
* Worship of the Cross, Images and Relics (idolatry) – 788ad
* Holy Water instituted – 850ad
* Veneration of St. Joseph begins – 890ad
* Baptism of Bells – 965ad
* Canonization of Dead Saints (ALL Christians are saints!) – 995ad
* Fasting on Fridays and during Lent – 998ad
* The Mass is an ongoing sacrifice of Jesus and attendance mandatory – 1079ad
* Celibacy of Priesthood – 1079ad
* Praying the Rosary introduced (vain repetitions, Christ warns against) – 1090ad
* Inquisition of Heretics (Bible believing Christians who didn’t bend the knee to Rome) – 1184ad
* Selling of Indulgences to lessen time spent in Purgatory (denies Christ’s atonement) – 1190ad
* Transubstantiation priest can transform a wafer into Jesus Christ – 1215ad
* Confession of sin to a priest – 1215ad
* Adoration of the wafer (blasphemy, idolatry) – 1220ad
* Bible forbidden to be read or owned by laymen (Bibles deny Rome’s teachings) – 1229ad
* Scapular of Mary worn frees a person from Purgatory (nonsense) – 1287ad
* Cup of Blood of Christ forbidden to be touched by laymen – 1414ad
* Doctrine of Purgatory proclaimed to be Dogma of the Faith – 1439ad
* Doctrine of 7 Sacraments affirmed (works that must be done along with grace) – 1439ad
* Ava Maria instituted (Prayer/hymn to Mary) – 1508ad
* Tradition of Rome equal with Scripture (free license for popes in declarations) – 1545ad
* Apocryphal Books added to Rome’s Bible – 1546ad
* Immaculate Conception of Mary (they declare she was born without sin Romans 3:23) – 1834ad
* Papal Infallibility (pope can declare anything and their faithful must believe) – 1870ad
* Modern Science “Modernism” condemned by pope – 1907ad
* Condemnation of public schools (Rome couldn’t teach kids their doctrines) – 1930ad
* “Mother of God” title to Mary reaffirmed – 1931ad
* Assumption of the Virgin Mary (Mary bodily arose to Heaven – not in Bible) – 1950ad
Along with these doctrines that Rome has established over the years for their faithful to adhere to and further one’s bondage to their system, they have also leveled condemnations or “anathemas” on all bible believing Christians who would not submit to the papacy or their system. Here is a sampling of 100 or so anathemas that the papacy has declared over the years:
– If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification…let him be anathema.
– 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.
– If anyone says that he will for certain, with an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance even to the end, unless he shall have learned this by special revelation, let him be anathema. [1 John 5:13 tells us that we can be assured of our salvation. Either John, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is lying to us, or Rome is]
– If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Jesus Christ, let him be anathema. [The Bible declares that Rome’s doctrine is in error]
– If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law were not all instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, or that there are more or less than seven, or that any one of these seven is not truly and intrinsically a sacrament, let him be anathema. [The sacraments are works and nullify grace]
– If anyone…denies that wonderful and singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood – which change the Catholic Church most aptly calls transubstantiation, let him be anathema. [Worshipping a wafer is both idolatrous and blasphemous]
Whether they realize it or not, they have not only bestowed these condemnations on all Bible believing Christians, but on Christ and His Apostles as well – including Peter, who they claim was the first pope. They would never teach the things that Rome claims nor would they have any part in their false religious system.
Is Roman Catholicism, as they contend, the One True Church? Not hardly, if they teach doctrines of men, instead of the Word of God:
“Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” – Matthew 15:3
“Thus have you made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” – Matthew 15:6
“But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” – Matthew 15:9
“And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” – Mark 7:9
Dear Roman Catholic, there is no way that the Church of Rome can be The One True Church. They offer a false gospel and there is no truth in it. The true Church of Christ is the body of all believers who have put their complete faith and trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross – it is not just a particular denomination or any other man made religious system. Works are not a part of His salvation; neither is paying a penance for your own sins, or going to a purging place called Purgatory, or any of the other means of attaining salvation that Rome concocts.
As a matter of fact, after a lifetime of being active in their system: being baptized as an infant; attending mandatory weekly mass (and should you miss one Sunday purposely, they claim you have committed a “mortal sin” and would go to hell if not confessed to a priest); confessed your sins to a priest and paid a penalty or Penance for those sins; receive Jesus Christ physically (instead of spiritually as the Bible attests) through their Eucharistic service; performing the other sacraments; and then ultimately, after death, spend an undetermined amount of time suffering in Purgatory to purge away any remaining sins that Christ couldn’t cover because His plan of redemption obviously came up short, one can still never claim that they have any assurance of salvation. According to Rome, one commits the “sin of Presumption” if they believe they can claim to know for sure that they have secured salvation through Christ; an anathema will be directed your way if you claim that you know that you are saved. Even though the Apostle John – the one whom Christ entrusted with the care of His earthly mother to after Jesus’ death on the cross – assured us regarding salvation:
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” – 1 John 5:13
All of the so-called works that the Catholic must do to try to attain salvation, only furthers one’s commitment to their religion to try to appease God and ends up increasing their bondage to this false system. Their “Holy Mother Church” can only save us; the priests are needed for absolving our sins; their Mass has to be attended; the sacraments are needed; and on and on it goes. Even the erroneous doctrine of Purgatory is presented with the caveat that one’s time can be lessened there by buying Mass cards, donating money to the Church, etc. It is all about their system and not Christ.
The Roman Catholic Church is not the One True Church. Their system offers really no hope. It is a counterfeit Christianity and they present a corrupted version of the truth. On the surface, they appeal to the flesh in all their displays of piety, ritualism, relics, images, incense, candles, acts of contrition, shrines usually dedicated to Mary mainly, as well as other dead saints, and for the most part, Christ is left out in all of their regalia – unless, of course, He is depicted as a baby or still hanging on the cross. All of that is a substitute for real thing but is attractive to those who have no clue as to what God’s Word says about sin, atonement, salvation or a gospel of grace.
They don’t waste an opportunity to diminish what Christ has performed for us on the cross, or who Christ really is. Instead of rightly pointing to the Creator for salvation, they point to the created – the priests; the popes; the statues; the wafer; Mary, or their version of Mary; the dead saints; the “Holy Mother Church” as they refer to the Catholic Church; and anything else other than Jesus Christ.
They really do teach another gospel and have another Jesus – who is received via transubstantiation, but was powerless to cover all of our sins; and another Mary (the Mary of the Bible doesn’t reflect any of the attributes that Rome has ascribed to her: she wasn’t sinless; didn’t remain a virgin after the birth of Christ; she had other children; is not a co-redeemer or co-mediator; doesn’t hear or answer prayer; etc.)
They emphatically are not the true church, despite their proclamations otherwise. One day, we will all stand before Christ at His judgment. If you die as a Roman Catholic, Rome will not be there to defend you. If they can’t even be entrusted with the safeguarding of its members children (speaking of the decades, may be centuries long molestation and raping of children by their clergy, and the cover-up and relocation of these criminals to other parishes by their bishops, cardinals and popes), how can you possibly trust them with your eternal security and salvation? The bottom line is: you can’t….and you must not.
Accept the One who WILL be there in front of you at His judgment. Don’t be beguiled by the enemy and accept a false substitute plan of salvation. Accept His free gift of salvation, believe in Him and His Word, and His Truth will indeed set you free!
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” – Colossians 2:8
“There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” – Proverbs 14:12