“The Roman Catholic Religion” (Part 2)


By Wayne S. Walker


     It is difficult to pinpoint certain items of Catholic doctrine as to time since its dogma is an ever evolving thing and the church of today is not the same organization as the one of a hundred or a thousand years ago. Catholicism, like Mormonism, believes in continuous revelation and the primary mode of this revelation is the tradition of the church. In Question Box (p. 75), we read, “By what right do you teach doctrines not found in the Bible? Because the origin of our faith is not in the Bible alone but the Church which gives us both the written and the unwritten word.”8  Jesus condemned this attitude when He told the Pharisees, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mk. 7:9). Furthermore, “the faith . . . was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3, NASB). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). So is His word and so should be His church. There is one item where we agree with the Catholics – that there is only one true church (Eph. 4:4). However, we would disagree as to which one it is!

     It was around 110 A.D., when one bishop in each church began to assume greater authority, as noted previously, and the word `Catholic” began to be applied to a religious organization. The true church should be called after Christ (Rom. 16:16). The practice of confirming infants started around 200. Originally they were completely immersed! But only “men and women” (i.e., believing, penitent adults) should be baptized according to Acts 8:12. Anthony of Egypt was the first monk (in 250 A.D.) and the practice became popular around 450. Jesus taught that instead of hiding our lights under a bushel (in a monastery?) we should let them shine (Matt. 5:14-16). Severity to the physical body is of no value against the lust of the flesh but is a display of will worship after the doctrines and commandments of men (Col. 2:20-23). The first instance of sprinkling an adult for baptism was in 253. It was approved for emergencies in 753 but not officially adopted as the standard practice until 1311 at the Council of Ravenna. The Bible says “we are buried with him by baptism” (Rom. 6:3-4).

     In 306, certain aspects of Christmas came into the church and by 325 the same was true for Easter. Gal. 4:10-11 and Col. 2:16 teach that we are not to celebrate religious holidays. Augustine of Hippo, who lived from 354-430, developed the doctrine of original sin and it was solidified at the Council of Trent in 1545. God’s word tells us sin is something we do (1 Jn. 3:4) not inherit, and that it is not passed on from father to son (Ezek. 18:19-23), let alone from Adam. Each man is responsible for his own sins. Little babies are not born in sin but are pure “for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14). The concept of the Mass arose in 394 and transubstantiation in 1215. In this, the bread and wine allegedly become the literal body and blood of Christ which are then sacrificed over and over again, day after day as the Eucharist is performed. Yet the New Testament teaches, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28). Besides, Jesus was no more talking literally when He said of the bread, “This is my body” (Matt. 26:26) than when He said, “I am the door” (Jn. 10:9). It is figurative language – the bread represents His body.

     Mary was defined as “the Mother of God” in 421. Prayers to Mary and other saints were authorized in 553. Her immaculate conception (1854) and bodily assumption (1950) are also Catholic dogma. She is adored as Queen of Heaven, divine Mary, perpetual Virgin (which is false, Matt. 1:24; “till” implies that after she gave birth to Jesus she did know Joseph in the conjugal relationship; cf. also Matt. 13:55), and Mediatress. Catholic authorities deny Mary is worshipped but a book written specifically for Catholics reads, “The Holy Church commands a worship peculiar to Mary.”9  Jesus taught, “Thou shalt worship the Lord, thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10). And Paul wrote, “There is . . . one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).  

     Most reference works ascribe the introduction of instrumental music into worship to Pope Vitalian I (657-672). “The organ is said to have been first introduced into church music by Pope Vitalian I in 666.”10  Some doubt the validity of this statement, and even if true it represents as isolated event.11 The first known use of instruments in a church is 757 when “a great organ was sent as a present to Pepin by the Byzantine emperor, Constantine Copronymus, and placed in the church of St. Corneille at Compagne. Soon after Charlemagne’s time, organs became common.”12 The Catholic Encyclopedia (1913 edition) states, “A strong objection to the organ in church service remained pretty general down to the twelfth century . . . . But from the twelfth century on the organ became the privileged church instrument.”13 Scripture authorizes only singing (vocal music) in worship (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). John Calvin rightly noted, “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews.”14

     The second Nicean council of 787 authorized the veneration of holy images and relics in the churches. These icons are in effect idols (graven images, Ex. 20:4) and are condemned in the New Testament (Acts 17:29; 1 Jn. 5:20). The doctrine of celibacy was ordained in 1123, prohibiting the marriage of the priesthood. We know Peter was married (Mk. 1:30; 1 Cor. 9:5). “Forbidding to marry” is one of the signs of the great apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Marriage is honorable in all otherwise scriptural circumstances (Heb. 13:4; cf. Gen. 2:18). Certainly being unmarried is not wrong (Matt. 19:12; 1 Cor. 7:1-8), but it is never commanded for anyone. In 1215 the dogma of auricular confession, confession to a priest, was passed by a council in Rome. Catholics say they do not really confess to a priest but to God through the priest. But all Christians are priests (1 Pet. 2:5) and confess directly to God (1 Jn. 1:9). They may also confess one to another (Jas. 5:16). but nothing is said of having to do so in the presence of a “clergyman” who then pronounces forgiveness.

     The year 1414 saw the end to using both bread and wine in the communion, and using only bread. Yet when Jesus took the cup He told His disciples, “Drink ye all of it”; that is, all of you drink some of it. In 1431, the doctrine of purgatory was defined with its corollaries of praying for the dead and the ungodly practice of selling indulgences. This says that there is a time of purging of venial sin after death. If it were so, Lk. 16:19-31 is false. Heb. 9:27 states, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Then in 1870 the dogma of papal infallibility was accepted. The pope is supposedly infallible when he speaks publicly on matters of a religious nature ex cathedra (from the throne). However Paul taught in 1 Cor. 4:6, “That ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written” (KJV).

     Around 157 the Biblical concept of repentance (Acts 8:22) started turning into the false doctrine of penance. This, in turn, gave rise to the seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, marriage, eucharist, penance, holy orders, and extreme unction. When these are administered by a properly ordained priest. Catholics believe the church becomes the dispenser of God’s grace. This is not true. Neither the term “sacrament” nor the idea is found in scripture. This means of receiving God’s grace is obedience to “the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32). A similar teaching is that the church is the dispenser of God’s word. When one discusses the Bible with a Catholic, he may respond, “But the Catholic Church gave us the Bible.” This is not true either. The men who wrote the Bible were not Catholics. While a “Catholic” council did approve the canon of Scripture, they made no new decisions but merely put their stamp of “approval” of what was already generally accepted. Neither do we depend on Catholic manuscripts or translations. The Bible is not the product of the church, but the true church is a product of the Bible. However, the Catholic Church is not a product of the Bible because the majority of her doctrines and practices are condemned by it — even by the Catholic versions!



     The story is told of a Catholic priest who met a little girl riding her bicycle on the sidewalk. She politely said, “Hello, sir.” He replied, “Hello, little girl. Do you know who I am. I am a priest and you should address me as Father.” The girl, who attended Bible school and had read her Bible, then quoted Matt. 23:9 saying, “Call no man your father upon the earth.” As he walked away, the priest was heard to exclaim, “She knows too much Bible for her own good.”

     The Roman Catholic Church is not the church of the New Testament. Rather, it is the fulfillment of numerous predictions in the Scriptures concerning apostasy. It arose because of false teaching and has been sustained through the years by Biblical ignorance. It has corrupted nearly every aspect of true Christianity and is definitely “of this world” (Jn. 18:36). God said that His church would never be destroyed (Dan 2:44). It was not. It has always existed through the written word (Lk 8:11). Whenever and wherever anyone read, believed, and obeyed the Scriptures, he became a Christian, a member of Christ’s church without the aid of any ecclesiastical organization. This is exactly what churches of Christ are trying to do today.

     It has always been a characteristic of mankind, from the beginning of creation, to depart from God’s ways. We can see this in Adam and Eve, the post-deluvian world, the Hebrew people during the period of judges, the Jewish nation as a whole under their kings, and the church of the Lord beginning around the second century. But it is not over. Even today, some of the same departures that led to the formation of the Catholic church are being practiced by brethren: sponsoring churches, area-wide meetings, church-supported institutions, and “Mission congregations” where the elders of one church directly oversee the work of another church. The spirit of lawlessness is at work today just as it was back then. Brethren, let us learn from history and beware.


     8. Lambert, Catholicism Against Itself, Abridged, p. 22.

     9. Liguori, Bishop Alphonse de; The Glories of Mary, p. 130.

     10. Kurfees, M.C.: Walking by Faith – Origin of Instrumental Music in Christian Worship (Gospel Advocate Company, Nashville, Tenn.; 1972, p. 17). Quotation from Chamber’s Encyclopedia.

     11. Cochran, Brooks: “When Was the Instrument of Music First Introduced Into Christian Worship?” article in Truth Magazine (Cogdill Foundation, Dayton, Ohio), Vol. XXIV, No. 24, June 12, 1980, p. 386).

     12. Kurfees, op. cit, pp. 17-18.

     13. Cochran, op. cit.

     14. Kurfees, op. cit., p. 20.


     1. What is the major source of doctrine in the Catholic church?

     2. What are the qualifications of a proper candidate for baptism?

     3. How can we know that babies are not born with inherited sin?

     4. Describe the doctrine of transubstantiation.

     5. When was the first known use of an organ in a church service?

     6. What sin is involved in the veneration of images and relics?

     7. How should Christians confess their sins?

     8. Cite some Scriptures that would refute the idea of purgatory.

     9. Is there any sense in which the Catholic Church gave us the Bible?

     10. Why should we not address Catholic priests as “Father”?

     —taken from Guardian of Truth; March 5, 1981; Vol. XXV, No. 10; pp. 152-154


“The Roman Catholic Religion” (Part 1)

By Wayne S. Walker


     Jesus promised to build His church (Mt. 16:18).  This was done in fulfillment of prophecy (Isa. 2:2; Dan. 2:44; Joel 2:32).  Even before the foundation of the world, God had in mind a plan for the redemption of mankind which included the establishment of the church (Eph. 3:10-11).  These promises, prophecies, and plans all came together on the first Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection, for on that day the church came into being (Acts 2:47) and has been in existence ever since then.  Since Jesus bought the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28), He is the only Head and Savior of it (Eph. 5:23).

     Just as Jehovah revealed a pattern to Moses for building the tabernacle (Heb. 8:5), He has given us a pattern for the church in the New Testament.  The scriptures, which are holy writings (2 Tim. 3:15) penned by apostles and prophets who were guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:13), contain all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).  Everything we can and should know about the church is found in God’s word.  Whosoever would add to or take from this revelation, go beyond its doctrine, and preach something other than what is recorded therein, is cursed by God (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Jn. 9; Rev. 22:18-19).

     However, even in the first century there were constant warnings that a departure would take place.  Jesus warned that false prophets would arise (Mt. 7:15-20), as did Peter (2 Pet. 3:1-3) and John (1 Jn. 4:1-2).  Paul told the Ephesian elders, “Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30).  Though apostasy did not fully bloom until several centuries later, Paul wrote, “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thess. 2:3-9, esp. v. 7).  We read, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1-6).  One manifestation of this spirit of departure is found in the Roman Catholic religion. 


     The first change that took place was in organization.  In New Testament days, there were only individual congregations known as “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16), with no physical or organizational ties between them—only a common faith and love for one another.  Each church was overseen by a group of men called elders (Acts 14:23), bishops (Phil. 1:1), or pastors (Eph. 4:11).  That these three refer to the same office is seen from Acts 20:17, 28.  These men had to meet certain qualifications (1 Tim. 3, Tit. 1) and were chosen by members of the congregation.  They were not appointed by an outside force, nor were they dependent on anyone besides Christ and His word.  Neither was anything else besides the local assembly where they were members dependent on them, as their oversight extended only to the flock of God among them (1 Pet. 5:1-2).  They were to be leaders and examples, not lords (1 Pet. 5:3).

     The church as a whole was governed personally by the apostles, originally twelve in number plus Paul, during the time the New Testament Scriptures were being written since the complete word of God was not yet available.  They were chosen by God for this task of revealing His will (Eph. 3:1-5).  This is why the Jerusalem church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42) and why brethren with questions about circumcision went to Jerusalem where “the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter” (Acts 15:6).  The church at Jerusalem per se had no authority over other churches.  After the apostles’ decease, the same authority they had in the church was transferred to their writings (2 Pet. 1:12-15, 3:1).  Therefore, we do not have or need living apostles (or their successors) as the Mormons claim to have, a governing body like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Mother Church as in Christian Science, councils and synods such as the Protestant denominations, or the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church because we have God’s written word.  The scriptures will make us “thoroughly furnished unto every good work” including the government and organization of the church (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

     Briefly what happened was that in local churches one elder was chosen to be the “bishop” with more power than the other elders.  As the church grew and expanded, the bishop of the strongest church in a district gradually became the “leading clergyman,” wielding authority over the other bishops in that area.  Thus the diocese developed.  Eventually the bishop had charge of all church property in his diocese, jurisdiction over the clergy, and authority to be the official interpreter of doctrine.  From this, the authority was further concentrated in the hands of metropolitans or archbishops who ruled over a province made up of a number of dioceses.  Finally, the entire control of the church was centralized in five Patriarchs who lived in Constantinople, Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria.  By the end of the fourth century, the church was dominated by them.

     This pyramid structure was encouraged by Constantine, the Roman emperor who legalized Christianity throughout the empire by the Edict of Milan in 313.  It was also he who called the first ecumenical council at Nicea in 325 to condemn Arianism and uphold the deity of Christ.  He wanted to adapt the administrative division, government officials, and many of the laws of the empire to the church.  Although all of this was not accepted immediately, it did pave the way for the eventual coming of the papacy.  The obvious motive in this union of church and state was to unify the empire by making Rome both politically and religiously the center, increasing the power of the emperor as well as the Roman bishop.

     Historians identify other changes that took place in these early years.1  Early Christians drew no distinctions between clergy and laity.  There were only local elders and travelling teachers.  But this system soon seemed inadequate to some and so evolved the organized hierarchy.  Many influenced by Greek philosophy felt the church’s beliefs needed to be spelled out and systematized.  Thus the doctrines of Christianity became more subtle and complex.  The conclusions sustained at Nicea were soon formulated into the Nicene Creed, which “became the basis of all church doctrine from that time forward.  All who departed from that creed were regarded as heretics.2  The service of worship in early churches was plain and simple, consisting of prayer, scripture reading, preaching, and hymns.  In time, it was transformed into an elaborate ceremony or liturgy, evidently to please the carnal minds of the incoming, half-converted pagans.  Following the growth of church organization, crystallization of dogma, and ritual, the church (by means of the clergy) was believed to be the indispensable intermediary between God and man.


     The history of the Roman Catholic Church is the history of the papacy.  The official title of the Pope is “Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, and Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City.”3  The Catholic hierarchy demands “complete submission and obedience of will to the Church and to the Roman Pontiff as to God Himself.”4  Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) said of himself, “We occupy the place on earth of God Almighty.”5  This is exactly the attitude that Paul wrote of in 2 Thess. 2 when he mentioned one “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”  Of course, Jesus condemned the use of distinctive religious titles in Matt. 23:25-28.  There is no need of an earthly head for the church because Jesus Himself has “all power in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:19) and was made “head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22-23).  That leaves little room for any man to claim to be “Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church”!

     This claim stems from the Petrine doctrine of apostolic succession.  Catholics say Peter was chief of the apostles, went to Rome, became head bishop there, and passed his authority on to succeeding bishops of Rome.  First, Peter is never called the “Prince of the Apostles,” as the above title indicates (note Matt. 18:18; Acts 10:25; 2 Cor. 11:5).  Second, as we have seen, Peter’s authority in the church did not pass on to a human successor but to the written word.  Third, Matt. 16:16-19 does not teach that Peter was the rock upon which the church was built, as many believe, but that it was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11, 10:4).  Catholics merely assume that Peter was given primacy over the apostles and that he ever lived in Rome, thus giving the Roman bishop jurisdiction over the whole church.

     The Catholic Encyclopedia lists sixty-five popes from A.D. 67-606.6  However, none of these was recognized as Pope in his own time.  Several early bishops of Rome tried a number of ways to gain superiority but were all rebuked by noted church leaders.  Leo I (440-461) proclaimed himself lord of the whole church and even received imperial recognition for his claim.  But he was not accepted as such by the other bishops, and the Council of Chalcedon (451) actually rejected him as Pope.  Gregory I (590-604) is sometimes regarded as the first real Pope.  He did declare that he would fill the role of the servant of servants and practically exercised all of the authority the universal bishop stands for.  Yet he rejected the title as vicious and haughty, refusing to allow it to be applied to himself and ridiculing the boast of the Patriarch of Constantinople to supreme authority.  The first man to wear the title of Pope with official approval was Boniface III in 607.

     Some of the reasons for the development of the papacy were dissatisfaction with the simple organization of the church in the New Testament, lust for worldly power and  temporal gain, and desire for approval of the Roman Empire.  This led to rapid corruption.  Zacharius (741-752) is reputed to have been, in reality, a woman.  Sergius II (904-911) had a mistress named Marozia.  John XII (853-963) was a grandsom of Marozia and “guilty of almost every crime; violated virgins and widows, high and low; lived with his father’s mistress; made the Papal Palace a brothel; was killed while in the act of acultery by the woman’s enraged husband.”7  Benedict VIII (1012-1024) bought the office of Pope with a bribe from Sergius IV.  Benedict IX (1033-1045) was made pope at 12.  From 1377 to 1417, there were two sets of Popes, one at Rome and one at Avignon, Franc e (at one time during this period, there were actually three!), each at the same time claiming to be the Vicar of Christ, hurling anathemas at the others, excommunicating one another.

     Pius II (1458-1464) was the father of many illegitimate children.  Paul II (1464-1471) filled his house with concubines.  Sixtus IV (1471-1484) was implicated in a plot to murder Lorenzo de Medici.  The Protestant Reformation brought about a general housecleaning during the latter Renaissance under the lead of the Jesuits.  This is not to say that all Popes were bad or that all the people approved.  One cannot prove Catholicism wrong because of its abuses since abuses do not necessarily prove a thing wrong of itself.  But the fact that this evil went on for years with little or no attempt to correct it and often with official sanction, and that these wicked men are still considered vicars of Christ, shows what depths of degradation men can reach when they depart from God and His revealed will—even while claiming to be “Christian.”



     1. Wallbank, Taylor, and Bailky: Civilization—Past and Present (Scott, Foresman, and Company of Glenview, IL; Third Edition, 1967; pp. 126-128).

     2. Lawson, Donald E., ed.: Compton’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 3 (F. E. Compton Co. of Chicago, IL; 1959; p. 335).

     3. Compton’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 336.

     4. Lambert, O. C.:  Catholicism Against Itself, Abridged (Fair Haven Publishers of Winfield, AL; 1963; p. 111).

     5. Ibid., p. 129.

     6. Compton’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 11, p. 594.

     7. Halley, Henry H.: Halley’s Bible Handbook (Zondervan Publishing House of Grand Rapids, MI; 1965; p. 774).



     1. When was the Lord’s church establishsed?

     2. What is its only source of authority?

     3. What was the only organizational unit in the New Testament church?

     4. Who were the officers?

     5. What Roman Emperor combined church and state?

     6. Name the first human creed.

     7. Who is the head of the true church?

     8. Was Peter the first pope?  Prove your answer.

     9. Who was the first man to wear the title Pope?

     10. Give one reason for the development of the papacy.

     (—taken from Guardian of Truth, Feb. 26, 1981; Vol. XXV, No. 9; pp. 8-10