What is Roman Catholicism?

Question: "What is Roman Catholicism?"

Answer: The Roman Catholic Church portrays itself as the one legitimate heir to New Testament Christianity, and the Pope as the successor to Peter, the first bishop of Rome. While those details are debatable, there is no question that Roman church history reaches back to ancient times. The apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Romans about AD 55, and addressed a church body that existed prior to his first visit there (but he made no mention of Peter, though he greeted others by name). Despite repeated persecutions by the government, a vibrant Christian community existed in Rome after apostolic times. Those early Roman Christians were just like their brethren in other parts of the world—simple followers of Jesus Christ. 

Things changed drastically when the Roman Emperor Constantine professed a conversion to Christianity in AD 312. He began to make changes which ultimately led to the formation of the Roman Catholic Church. He issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which granted freedom of worship throughout the empire. When doctrinal disputes arose, Constantine presided over the first ecumenical church council at Nicaea in AD 325, even though he held no official authority in the churches. By the time of his death, Christianity was the favored, if not the official, religion of the Roman Empire. The term “Roman Catholic” was defined by Emperor Theodosius on February 27, 380 in the Theodosian Code. In that document, he referred to those who hold to the “religion which was delivered to the Romans by the divine Apostle Peter” as “Roman Catholic Christians,” and gave them the official sanction of the empire.

The fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Catholic Church are really two branches of the same story, as the power was transferred from one entity to the other. From the time of Constantine (AD 312) until the fall of the Roman Empire in 476, the emperors of Rome claimed a certain amount of authority within the church, even though it was disputed by many church leaders. During those formative years, there were many disputes over authority, structure, and doctrine. The emperors sought to increase their authority by granting privileges to various bishops, resulting in disputes about primacy within the churches. At the same time, some of the bishops sought to increase their authority and prestige by accusing others of false doctrine and seeking state support of their positions. Many of those disputes resulted in very sinful behavior, which are a disgrace to the name of Christ.

Just like today, some of those who lived in the leading cities tended to exalt themselves above their contemporaries in the rural areas. The third century saw the rise of an ecclesiastical hierarchy patterned after the Roman government. The bishop of a city was over the presbyters, or priests, of the local congregations, controlling the ministry of the churches, and the Bishop of Rome began to establish himself as supreme over all. Though some historians tell these details as the history of “the church,” there were many church leaders in those days which neither stooped to those levels nor acknowledged any ecclesiastical hierarchy. The vast majority of churches in the first four centuries derived their authority and doctrine from the Bible, and traced their lineage directly back to the apostles, not to the church of Rome. In the New Testament, the terms “elder,” “pastor,” and “bishop” are used interchangeably for the spiritual leaders of any church (see 1 Peter 5:1-3 where the Greek root words are translated “elders,” “feed,” and “oversight”). By the time Gregory became pope in AD 590, the empire was in a shambles, and he assumed imperial powers along with his ecclesiastical authority. From that time on, the church and state were fully intertwined as the Holy Roman Empire, with the pope exercising authority over kings and emperors. 

What are the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that distinguish it from other Christian churches? Whole books have been written on this subject, but a sampling of the doctrines will be outlined here.

Roman Catholicism

The bishops, with the Pope as their head, rule the universal Church.

God has entrusted revelation to the bishops.

The Pope is infallible in his teaching.

Scripture and Tradition together are the Word of God.

Mary is the co-redeemer, for she participated with Christ in the painful act of redemption.

Mary is the co-mediator, to whom we can entrust all our cares and petitions.

Initial justification is by means of baptism.

Adults must prepare for justification through faith and good works.

Grace is merited by good works.

Salvation is attained by cooperating with grace through faith, good works, and participation in the sacraments.

No one can know if he will attain to eternal life.

The Roman Catholic Church is necessary for salvation.

Christ's body and blood exist wholly and entirely in every fragment of consecrated bread and wine in every Roman Catholic church around the world.

The sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated in the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Each sacrifice of the Mass appeases God's wrath against sin.

The sacrificial work of redemption is continually carried out through the sacrifice of the Mass.

Biblical Teaching

Christ, the head of the body, rules the universal church (Colossians 1:18).

God has entrusted revelation to the saints (Jude 3).

God alone is infallible (Numbers 23:19;Acts 17:11).

Scripture alone is the Word of God (John 10:352 Timothy 3:16,172 Peter 1:20,21Mark 7:1-13).

Christ alone is the Redeemer, for He alone suffered and died for sin (1 Peter 1:18,19).

Christ Jesus is the one mediator to whom we can entrust all our cares and petitions (1 Timothy 2:5John 14:13,141 Peter 5:7).

Justification is by faith alone (Romans 3:28).

God justifies ungodly sinners who believe (Romans 4:5). Good works are the result of salvation, not the cause (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Grace is a free gift (Romans 11:6).

Salvation is attained by grace through faith apart from works (Ephesians 2:10).

The believer can know that he has eternal life by the Word of God and the testimony of the Holy Spirit who indwells believers(1 John 5:13Romans 8:16).

There is salvation in no one but the Lord Jesus Christ, “for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The bread and wine are symbols of the body and blood of Christ, and He is bodily present in heaven (1 Corinthians 11:23-25Hebrews 10:12,13).

The sacrifice of the cross is finished (John 19:30).

The once-for-all sacrifice of the cross fully appeased God's wrath against sin (Hebrews 10:12-18).

The sacrificial work of redemption was finished when Christ gave His life for us on the cross (Ephesians 1:7Hebrews 1:3).

These doctrines don't date back all the way to Constantine, except for perhaps in seed form, but were slowly adopted over many years as various popes issued decrees. In many cases, the doctrines are not even based on Scripture, but on a document of the church. Most Roman Catholics consider themselves to be Christians and are unaware of the differences between their beliefs and the Bible. Sadly, the Roman Catholic Church has fostered that ignorance by discouraging the personal study of the Bible and making the people reliant on the priests for their understanding of the Bible.

Reference: Got Questions?org


Val Pym said...

All true Lloyd but isn't it marvellous what the Holy Spirit has and is doing among some Catholics? I couldn't be a Catholic because of their wrong doctrines, but I learned a lot about love from some Spirit-filled Catholics. The Spirit still blows where He will. Praise the Lord! Val Pym

Lloyd said...

Amen. I have several Catholic friends and family members who I know are saved, however, they still have a heavy burden to carry because they are not sure if they will be good enough to get into heaven. I have explained to them several times that if they have put their faith in Christ and accepted Him as their Savior and Lord they will go to heaven, but still they feel they must continue to do all that the RCC requires of them to have a chance at paradise... too bad. God bless, Lloyd


"Arius stood up as an adversary of the doctrine of the Trinity and Constantine and [the Pope] Silvestre called the Council of Nicaea."
Therefore, the emperor convened the Council in agreement with Pope Sylvester, and has invited the bishops to participate without any imposition, but as a way to resolve the Arian conflict, which threatened the order of the empire. Apart from the problem of convoking the council, the presence of the legacies of Pope confers the status of the Nicene Council approved by the Church.
At this time there was a large group of Christians who followed a strange doctrine that taught by the Apostle Peter, and kept by the pope and the Catholic bishops. Despite his heresies, heretics wanted to also take the name of "Catholic Christians" and called their meetings "CHURCH" to the emperor forbids (since followed the doctrine of Arius should justly be called Ariane).
The name "Catholic" is very old and there are documents to prove this abundantly.
In the third century Firmiliano, bishop of Cappadocia, says: "There is only one bride of Christ is the Catholic Church"
St. Cyprian in 249 years before Constantine was born, and before the Nicene Council, testified: "Being in communion with the Pope is being in communion with the Catholic Church." (Epist. 55, n.1, Hartel, 614);
the church began to be designated as the Catholic Church, that is, universal, the Church spread everywhere, to differentiate it from the heretics, belonging to the isolated cliques that existed here and there.
All quotes above are prior to the birth of Constantine (272-22 May 337).
This nullifies the scam Protestant who maliciously Constantine clings to "explain" the Catholic Church. When this only later, gave full liberty to freely preach the Christian doctrine of the Catholic Church, which was founded by Jesus Christ.

I invite you to answer the questions: Jesus allowed a man to found churches? Where is it in the Bible? If not cleared by that every day comes a different church?
Who founded the Church? Why? So the existing churches were wrong for it to be a need to see more church? And who says his is that correct? It was the Lord who founded or was a mere man?

Jesus said, "For I tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

Lloyd said...

LUZ DE MARIA PARA AS NAÇÕES – I want to personally thank you for your visit and comment. I agree with you that there is only one bride of Christ and that is the “church” which is comprised of all those believers who have given their lives over to our Lord and Savior.

When you come to this profound truth in the Bible that the “church” is not a building or organization, but is the body of believers you will be at peace with yourself. Even though there are several different Christian denominations…. All are the body of Christ… they are “Christ’s church”.

Now the answers to all of you questions that you pose can also be found in the same Bible verse that you quoted. Let us look closely at what Matthew 16:18 has to say:

In the words “I will build my church” indicates that the church had not yet been started. Obviously the disciples did not at this point understand the doctrine of the New Testament church with its equality of Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:11–3:7). They simply understood it to be the Lord’s followers. When Jesus said, “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”, He was saying simply that death would not vanquish the church and that the forces of evil will not be able to conquer the people of God. One day, by the power of Christ’s resurrection, the church and all the redeemed will be resurrected.

To clarify more clearly what Jesus was saying let us look at the following word study:

Peter - (Gk. petros) (Matt. 16:18; John 1:42) Strong’s G4074; rock (Gk. petra) (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 9:33; 1 Cor. 10:4; 1 Pet. 2:8) G4073: As Peter and rock are one word in the language spoken by Jesus (Aramaic), the wordplay in this verse can be duplicated only in languages that also have one word for both. In Greek, the word for Peter is petros (meaning “stone”); the word for rock is petra. Some commentators have indicated that, though the two words are nearly synonymous, Jesus intended a distinction—Peter is but a fragment of the whole, while Christ Himself is the entire rock. Thus it could be said that the church would be built on Christ, the Rock. Be that as it may, at least it can be said that the context allows that the rock upon which the church is built is Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Son of God.

The rock on which Jesus would build His church has been identified as Jesus Himself (His work of salvation by dying for us on the cross) and the confession of faith that Peter gave and that all subsequent true believers would give. It seems most likely that the rock refers to Peter as the leader of the church (for his function, not necessarily his character). Just as Peter had revealed the true identity of Christ, so Jesus revealed Peter’s identity and role. Later, Peter reminds Christians that they are the church built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-6).

All believers are joined into this church by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, the same faith that Peter expressed here (Ephesians 2:20, 21). Jesus praised Peter for his confession of faith. It is faith like Peter’s that is the foundation of Christ’s kingdom.

I want to thank you again for your visit and comments regarding this post. God bless, Lloyd