[Editor’s note: I have had a lot of positive interaction with Roman Catholic believers, but I also get a lot of comments accusing this web site of being anti-Catholic and biased against that viewpoint. Normally, I simply respond respectfully, but I wanted to give a more complete response and publish it as an article, so here it is. J. O.]
Why are you misinforming the public about the Holy Catholic Church? I see that you state priests wearing vestments is unbiblical? How wrong you are. God commanded they be used in the Old testament. ‘For your brother Aaron you will make SACRED VESTMENTS to give dignity and magnificence…they will use gold and violet material , red purple and crimson and finely woven linen.” I can give you Scripture to refute all the other false claims you made as well! You are Protestant and have no authority to interpret Holy Scripture. Protestants are not in communion with the Church Christ established. Matt. 16-18. The Holy Catholic church GOVERNS Christianity and has for over 2000 years., The Catholic Church compiled and canonized the Christian Bible that YOU have in your home. The Catholic church put together the New testament. The Catholic church is the ONLY CHRISTIAN Church. The eastern Orthodox church is NOT in communion with the Holy See. The Catholic church decided what went into the Holy Bible and what stayed out! The Catholic church is the LARGEST CHRISTIAN Church on the planet! Protestants have created over 40,000 denominations (you) because of pride and arrogance. Protestantism is unbiblical. Christ established ONE CHURCH, ONE TRUTH. How can “Truth” be found in your chaotic Protestant church? Your false Protestant church allows gay marriage, Abortion, gay women ministers! Shocking! Why do you ignore the early Church Fathers who believed in the Eucharist, the unique role of Mary, the Sacraments, the authority of the Pope? The Church Fathers were taught by the apostles. “Wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.” Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Early Church Father A.D. 110. You are ridiculous.
First of all, You accuse me of misinforming people. You prove this using the example of the use of special vestments by priests. My response is that for me to say that the Roman Catholic Church practices the use of special vestments for priests is not misinformation. It is fact.
Second, you say that my claim is “misinformation” because I am falsely claiming this practice is unbiblical. My claim that it is unbiblical is a statement of opinion. This is an opinion and an opinion, by definition, cannot be misinformation. Now, you may disagree with whether it is biblical, but it certainly is not misinforming. Instead or falsely accusing me of misinforming people about your church, perhaps what you should say is that you do not agree with my characterization that the use of special vestments for a special class of “priests” is not biblical.
OK, so let me respond to this. First of all, the fact that the high priest of the Jews, governed by the Old Testament, wore a special garment (and the regular priests did as well), is not evidence that this practice is biblical. Here is why. We, as Christians, are governed by the commandments in the New Covenant, as found in the New Testament. When Jesus came, he fulfilled the Old Testament law (Matthew 5:17), and we are no longer governed by such laws (Colossians 2:13-19). In fact, in the Colossians passages just cited, we are specifically told that we are no longer required to observe sabbaths and other holy days, as legislated in the Law of Moses. The fact that a special class of priests (which we do not have on Christianity) wore vestments under the Law of Moses is quite simply NOT evidence that Christians ought to do this. They also sacrificed bulls and goats and prohibited the eating of pork. These practices are not carried into Christianity.
So, if Christians are to have a special class of priests who are to be wearing special vestments, this can only be supported from the New Testament. The problem is that the New Testament definitely does NOT support this practice. There is no passage in the New Testament which even suggests this practice. In fact, Jesus criticized the Pharisees in Matthew 7, in part, for wearing special phylacteries to mark them out as super-spiritual. Besides, what is a clear teaching in the New Testament is that all believers are priests (1 Peter 2:9 look at the context, in which this is clearly applied to all followers of Jesus, and as prophesied in Exodus 19:6). Therefore, the entire idea of a separate special priesthood is not biblical, never mind the Roman Catholic practice of them wearing special vestments. Add to this the FACT (and this is a fact, not an opinion) that in the first three centuries the leaders of the church definitely did not wear such vestments. This did not begin until the late fourth century when Christian bishops began to follow Roman examples of pagan priests wearing special vestments. Therefore, the wearing of special vestments are clearly an innovation, and not part of what was taught or practiced by the apostles. The Roman Catholic practice of wearing vestments is not an apostolic practice, and this is a matter of historical record. The scripture and church history prove beyond any doubt that the wearing of special vestments by a special class of supposed priests is both unbiblical and proved by history to be an innovation.
So, your statement that I gave misinformation regarding the wearing of vests is simply untrue and if you are claiming that it is right and biblical for Roman priests to do so, then this is disproved by both the Bible and history. It seems that the thrust of your argument is that whatever the Roman Catholic Church does, is, by definition, right, even if the Bible and history indicates that it is not. Well, personally, I am not at all comfortable with this approach. I believe that ANY church which does unbiblical things, whether they are Roman Catholics, or Greek Orthodox. or Egyptian Copts, or Lutherans or Baptists or Anglicans there is no difference, it is still wrong for them to do these things. The only authoritative source of truth we have is the scriptures.
By the way, I definitely am not a Protestant. Why do you even make this claim? You apparently do not even know the Christian group to which I belong. Protestants are a believers who trace their roots to the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. I definitely do NOT acknowledge the authority of Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli or John Calvin. I am a New Testament Christian with no direct connection to the Protestant Reformation. If you want to label me, perhaps you should ask me what my religious heritage and ask me to tell you what I am rather than use a label on a person you do not even know. Catholic and Protestant are not the only two options. So, if you want to know my background, please feel free to ask.
Not only am I not a Protestant, I have often taught in public forums that I believe Roman Catholic theology is on many points closer to biblical theology than traditional Protestant theology. So, please do not label me a Protestant. I have had many positive interactions with my Roman Catholic friends in which we find common ground against typical Protestant beliefs such as faith only or predestination or praying Jesus into one’s heart and many more. In fact, just two weeks ago I was in India in front of a Christian group before which I stated my opinion that on purely theological grounds the Roman Catholic Church is closer to biblical theology than most of Protestantism.
Let me ignore the false label of Protestantism for a moment. You say that I have no authority to interpret the Scripture. Where, I might ask, does the authority to interpret scripture rest, biblically? When Paul preached to the people in Berea in Acts 17, he commended them for checking what he said against the scripture to see if it was true. Who had the authority in this case? The idea that a particular hierarchy of a particular church has all authority to interpret scripture has no scriptural basis. Who has this supposed authority? Why not the Greek Orthodox Church, with which you strongly disagree on many points? You mention Ignatius. I guarantee that what he taught and practiced is considerably closer to Greek Orthodox and practice that Roman Catholic practice. Who says that the primate of the Coptic Church in Egypt has no authority? His church goes back to the beginning as much as yours, and the church in Alexandria was almost certainly established before that in Rome. The idea that authority is held by a single church or a single hierarchy was not even proposed when Ignatius lived. You are putting words in Ignatius’ mouth. He did say that “Where Christ is, there is the Catholic Church,” but if you put this statement in context, he definitely was NOT talking about the Roman Catholic Church, which did not even exist when he was alive. Back then, the “Catholic Church” was the Church, of which Rome was one of many relatively independent churches. In the second century there was no head bishop. At that time authority was found in the scriptures alone, but was confirmed by consensus of many bishops, not by a pope. The thing you are describing, with a hierarchy in Rome, and a pope in Rome is not what Ignatius was talking about. Did the apostles have a special authority, as ordained by Jesus? Yes. Was this authority delegated to those who came afterward? Church history says no, and there is zero biblical indication that this authority was handed to the next generation of leaders. I am sorry, but to an outsider your attitude seems to be that everything you believe is right by definition, simply because your group believes it. This is a height of arrogance which should not be tolerated by Christians in general.
“The Roman Catholic Church is the only Christian Church.” This is statement of great arrogance and it flies in the face of history. What about the Greek Orthodox? On what basis are they excluded from Christianity? You say that the Orthodox are going to hell because they are not submitting to the Roman Church. The Greek Orthodox says that you are going to hell because you do not submit to the patriarch in Constantinople. Where is the basis, historically or biblically for deciding who is correct? The answer is that there is no basis for this whatsoever, unless it is by referring to the authority of the divinely inspired scripture. Simply saying something does not make it true and it appears that your strongest argument is simply saying it is true, as if this was an argument. I need evidence from somewhere other than your inner circle to support this statement. What scripture excludes them? What about a person who simply reads the Bible, understands it, responds to it, repents and is baptized. Are they not a Christian and are they therefore going to hell simply because they never heard of the pope? Seriously? Where does the Bible say that an ordained priest must perform this baptism? This exclusivistic statement is a sign of a person who is basing their conclusion on a preconception they gained from their own group, certainly not on a reading of the Bible.
From there, your argument devolves into what I can only describe as an angry unchristian diatribe. You tell me that I am a Protestant who teaches that homosexuality is OK (although, as your pope as rightly pointed out, we should still love those who struggle with this sin). Excuse me, but this is a very unchristian thing for you to do. First of all, I am not a Protestant and secondly, I teach and have always taught that homosexuality is a sin and is not to be accepted in Christianity at all. Period. How could you say such an unkind and untrue thing about me? My church does not allow for homosexuality, for abortion, for divorce or for women preachers. All of your accusations are purely false ones. How could you make such a charge against a person and against a church when you do not even know if they are true? Jesus said to treat others as you would have them treat you. I suggest you follow his admonition.
You prove that the Roman Catholic Church is the only church by arguing that it is the largest church. This is not a logical argument. Besides, in the first several centuries, even as the Roman Catholic Church emerged, it certainly was not the largest. The Jacobite Church and the Greek Church has many more members that the Roman Church in the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries. If your argument is based on size, then your claim that the Orthodox Church left the faith is disproved. Please do not base your argument on the size of your group. This is really not even an argument.
You then argue based on the fact that there are so many Protestant groups and that this is confusing. I will grant you the truth of this description, but this does not make your group the “right” group. The fact that some Christian believers rightly returned the basis for authority to the Bible, and not to a particular Christian hierarchy, does automatically raise the possibility of a plurality of groups, but this was a good thing (allowing individuals to read and understand the Bible), even if it did, unfortunately, lead to division that God himself hates. In fact, any group can say that they are the only ones, point out that there are many other groups, and use this fact as proof that they are right. Only an insider would accept such a clearly illogical argument.
By the way, the early church fathers in the first three centuries did NOT give any special role to Mary at all. I suggest you read the actual history rather than biased accounts which ignore the history. The earliest evidence for veneration of Mary comes from about the sixth century, and certainly not from any Christian teacher for the first four hundred years of Christianity. So, I am afraid that if you want to admonish obeying the biblical pattern or the pattern of the primitive church, you might want change your statement about Mary. I taught a lesson about Mary just the other day in which I praised her and identified her as a person of a faith as great as that of Abraham and Noah, but she is never given a place of veneration in any Christian writing in the first four hundred years of Christianity. This is a plain fact. If you want to revere Mary, that is your business, but do not try to tell me that this practice is either biblical or supported by the primitive church, because this is contravened by fact.
As for ignoring the “authority of the pope,” the word pope was not even used before the fourth century of the bishop in Rome, but it was not until the fifth century, under Leo that anything even remotely like the modern pope existed. So, I would prefer, again, to follow the biblical pattern which does not mention a pope and the pattern of the primitive apostolic church, which does not mention anything even remotely like a pope, than your proposal that I follow the non-biblical pope of the Roman Catholic Church. If you choose to submit to him, that is your choice, but there is no warrant for this in the Bible.
My last point. You end by calling me ridiculous. Well, that is an unchristian thing for you to do. It is unkind, ungracious and uncalled for. You do not even know me. Using profanatory labels is something Jesus never did and I suggest that if you want to be a spokesperson for Roman Catholicism, in the future you should refrain from using fighting words, but should behave like Jesus, about whom Isaiah said (Isaiah 42:3) “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”