First of all, what you say about the Roman Church being the only Christian church that can trace her lineage 2000 years is simply not true. The Coptic Church, the Jacobite Church, the Armenian, the Georgian and the Orthodox churches can all trace their lineage back to the apostles. These churches do not agree with what your church teaches and they have as much right to claim to be the original church as does the Roman Catholic. This is a matter of historical fact. The Easter Orthodox Church anathematized the Roman Church and vice versa in 1056 AD. The Orthodox and Roman churches anathematized the Coptic in the sixth century. Your statement that the Catholic Church is the only Christian Church which can trace her lineage to the teaching of Jesus is false. This being true, then your claim that one must be part of your church (rather than the Orthodox or Coptic or Jacobite) to be a Chrisitian, historically, is a false argument.
Second of all, I have noticed that those from a Catholic Church claim that what they teach is true by definition. In other words, they say that their church cannot err. Then they use this conclusion to “prove” that their teaching is correct and original. This is a clear example of circular reasoning. You need to choose one of these options:
1. Either we must compare the practice and teachings of the Catholic and other groups with the scripture and decide on that basis which is corrupted and which is following the teachings of the Bible.
2. We must stop simply claiming that by definition that the Catholic Church is always right, and use this as a circular argument to prove that it is always right. (either that or admit that your argument is circular and also admit, therefore, that you cannot engage in a reasoned discussion about the truth)
If the Catholic Church is teaching what Jesus would have taught, then its doctrine and practice will agree with what Jesus said and with what the apostles said, as recorded in the New Testament. If not, then your claim is falsified. You cannot talk to people not in your church and have a reasoned discussion of which is corrupt if you simply say that, by definition, your church is not corrupt. Please, let us have a reasoned discussion, not a circular-reasoning based one-way conversation.
I believe that there are significant corruptions in the Roman Catholic Church–mainly in practice rather than in theology. Here are a couple of examples (there are many more).
In 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 the qualifications for a bishop or priest are listed. Included in this list of qualifications is that they be married, with children who are faithful. The priest/presbyter/shepherd/bishop (which are identical positions in the Bible) are not to be celibate, but to be married for the obvious reason that in order to give advice to families, one must have been the head of a family. You can read church history and you will discover that in the first three centuries all bishops and priests were married. You say that celibacy is something that both Jesus and Paul say is a good thing for some people. I completely agree with this, but the Bible says that bishops and priests must be married.
The Bible teaches that all saved people are saints. This is proved by Phil 4:21, Acts 26:10, Acts 9:32 and many other passages. The teaching that certain specific Christians are saints and others are not is a corruption because it clearly contradicts what is taught in the Bible. To teach that specific people chosen by a human organization are able to make intercession for us, when the Bible says that only Jesus can make intercession (1 Timothy 2:5) is a corruption.
The Communion is a remembrance (1 Corinthians 11:24) and a recognition of the death of Jesus, but it is not a re-sacrifice. The Lord’s Supper is never described as a sacrifice in the New Testament. Neither is it described this way by any of the Church Fathers before the third century (despite your claim to the contrary, for which you give no evidence). The Catholic Church teaches that the Communion is a sacrifice through which sins are forgiven. This is a contradiction with the Bible and is therefore a corruption.
The Catholic Church teaches about Purgatory as a place where sins which are committed in this life are removed. This is heretical and is never taught in the Bible. Neither is it taught by any church father before Gregory the Great in the sixth century. Purgatory is not even conceived in the scripture. The Bible teaches that if we are baptized into Christ and if we walk in the light, then all of our sins are forgiven (1 John 1:5-8) The idea that we need to perform penance or to confess to a priest in order to be forgiven of sins is not supported by any verse in the Bible. This is false doctrine.
The reason there are many different Christian groups is answered by looking at history. For over one thousand years, the Catholic Church made it illegal in Western Europe for individuals to worship according to their conscience. In fact the Church killed tens of thousands simply for having their own convictions about how to worhsip God. Naturally, because of the joining of Church and state and because it was illegal, the Catholic Church was able to suppress all other groups. Therefore there was a legally sanctioned situation that there was only one church. This does not prove that the Catholic Church was right or true, but that they had political control which they used to suppress all other groups. Augustine gave doctinal support to this stance. The reason there was only one church was suppression of the right of individuals to worship God as they saw fit.
Once the Roman Church lost control of people’s lives, naturally, different groups sprang up. The fact that there are many groups does absolutely nothing to prove that the Catholic Church is the true church that teaches what the Bible teaches. It is a matter of history. I, like you, am shocked at the number of Christian groups. This is in part because people are teaching things that are false. We need to unite under the banner of Jesus with the Bible as the only source of truth. No Christian group–be they Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic or other has a right to tell people how to worship. People should read the Bible and determine what is true based on the revealed truth and should not follow some hierarchy, be they Orthodox, Coptic, or Lutheran. On what basis do you reject the Orthodox Church but prove that the Catholic Church is right?
You say that the early church believed in the authority of the pope. This is simply not true. You should study church history for yourself. The early church did give much authority to the bishops of their individual churches. The bishop of Rome or of Jerusalem or Alexandria or of Ephesus or of Byzantium were given great authority–probably more than they should have, given the biblical mandates. There was nothing like a pope until the fifth century. You should study the history. The first person whom we can reasonably call a “pope” was Leo in the fifth century. Where were the popes in the second third and fourth centuries? This is historical revisionism. You should not teach people things which are not true–such as that there was a pope in the early church. Not true. At the Council of Nicaea (4th century) the bishop of Rome was one among equals and he was not called pope.
You are right that the Church canonized the Bible. That is a fact. However, it was not the Roman Catholic Church which did this. The canon was established in the second century–two hundred years before the Roman Church began to claim primacy over the other churches. There is no evidence that the bishop of Rome had any more influence over this choice than the bishops in Jerusalem or Antioch. But you are right that God gave to the Church the role of establishing the canon of the New Testament and all believers have equal right to study the scripture which has the power to produce faith (Romans 10:17). These are the words which, if we obey them, we will be saved. We will be judged by the words of Christ (John 12:47-50). The scriptures have been given to all people, not to a narrow group of self-selected people in one particular group.
Again, I am not a Protestant, and I definitely do not reject the Lord’s Supper/Holy Communion. I celebrate it every week, and, to be honest, I do not appreciate you telling me that I reject this biblical teaching, as I faithfully celebrate it every week and have for almost forty years.
Your quote of Ignatius is simply incorrect. You should look up the actual quote. What he said is a remark about the local bishop–saying that without the bishop the local church has no authority. I believe that Ignatius was overstating the bishop’s authority, but he did not say what you quote him as saying..
I am not anti-Catholic. I regularly defend the Catholic Church against unfair charged from Protestants. I regularly defend Catholic theology against false teachings of othe groups such as praying Jesus into our hearts and a rejection of the Lord’s Super and of the role of baptism. You should be proud of those teachings of the Catholic Church which are true. I never bash the Catholic Church and I do not appreciate you falsely accusing me of being anti-Catholic. To point out the mistakes of another is not to be against that person. I point out my friend’s mistakes at times, but I am not against them. You, as a Catholic, should not accuse others of being against Catholicism simply because we find some faults in your church’s teaching. You feel free to criticize Protestant groups, as you should, but this not mean that you are anti-Protestant. You should not simply shut down discussion by declaring any statements that your group is not perfect as anti-Catholicism. This is rhetoric but is not a basis for real discussion.
Let me say it again: I am not a Protestant and I believe that on many points the Catholic Church is closer to the biblical pattern than Protestant groups. I have defended Catholics and their teaching many, many times. Please do not put me in a pigeon hole by labeling me with a word which does not apply to me. The Protestant Movement began in the sixteenth century, and groups such as the Presbyterian, Baptist, Congregationalist, Lutheran, Anglican and Episcopal Churches are Protestant, but I am not a Protestant and I give no authority to what was taught by Luther, Zwingli or Calvin. If you want to call anyone who is against your church a Protestant, then I can call you a Protestant because you protest against the Lutheran Church. If you use this definition, then the word has no meaning. This amounts to name-calling which is not helpful in discussions of the Christian truth.