(Richard Bennett is a former RC priest. Michael de Semlyn is a former leading RC apologist).
ON Sunday, March 12, the first Sunday of Lent, the Pope presided over a solemn ceremony called "The Day of Pardon" in St Peter's Basilica, Rome, in which he asked God for forgiveness for the historical wrongs of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). The ceremony was presented as another profoundly significant event in the RC Church's "Millennium Jubilee Holy Year" and a further step, unprecedented but necessary, in the process of unity. It was a modern media event staged for maximum impact to encourage "unity". The impression given is that it is a genuine attempt to wipe the slate clean and to apologise for the past wrongs of the church.
Careful examination, however, shows that the Pope's "Day of Pardon" was in fact not an apology, but rather a day of deception. In this service, the Pope continually prayed, purportedly as a Christian, while never admitting any of the horrendous sins of the church of Rome. An egregious example from the prepared text that was used is found in Section III, "Confession of Sins Which Have Harmed the Unity of the Body of Christ".(1)
The set prayer of the representative of the Roman Curia was as follows,
"Let us pray that our recognition of the sins which have rent the unity of the Body of Christ and wounded fraternal charity will facilitate the way to reconciliation and communion among all Christians." This was followed by silent prayer, and then the prayer of "The Holy Father" addressed to the "Merciful Father", "Merciful Father, on the night before his Passion your Son prayed for the unity of those who believe in him: in disobedience to his will, however, believers have opposed one another, becoming divided, and have mutually condemned one another and fought against one another. We urgently implore your forgiveness and we beseech the gift of a repentant heart, so that all Christians, reconciled with you and with one another will be able, in one body and in one spirit, to experience anew the joy of full communion. We ask this through Christ our Lord."
If the Pope and the Roman Curia were really serious about their prayer offered to Holy God, they must face the fact that condemning curses of their Council of Trent were not mentioned nor repented of, including the condemnation of the biblical gospel and historical biblical Christianity, which led to the wholesale slaughter of millions of Christians during the 667 years of the Inquisition, and which have never been revoked, Vatican Council II notwithstanding. If this prayer were answered, it would be necessary to dismantle the RCC with its false gospel, papal infallibility, and "irreformable"(2) ways, which clearly the Pope and his Curia have no intention of doing.
The Week of Christian Unity
The gathering of mainstream churches at St Paul's Basilica in Rome earlier this year is thought to have been the largest assembly of Christian leaders with a Pope since the Vatican Council II in the early 1960s. On January 18th, the Tuesday of the week which had been designated 'The Week of Christian Unity' in the 'Holy Year, 2000', leaders representing four fifths of Eastern Orthodoxy gathered alongside Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists and Pentecostals. They were participating in celebration of the opening of the 'Holy Door at St Paul Outside the Walls'. Archbishop George Carey, Primate of the Church of England, and Metropolitan Athanasius, representing Bartholomew, Patriarch of Constantinople and head of the Orthodox Church, knelt on either side of Pope John Paul II before the newly opened door. Only one cushion had been provided as it was thought that only the Pope would kneel, but when they both fell to their knees, too, the Pope called out, "Unity! Thank you!" It was a highly symbolic moment.
The Pontiff had every reason to express his gratitude to the churches represented and the two men flanking him. After all, in May 1999, the joint Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) had issued a statement "recognising the Pope as the overall authority in the Christian world" and describing him as "a gift to be received by all churches", (a gift yet to be accepted by the Synod of the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion, however).
Five months later in October, 1999, on Reformation Day, the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches had signed a joint declaration announcing that their opposing views on justification have been reconciled. (3) With this declaration of reconciliation and unity, the way seems clear for the Lutherans to join the Anglicans in accepting Papal primacy. The frosty relationship of earlier years with the Russian Orthodox Church has warmed up and a Papal visit to Moscow and a meeting with Patriarch Alexy II is being discussed. Pentecostals and Charismatics have accelerated their Romeward journey and Evangelical leaders who have signed ECT ("Evangelicals and Catholics Together") have led very large numbers of evangelicals to kneel before the open "holy" door that the Roman Catholic Church offers them. The Pope's words that day were couched in the language associating equality with freedom. Carefully concealed in his response was the nonnegotiable agenda of the Roman Catholic Church, for rather than looking for unity based on truth, the Papacy, as ever, is seeking to secure conformity through compromise. The "ecumenical dialogue" referred to by the Pope during the January 18th ceremony, is clearly governed by a special set of rules. Vatican Council II's post conciliar.
Document No. 42 on ecumenism states that,
"...dialogue is not an end in itself...it is not just an academic discussion."(4) Rather, "ecumenical dialogue ... serves to transform modes of thought and behaviour and the daily life of those [non-Catholic] communities. In this way, it aims at preparing the way for their unity of faith in the bosom of a church one and visible."(5)
That the papacy expects this process of dialogue to take time to accomplish its stated aim of bringing all Christian churches under its authority is clear when she says, "...little by little, as the obstacles to perfect ecclesial communion are overcome, all Christians will be gathered, in a common celebration of the Eucharist [the Mass] into that unity of the one and only church...This unity, we believe, dwells in the Catholic Church as something we can never lose."(6)
The "little by little" approach of the Vatican II document are now giant steps.
How many present at the January 18th gathering understand what is really happening? The Pope's official position is that "ecumenical encounter is not merely an individual work, but also a task of the [RC] Church, which takes precedence over all individual opinions."(7) Thus the opinions of others present on January 18th are "individual opinions" and worthless. The final goal of any dialogue with the RCC is, first and foremost, "unity" in a visible and specific ritual under the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, "all Christians will be gathered, in a common celebration of the Eucharist into that unity of the one and only church...unity we believe dwells in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose." She could hardly state it more clearly.
Unity: true and false
Very different from this man-made spurious unity is the true unity of believers in Christ. The foundation of Christian unity is the position of believers "in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ."(8) The Lord's prayer in John 17:21 for unity is answered in the life of an individual who is justified by God's saving grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The fact that the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for unity means that unity of believers is actual. God, the Father of His people, Who before the world existed chose the believers to be in Christ His Son, justified them through His righteousness, and upon saving them, places them in Him, and will preserve them in that unity until the culmination of all things. Believers are placed into the unity which is in Christ Jesus, a unity which they themselves did not establish, but which they are commanded to maintain. In the words of the Apostle Paul, they are "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."(9)
The same apostle shows clearly the ground of true unity: "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."(10) Believers, therefore, who adhere to God only and His Written Word, as did the Lord and the apostles after Him ('Sola Scriptura') are one in body, in Spirit, and in truth. They are saved before the all-Holy God by grace alone ('Sola Gratia'), through faith alone ('Sola Fide'), and in Christ alone ('Solo Christo') and all glory and praise is to God alone ('Soli Deo Gloria'). These five biblical principles together show the foundation of true unity in the Lord. They have helped the persecuted church through the centuries to hold fast to the simplicity of the gospel. True ecumen-ism is fellowship or working together in adherence to the five basic biblical principles that maintain the foundation of true unity in the Lord. To the degree to which these key basic biblical standards are embraced, true unity will be evident.
On the other hand, false ecumenism, typically institutionalised, is the joining together for common causes of professing Christian groups, when in fact one or more of the parties involved are unconverted. While purporting to confess the Lord Jesus Christ according to the scriptures, for the most part the five biblical principles that display the basis of true unity in the Lord are compromised. The extent to which these principles are not upheld usually shows the inclination of the church or group to submit to Rome.
The World Council of Churches is such an institution. Within it, there is no agreement on any of the five principles that demonstrate the fact that the foundation of true unity is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. The Pope and his church, likewise in apostasy from the true gospel, are also without any of the five biblical standards. Counterfeiting the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are intent on finding successful ways to bind all to the very visible, active and attractive pontifical throne.
Pope defines conformity
In his official letter, "That they May Be One", the Pope defines full unity:
"The Catholic Church, both in her praxis and in her solemn documents, holds that the communion of the particular churches with the Church of Rome, and of their bishops with the bishops of Rome is, in God's plan, an essential requisite of full and visible communion." (11)
To arrive at that point of full unity, a different set of five principles must be adopted, principles that actually deny all five parameters of biblical truth. According to the Pope, "It is already possible to identify the areas in need of fuller study before a true consensus of faith can be achieved:
- The relationship between Sacred Scripture, as the highest authority in matters of faith, and Sacred Tradition, as indispensable to the interpretation of the Word of God;
- The Eucharist, as the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, an offering of praise to the Father, the sacrificial memorial and Real Presence of Christ and the sanctifying outpouring of the Holy Spirit;
- Ordination, as a Sacrament, to the threefold Ministry of the episcopate, presbyterate and diaconate;
- The Magisterium of the Church, entrusted to the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him, understood as a responsibility and an authority exercised in the name of Christ for teaching and safeguarding the faith;
- The Virgin Mary, as Mother of God and Icon of the Church, the spiritual Mother who intercedes for Christ's disciples and for all humanity." (12)
The Pope's objective in declaring his five principles is that a ubiquitous visible conformity to the Church of Rome should be forged in accordance with and manifested through her institution alone. Thus the Pope decrees,
"...it is now necessary to advance towards the visible unity which is required and sufficient and which is manifested in a real and concrete way, so that the churches may truly become a sign of that full communion in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church which will be expressed in the common celebration of the Eucharist." (13)
The RCC is attempting to forge a man-made unity, visible by means of an institution to which all must conform. Such a conception stands in direct contradiction to the reality of believers who, having been placed invisibly in Christ by God, are to maintain the bond of unity given them by the Holy Spirit.
External unity to be attained by Power and Penalty
What is this conformity now so passionately advocated by the Pope? How would it be applied in practice? From all previous experience, and the official teaching of the same Pope in his Canon Law, those fully participating will be obliged to submit their faculties of both mind and will to 'the Holy Father' [the Pope], to his decrees, and to the dogma of his church. Thus present day Roman law decrees,
Canon 752 "A religious respect of intellect and will, even if not the assent of faith, is to be paid to the teaching which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops enunciate on faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium even if they do not intend to proclaim it with a definitive act..."
In this official law Rome enunciates, in clearer terms than any cult states, the necessity of suppressing one's God given faculties, that of mind and will. This is not only demanded, the new Canon Law, the 'Papal Code' codified by the present Pope, includes a section entitled "Punishment of Offences against Ecclesiastical Authorities and the Freedom of the Church". Under the heading, "The Punishment of Offences in General", the Inquisition appears again as from old times, for Canon 1311 states,
"The church has an innate and proper right to coerce offending members of the Christian faithful by means of penal sanctions."(14)
A brief acquaintance with history readily reveals that coercion is a term that the Roman Church understands very well. Naturally, when ushering all comers into her big tent, she makes light of its implications; but when once again in direct control of the levers of political power (which may well be provided by the fast advancing European super state), Canon 1311 could acquire that same notoriety as those which have so darkened the pages of history.
It is important to remember always that the Roman Papacy is an absolute monarchy and also a secular government. Enormously wealthy, it has territorial sovereignty, its court, nobles, and diplomatic corps; its detective force and secret service; its laws, advocates, and system of jurisprudence as well as prison; taxes, bank, foreign treaties and concordats, enormous political influence, ambitious plans and policies, all as much as any secular kingdom. And it still has the Inquisition, now styled the Office of the Doctrine of the Faith, headed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.
Bride of the Lamb understands Apostate Church
Believers of old were clear to call the Roman Catholic Church's imposed conformity "Satan's seat" or the Antichrist. This was known and spoken of even through the Middle Ages by Dante Alghieri (d. 1321), John Wycliff (d. 1384), John Huss (d. 1415), Savonarola (d. 1498), and William Tyndale (c. l536). So Rome's conformity was described as Antichrist from the time of Reformation by Martin Luther (d. 1546), Nicholas Ridley (d. 1554), John Bradford (d. 1555), and John Foxe (d. 1587), and in more recent times by Isaac Newton (d. 1727) and Jonathan Edwards (d. 1758). Now as the "Holy" Roman Empire revives in the European Super State, can believers afford to remain ignorant of both history and biblical prophecy as understood throughout the centuries? Confident believers of old saw that unity is in Christ and, consequently, warned of conformity with Rome.
They both knew the true church in Christ, and recognised the apostate church in Rome. Understanding that unity with the Roman Catholic Church always meant submission to her traditions and finally obedience to her Pope, they rejoiced that their unity was in the Beloved, rather than dallying with sin.
Extravagantly, apparently without trembling, the Pope has again fulfilled the Lord's prophetic Word (II Thessalonians 2:3-12) depicting the Man of Sin and Son of Perdition. The sitting Pope purports to take for himself a divine position. Thus in Section III of the prepared program for the "Day of Pardon", "The Holy Father" is mentioned eight times. Nonetheless in the RCC, this title does not denote the All Holy One in heaven, but rather the sitting Pope. Seen in the light of scripture, the RCC Pope who claims to be Christian, clearly is one "Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitting in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (v. 4) The Pope of the RCC goes further when by taking to himself the title of "The Vicar of Christ", he presumes to take the place of Christ Himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest. This also is clearly tantamount to "as God sit[ting] in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." The assertion is not simply made, for the Pope's law gives it teeth in exacting submission of mind and will and promising punitive action against those who fail to obey, as Canon 752 and 1311 document. He is the worst and greatest enemy of Christ who under the pretence of service to Christ, presumes to undermine His unique offices by covertly usurping His position and power.
C.H. Spurgeon clearly understood these things. His timely words still apply, "Since he was cursed who rebuilt Jericho, much more the man who labours to restore Popery among us. In our fathers' days the gigantic walls of Popery fell by the power of their faith, the perseverance of their efforts, and the blast of their gospel trumpets; and now there are some who would rebuild that accursed system upon its old foundation. O Lord, be pleased to thwart their unrighteous endeavours, and pull down every stone, which they build. It should be a serious business with us to be thoroughly purged of every error which may have a tendency to foster the spirit of Popery; and when we have made a clean sweep at home we should seek in every way to oppose its all to rapid spread abroad in the church and in the world. (15)
(Richard Bennett is a former RC priest. Michael de Semlyn is a former leading RC apologist).
1 Website: www.vatican.va/jubilee_2000/jubilevents/events_day_pardon
2 "This infallibility, however, with which the divine redeemer wished to endow his church in defining doctrine pertaining to faith and morals... the Roman Pontiff... enjoys... when... he proclaims in an absolute decision... For this reason his definitions are rightly said to be irreformable by their very nature..." No. 28, Lumen Gentium, in Vatican Council II The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, Austin Flannery, Ed., 1981 ed. (Northport, NY: Costello Publ. Co., 1975) p. 380.
3 See Richard Bennett's analysis, "The Roman Catholic-Lutheran 'Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification': A Denial of the Gospel and the Righteousness of Christ".
4 Flannery, No. 42, "Reflections and Suggestions Concerning Ecumenical Dialogue", S.P.U.C., 15 August 1975, p.549.
5 Ibid., pp. 540-1. Bolding in any quotation indicates emphasis added in this paper.
6 Ibid., p. 541.
7 Ibid., p. 545.
8 1 Thessalonians 1:1.
9 Ephesians 4:3.
10 Ephesians 4:4-6.
11 Ut Unum Sint, "That They May Be One: On Commitment to Ecumenism", John Paul II (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference) Publ. No. 5-050, Para. 97.
12 Ibid., Para. 79.
13 Ibid., Para. 78.
14 Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Edition (Washington, DC: Canon Law Society of America, 1983).
15 Morning and Evening, on Joshua 6:26
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