Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 9, 1961
NUMBER 27, PAGE 4,12-13a

Errors And Dangers Of Roman Catholicism --- No. 6

Frank Van Dyke, Henderson, Tennessee

(From Spiritual Life, August 1961)

In our last article we dealt with the Catholic claim that the church is infallible and immutable; that the Catholic church never teaches error and never changes. Cardinal Gibbons says in his book FAITH OF OUR FATHERS that the Catholic church does not set forth new doctrines nor formulate new creeds, but they simply set forth as articles of faith that which the church has held and taught all along. Is this claim true?

We want to show you some doctrines which the Catholic church has set forth that were not at one time a part of Catholic teachings, but on the contrary, were repudiated by them.

Look at the doctrine of "Papal Infallibility" for example. Remember now that Cardinal Gibbons says that when that doctrine was set forth in 1870, they simply formulated an article of faith from that which the Catholic Church had accepted through all the centuries prior to that time. But the facts of the history are contrary to that claim. Prior to this formulated doctrine of 1870, there was great controversy among the Catholics as to whether or not that doctrine should be adopted. Cardinal Newman had this to say: "If it is God's will that the pope's infallibility be defined, then it is God's will to throw back the times and moments of that triumph which he has destined for his kingdom." Does that sound like the doctrine of the infallibility of the pope had been a commonly accepted doctrine and understanding of the Catholic Church?

Again, abundant proof that the new dogma had until then been no part of the faith of the church was furnished by one of the most learned church historians of the Roman Catholic Church, professor Dollinger, of the University of Munich, who said, in opposition to papal infallibility: "One hundred and eighty millions of human beings are to be forced, on pain of excommunication, refusal of the sacraments, and everlasting damnation, to believe and to profess that which hitherto the Church has not believed, not taught." The proclamation of this doctrine, he says, would be an "alteration in the faith and doctrine of the Church such as has never been heard of since Christianity was first founded." Dollinger showed conclusively that until the 16th century, the doctrine of papal infallibility was entirely unknown, and that when it was taken up by Cardinal Bellarmine, it could only be supported by the testimony of Isidorian decretals which were "forged", and those of Cyril which are a "fiction."

Among others who opposed the doctrine of papal infallibility, were two Munich professors who wrote under the name "Janus." They published a work containing a mass of historical proofs of the novelty of the proposed decree. These arguments were urged by able bishops of the Vatican Council itself. That is a statement taken from the book entitled INFALLIBILITY OF THE CHURCH by Salmon. Now notice what he says. He says that back there at the time when they were arguing the question of the "infallibility of the pope," Dollinger, reputed to be one of the most learned men of the church along with others, compiled an abundance of proof that such had not always been a part of the faith of the church, and their arguments were introduced in the Vatican Council of 1870 in opposition to the effort to set forth that decree.

A catechism that was used extensively bore the imprimateur of Scotch Roman catholic Bishops; that is, they gave their stamp of approval. In that catechism there was this question: "Must not Catholics believe the pope in himself to be infallible?" Answer: "This is a Protestant invention; it is no article of the Catholic faith." This was the answer in their own Controversial Catechism which was used extensively prior to 1870. In all the editions since the Vatican Council of 1870, this question and answer is omitted, and that, too, without any explanation. Yet, they tell us the Catholic Church never changes. What was once considered by them as a "Protestant invention is now the very center of authority for their whole ecclesiastical system. Just 20 to 30 years before the Vatican Council, they said that "no decision of the pope can oblige under pain of heresy unless it be received and enforced by the teaching body," which means the bishops of the church. Then, just a quarter of a century later, they said the pope was infallible when he spoke ex cathedra and did not need the endorsement or approval of anyone; yet, they never change!

Now, let us come to another teaching of the Catholic Church, to see whether or not it was always held and understood to be true by them and was considered a part of the Catholic doctrine before it was formally set forth as a doctrine of the church. Remember, the Catholic Church claims that "for 1900 years the church has been teaching exactly the same identical truths;" that "the Catholic Church never has taught, does not now, and never will, teach error;" that "if anyone can show us one single false doctrine taught by the Catholic Church during the past 1900 years, we will readily admit that the Catholic Church is not the church of Christ." (From booklet published by the Confraternity Home Study Service, St. Louis. Mo.) The premise of Gibbons is that "when the church sets forth its teaching, it is not formulating a new creed but simply putting into an article of faith that which the church knows, believes, and had accepted all along."

Let us take now the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary. This is the doctrine that relates to the Catholic belief that all men are born with a degree of original sin, but Mary was born without that taint of original sin; that she was conceived and born immaculate; hence, the immaculate conception. Now we would certainly disagree with the Catholic doctrine of "original sin," but was Mary born free from the nature that is common to man? Let us put it that way. That she was born free from original sin in the old Calvinistic sense, why, of course, we would agree, but was she born free from that nature common to man? Well, anyway, the pope in 1854 set forth that doctrine as a doctrine of the church and since that time, it has been accepted teaching among Catholics. Had it been accepted as a part of the faith of the Catholic Church throughout the centuries before that? Remember now, their claim is that the church is infallible; that it is not a new creed at all, but it is simply formulating into an article of faith that which they understood and accepted all along. Well, what about the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary? When that idea first entered in back in 1140 A. D. in the church in Lyons, France, they had a festival which they called the "Festival of the Immaculate Conception." That shows that there was some trace of that idea back then, yes, but when they held to that festival, Bernard of Clairvaux, who is now a canonized saint in the Catholic Church, wrote a letter to the church at Lyons, France, and said, "We can never enough wonder that some of you could have the boldness to introduce a feast which the church has not the least knowledge of and which is neither supported by reason nor backed by any tradition." Remember, this was said by a canonized saint in the Catholic Church, and certainly he knew whether or not the church was familiar with any such idea at the time and whether or not it was commonly accepted as a part of the faith of the church. Yet, he said they had "not the least knowledge of it, neither was it supported by reason nor backed by any tradition."

The years passed on. The Dominicans among the Catholics opposed this idea of the immaculate conception of Mary and the Franciscans, another order, championed the cause; hence, they were at each others' throats. From time to time in different councils, the idea of immaculate conception did creep in. It was expressed in the council of Basel in the year 1439 and again in the Council of Avignon in 1457. Then in 1483, Pope Sixtus IV issued a papal bull and said that neither the Dominicans nor the Franciscans could charge each other with being heretical. In other words, the Dominicans could not charge the Franciscans with heresy for teaching the immaculate conception of Mary, neither could the Franciscans charge the Dominicans with being heretical for denying that doctrine and here is the reason he gave: "Because this doctrine has not yet been decided by the Roman Church and the Apostolic See." Pope Sixtus in 1483 said in effect that "some of our people believe this doctrine while others oppose it. An agreement will have to be worked out so the two groups, can get along with each other, for the Catholic Church has not yet decided that doctrine." At the time the church had taken no position with reference to the immaculate conception as to whether it believed it to be true or false. The church at that time, therefore, had not accepted the doctrine of the "immaculate conception." Well, that question came up again in the Council of Trent in 1546 A. D. and again the Dominicans and the Franciscans were arguing it out. The pope at that time, through his representative at the council, recommended that they work out an agreement as best they could; but by all means, conform to the brief of Pope Sixtus IV. Remember, that was the papal bull that said that neither one could be charged with heresy, so as late as 1546 at Council of Trent, the pope still said, "We are going to abide by that papal decree of a former pope in which it was stated that the church had not yet formally decided that question and therefore, neither party could be called heretical." Yet in 1854, the Pope of Rome at that time, set forth formally the doctrine of the "immaculate conception" of Mary and stated that the doctrine was true, then had the audacity to state that the church had always held it! If the church had always held it, why did not Pope Sixtus IV back yonder say so and once forever settle the controversy, instead of saying the church had not yet decided that doctrine? If the church had always held it, why did not the Council of Trent say so in 1546, and why did not the pope recommend that such decision be set forth by that council? Yet, when the years had passed by and the fires of that controversy had died down sufficiently that it would not make much difference, the pope came out with a formal proclamation of the doctrine of the "immaculate conception of Mary." I think you can see in those very circumstances proof in itself, that at least the Dominicans and the Franciscans did not believe in the infallibility of the church, for all they would have had to do was to get the decision of the church and if it could not err, then that would settle the matter. The fact that they did not do that is proof that they did not believe the church to be infallible. The fact that the church in this matter hesitated, equivocated, and straddled the fence, so to speak, shows that the church herself did not believe she was infallible and recognized at that time that all of her communicants did not look upon its decrees as final and infallible.

There are many other doctrines which the Catholic Church holds now that has not always been held as a part of the faith of the Catholic Church, in spite of claims of theirs to the contrary. Another is the including of the Apocrypha in the canon. Now the Apocrypha is simply that group of additional books that the Catholics have in their Bible that we do not have in our Bible today. Those books were never in the original Hebrew Bible. They did creep into the Septuagint version that was made during that interval between the close of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. In the Council of Trent in 1546 the Catholic Church finally accepted those books as canonical. That is, that council decreed that the Apocrypha was to be accepted along with the books of the Old Testament as a part of the inspired scriptures, but that had not been accepted by the Catholic Church through the centuries up till that time. Jerome, who translated the Latin Vulgate, specifically repudiated the books of the Apocrypha. Not only did Jerome repudiate those books, but also the Council of Laodicea, which was but a provincial council, but finally the Council of Chalcedon in 451 which was a general council, confirmed the decree of the Council of Laodicea, rejecting these Apocrypha books. Now, notice this. In 1534, just 12 years before the Trent council accepted those Apocrypha books, a Catholic Cardinal wrote a commentary on the historical books of the Old Testament. In the preface of that commentary, he dedicated the work to the pope. He addressed him and said, "we are indebted to Jerome, because Jerome not only made certain comments on the scriptures, but he distinguished between those books that are canonical and those that are not canonical!" "So," he said, "Jerome spared us from the criticism of the Jews who might otherwise charge us with adopting scriptures that they never did recognize and scriptures according to our own choice and fancy." Does that sound like that at that time the cardinal and the pope understood that the Catholic Church accepted the Apocrypha books? Certainly it does not. If the Catholic Church had accepted the Apocrypha at that time, a cardinal would not have been writing to the pope and thanking God that Jerome had rendered such a service in rejecting them. Yet, just 12 years later in the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church accepted these books as a part of the inspired scriptures, and since that time, they have been a part of the Catholic Bible.

Catholics want to know, at times, why we do not have as many books in our Bible as they have in theirs. They are prone to charge us with not having all the Bible. You just remember these facts of history, and you will be in a position to answer all their questions relative to this matter.

There are other points along this line which could be introduced, but this is enough to establish the fact that the Catholic Church has changed her teachings; that she has formulated new creeds and has not just set forth as an article of faith that which she held and taught all along. As was pointed out earlier, she now embraces many doctrines which formerly were denied and repudiated by her greatest scholars. Her claim then to infallibility and immutability is not well grounded. She has adopted through the years a policy of expediency, adjustment, and adaptation, leaving herself free to accept and adopt whatever becomes the accepted practice, and then palming it off as something which the church has always accepted. Anyone who is willing to take the time and put forth the necessary effort to delve into the records of history, will find the facts to be contrary to her claims.

Next, we shall discuss some of the present, current dangers and threats of Catholicism, not only against freedom of religion, but also against the principles and bed-rock acts and ideals of our own American way of life.