Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 29, 1957

The Papal Pageantry -- III.

Luther W. Martin, St. James, Mo.

(Adapted from "The Giant Masquerade," a book written by Frank C. Raynor, and printed in Scotland in 1925 ...)

"Before the blinding splendour of the chair falsely called St. Peter's — in which St. Peter never sat — men began to lose their grip of the ineffable." (Page 18, Ibid.)

After the fall of the Roman Empire in A. D. 476, the remains of Pagan Rome began to infiltrate into the churches of Italy and Spain. Pride in the INSTITUTION became mistaken, or substituted, for faith and obedience to the gospel of Christ and a subsequent life of service, meekness and humility. Instead of individual Christians being 'Christ-men' then became `Church-men.' But, for the moment, which for a thousand years had been the centre, found herself neglected and exposed upon the fringe of the Empire, and sought any possible source of influence that would in a fashion restore her importance.

As the centuries passed, Christianity, which had seen its Rose of Sharon wither in the hands of the priests, was now to see its stars sink into the mists and one by one go out. Wild and tempestuous theological controversies swept through the churches, filling the air with the dust of words and flying fragments of syllogisms and manmade creedal formulas. The vituperation with which the polemic literature of those ages is soiled, reveals how far the love of God and man had been lost to sight in the lust of battle.

By these debates, heresies were confirmed, bishoprics demolished while others were strengthened in temporal authority. Whole tribes were 'baptized' into this creed or that.

Before we progress too far into the Dark Ages, let us go back for a moment and look at another factor and influence upon the formation of what became the Roman Catholic Church. With the death of Theodosius (395 A.D.), the last Emperor to rule over the undivided Empire, the break-up of the West set in with frightful rapidity.

The Visigoths, under Alaric, first insulted, then sacked, the Eternal City. At their leader's death (410 AM.), they passed into Spain, driving out the Vandals, who, passing over to Africa under Generic, tore that vital province from the imperial grasp. The death of Augustine during the siege of his city, Hippo, in 430 A.D., and the surprise of Carthage in 439, mark the date of the ruin of the Roman civilization on the North African coast. Next came the Huns under Attila. Defeated at the wild battle of Chalons (451 A.D.), they stormed over the Alps, destroying the cities in the plains of northern Italy and driving the population into the lagoons of the Adriatic, there to lay the foundation of Venice. At the death of Attila, the Huns melted away as suddenly as they had come. Hardly were they gone, when (in 455 A.D.), the Vandal fleet sailed up the Tiber and sacked Rome, carrying away great treasure, including the spoils which Titus had brought from Jerusalem.

The Emperors at Constantinople were either too weak, or too busy to render aid. In 476 A.D., the Western Empire came to an end; the crown was sent back to Constantinople, and Italy sank into the pit of confusion. The Barbarian mercenaries, who then served in Italy under Odoacer, seized the opportunity to divide the fairest provinces among themselves. But, 12 years later, their loot was snatched from them by the Ostrogoths, who, in turn, were destroyed by the Lombards, whose kingdom lasted some two hundred years.

During these stormy years, the church had suffered much, but had also deviated much from the primitive simplicity of the New Testament church. Into her sanctuaries the wild storms had flung the precious fragments of culture, art and learning; her priest and bishops had become the custodians and administrators of civil justice... perhaps more civil than spiritual.

As a result of this transformation, men were no longer impressed and influenced by the sublime theme of Christ's gospel, but to the contrary, they were very conscious of its INSTITUTIONS, MAGISTRATES and its CIVIL POWER. However good these may be in civil life, no one can seriously pretend that they are what Christ died for, in order to bring peace into a suffering world.

The stage is now completely set for the elevation of the bishop of Rome to a status above all the other bishops of the churches. There is no Emperor nearby to restrain the Roman bishop's desire for power. Due to the attacks and invasions by the various enemies outside the Empire, nearly, all civil authority can be controlled by the priests and bishops of the churches in their respective communities. All that remains is for the bishop of Rome to secure jurisdiction over and above the other bishops and thus accomplish the subservience of all the other priests and bishops to himself. This was finally achieved in the year 606 A.D., when the bishop of Rome was granted the title "Universal (thus Catholic) Bishop" by the Emperor in Constantinople.

Perhaps we should point out that John the Faster, the Patriarch of Constantinople had at first received this title in 588 A.D., but this action so infuriated the then bishop of Rome, Gregory 'the Great,' that he sent a scathing denunciation back East . . . stressing that whoever would presume to take the title "Universal bishop was in some manner the fore-runner of the Anti-Christ. But, one of the bishops to follow Gregory, Boniface by, name, wrested the title for himself and it has resided with the bishops of Rome ever since.