By Dick Blackford
On March 12, 2000, Pope John Paul II made a sweeping confession of the sins of Catholics from antiquity to modern evils. Atrocities compiled in a nutshell what could be written in volumes, included wars of religion, abuses during the Crusades; the coercion of the Inquisition; disrespect for cultures and faiths in the course of evangelization; affronts to women, races and ethnic groups; and abuses of the rights of individuals and anti-Jewish prejudices which made Nazi persecution of the Jews easier while the church did not try to stop it.
There are some things we can learn from the pope’s apology.
We learn that these terrible atrocities really did happen. Rank and file Catholics have often denied that these things happened, but now none other than the pope, whom Catholics claim to be the Vicar of Christ on earth, has openly admitted it. Many people were persecuted (including Galileo), even burned at the stake for their refusal to be coerced to accept Catholic doctrine, including John Huss.
We learn that neither the pope nor the church were infallible during those times. The doctrine of papal infallibility is a relative new doctrine. It became the official position of the church at the Vatican Council of 1870. Bishop Joseph Georg Strossmayer of Diakovar, Bosnia, delivered a powerful speech against the doctrine of papal infallibility at that council and it has never been answered. The answer at that time was to shout him down and force him out of the pulpit (Bishop Strossmayer’s Speech in the Vatican Council of 1870, Agora Publishing Co.).
We learn that since the Catholic Church persecuted those who stood for truth even putting many to death, contrary to the nature of the kingdom Jesus established, thereby removed any doubt that the Catholic Church is not the New Testament church. Jesus rebuked Peter, whom Catholics claim was the first pope, for trying to use physical violence to promote the Lord’s cause (John 18:10, 11). Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then my followers would have fought that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36, 37). By persecuting people for their religious beliefs the Catholic Church showed it was of this world and not the Lord’s kingdom. Paul had said, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not make war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but powerful before God to the demolishing of strongholds)” (2 Cor. 10:4, 5).
We learn that if the church could have been so wrong as to do these horrible things, that it can still be wrong today. Jesus claimed to have all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). He ascended to heaven and took every bit of that authority with him. He is still the head of the church (Eph. 1:22, 23). For a man on earth to claim he is Christ’s visible representative possessing authority over the church is to usurp Christ’s position and to be guilty of blasphemy.
Other Doctrinal Errors
There are a number of doctrines on which the Catholic Church remains in error. A few are: (1) the worship of Mary when Jesus is the only mediator to the Father (1 Tim. 2:5; John 14:6). (2) The perpetual virginity of Mary, even though the Bible plainly teaches she had other children (Mark 6:3). (3) Calling a man “Father” as a religious title when Jesus specifically said don’t do it (Matt. 23:9). (4) That children inherit original sin from Adam, although Jesus taught that children were sinless (Matt. 18:1-3; 19:13-15). (6) That baptism is sprinkling when the Bible says it is a burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). (7) The pope continues to allow mere mortals to bow down and kiss his ring and call him “Holy Father.” When Cornelius tried to worship to Peter, Peter said, “Stand up. I myself also am a man.” No pope has ever done that.
In 1986 this same pope put his approval on rescinding the accusation that the Jews killed Christ (AP, April 14, 1986). The only reason why this should have been rescinded would be that it had been proven false. But who made the accusation? The apostle Peter, whom Catholics believe was the first pope (Acts 2:22, 23, 36; 3:12-15; 10:39)! If Peter was the first pope, which pope was infallible? The one who was bodily present and was an eyewitness to what happened, or the one who is nearly 2000 years removed from the events? Even Jesus accused the Jews of trying to kill him (John 8:37-40). What’s more, thousands of Jews admitted the charge and obeyed the gospel (Acts 2:36-41; 6:7). In addition, the pope contradicted the Catholic Bible which is an official document of the church. The introduction to The New Catholic Version bears the Imprimatur of the Holy Apostolic See. The first sentence says: there are three things about the Bible which Catholics must believe: that it has God as its author, that its various books are all inspired, — and that, because God is the author, no formal effort can be admitted with the sacred pages.
The pope and those responsible for “Nostra Aetate” join the ranks of skeptics who claim to know more about what happened than those who were there, including Simon Peter and Jesus! How can any conscientious person remain indifferent to such blasphemy and contradiction? The pope also contradicted the introduction to an official Catholic translation, which affirms the infallibility of the Scriptures. This must not be swept under the rug. Every Catholic should sit up and take notice of this glaring contradiction. Because the pope is popular and likeable, he gets away with some things which others might not.
We learn that one person really cannot repent for another. We cannot repent for the dead for “just as it is appointed unto men to die once and after this comes the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). We cannot repent for the living, for each person is accountable for himself. God will “render to every man according to his works” (Rom. 2:6). “For we must all be made manifest before the tribunal of Christ; so that each one may receive what he has done through the body, according to his works, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10).
For an apology to be genuine it must come from the heart and lips of the perpetrators. Since the perpetrators have been dead for a long time, no one else can do for them what they refused to do while alive.
We appreciate the pope’s admission. He is one of the most likeable and lovable popes in a long time. We wish he would come all the way back to the Scriptures and renounce his man-made position and the Catholic church in particular.
(All scripture quotations are from the New Catholic Version)
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