The Roman Catholic Church (RCC) claims to be the one true Church as established by Jesus and His apostles. However, an examination of the doctrines upheld and taught by the RCC demonstrates that it stands in contrast with – and even in opposition to – biblical Christianity. Though not exhaustive, the following overview analyzes and compares some of the core tenets of the Roman Catholic tradition with Scripture.
The Council of Trent
Perhaps one of the most important events in the history of the Roman Catholic Church is the Council of Trent (1545-1563). This gathering sought to counter and respond to the Protestant Reformation. It was at this ecumenical meeting that Rome ultimately anathematized, or condemned, the biblical doctrine of justification:
Canon 9: If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema. 1
Canon 14: If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema. 2
Canon 24: If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema. 3
Canon 30: If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema. 4
Canon 33: If anyone says that the Catholic doctrine of justification as set forth by the holy council in the present decree, derogates in some respect from the glory of God or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and does not rather illustrate the truth of our faith and no less the glory of God and of Christ Jesus, let him be anathema. 5
The Christian will recognize that these condemnations of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone stand in direct contradiction to Scripture and amount to an anathema upon the Gospel itself. Romans 3:20-28, 4:3, 5:1, Galatians 3:1-3, Ephesians 2:8-9 and Colossians 2:13-14 are just a few of the numerous passages that address the various condemnations which Rome set forth at the Council of Trent.
AT A GLANCE
The process of salvation for the Catholic means a Catholic must have faith in Christ and the Roman Catholic Church, participate in the sacraments, take the Eucharist, keep the commandments, perform penance, and do indulgences in order to attain, maintain, and regain salvation as well as reduce the punishment due to him for the sins of which he has already been forgiven.”6
“The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. ‘Sacramental grace’ is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior. 7
As the perfect sacrifice for the sins of men, Christ’s death and resurrection provided salvation for all who would believe. Salvation is the forgiveness of sins and the saving from the wrath and condemnation of God.
Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9).
Salvation is a free gift from God to those who believe (trust) in Him (Rom. 1:16; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9).
Salvation cannot be earned (Rom. 11:6).
Teaches transubstantiation: the idea that at the Mass the bread and the wine are transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ (also known as ‘The Real Presence’):
The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.” 8
Because these elements are the presence of Christ Himself, they are worshiped: “In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. ‘The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.'” 9
It is claimed that the Mass is a representation of Christ’s sacrifice. The Catholic Catechism calls this sacrament a “divine sacrifice” 10, a “single sacrifice” with Christ’s that is “truly propitiatory” 11 and capable of making restitution for sins. 12
This sacrament is practiced for those who have already died: “The Eucharistic sacrifice is also offered for the faithful departed who “have died in Christ but are not yet wholly purified,” so that they may be able to enter into the light and peace of Christ.” 13
The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is celebrated in remembrance of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in obedience to His words (Lk. 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26).
Jesus Christ was sacrificed only once for the forgiveness of sins of all those who will believe (Heb. 7:26-27, 9:28, 10:10-12). This single sacrifice was sufficient to save for all time those who are being sanctified (Heb. 10:14).
The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is what makes propitiation for the sins of His people (Heb. 2:17; 1 John 2:2).
If a man dies without Christ, there are no works that can be done, either for himself in Purgatory or by those still alive on Earth, that can gain him entry “into the light and peace of Christ” (Heb. 9:27).
Mary was born free from original sin and preserved as such throughout her life: “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”
“The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God “the All-Holy” (Panagia), and celebrate her as ‘free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature.’ By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long.” 14
Teaches the perpetual virginity of Mary:”The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary’s real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. In fact, Christ’s birth “did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.” and so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the ‘Ever-virgin’.” 15