My youngest daughter, Michal, knows the rule: no dating before the age of 16. However, unlike her older siblings, her romantic heart could not bear to wait so long to fall in love. So, when she was 14, a young man became her “favorite” fellow student. Of course, there was no dating, but the two of them seemed to find events where both attended, and each spoke to each other electronically whenever possible. It became inevitable that this young man would be her first official suitor. But they would both need wait to turn 16, and then he would have to go through the “interview with her father” step. Then, approval could be granted.
He was a nice young man, polite, kind, and a fellow student at her little Christian high school. He was also a Catholic from a devout Catholic family. As the non-dating stage of their relationship went on, it became apparent that he was “really” a Catholic, even though he attended a non-Catholic Christian school. My daughter assured me that his faith was genuine and that their religious difference would mean little. I told her I did not question his relationship with Jesus, but I suggested she was underestimating the differences in the faiths. I pointed out that if marriage were to ever come into the picture (and that is the ultimate purpose for dating, isn’t it? To find a candidate for marriage?), that there would be real problems. She, like him, was so lost in love that she knew that all obstacles could be overcome, including this.
In the Summer of her 16th birthday, while only two months from the time when she could have an official boyfriend, she became convinced in her heart that the time was right to tackle the question of their differing denominations. She came to me and asked me, “What’s wrong with being a Catholic? I mean, if I was to marry a Catholic, what would the problem be?”
I answered, “Well, you would have to either raise your children Catholic or lie to the priest about the matter. And you can’t lie.”
Her response, “What’s wrong with raising your kids Catholic?”
“That’s the issue, isn’t it? That’s the question you have to answer, not me. I know why I am not a Catholic, but you should look into it yourself.”
So she began to look into Catholicism. She quickly discovered that what she believed was very much at odds with what the Roman Church taught. So, she determined to have the discussion with her beau-to-be. He let her know that he expected that if they were to marry, she would become a Catholic and join him in his faith. She let him know that she didn’t see that happening. He asked her to read a book to explain things. She said okay and offered a book exchange.
Before the process finished it broke down. Her arguments were deemed offensive by both boy and boy’s parents. Michal’s conscience meant more to her than her romance. She told him that it wasn’t going to work out. She was broken hearted, he was angry.
Shortly after that, the boy switched schools. Through the heart ache, Michal learned that Jesus means more than romance, and she is stronger for it. But it was a rough school year that followed!
These two young people, dealing on a very practical level, demonstrate accurately the problem. The Roman church is not made to mix with others and for good reason. We have a common history, we have common heroes (the Apostles, many of the early church believers), but as time has gone on, the rift between Rome and the rest of Christianity has become an insurmountable wall.
This wall is one of the reasons I am not a Catholic. The Wall is the Catholic claim to be the “THE” only church.
The Bible speaks to the church about how to govern itself. What the Bible says at times seems very sparse on the subject of church government, but it addresses the subject adequately. There are offices we must have for the Bible mandates them (like Elder and Deacon); there are qualifications for leaders; there is instruction for the only two purely ritualistic traditions Jesus instituted (the Lord’s Supper and Baptism). There is talk about function of church (it’s own health, uphold truth, reach the world, etc). There is talk of protecting its members from falsehood, and from correcting its members. There is talk of maintaining the traditions (teachings) of the Apostles. And there is little else. The rest we must figure out.
Over the Centuries, Rome has figured out quite a lot about church government that is not in the Bible. Then they have declared that the Bible gives them the authority to do this. Although many faithful men and women have done great good from within the Roman church, the system has also led to many false teachings, and an unholy bureaucracy.
The Bible has no popes. The Bible has no cardinals. The Bible has no “infallibility when speaking ex cathedra.” The Bible has no purgatory. The Bible has no prayers to saints. The Bible has no sinless eternal virgins. The Bible has no transubstantiation. I could go on. The point is made. Instead, the Roman church has popes who they claim are the vicars of Christ who declare these things to be biblical. Once that declaration is made, no dispute is allowed to take hold. False teachings are codified into law and it is nearly impossible to bring correction.
I am not a Catholic because the Catholics burned Huss. I am not a Catholic because the Catholics killed preachers all over Europe during the reformation. To be precise, it is not these injustices that stop me from being Catholic, it is that the root cause of these injustices remains: Rome puts itself above God and His word. Huss was killed because he dared say at the Bible should be translated into a language that people could read, that the Pope was as bound by the Bible as all people are. Wycliffe’s bones were dug up and burned for the same reason. Luther was opposed for the same reason.
And so the Bible, which leads people to truth and salvation, has been kept from the people by Rome when it suited them. What is to stop the same from happening if Rome had a mind for it? When will Rome repent and say, “We were wrong?” When will they say, “We were wrong for saying that the Bible needed to be in Latin, and not in the language of the people?” History tells the story of who Rome is today. We must look at the big picture. Repentance must look at the big picture, because little has changed in the system of ancient authority.
Every teaching of Rome is suspect and subject to biblical scrutiny. Paul told us that we were to hold to the gospel that he preached, and oppose any who brought another gospel. Paul’s gospel is in the New Testament. What has Paul’s gospel got to do with a “Queen of heaven” and praying to her (yes, it is praying –at least if you define praying as talking to someone in heaven who hears but doesn’t talk back to your human ear)? What has Paul’s gospel got to do with the endless recitation of “Hail Mary’s?”
My grandmother would let me know when I was young that a mass was said for me. She would be solicited by some order of nuns or whatever, and they would offer to say a mass for me if she would make a donation. She would, and they would (or so they said). The practice is not my main problem (although is wrong). The problem is that this practice is thoroughly and historically consistent with Catholic authority and practice. Since unmarried priests have the authority to forgive, offer relief from purgatory, etc, then a gift to the church that motivates that activity must be a holy thing, right? This reasoning is why indulgences happened.
I call on the Pope, this pope and every pope, to repent for the entire Roman Church. How? By declaring that all teachings throughout their history that have violated scripture be done away with. Then, declaring the Bible to be the very words of God. The very words of God. The very words of God.
Now, Catholics hearing this declaration will likely ignore it as the usual ranting of the protestant. And I won’t try to change their minds. But these are the reasons I am not a Catholic: I didn’t find Jesus there, the wrong-headed Roman conception of the Lord’s Supper, the granting of the authority to declare what is true to Popes (even when contrary to scripture), and the historical and contemporary sin of carrying on with these strange beliefs.
Many have asked me to comment on Mary, the saints, salvation by faith alone, etc. I could, but don’t need to. Comments on Roman Mary and the canonization of saints, like all strange catholic teachings, arise from Popes and not the scripture. The true Mary is, no doubt, appalled –if God allows her to see any of the foolishness done in her name. Likewise the saints and their areas of intercession. When it comes to Mary, the abominations attributed to her are breathtaking (sinlessness, the assumption, queen of heaven, and, for many Catholics, co-redemptrix status, etc). But instead of detailing all that, why not cut the Gordian knot and declare all of it false and subject to correction by Scripture?
The Pope should repent because within the Roman system, he is the only one who can. When others repent of Rome’s sins, they leave the church voluntarily or are more firmly removed. I want this for I want good things for the Catholic Church. Much has been done for the gospel and for good by Catholics. Also, the Apostles’ Creed (which, regardless of Catholic revisionism, preceded the full flower of Roman apostasy), the faith in one Triune God, the faith in Jesus who died and rose and is coming again, etc –this we have in common. The Roman Church is at it’s heart a “Christian” church. By that, I mean, within all the mess and lies, there is the kernel of Christ. Not so, by contrast, the Mormons or the Jehovah’s witnesses, etc.
The Roman Church has condescended to declare all Protestants to be their “brothers” who are in error and need to return home. I take the same view in reverse. The Roman church needs to come back to the Bible and to Jesus, who declared to the learned priests of His day: "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.” (John 9)
Church denominations and congregations, of all stripes and varieties, are less than perfect. Some move to outright rebellion. Finding the only perfect and infallible church is not possible before the Lord Himself returns. But finding the perfect and infallible God is possible.