September 3, 2008

A Criticism of Catholicism (archaic)

Right off the bat, I would like to state that I am ecumenical in my orientation. I consider the RCC, EOC and the Protestant wing all aspects of the church of Christ. When I am critical of Catholicism, it is done with an understanding that these are my siblings in Christ. That said, I have some major issues with the Catholic church. In this post, I used the word heresy to denote theological novelty as opposed to a more condemning sense of the word. I probably would use different language now (hence using archaic above), but I still agree with the assessment that I made here. I posted this October 31st, 2005.

There are many today who are way to critical of the Roman Catholic Church. That said, I still believe that there are some very legitimate strong criticisms to be made about it, especially pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

Last class, we had a Catholic priest come in and give us a run-down of Roman Catholic theology. I would also like to state that this guy based a lot of what he had to say on Vatican II, which means that he had good things to say.

Beforehand, the teacher asked us to develop questions to ask him. Mine was, pretty much, a harsh criticism of the Roman hierarchy, especially the Pope. Due to the plethora of levels of Catholicism I wished to address, I wrote out my question ahead of time in length (I was forced to summarize unfortunately). Here is what I wrote:

The heretic“wills to stand against authenticated, settled truth, opting for independent arbitrary self-willing “other than” or contrary to the settled historical reasoning confirmed by the intergenerational community of believers.[1]” For the sake of convenience, we shall consider heresy to be innovation: the introduction of an idea that was not formally established by the confessing church, and is imposed on the church by a sect or persons, considering their own personal understanding of God as above that of the consensus of the church and the apostolic fathers.

We remember that in the early the church, the patristic fathers gathered and declared in one voice:

I believe in one God the Father Almighty;
Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds [God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;
and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried;
and the third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures;
and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end

And [I believe] in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life;
who proceedeth from the Father;
who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;
who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins;
and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.


From these points, I perceive the following as heresy, which I hope you to correct me on if I am wrong. About a thousand years ago, there was a split between the Eastern and Western church. The division was complex, and I cannot go through the details here.

Part of this split was due to the filique controversy, hence the reading of the Creed provided before. Whether or not the Spirit proceeds from the Son or not is not the point here: the issue is the methodology utilized by the Roman diocese in this debate. For the sake of argument, I will allow that Roman see is descended from Peter, and thus has an air of primacy about it. However, it was at this time that Rome became ill-content with being the “first among equals” and declared itself the “first among many”, and considered it proper to change that Creed which was the foundation of Christendom without the consent of the full body of Christ.

I see this as blatant heresy: most certainly an innovation that was not formally established by the confessing church, and imposed on the church by the persons at Rome, considering their own personal understanding of God as above that of the consensus of the church. Here Rome considered herself to be so divinely appointed that she had the right to alter all of Christendom without the established consensus required by her fathers.

I see this assumption as a key factor that eventually denied the East of the brotherhood of the West, and denied the West of their brethren from the East. This sense of primacy stole from Rome that appropriate humility required of the servants of God which forced Luthor into reaction instead of his divinely ordained reformation.

So here is my question: by what right had Rome elevated herself by her own will to a higher place of authority than she had previously enjoyed? By what right did Rome alter the Creed of Christ without waiting for His body to actualize her claims? By what right did Rome have to say that “wherefore they err from the right course who assert that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman Pontiffs to an Ecumenical Council, as to an authority higher than that of the Roman Pontiff”? What right does the Roman see have to be above the confessing body of God?

(for your convenience, the filique controversy was when Rome had altered the Creed above, and therein declaring Roman authority as something greater than a council. Before that, the ultimate authority was a council because a council was a gathering of representatives from every part of the church. Thus it was a consensus of the entire church, and the voting had to be unanimous to be sure that the Spirit was behind what they were doing.)

His response to this criticism was that this is an issue that is currently in debate within the Catholic Church himself. Thus, he did not truly have an answer since the the church itself has not reached a consensus on this.

Personally, I found his answer adequate since he admitted that it was a legitimate criticism, and that the church was currently working to rectify it. Still, I feel no desire to leave Protestantism whatsoever.

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