Convent horrors: From the frying pan into the fire

While searching our county library’s database for items listed under “Roman Catholicism,” I stumbled across this very interesting French film:

The Nun (La religieuse)

  • Directed by Guillaume Nicloux
  • Based on Denis Diderot’s popular 18th-century novel, “The Nun (La religieuse),” and adapted to the screen by Guillaume Nicloux and Jérôme Beaujour
  • Featuring Pauline Etienne as Suzanne Simonin, Isabelle Huppert as Supérieure Saint-Eutrope, and Louise Bourgoin as Supérieure Christine
  • Distributed by Le Pacte (France), 2013, Running Time: 100 minutes

Plot

In mid-17th-century France, a 17-year-old girl, Suzanne, is placed in a convent by her parents for supposedly only a limited period of time. Suzanne subsequently learns from the friendly mother superior (Francois Lebrun) that her parents intend for her to remain in the convent and become a nun. The girl rebels against the rigidity of convent life, refusing to take her “final vows” at the last second, and is sent back to her parents.

Suzanne’s mother reveals to the girl that she is her illegitimate child and that she will not be sharing in the family’s dwindling estate. Suzanne is sent back to the convent, much to her displeasure, but sadness turns to terror when the friendly mother superior dies and is replaced by the harsh Supérieure Christine, who is determined to crush the girl’s rebellious spirit. Suzanne manages to smuggle out a plea for help to sympathetic parties, and Supérieure Christine retaliates by relentlessly punishing the girl to the brink of death.

Suzanne’s outside benefactors are able to arrange her transfer to a different convent, which initially appears to be much less harsh. However, it’s soon revealed that the nun in charge, Supérieure Saint-Eutrope, is a lesbian who preys upon her younger charges. Saint-Eutrope makes several advances upon Suzanne, but the girl is able to rebuff her. Suzanne reveals the sordid goings on within the convent to a visiting priest confessor, who then works in league with her benefactors to stage her escape.

After traveling all night, Suzanne awakes inside a sprawling estate. She learns her wealthy benefactor, who had saved her from the horrors of the convent, was her biological father, who had died during the night. She can look forward to a secure future on the estate with her half-brother.

Commentary

It’s disturbing to follow Suzanne’s horrific experiences within the two convent hell-holes. However, this fictional story is an excellent portrayal of the real abuse that routinely took place within Catholic convents, rectories, seminaries, and the palaces of prelates century after century. Suzanne’s character represents the millions of women and men, girls and boys who were physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abused over the course of a millennia by the “celibate” Catholic clergy. Sadder still are all of the Roman Catholic souls who have been misled by their church’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

Actress Pauline Etienne does an excellent job in her portrayal of a young woman caught in her religion’s legalism, ritualism, and extreme asceticism, which all veiled the unspeakable corruption at its core.

Capture53_edited
Supérieure Christine devises another “discipline” for the rebellious Suzanne.
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Argh! Can’t put off painting the house any longer!

Fourteen years ago, my wife and I were looking to buy a new home. We were both 48-years-old at the time and our two sons had moved out several years previous. After having already done the “house and yard” thing for 22 years, I was contemplating moving into a condo and putting my feet up on weekends. But my wife went out looking at houses with her realtor sister and called me excitedly at work saying I had to come see the house they had found. I pulled into the driveway and gulped at the big yard with many oak trees. In addition, the house had wooden shingles that would need painting unlike our first house, which was aluminum sided. Argh!

My wife’s enthusiasm for the the house was overwhelming (see postscript below) so I reluctantly agreed that we buy the property, figuring that I still had plenty of gas in the tank at 48 to take care of the house and yard.

I’ve already whined about the huge volume of leaves I must contend with every November because of the oak trees (see here), so today I’ll focus on the chore of painting the house.

The previous owners had the house painted right before we bought it, so it was good to go for several years. I originally planned on painting the house seven years after we moved in, but I procrastinated and after nine years the ol’ shingles were starting to look pretty shabby. As a result, I had to do A LOT of prep work and the very weathered shingles needed two coats of paint. Ach! I painted the front and sides of the house in 2013, but of course I waited until the end September to start, so I ended up painting under the eaves as the cool, early-October rains fell. Not smart. I painted the back of the house the following year, 2014, and took a break from painting the next two years.

I then put together a plan to paint one-quarter of the house every summer, which keeps  the prep work to a minimum and the amount of paint needed to one coat. I painted one of the sides and half of the front last year and anticipated painting the rest of the front and the other side this summer. However, I kept pushing it off because I kept thinking I had plenty of time, but after this weekend I realized I was backed into a corner with summer quickly coming to a close. So I requested to work from home in the mornings this past Monday, yesterday, and today (rain is predicted tomorrow and Friday) and work on the house in the afternoons.

Monday was prep work (cleaning, scraping, priming) and it wasn’t that bad because it had only been five years since I last painted that portion. Yesterday, I worked on the trim. I had optimistically planned on completing the trim yesterday, but only got halfway through. It’s very tedious and time consuming painting all of the edges and corners with a brush. Today, I’ll finish the trim and Saturday I’ll paint the big surfaces with a roller.

Some quick lessons:

  • Painting isn’t enjoyable to me, but I do appreciate being outside and getting some fresh air. The house is a ranch so I don’t have to use the extension ladder all that much. I had all of the tools so pretty much all I needed to buy was the paint and put in the elbow grease.
  • There is some satisfaction in seeing the house looking good after the paint job is complete.
  • I do have a responsibility to our neighbors in the tract to keep our house and property well maintained.
  • The Bible warns against procrastination. If you keep pushing things off they’ll deteriorate to a point where the effort needed to bring things back around will be overwhelming. This has applications for the temporal, but most importantly, for the spiritual.

“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” – Proverbs 20:4

If we neglect our walk with the Lord by putting off reading and studying the Bible, time in prayer, and attending church, our spiritual state will deteriorate. Don’t let that happen to you. I speak from experience. Get right with the Lord and commune with Him every day throughout the day.

Postscript: My wife’s father died in 1961 from a heart attack at the age of 47 when she was only six years old. When we were initially looking at the house, the elderly owners were present, but they nervously told us they had to leave soon for an engagement at a nearby country club. My nosy sister-in-law inquired which club they belonged to and they hesitatingly responded that they had been members of the club down the road for fifty years, which turned out to be the same establishment my wife’s parents had been members of. Come to find out, the two couples had been very good friends and the husband often golfed with my wife’s father. That’s all my wife needed to hear. So our house was previously owned by one of her father’s best friends.

Kids in Space

Yes, it’s time once again to take a break from theological discussions and review the next issue of the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics from DC Comics’ Silver Age.

Evidently, the editors at DC thought it would be an interesting contrast to follow the classic saga about the Legionnaires as grown adults with this story about the Legionnaires as small children in…

The Five Legion Orphans!
Adventure Comics #356, May, 1967
Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell, Penciller: Curt Swan

Plot

While the majority of the Legionnaires participate with their parents in celebrating the gala Parents’ Day festivities in Metropolis, the five Legionnaires who are orphans – Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Element Lad, Mon-El, and Superboy – sit dejectedly on-call inside the team’s clubhouse. The quartet then responds to an emergency summons from the planet Zinth. Raiders had absconded with the mammoth crystal that powers the entire planet and dropped it into a deep pond, apparently to be retrieved later. The heroes recover the crystal, but are transformed into toddlers by the strange waters. The tots are taken to the Interstellar Orphanage and subsequently adopted by five different couples who marvel at the children’s super powers.

Of all the children, only Brainiac 5 with his “twelfth level intellect” retains his rapier mental abilities and he is immediately suspicious of the circumstances because all five couples are from the same planet, Baskh, and live in close proximity to each other. He notices a large container of water in his foster father’s lab and by experimentation determines it’s from the youth pool in Kandor, the legendary Kryptonian city, which explains why it affected the otherwise invulnerable Superboy and Mon-El (Superboy hails from Krypton and Mon-El’s world was very similar).

Brainiac 5 creates an antidote and the quartet are restored to their normal physiology. The Legionnaires confront the adoptive parents who reveal that a radioactive asteroid had collided with Baskh’s moon and the fallout had killed all of the planet’s children. Having determined that only non-native children could survive on Baskh, the couples attempted to adopt, and when that was unsuccessful, they hatched their complicated scheme to transform the five Legion orphans into toddlers so they could adopt them. Rather than press charges against the couples, the Legionnaires sympathize with them. Brainiac 5 informs the disappointed adults that the fallout is now harmless and that they and the other Baskhians are once again able to safely produce children.

Commentary

E. Nelson Bridwell filled in for Jim Shooter to write this lightweight tale, but it is an entertaining trick coming immediately after the adult Legion saga. Curt Swan does a nice job of rendering the five Legionnaires as toddlers.

Secondary story: Lana Lang and the Legion of Super-Heroes!
Originally published in Adventure #282, March, 1961
Writer: Otto Binder, Penciller: George Papp

Plot

In 20th century Smallville, teenager Lana Lang has a crush on Superboy and contemplates how she can encourage his affections. Meanwhile, the Boy of Steel is summoned to a cave near town where he is met by Thom Kallor, a teen from the 30th century who explains that he acquired multiple super powers and became Star Boy when his spacemobile traveled through the tail of a comet. He subsequently joined the Legion of Super-Heroes and is tracking two escaped convicts. One of them he followed to 20th century Smallville and apprehended, but the other is still back on his homeworld. However, he needs Superboy to return with him to the 30th century to find the criminal in the planet’s complex sewer system using his X-Ray vision. Lana secretly overhears the conversation and plots to make Superboy jealous by using the powerful Star Boy as a ploy. She threatens to reveal Star Boy’s identity to the apprehended criminal if he doesn’t cooperate. The trio travel to the 30th century and Superboy quickly apprehends the fugitive. Lana then attempts to make Superboy jealous with Star Boy’s reluctant participation. Superboy is privy to Lana’s scheme and turns the tables with the help of Star Boy’s girlfriend, Zynthia.

Commentary

This Legion “classic” was written only six years previous to the “Five Legion Orphans” story, but readers can easily observe how storylines had become more sophisticated in that short time span. Jim Shooter or his fill-ins would never write a story as hokey as this. Papp’s stilted artwork makes one truly appreciate Curt Swan’s gifted penciling. This is Star Boy’s first Legion appearance and he’s presented as having multiple super powers that rival those of Superboy. His powers were scaled back in subsequent Legion appearances to solely the ability to increase the mass of any object.

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – #s 18, 19, & 20

Today, we will continue with our responses to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.

Citing the three passages below, Armstrong argues for the validity and necessity of Catholicism’s claim to absolute authority in the interpretation of Scripture:

#18) “So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” – Nehemiah 8:8

#19) “So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.” – Acts 8:27-31

#20) “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” – 2 Peter 1:20*

Directly beneath the three verses, Armstrong writes, “Catholics hold that Scripture is a fairly clear document and able to be understood by the average reader, but also that the Church is needed to provide a doctrinal norm, an overall framework for determining proper biblical interpretation.” p. 32.

Catholicism claims that its magisterium (i.e., the teaching office of the pope and his bishops) alone is divinely authorized to interpret Scripture. For multiple centuries, the church withheld the Bible from the laity and, even now, does not strongly encourage individual Bible study. In contrast, God’s Word exhorts us to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). God’s Word also holds up as an example the believers in the city of Berea of northern Greece who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Nowhere in the Bible do we see anything resembling a dictatorial teaching office as we see with the Vatican hierarchy.

As the bishops of Rome consolidated their power and authority, the church became increasingly institutionalized and untethered from God’s Word. The magisterium that claimed to defend orthodoxy had in reality suppressed and abandoned Scriptural truths in favor of its many man-made traditions. The Reformers of the 16th century were able to return the church in part to the simple Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone and to the sole authority of Scripture. While the Reformers did not agree on every single theological detail, they were united in the Gospel of grace. The same is true among genuine believers today. How can believers in different countries and cultures all over the world be united in the Gospel without a central authority? It’s an amazing thing to behold. The Holy Spirit divinely unites and guides believers through the Gospel of Jesus Christ and through His Holy Word.

Armstrong is aware that the majority of his readers are not familiar with church history and is therefore confident that his arguments for Catholicism’s authority will appear logical. But even a casual student of church history knows popes and church councils have been in conflict. Armstrong points to the church’s magisterium as its guiding authority, but the magisterium has proven itself to be totally unreliable again and again. Dogmas have been defined that are un-Biblical and even anti-Biblical. By placing themselves above Scripture, the popes and their bishops were able to create man-made tradition upon man-made tradition. There is mounting controversy in the Catholic church currently with conservative cardinals and bishops opposing pope Francis’ reforms of doctrines previously held to be infallible. Does correct authority rest with Francis or with the conservative prelates who oppose him?

While Armstrong presents Nehemiah 8:8, Acts 8:27-31, and 2 Peter 1:20 as irrefutable “Catholic verses,” which allegedly validate Roman Catholicism’s authority to interpret Scripture, we see that Catholicism has instead supplanted Scripture with its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit and by its anti-Biblical traditions. Believers cry, “Sola Scriptura,” Scripture alone guides us, while Catholics, in substance, cry, “Sola Ecclesia,” their church leadership alone truly guides them.

See also:

Roman Catholic Church’s authority to interpret scripture violates scripture
https://carm.org/catholic-authority-to-interpret-violates-scripture

*A contextual reading of 2 Peter 1:20 shows that it emphasizes the source of Old Testament prophecies, NOT who has the right to interpret the Bible today. See the article below:

What does 2 Peter 1:20 mean about interpreting Scripture?
https://www.gotquestions.org/interpreting-Scripture.html

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 9/15/18

 

Catholic parishioner to cardinal: “Shame on you!”

It’s been twelve weeks since the revelations broke regarding U.S. cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of minors and young adults, leading off this current, snowballing crisis in the Catholic church that may even directly involve pope Francis. I imagine some regular readers of this weekend news roundup might be thinking, “Enough already,” but with this pedophile priest and cover-up tsunami, combined with conservative Catholics’ mounting rebellion against pope Francis, what we’re witnessing is the Roman Catholic church being shaken at its foundation to a degree that hasn’t been seen in 150 years. Many, many, Catholics will be leaving their church in disgust. Will we point them to our unshakeable and incorruptible Rock, Jesus Christ, and the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone?

Once again, I’m  not providing any commentary with these stories. The headlines are all self-explanatory. The world became aware of the Catholic church’s pedophile priest and cover-up scandal back in 2002 through the reporting of the Boston Globe’s “spotlight” investigative journalism team. Since then, despite lots of empty rhetoric and procedural band-aids, the church has done relatively nothing to address its “problem.” But who could have seriously expected otherwise with the inmates running the asylum? For a millennia, Catholic seminaries with their rule of obligatory celibacy have both attracted and fostered sexual deviants. I assume many of the “celibate” cardinals, archbishops, and bishops are as deviant as the pedophile priests they supervise.

Examining a Catholic devotional juju: The Infant Jesus of Prague statue

Yesterday, I wrote in general about un-Biblical Catholic devotion fetishes (see here), but today, I would like to focus on one devotion in particular; the Infant Jesus of Prague statue.

Several days ago, I was listening to the 9/5/18 podcast of the “Called To Communion” Catholic talk radio show and Joelle from Oklahoma City phoned in at the 41:25 mark stating she was a convert from Presbyterianism to Catholicism. She said she had a hard time initially accepting Catholic devotions, especially the Infant Jesus of Prague. The National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague in the U.S.A. is located just one hour away from OKC in Prague, Oklahoma. Joelle stated that she has since come to love the Infant Jesus of Prague devotion. Show host, David Anders, followed up by saying Catholics are free to pick and choose from the church’s many devotions and are not obligated to adopt the Infant Jesus of Prague devotion.

Evangelical Protestants may not be familiar with it, but most Roman Catholics are certainly familiar with the Infant Jesus of Prague; a statue of child Jesus clothed in red imperial regalia with the left hand holding a globe of the world and the right hand in a posture of benediction.

The original 19″ tall statue (see photo) traces back to the 16th-century and it currently resides at Our Lady of Victory church in Prague, Czech Republic. In 1628, noblewoman Polyxena of the House of Lobkowicz donated the statue to the church and a devoted cult following quickly grew, claiming miraculous healings and blessings. Pilgrims from afar began visiting the church and statue. Versions of the statue eventually proliferated throughout Catholicism. Many American Catholic families display an imitation Infant Jesus of Prague statue in their homes for protection and blessings as a superstitious juju. Various versions are readily available from Amazon (see here).

We already know that having a statue of Jesus as an object of worship is anti-Biblical. But why this fixation on Jesus as a young child? Pagan religions all had their versions of the mother goddess and her infant son as objects of worship. In Egypt, the mother and child were worshiped as Isis and Osiris, in Babylon as Ishtar and Tammuz, in Phoenicia as Ashtoreth and Baal, in India as Isi and Iswara, in China and Japan as the mother goddess Shing-moo with child, in Greece as Ceres or Irene and Plutus, in Rome as Fortuna and Jupiter, or Venus and Adurnis, and in Scandinavia as Frigga and Balder. Pagans were very fond of worshiping the mother goddess and her son and Rome adapted this extremely popular cult into the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary and infant Jesus. Worship of the infant Jesus apart from his mother was a predictable next step.

A standard novena “prayer” to the statue juju was formulated for supplicants seeking blessings. The intercession of Mary figures prominently in the “prayer.” See here.

Postscript: One of my sisters had an Infant Jesus of Prague statue on the top of her dresser back when I was growing up. She’s now an atheist. She liked her infant Jesus juju for a period, but she didn’t know Jesus Christ as her Savior.

Infant Jesus of Prague – Wikipedia article
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_Jesus_of_Prague

Our Lady of Victory church in Prague, Czech Republic – Official website
https://www.pragjesu.cz/en/

A stroll through the Our Lady of Victory church’s online gift shop is a revealing education in Catholic superstition. See here.

Devotions: Evangelical vs. Catholic

If you mention the word “devotions” to an evangelical Christian, they will generally associate the word with the time they spend each day reading and studying God’s Word and praying to the Lord. But for Catholics, the word “devotions” conjures up an entirely different meaning.

In Catholicism, there are literally hundreds of particular ways of approaching (g)od, Mary, and the canonized saints and these are called devotions. Some of these approaches/devotions are very popular throughout Catholicism (e.g., the rosary, the stations of the cross), while others have only a small number of adherents or are limited to a specific geographical locale. Catholics are encouraged to adopt either a single devotion or several as an aid to their “spiritual development.”

Below is a partial list of Catholic devotions. There are many more than these:

  • Devotion to Christ the King
  • Devotion to Jesus Crucified
  • Devotion to One’s Guardian Angel
  • Devotion to One’s Patron Saint
  • Devotion to Our Lady Under Various Titles
  • Devotion to St. Joseph
  • Devotion to St. Michael the Archangel
  • Devotion to the Angels
  • Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament
  • Devotion to the Blessed Virgin
  • Devotion to the Child Jesus
  • Devotion to the Holy Face
  • Devotion to the Holy Family
  • Devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus
  • Devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory
  • Devotion to the Holy Spirit
  • Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary
  • Devotion to the Infant Jesus
  • Devotion to the Infant of Prague
  • Devotion to the Precious Blood
  • Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
  • Devotion to the Saints
  • Devotion to the Sorrowful Mother / Devotion to the Seven Sorrows
  • Devotion to the Wounds of Jesus
  • Divine Mercy Devotion
  • First Five Saturday’s Devotion
  • First Friday’s Devotion
  • Holy Rosary
  • Miraculous Medal
  • Scapulars
  • Stations of the Cross / Way of the Cross
  • Three Hail Mary’s Devotion

See the Catholic source here.

The above devotions encourage superstitious and idolatrous perceptions of God and anti-Biblical worship (aka “veneration”) of Mary, the “saints,” or the angels. In its efforts to convert the pagan masses, the Catholic church adapted pagan religious fetishes (amulets, good luck charms, talismans, rabbit feet, juju, etc.) into acceptable and church-sanctioned devotions. Many Catholics become strongly attached to a particular devotion and it becomes the central focus of their religious practice in much the same way as a superstitious juju for a pagan. Catholics aren’t obligated to follow any devotions, but are strongly encouraged to do so and may pick and choose from the church’s thick catalog of options as to whatever strikes their fancy. Many Catholics adopt the devotion/s of one of their parents or those of their favorite priest.

Bible Christians have no need of these superstitious religious fetishes. We have repented of our sin and accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior by faith alone. We commune with the Lord through reading His Word and through prayer to Him. Nothing else is needed.

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Tomorrow, I will focus on one specific Catholic devotion, the Infant Jesus of Prague.

TBN’s Rogues’ Gallery

I don’t watch a lot of television, but when I channel surf, I usually scoot right past channel 50, Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). The cable channel is a cesspool of heterodoxy with its stable of prosperity gospel and Rome-friendly televangelists. The other day, I got the idea in my head to list all of the TBN “entertainers,” so using my limited Microsoft Excel spreadsheet skills, I copied and sorted all of the shows scheduled on the cable channel during a week’s time span and came up with the list below. Based upon my own knowledge and/or with a little Google research, I categorized each televangelist as to whether they were propagators of the prosperity gospel and/or supporters of ecumenism with Rome. A “Y” means Yes, an “N” means No, and a “?” means I could not determine the status. Generally, prosperity gospelers are too busy picking out their next Mercedes or airplane to care about doctrinal differences with Rome. There are also several on the list who, while not flagrant prosperity gospelers themselves, make a habit out of hanging out in prosperity gospel circles.

A quick glance reveals this list of TBN’s 60 televangelists is heavy with prosperity, word-of-faith shysters and Rome-friendly ecumenists. BTW, Father Cedric on the list is, in fact, Roman Catholic priest, Cedric Pisegna. There are only a few on this list who I could recommend, like Charles Stanley and Ray Comfort. Several I have never heard of.

This listing is obviously not set in stone so any challenges or help with the “?”s will be appreciated. Forgive the wide columns, but incorporating an Excel spreadsheet into a WordPress post is a little messy.

Prosperity Ecumenical
Mark Batterson ? ?
Irvin Baxter ? ?
Reinhard Bonnke Y Y
John Bradshaw ? Y
Jonathan Cahn Y ?
Christine Caine Y Y
Ron Carpenter Y ?
Alicia Britt Chole ? Y
Ray Comfort N N
Kenneth Copeland Y Y
Gregory Dickow Y Y
Creflo Dollar Y ?
Jesse Duplantis Y Y
Tony Evans N Y
Karl Faase ? Y
Jentezen Franklin Y Y
Steven Furtick Y ?
Louie Giglio ? Y
Billy Graham N Y
Jack Graham ? Y
John Gray Y Y
John Hagee Y ?
Allen Jackson ? ?
T. D. Jakes Y Y
Robert Jeffress N Y
David Jeremiah N Y
Mark Jeske ? ?
Daniel Kolenda Y ?
Greg Laurie ? Y
Hal Lindsey ? ?
Max Lucado N Y
James MacDonald ? ?
Guillermo Maldonado Y ?
James Merritt ? ?
Joyce Meyer Y Y
Beth Moore ? Y
Robert Morris Y ?
Joel Osteen Y Y
Father Cedric N Y
Fred K. Price Y ?
Joseph Prince Y ?
David Rives ? ?
Pat Robertson Y Y
James Robison Y Y
Samuel Rodriguez Y Y
Sid Roth Y ?
Rabbi Kirt Schneider Y ?
Bobby Schuller ? ?
Jay Sekulow Y ?
Priscilla Shirer ? Y
Kerry Shook N N
Erick Stakelbeck ? ?
Charles Stanley N N
Perry Stone Y ?
Tommy Tenney ? ?
Holly Wagner ? Y
Don Wilton N ?
Andrew Wommack Y Y
Ed Young Y Y
Michael Youssef N ?

The Papacy: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

Absolute Power: How the Pope Became the Most Influential Man in the World
By Paul Collins
Public Affairs Publishing, 2018, 367 pages

In the past six months, I have read and reviewed several books from conservative Catholic authors that were very critical of the controversial papacy of Jorge “Francis” Bergoglio. Liberal Catholic and ex-priest, Paul Collins, takes the opposite tack.

The year was 1799 and the Roman Catholic papacy had reached its absolute nadir. Giovanni Angelo Braschi aka pope Pius VI died in the citadel of Valence, France as a prisoner of forces commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte. How did the papacy survive and eventually thrive to the point where the pope is now the most recognizable  and influential man in the world? In this fascinating book, Collins assesses how the beleaguered papacy ascended from the ashes to astonishing worldly heights.

The Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the spread of Democratic Republicanism, and the introduction of Communism and Socialism forced the popes into a defensive position. Deprived of the Papal States and most of their temporal authority, the popes of the 19th Century were able to focus on marshalling Europe’s conservative/traditionalist Catholic population who yearned for social stability and even retrenchment. Some of the results were the now-embarrassing condemnation of democracy and religious freedom in pope Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors in 1864, the dogmatic definition of papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council in 1870, also sponsored by Pius IX, and the condemnation of religious freedom aka “Americanism” by pope Leo XIII in 1899.

Popes navigated the church through the perilous first-half of the 20th Century with its two world wars, always looking to advance the church’s temporal and ecclesial advantages. In perhaps one of the last major acts of militant Catholic triumphalism, pope Pius XII defined the assumption of Mary as dogma in 1950.

John XXIII was elected pope in 1958 and he ushered in an openness to liberal reform within the church with his Second Vatican Council. Collins is quite forthright in his admiration for John XXIII. The church seemed to flounder for a period, unhinged from its traditional conservatism, but John Paul II and Benedict XII were able to return the church back to conservative intransigence in their crusades to “reform the reform.” Collins sees in the current pope, Francis, another John XXIII-type who is attempting to once again move the church forward in accord with the agenda of the church’s liberal/progressive faction.

Competing church politics aside, Collins records in some detail how John XXIII, John Paul II, and now, Francis, were able to manipulate the worldwide media in order to advanceCapture38 the profile and “soft” power of the papacy.

Catholics are taught to think of their church’s hierarchy in hagiographic terms with all prelates in harmonious union with the pope, and infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit. As Collins makes very clear throughout this book, Vatican politics contrastingly have been cutthroat and motivated by the acquisition and preservation of influence and power.

Pope Francis and the Catholic church are currently overrun by scandal. How will Francis and the church respond? In the end, could these current challenges further democratize and decentralize the church, which is the ultimate goal of Francis and his liberal allies? A less autocratic and dogmatic papacy would actually be a huge benefit to the cause of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue (with the pope still in the driver’s seat).

I highly recommended this book to evangelical Vatican-watchers and to incredulous Roman Catholics who suspect there is more going on within their church than what the folks at Catholic Answers and EWTN are letting on.

Answering the alleged “95 Catholic Verses” – #s 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, & 17

Today, we will continue with our responses to Dave Armstrong and his book, “The Catholic Verses,” in which the Catholic apologist presents ninety-five Bible verses or passages that allegedly validate Catholicism and are claimed to “confound” Protestants.

Citing the seven passages below, Armstrong argues that the multiplicity of divisions within Protestantism is a bad thing:

#11) “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.” – John 17:20-23

#12) 1 Corinthians 11:18-19

#13) Romans 16:17

#14) 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

#15) 1 Corinthians 3:3-4

#16) 1 Corinthians 12:25

#17) Philippians 2:2

Since all of these seven passages deal with the similar theme of Christian unity, I have posted the first one and provided hyper-links for the following six.

Directly beneath John 17:20-23, Armstrong writes, “The Catholic position on Christian unity is fully in accord with biblical texts like this one. We believe that doctrine should be unified and that all Christians should be of one mind and spirit. It is to uphold this biblical injunction that we believe in dogma, hierarchical authority, apostolic Tradition, and a papacy. One may think what he will about all that, but it cannot be denied that Catholicism has traditionally been highly concerned with oneness of doctrine and avoidance of sectarianism and division.” p. 21.

Elsewhere he states, “In my opinion, this (i.e., division and denominationalism) is one of the most compelling and unanswerable disproofs of Protestantism as a system to be found in the Bible.” p. 25.

I completely agree with Armstrong regarding the Bible passages quoted above, that the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles desired that all Christians be united in doctrine and practice, but there were tremendous challenges to that ideal from the very beginning. In his epistles, apostle Paul, relates that he was already alarmed at the Judaizers who were entering into the church and subverting the Gospel by insisting on works being added to grace. Paul had to confront Peter, the alleged first infallible pope, at Antioch because of his compromise with the Judaizers.

A response to Armstrong requires some knowledge of church history. It’s true that the bishops of Rome were eventually able to consolidate their power and impose a standardized and increasingly legalistic and ritualistic theology upon their subjects, but conformity was achieved often by means of intimidation and physical force. Was the authoritarian and imperialistic Roman Catholic church, which tortured and slaughtered millions in its quest for power, control, and wealth, what Jesus Christ and the apostles had in mind with regards to unity?

The 16th-century Reformers were able to return some of the church back to the simple Gospel of grace. Was the 16th-century Reformation perfect? Obviously not. Vestiges of Roman error remained and further reform was needed. Catholic apologists see the multitude of Protestant denominations as a proof of their illegitimacy, but the growth of denominations was actually the fruit of constant reform and a check against wholesale heresy as had happened with Roman Catholicism. Catholics deride the decentralized patchquilt of evangelicalism, which bases its authority solely upon God’s Holy Word, but that is precisely where the Holy Spirit has done His work, not within the corruption of the Vatican’s regal hallways.

Evangelical Protestants may be divided over secondary doctrinal beliefs, but we are united in our belief in the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Armstrong describes this as “de facto doctrinal relativism” (p. 28), and dismisses it completely. The only legitimate unity in Armstrong’s opinion is institutional homogeneity, which he would have the reader believe is the case with Catholicism, but how true is that claim?

As I mentioned previously, the pope and his bishops were able to impose their man-made traditions as dogma by force with the support of civil authorities from the 500s right up into the 20th Century. That, thankfully, is no longer the case. In present-day Catholicism, one can find a broad range of beliefs, even among the clergy, from the most liberal type of Bible-denying modernism to pre-Vatican II militant intransigence. This book was published fourteen years ago and Armstrong could not have possibly foreseen the current crisis in the Catholic church, with many conservatives now publicly opposing pope Francis and his doctrine-bending reforms. Catholicism is certainly no unified monolith as its apologists would like you to believe.

It would be wonderful if all genuine Christians were united in doctrine and practice, but this side of eternity we gladly rejoice in our unity in the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Rome can keep its false gospel of sacramental grace and merit and its faux, worldly-patterned, institutional unity.

“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:25-28.

“As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.” – Matthew 11:7-8

While Armstrong presents John 17:20-23 and the other six Bible passages as irrefutable “Catholic verses,” which allegedly validate the institutional unity of Roman Catholicism, an objective analysis reveals the only unity Catholicism can boast of is its un-Biblical and anti-Biblical error.