Conservative Catholic clerics begin to react to pope Francis’ approval of same-sex civil unions: “We have a bad pope.”

The conservative Catholic backlash to pope Francis’ call for civil unions for same-sex couples is just beginning to percolate. Watch this 7-minute video as a visibly emotional Catholic priest tells his congregation “we have a bad pope” (3:05 mark). The priest continues by saying he doesn’t know “what vanity, or dark spirits, or fallen inclinations” are guiding the pope.

A “bad pope”?

The foundation of Roman Catholicism is the pope, the alleged “Vicar of Christ.” What does it mean if the pope is a “bad pope” and is not to be followed? The foundation of Roman Catholicism crumbles.

There is another way, a better way. Jesus Christ declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

Church membership doesn’t save. Trying to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) doesn’t save. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church that teaches the uncompromised Gospel.

Catholic vs Christian | “I am a Catholic. Why should I consider becoming a Christian?”

BREAKING NEWS! Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples, in major departure from Vatican doctrine

I don’t normally publish two posts in one day, but this news cannot wait.

I was doing some routine work on the blog late this morning when I overheard on the television in the adjoining kitchen a special news announcement involving the “leader of the Catholic church.”

I scrambled into the kitchen to hear that Pope Francis is calling for civil unions for same-sex couples. This is ASTOUNDING, although not altogether surprising. The Vatican has been preparing for this moment for several years via the work of Jesuit priest, James Martin, its advance man for full acceptance of practicing LGBTers.

The ramifications and fallout from this “announcement” (underhandedly communicated via a docu-bio of Francis) are and will be ENORMOUS. This contradicts previous papal teaching on the illicitness/sinfulness of homosexual practices and same-sex unions/marriages that many/most serious Catholics held to be unchangeable and even infallible. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics will be enraged to a such a degree that many will now surely call for a formal split from pragmatically-progressive, world-pleasing, pope Francis.

I need to read some more reports on this development before I can comment at length. The bottom line is the Roman Catholic church does not teach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Whether it’s Francis’s progressive camp, now publicly embracing same-sex unions, or the Catholic conservative camp, the genuine Gospel is not to be found in Roman Catholicism.

Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples, in major departure from Vatican doctrine
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/religion/pope-calls-civil-unions-same-sex-couples-major-departure-vatican-n1244137

Update: I made it a point to listen to conservative Catholic talk-radio host, Al Kresta, at 4:00 p.m. today to get his take on Francis’s bombshell. As would be expected, Kresta tied himself up into multiple knots trying to downplay/minimize/mitigate/white wash the news. Kresta lamely postulated that, in approving civil unions for same-sex couples, Francis wasn’t necessarily sanctioning homosexual behavior. Kresta stumbled and stammered, suggesting the pope would expect civilly-united, same-sex Catholic couples to live as brother-brother or sister-sister. Say what?!?!? Kresta is living in fantasy land. He can’t yet admit to himself and his audience that his pope is a heretic according to Catholicism’s own tenets. But I think with this particular “reform,” Francis has finally given conservative Catholics, like Kresta, something they cannot glibly explain away.

Throwback Thursday: Galileo and the “infallible” popes

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on January 18, 2016 and has been revised.

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In 1870, prompted by pope Pius IX, who was besieged by the advancing Italian nationalist forces, the First Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic church declared as binding dogma that the pope is infallible when he “defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.” This doctrine of papal infallibility had many opponents within the Catholic church at the time and is problematic when attempting to reconcile an infallible papacy with its history. Popes have excommunicated previous popes. There were the bloody Crusades, the Inquisition, forced “conversions,” and the persecution of Jews and Protestants, all carried out with the approval and, oftentimes, at the instigation of the allegedly infallible popes. Modern popes have been kept busy apologizing for their predecessors. But perhaps one of the most clear-cut arguments against papal infallibility was the church’s condemnation of Galileo and his revolutionary theory of heliocentrism.

In the early 1600s, people believed the planets, sun, and stars revolved around the Earth based upon the ancient Ptolemaic geocentric model. A literal interpretation of the Bible (see Joshua 10:12-14) also seemed to support geocentrism. In 1616, Galileo’s theory of heliocentrism – that the Earth revolved around the Sun – was declared heretical by pope Paul V and the Inquisition because it seemingly contradicted Scripture. Galileo continued to challenge geocentrism, so in 1633, yet another pope, Urban VIII, and the Inquisition once again condemned him. The scientist was consequently placed under house arrest until his death in 1642.

Four-hundred years later, it’s universally accepted that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The two popes were dead wrong when they condemned Galileo. Today’s Catholic sophists try to exonerate the two “infallible” popes by claiming the condemnations of Galileo were not done “ex cathedra,” as official papal declarations, but the controversy certainly did involve an important issue involving faith. We can see from our vantage point that the church’s claimed ability to infallibly interpret Scripture was totally discredited by the two popes involved.

At least one contemporary Catholic apologist, Robert Sungenis, correctly and honestly recognizes that the question of papal infallibility is central to the Galileo affair. Sungenis concedes that if Galileo was right, then the popes proved themselves fallible by condemning him. So over the last several years, Sungenis has gone about trying to prove that geocentrism is true and that heliocentrism is false. You read that correctly! In 2007, Sungenis began writing a procession of books and materials defending geocentrism. See here. Someone needs to inform NASA, the U.S. military, satellite providers, etc., that all of their celestial mechanical calculations based on the heliocentric model are incorrect!

Most dismiss Sungenis as a screwball, but I give him credit for at least having the courage of his erroneous convictions and refusing to engage in dishonest sophistry when it comes to the Galileo affair, like other Catholic apologists do. Sungenis was once one of the most prominent American Catholic apologists, and at one time even hosted two series on the EWTN Catholic cable channel, but his defense of geocentrism and his controversial viewpoints on Jews and the nation of Israel have since relegated him to the fringe.

The early church quickly became institutionalized after Christianity was adopted as the state religion by the Roman Empire. Simple faith in Jesus Christ devolved into legalism and ritual. Those who put their faith in a man or an institution will be forever disappointed. Put your faith in Jesus Christ and accept Him as your Savior by faith alone.

The Two Popes: A ham-fisted plug for pope Francis

The Two Popes
Directed by Fernando Meirelles, screenplay by Anthony McCarten, and featuring Anthony Hopkins as pope Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as pope Francis
Netflix, 2019, 125 minutes.

2 Stars

Back in February 2019, I reviewed an interesting book, “The Pope,” by Anthony McCarten, that contrasted the doctrinally conservative, pope Benedict XVI, with his successor, the progressive reformer, pope Francis. See me review here.

Netflix produced a film based on the book and released it for streaming this past December 20th. Just as in the book, the sharp contrast between the conservative Benedict and the progressive Francis is the theme of the film. Benedict is portrayed as hopelessly out of touch with the world with his rigid clericalism and doctrinalism. Francis, in contrast, is presented as a breath of fresh air who is willing, make that eager, to eschew clerical privilege and bend/circumvent doctrine in order to reach people with the progressive version of the Catholic works-righteousness “gospel.”

This film is a biased representation of the current battle within the Catholic church between conservatives and the Francis-led progressives, with Francis the clear favorite. Pro-Francis screenwriter, McCarten, “swings for the fences” at the end of the film with Benedict XVI/Hopkins admitting the error of his rigid ideology and fully embracing Francis’ reforms. The two characters seal the deal over Fanta and pizza, watching a soccer game, and dancing the tango together (VERY creepy in light of the current clerical abuse and homosexuality scandals in the RCC). What a “hammy” ending and it’s all pure fiction.

People love Francis for being so “down to earth,” but neither in conservative Catholicism’s rigid doctrinalism or in Francis’ doctrine-bending “pastoralism” can be found the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

While “The Two Popes” is garnering a lot of accolades at the various Hollywood awards shows, I would recommend this pro-Francis puff piece only to serious evangelical Vatican-watchers. Everyone else should use the two hours for something more productive.

Pope Francis’ fight to steer the RCC toward progressivism

Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church
By Austin Ivereigh
Henry Holt and Company, 2019, 401 pp.

2 Stars

When cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected to the papacy in 2013, conservative Catholics did not know what they were in for. However, by 2016 it was crystal clear that Bergoglio was on a mission to steer the Roman Catholic church towards a progressive/liberal ideology. In that year, pope Francis guilefully overturned the ban on communion to remarried divorcees via a couple of footnotes in his “Amoris Laetitia” encyclical, and conservative opposition to Francis has been on the rise ever since.

Books critical of pope Francis by Catholic authors began appearing in late 2017 and have continued to be published. See here for details. There is disappointment and frustration with Francis among some conservatives that borders on outright rebellion. Discussions of schism are held in check by hopes that the next pope returns the church to pope John Paul II-style conservatism.

British journalist, Austin Ivereigh, answers Francis’ conservative critics with this very flattering apologia of the current pope. The problem, according to the author, is not Francis’ attempts to make the church more relevant, “pastoral,” and appealing in an era of rising secularism and an increasingly disaffected membership, but, rather, the problem is the intransigence of rigid conservative Catholics who are rooted in “clericalism” and doctrinalism at the expense of compassion and mercy.

In this book, Ivereigh covers all of the sturm und drang of Francis’ controversial papacy, including such topics as…

  • The fight with conservatives over control of the Order of Malta
  • The ongoing Vatican Bank financial scandals
  • Reform of the corrupt Vatican Curia
  • The ongoing clerical sexual abuse scandal including Francis embarrassing mishandling of the situation in Chile in early-2018.
  • How Francis is adapting the “Aparecida” movement (focus on the poor, social justice, etc.) of Latin American Catholicism to the entire church.
  • Francis’ elevation of environmental concerns and climate change to the forefront.
  • The “Amoris Laetitia” controversy including the dubia sent to the pope by the resistant right-wing cardinals.
  • Francis’ method to orchestrate liberal change through synods rather than by papal decree.

One of the greatest ironies of our era is watching conservative Catholics line up in opposition to their own pope!

This book will give the reader a good understanding of the pro-Francis progressive viewpoint in this ongoing feud between liberal and conservative Catholics. Except for a brief account of Francis’ bumbling accommodations to Argentina’s murderous dictatorship as head of the country’s Jesuit order in the 1970s, the pope is portrayed with embarrassing adulation. This book reminded me, no exaggeration, of the fawning Catholic saint hagiographies of yesteryear.

Please keep in mind that neither the conservative Catholic doctrinalists or Francis and his progressive allies proclaim the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. I would recommend this puff piece only to serious evangelical Vatican-watchers who are interested in the current internecine tug-of-war within Catholicism.

Postscript: Here’s a question for Catholics regarding the title of this book, Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church: The Roman Catholic church boasts that it is the “one, true church” and that it is Semper eadem, always the same. Why then is pope Francis trying to convert it?

Pope slaps woman’s hand in St. Peter’s Square

I don’t usually publish two posts in a single day, but I wanted to pass this information along. Thanks to Beth at I Once Was Lost for bringing this matter to my attention:

Yesterday evening, New Year’s Eve, pope Francis walked beside a barrier at St. Peter’s Square to greet and “bless” the throng of people who had gathered. After shaking hands with many of the folks pressed against the barrier, the pope began to walk away, but one pious Catholic would not be disappointed and reached out and grabbed Francis’ hand, pulling him toward her. The startled pope tried to pull his hand away and even began slapping at the woman’s hand with his free left hand to break her grip.

 

Allow me to paint between the lines of this scenario. This pious Catholic woman fulfilled the dream of a lifetime by traveling from her faraway country to the Vatican in Rome, Italy to see the pope in person during a New Year’s Eve appearance at St. Peter’s Square. She arrives at the square many hours ahead of time in hopes of getting a good spot to view the “holy father.” As the pope begins walking next to the barrier and shaking hands with the “pilgrims,” the woman pushes and jostles her way next to the barricade to position herself for a personal encounter with the “Vicar of Christ.” As Francis approaches, the woman nervously blesses herself with the sign of the cross as she prepares for the encounter. She can barely contain herself as she anxiously anticipates what will certainly be the greatest moment of her life. However, immediately after shaking the hand of the person next to her, the pope begins to veer away from the barrier. The woman responds instinctively. She won’t be denied after all of her hard effort and anticipation. She reaches out and grabs the pope’s hand and pulls him toward her. Francis reacts in surprise and anger by violently slapping at the frenzied woman’s iron grip.

As the Guardian newspaper reports, the “video of the incident went viral, prompting indignation on social media. One Twitter user wrote: ‘What the pope did demonstrates one thing – he’s a man.’”

In a speech to a crowd assembled at St. Peter’s square on New Year’s Day, Francis apologized for his violent reaction. Ironically, in his prepared address he condemned all violence against women.

Yes, the pope is just a man. Would Peter the apostle have accepted all of the slavish adulation and servitude accorded to Francis and all of the previous popes down through the ages? We’ll let Scripture speak:

“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am a man.’” – Acts 10:25-26

Yes, Francis is just a man, a man who propagates a spiritually deadly false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. We know from God’s Word that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Pope Francis apologises after slapping woman’s hand
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/01/pope-francis-apologises-after-slapping-womans-hand

Rebutting a Catholic apologist, #3: “Paul Rebuked Peter”

Today, we continue our series of responses to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. The Catholic apologist continues his six-part section on church hierarchy and authority with a chapter countering Protestants’ argument that Peter (and hence the pope) was not infallible because “Paul Rebuked Peter.”

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The notion of papal infallibility began gaining popularity within Roman Catholicism in the 15th century, but it wasn’t until 1870, after Italian nationalist forces had occupied the former Papal States and prepared to liberate Rome, that a defiant pope Pius IX pressured the bishops attending the First Vatican Council to declare as dogma that popes were infallible when they taught on matters vital to faith and morals. Although he could not resist the temporal power of the Risorgimento liberators, Pius IX could assert his alleged spiritual superiority by having himself proclaimed as infallible (he also excommunicated everyone who participated in the Risorgimento). As a dogmatic teaching, all Roman Catholics were thereafter required to believe the pope was infallible under threat of damning mortal sin.

Ever since 1870, Protestants have cited Galatians 2:11-14 to refute the notion of papal infallibility:

“But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

If Peter was the first pope and infallible, as Catholics claim, then why was he leading the church into serious error by hypocritically abstaining from eating with Gentiles in the presence of Jewish legalists, for which he had to be publicly corrected by Paul?

Broussard argues that Protestant critics reveal their very faulty understanding of papal infallibility by citing this passage. According to the Catholic standard, only when a pope speaks ex cathedra, officially “from the chair” of St. Peter, in declaring a doctrine as dogma is a teaching considered divinely-guided and infallible. Broussard admits that Peter’s behavior at Antioch was reprehensible and worthy of rebuke, but the bad behavior did not meet the conditions required of dogmatic infallibility. Peter wasn’t acting in his office as supreme teacher of the church in that circumstance at Antioch, argues Broussard. He was just being a cowardly hypocrite.

I understand Broussard’s argument. Protestants do present a bit of a straw man fallacy by presenting Galatians 2:11-14 as a refutation of papal infallibility according to the strict Catholic definition. However, there definitely are many problems with the claim of papal infallibility that Broussard conveniently doesn’t touch upon:

  • While Peter may not have been declaring dogma at Antioch, his example was leading many into dangerous doctrinal error. Catholics have historically claimed that popes were incapable of leading the church into error.
  • It’s ironic beyond measure that Broussard chooses to examine Galatians 2 in his defense of papal infallibility. Following Paul’s description of his rebuke of Peter, the apostle follows with one of the clearest defenses of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone in Galatians 2:15-21. The passage directly contradicts the salvation-by-merit theology that is at the heart of Roman Catholicism.
  • The history of the papacy is filled with incidents that do not reflect well on claims of papal infallibility in matters vital to faith and morals including the heterodoxy of pope Honorius, the Cadaver Trial of pope Formosus, the authorization of the Crusades and the Inquisitions, the Great Western Schism, the authorized selling of indulgences, the condemnation of Galileo, etc., etc., etc.
  • Catholic theologians can only agree upon three papal declarations as being infallibly dogmatic: the immaculate conception of Mary (1854), papal infallibility (1870), and the assumption of Mary into Heaven (1950). What is the point of papal infallibility if it is so rarely exercised?

Important: Just as with the two previous chapters on papal authority, Broussard purposely omits any mention of the current CRISIS within Catholicism regarding the papacy. Pope Francis has overturned three doctrines previously held to be unchangeable: (1) the ban on communion for remarried divorcees, (2) the ban on communion to Protestants (Protestant spouses of Catholic members may now receive communion according to the discretion of each bishop), and (3) the licitness of capital punishment. Conservative Catholic leaders are advising their follows to ignore Francis’s changes and some are even calling the pope a heretic. Catholics are wrestling with how an infallible pope can overturn doctrines considered unchangeable by previous infallible popes. Francis has even gone out of his way to downplay assertions of papal infallibility/prerogatives by emphasizing that “a pope can be wrong” (see here). As Broussard and other conservative Catholic apologists attempt to defend the bastion of papal infallibility, their own pope is busily dismantling the bogus dogma.

Next up: “Where Two or Three Are Gathered”

Dr. James White notes that these are very “Difficult Days for Rome’s Apologists”

For 1500 years, the Roman Catholic church has boasted that it alone has been vested with divine authority via its tripartite of (1) Scripture, plus (2) Sacred Tradition, all overseen by its (3) Magisterium; the pope and his bishops. In 1870, the pope was declared to be infallible in vital matters of faith and morals, a dogma that all Catholics are obligated to believe under threat of mortal sin. Pious Catholics even claimed that their popes were “incapable of” aka “divinely prevented from” leading the Roman church into doctrinal error. Catholics scoffed at poor Protestants who only had Scripture  – Sola Scriptura – to guide them.

The boastful confidence described above has dramatically changed with the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, aka pope Francis, to the papacy in 2013. Francis is a pragmatic progressive who is gradually steering the church away from dogmatics to “pastoralism” in an attempt to make the church more relevant and appealing to its increasingly disaffected membership. To the chagrin of conservative and traditionalist Catholics, Francis is upending doctrines considered to be unchangeable. Many conservative Catholics have accused Francis of at least “spreading confusion” and a few are even openly accusing him of being a heretic.

Catholic apologists are in a pickle. Their own pope is debunking their proudest claim; that of being led by an allegedly infallible pope who could never lead the RCC into error. I’ve wondered why evangelical apologists aren’t remarking more about the current crisis within Catholicism over Francis. Of course, many of today’s accommodating and compromising evangelical apologists (e.g., Zacharias, Craig, Strobel, McDowell) are focused on courting the RCC’s favor and would see it as inopportune and divisive to comment on Catholicism’s current internal crisis. But faithful apologist, James White, at Alpha and Omega Ministries has no such reservations.

Take a listen to the recent video below from Dr. White commenting on how these are “Difficult Days for Rome’s Apologists” because of pope Francis. White begins his remarks regarding the RCC’s papal crisis at the 3:15 mark and continues to the 32:12 mark. He notes at the end that the leadership crisis in Mormonism parallels in some respects what is going on at the Vatican.

Throwback Thursday: The Papacy 101

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 23rd, 2015 and has been revised.

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A Christian’s Pocket Guide To The Papacy: Its origin and role in the 21st century
By Leonardo De Chirico
Christian Focus Publications, 2015, 116 pages

5 Stars

In this short book, evangelical pastor and apologist, Leonardo De Chirico, examines the development of the papacy in Catholic history with a chapter especially devoted to recent popes, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis.

As early Christianity gradually displaced paganism and was declared the state religion of the Roman Empire, it adapted many of the beliefs, practices, and rituals of its former rival. The bishop of Rome vied with the three other patriarchates (Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) for preeminence. When the imperial seat was transferred to Constantinople, the bishop of Rome became the de facto emperor of the West along with the title of il Papa. The papacy patterned itself on the Caesarian imperial model and thenceforth sought to become the most powerful ecclesiastical and political authority in the world.

Dr. De Chirico provides many valuable insights into the history of the papacy and its possible future prospects especially in light of the growing secularization of the West combined with the relentless march of ecumenism. There is no doubt the Vatican is planning for all possible eventualities.

Every evangelical pastor needs to read this book and every believer would benefit from it as well in this era of increasing ecumenism. A Christian’s Pocket Guide To The Papacy can be ordered from Amazon here.

Here also is a link to Dr. De Chirico’s excellent blog, Vatican Files: Evangelical Theological Perspectives on Roman Catholicism.

Postscript: When this book was written in 2015, Dr. De Chirico could not have anticipated the mounting crisis within the Catholic church regarding pope Francis. Conservative and traditionalist Catholics are appalled by the doctrine-bending, progressive pope and some are even calling him a heretic.

Throwback Thursday: The Dark Side of the Papacy

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a post that was first published back on September 22nd, 2015 and has been slightly re-edited.

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Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy
By Peter De Rosa
Crown Publishing, 1988, 484 pages

3 Stars

The Roman Catholic church presents a fanciful, pollyannaish, idealized version of itself as the “one true church,” perpetually guided by the Holy Spirit through an infallible pope from an unbroken line of apostolic succession all the way back to Peter, the alleged first bishop of Rome. But history tells quite another story.

In “The Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy,” former Jesuit priest, Peter De Rosa, plays the “devil’s advocate” by examining the role of the papacy throughout history. Credulous Catholic readers will be shocked to learn that many popes were devoted only to furthering their political, financial, and ecclesiastical power by whatever means necessary. De Rosa refutes claims to divine guidance and papal infallibility by recalling the early church’s metamorphosis into an all-powerful, authoritarian institution which initiated the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo (an unbreachable repudiation of infallibility), mandatory clerical celibacy, condemnation of civil democracies and freedom of religion, and the ban on contraceptives. Further historical embarrassments for the papacy and the RCC include:

  • Previous popes were sometimes denounced as heretics by their successors.
  • For centuries, popes reigned over a church that was ferociously anti-Semitic.
  • The Bible was placed on the Catholic church’s Index of Forbidden Books.
  • In their personal affairs, popes were often paragons of avarice and debauchery.

When this book was written, De Rosa was not privy to the pedophile priests and cover-up scandal tsunami that followed and that has rocked Catholicism to its foundations.

De Rosa is not an academic historian (no footnotes), but he credits a lengthy bibliography of scholarly sources. Intransigent Catholic traditionalists have slandered this book, but the muck is just too deep to overcome.* What is liberal Catholic De Rosa’s aim in exposing the papacy’s dark side? By demonstrating that the alleged vicars of Christ were not divinely guided, the author hopes Catholics will realize many of the current controversial dogmas (ban on contraceptives, clerical celibacy, male-only hierarchy, exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments, etc.) are concocted traditions without foundation that the hierarchy perpetuates to its own peril.

De Rosa pines for the liberality of pope John XXIII who “threw open the windows of the church” at Vatican II. But the church is reluctant to abandon its allegedly inspired doctrines for fear of losing credibility, for Rome has always boasted that it never changes. But didn’t Rome once teach that everyone not baptized a Catholic would go to hell? The current pope, Francis, now says even atheists will go to heaven if they lead “good” lives. Of course! If works are the means to salvation as Catholicism teaches then, taken to its logical conclusion, everyone who tries to lead a “good life” will merit heaven. So why should Catholics bother with their scrupulously legalistic religion if even atheists are “good to go”? Recent surveys reveal 75% of Catholics wonder the same thing and no longer bother to attend obligatory Sunday mass. But the house of cards came down decades ago for many Catholics when pope Paul VI forbade all forms of contraception while eagerly endorsing the natural family planning (aka rhythm) method. Most married Catholics legitimately asked, “What’s the difference?”

What is an evangelical Christian to make of the “Vicars of Christ”? Despite exposing the dark side of his church’s history, De Rosa is still an advocate of Rome’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit with priests as the ordained mediators between God and men. The Catholic church’s story is that of early-Christianity’s transformation into a legalistic, authoritarian institution whose cruelties, depravities, and corruption eventually overshadowed even pagan Rome.

The Reformers abandoned the legalism and ritualism of Catholicism and reclaimed the beliefs of the early church, which were based upon the scriptural Good News of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Unlike pope Francis who preaches Universal salvation for all who are “good,” the Reformers pointed to the Bible, which proclaims that there are none who are good or righteous and can earn their way to heaven (Romans 3:10). But the Good News! is God so loved the world that He gave His Son to die for our sins, and that whoever places their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:16).

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*Since the above post was written four years ago, several conservative Roman Catholics have written books which cite embarrassing and unflattering episodes in their church’s history. An absolutely amazing development! Their strategy? By showing that the church has survived corrupt and/or heretical prelates in the past, the authors contend that the church will also survive the heterodoxy of progressive pope Francis.