Recently, I was listening to a Reformanda Initiative podcast featuring guest, Tim Challies, as he recounted how, on one of his visits to Rome, he encountered a large sculpture depicting the triumph of Catholicism over Protestant “heresy.” Curious, I did a little googling and discovered the following:
“Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred” (photo above) was sculpted by Pierre Le Gros the Younger between the years 1695-1699 and is on display at the Chiesa del Gesù, the mother church of the Society of Jesus religious order (aka the Jesuits), located about 2 miles from Vatican City in Rome. The Society of Jesus was founded in 1540 by Ignatius of Loyola (d. 1556) specifically to oppose the Reformation. The sculpture is situated alongside the crypt of Ignatius, which is located within a side-altar of the church (see photo below).
“Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred” depicts a woman (symbolizing the RCC) holding a cross in one hand and a bundle of flames in the other (keep that in mind!) while in the act of expelling two distressed figures, a male (heresy) and a female (hatred), to their eternal damnation. Lest anyone wonders who the figures represent, a smiling putto, or “little angel,” is also depicted ripping pages from a large book bearing the inscribed name of Huldrych Zwingli, while books with the names of Martin Luther and John Calvin await a similar fate.
The Reformers Zwingli, Luther, and Calvin, were moved by the Holy Spirit to reclaim the New Testament Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone that had been buried under one-thousand years of the RCC’s religious authoritarianism, sacramentalism, “sacred” tradition, and its works-righteousness false gospel. The RCC maintained a militant, confrontational approach towards Protestants until the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), when it adopted an attitude of reconciliation and rapprochement. However, the RCC has not changed any of its basic doctrines since the Reformation, including its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.
The “Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred” sculpture at the Chiesa del Gesù is a reminder carved in immutable marble that the church of Rome opposes the Gospel of grace and that tens of millions of Protestant believers were killed for their faith, some of them by immolation (recall the flames) at the direction of popes and Catholic prelates.
In direct contradiction of the “Religion Overthrowing Heresy and Hatred” sculpture and 445 years of violent Catholic militancy directed at Protestants, pope Francis stated the following at a 2016 ecumenical service, “With gratitude we acknowledge that the Reformation helped give greater centrality to Sacred Scripture in the Church’s life. The spiritual experience of Martin Luther challenges us to remember that apart from God we can do nothing. With the concept of ‘by grace alone,’ he [Luther] reminds us that God always takes the initiative,* prior to any human response,** even as he seeks to awake that response. The doctrine of justification thus expresses the essence of human existence before God.”
Between the congenial lines of his text, pope Francis reaffirms RC doctrine, that regeneration initially happens at baptism,* but it’s then up to each Catholic to perpetually “cooperate with grace” and attempt to merit their salvation by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules.**
Question for my Catholic friends: If all popes are divinely-ordained and Holy Spirit-guided “Vicars of Christ” as the RCC claims, how could the popes of old have sanctioned deadly violence against Protestants in direct contradiction of modern popes (post-1958) who pragmatically encourage ecumenism and cooperation?