Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 28, 1956

Roman Catholicism: Is It Apostolic?

Harry W. Pickup, Jr., Grapevine, Texas

The purpose of this series of articles is twofold: to state accurately the Roman Catholic position and to show how this position is contrary to Truth. This article deals only with the former purpose. In keeping with the first purpose let it be remembered that every statement quoted relative to the Catholic position is taken from an unimpeachable Catholic source. There may be room for argument as to the interpretation of the statements but there can be no question about the statements themselves. The quotations will be taken from three different sources: (1) From Catholic books which contain either the "imprimatur" or "nihil obstat" and/or both of them. (2) The second kind will be from a written debate in which I engaged with Mr. George Dunne, a Jesuit priest of Phoenix, Arizona. (3) From reliable historical non-Catholic sources.

The Catholic church challenges the thinking man who desires eternal salvation. For they claim salvation is only in the Catholic church. This alone is sufficient reason for investigation. "We must hold, as of faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation, and that she is the only ark of safety." (Rebuilding A Lost Faith, p. 212.) Again: "All who refuse to assent to her teaching are threatened with eternal destruction." (Cath. Ency., Vol. 7, p. 791.)

Another reason for investigating her position is because she is actively engaged in attempting to convert non-Catholics. Therefore, her real positions should be examined. "He (Archbishop Cushing) has also brought to Boston the Paulist Fathers whose chief concern is the non-Catholic as a prospective candidate for conversion." (Collier's magazine, Nov. 10, 1951, p. &2.)

Mr. John O'Brion is the author of a little booklet, "Finding Christ's True Church." He says the marks of Christ's true church are these: sanctity, catholicity, unity and apostolicity. He contends the Roman Catholic Church has all four of these marks. I am prepared to deny that it has any of them. But, for the sake of argument, let us waive the first three and concentrate on the last one, apostolicity, for it is the main one. For, if Roman Catholicism is apostolic this will be the convincing argument.

The real and basic issue with Catholicism is authority, or, her concept of it. Her orders, sacraments, liturgies, etc., can all be substantiated if her position of authority is correct. She believes in the authority of the person, not in the authorization of the person. We shall classify her position on authority into two categories: as to place or source and as to kind.

As to place or source she believes in the authority of the church. These quotations accurately document that position. (1) "She alone represents Christ the Divine, infallible teacher, in conduct, belief and worship. She alone says to the world as 'Christ did: I am the way (conduct), the Truth (belief) and the life (worship)." Question Box, p. 95. (2) "She interprets it for us in the name and with the authority of Jesus Christ." Finding Christ's Church, p. 25. (3) "Without the living uniform tradition of the Church, essential elements in the picture of Christ would remain either enigmatical or hidden from me. And without it I could achieve neither an historical nor a religious sympathy with Jesus. Such is the meaning of that profound saying of St. Augustine: 'I would not believe the Gospel, did not the authority of Christ move me'." Spirit of Catholicism, p. 63. (4) "It is quite a different matter with the certainty of the believing Catholic. He is unconditionally bound to the teaching of the church, because he is penetrated with the certainty that in the teaching of the Church he hears the word of Christ." One and Holy.

But how does the Catholic Church teach? This brings us to the second category of her position of authority; the kind of authority. The kind of authority she believes in is "ecclesiastical." "To be a Catholic a man must have a generous loyalty towards ecclesiastical authority, and accept what is taught with what is called pietas fidei ..." Letters to the Duke of Norfolk, by Newman, as quoted in "The Church and Infallibility," Butler, p. 71.

Under ecclesiastical authority there may be two subheads: hierarchical and monarchical. The first word — hierarchal — means rule of bishops in a given locality. Christians are familiar with the word "local" as applied to the "oversight" of elders or bishops. We must be careful not to suppose that this is what the Catholics mean by it. For, such is not the case. Both the nature and scope of their rule is wrong. We shall deal with the nature of such a rule momentarily. As to scope of Bishops rule they mean authority over several churches in a given geographical district. By monarchical rule they mean the rule of the Pope — the supreme ruler — over the hierarchy or bishops.

The Christian understands, according to the Bible, that the rule of elders, or bishops, is purely in matters of judgment, not in matters of faith. And that they rule through leadership — not as "overlords" — by virtue of qualifications and selection. But to the Catholic ecclesiastical rule is "in the forum of the human conscience" and this rule is official. "With these words (Math. 18:18) Christ promised to his apostles full legislative, judicial and coactive authority or power to govern and to teach." (This quotation is taken from a written debate with the previously mentioned Jesuit priest.) And: "One cannot possibly bind or loose in the forum of the human conscience unless one possesses power to legislate, to judge, and to impose sanctions. If these powers were not included in the delegation of authority promised by Christ His words would be devoid of meaning." (Ibid) The next quotation shows exactly the Catholic concept of authority from the standpoint of its being official. "This follows as a necessary consequence from the fact that, according to Christ's promise, whatever obligations they decreed, judgments, they render, sanctions they impose will be ratified by God ('... shall be bound also in heaven ... shall be loosed also in heaven')." (Ibid)

The Catholic position as to monarchical authority is that Christ selected a vicar — representative — to rule over the church with all authority. And it could not have been otherwise. "Since He was all wise He could not leave the body of the Church He founded as a human society without a visible head." Encyclical letter of Pope Pius XII on "The Mystical Body of Christ," as quoted in Dunne's articles. The definition of such rule is seen in this quotation: "By monarchically constituted, I mean that over and above the authority exercised by the hierarchy in local churches there exists a center of authority with jurisdiction over the universal church." (Ibid)

Briefly stated, this is the Catholic position on authority: As to place, the Roman Catholic Church is the authority. As to kind, it is ecclesiastical rule. Ecclesiastical rule is the rule of bishops on the local level and the rule of the Pope on the universal level. The nature of such rule is to legislate laws, render judgments, impose sanctions which are binding in the realm of the human conscience, which laws, judgments and sanctions are afterwards ratified in heaven.

In the next article I shall show conclusively that such a concept of authority is unscriptural.