Do Catholics Worship the Pope?

Recently I was reading on a Reformed Baptist Blog a piece entitled “From One Anti-Christ to Another, Thoughts on the Papal Transition,” in which the author, Pastor Meadows, asserted several things about the Catholic Church in order to create an elaborate case that the Pope is in fact an anti-Christ if not THE Anti-Christ. Most of the charges are familiar to me, and sort-of run of the mill anti-Catholic sentiments.

1. Accusation 1: The Catholic Church does not preach biblical justification, which should be “by grace alone, through faith alone.”  I really get tired of this one, because if you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church on Grace and Justification, you find out very quickly how entirely we as Catholics rely on God’s grace for everything! Even the acceptance of God’s offer of Salvation, the turning from Sin and turning to God is only possible and helped and initiated by God’s Grace. (I may have been a poorly catechized Reformed Baptist in my day, but this is actually how my RB teacher explained to me that God’s grace works in salvation, because at that time I did in fact wonder if even the act of choosing God could be seen as a work. And this same argument of the CCC is the one told to me to explain how we are saved without works at all.)

As for “Justification through Faith Alone,” this is the most tiring to me. Yes, the Bible says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2:8-9. The Catholic Church has no argument with that. In fact, if you continue on to verse 10, it says: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” So when you continue on reading about Grace and Justification in the CCC, you will see that the “good works” expressed in Catholic theology necessary in the work of Justification, it is not the works of us (done without God’s grace), but the works prepared for us in Christ Jesus. This is a very different concept, and you will find this same idea in the Council of Trent where it recalls from Scripture that Jesus Christ is the Vine and we are the branches – and then draws the conclusion that our “good works” are only possible because of the grace that flows through the Vine into the branches. This understanding of faith and works as being integral to our justification is not just a Catholic fabrication! It is more consistent with Scripture than that of the Reformed Baptists. And here’s why. They, and many other churches who splintered apart during the reformation, insist on “Justification by faith alone.” How does that jive with James 2:22-26 “See how faith worked with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.  You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (emphasis mine)
The Bible specifically says “Not by faith only” or in some translations, “not by faith alone.” In fact, in James, the famous example he is discussing with regard to Abraham is not just that he believed God, but that he obeyed God in taking his only son to be a sacrifice to the Lord. This is the point at which his faith was demonstrated and “imputed unto him for righteousness.”
For some of us Catholics, it is no secret that Martin Luther, who first coined the term sola fide, did not like the book of James. It threatened his theology! Here is what he said:
“In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works. It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac; though in Romans 4 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15. Now although this epistle might be helped and an interpretation devised for this justification by works, it cannot be defended in its application to works of Moses’ statement in Genesis 15. For Moses is speaking here only of Abraham’s faith, and not of his works, as St. Paul demonstrates in Romans 4. This fault, therefore, proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.”

In an approach to faith where you rely solely on Scripture, is it then permissible to ignore Scriptures that go against what you want to believe? Or should we take in the whole of Scripture? Does Scripture contradict itself? Absolutely not!
Thus, the Catholic understanding of works done in grace as being meritorious are only because in fact, they are Christ’s works in us, and therefore Christ’s merit worked in us.
So, setting aside the accusation that the Catholic Church’s conception of justification is not Scriptural, we can move on. And if you would like further reading on this topic, I suggest:

Accusation 2: Murder of True Christians and teaching Demonic doctrines. These “demonic doctrines” are said to be the “forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats.”
First, I’ll mention the accusation of “Murder of True Christians”. Wrapped up in this accusation is the assumption that the Church, bent on undermining God’s truth, murdered those who would speak Truth. As I noted before in my discussion with Pastor Meadows, it would be difficult to separate the political from the religious motivations for such executions. Just as an example, we can consider the protestant reformation in England. It is a shame that so many protestants were killed. It is also a shame that so many Catholics were killed. Most of these executions took place by a protestant or Catholic ruler who accused the victims of heresy and used their political power to snuff out rebellion. Yes, they often claimed purely religious reasons, but let’s be honest: political motivation was probably an even larger motivation for kings. Take for instance Henry the VIII’s execution of St. Thomas More because he would not renounce the Catholic Church and go against his conscience to approve the king’s desire to seek divorce against his wife. But I would suppose, even more than More’s refusal to pad King Henry’s conscience with his approval, King Henry was bent on his execution because More was first loyal to the Church, then to the King. That threatened him politically. There is plenty of guilt to be handed out on both sides of this accusation, and I submit, just for your perusal, a list of the martyrs of the Catholic faith at the hands of protestants.
I am not belittling how sad and shameful these murders were, but merely pointing out that the reformation is not clear of such crimes either, and that it does not prove that the Pope is the Anti-Christ.
Secondly, the “demonic doctrines” of “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats.” Did we as Catholics somehow miss this verse, and decide it did not matter? Or is the Catholic practice of celibacy for priests and religious and abstaining from meats on certain days something different than the verse condemns?

Here, for the sake of brevity (of which I realize I possess little), I will send you to another source.
This short explanation demonstrates that the condemnation was actually on groups like the Gnostics who did in fact forbid all members from marriage and forced abstinence from meat. This is quite different from the Catholic practices, which you will see here are actually fully supported in Scripture.
For more about the gnostics:
Also, this following link gives a list of verses regarding specifically the church’s practice of celibacy:

Accusation 3Since Catholics do not teach a Biblical Justification, the Curse from Gal. 1:8-9 applies to it. If you disagree, then this does not necessarily follow. As we’ve seen from point #1, Catholics in fact do have a Biblical understanding of Justification. Whether it fits into the RBC version, well, we already know that it doesn’t because they are still bent on saying “Justification by faith alone” which as we have already seen is clearly contrary to Scripture.

(Not to mention that they deny the teaching of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist [John 6], consider the practice of celibacy to be a “demonic doctrine” which goes against what Jesus said in Matthew 19:11-12 and what St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 7  [are Jesus and St. Paul guilty of “demonic doctrines?”], and they cast off the head of Christ’s Church that He Himself placed in power and gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven [Matthew 16]…this whole protestant “version” of the gospel seems quite different from what we see in the Scriptures.)

Wait a second! Could that possibly mean that this curse:

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Gal 1.8-9).

actually applies to those who preach sola fide? Hmmm. I won’t presume to judge that myself. I’ll leave it to the successor of St. Peter, who holds the keys of the kingdom.

But one should definitely consider this question seriously!

Accusation 4: That somehow the historic hate of Protestants towards Catholics proves their point that the Catholic Church is a false church? 
Hmmm…and does the hate of a rebellious child to his parents somehow justify him in condemning them?

I agree. Protestants have always propagated a hatred for the Catholic Church. And this hatred is often based upon fabrications of half-truths or complete lies. If you want to get an idea of what kinds of things I’m talking about, I mean these common accusations:
– Catholics believe that they can earn salvation through their own good works
– Catholics worship Mary and the Saints
– Catholics are not allowed to read the Bible
– Catholics believe that if you’re not good enough, you can get a second chance at heaven through Purgatory.

I’ve encountered these things (even believed them myself at one time!) many times, and these claims are rooted in the protestant deception. You can find plenty of answers to these accusations out there. It’s easy enough to discover that none of them are true. Thank God for the internet!

Why is the Protestant Reformation so bent on maligning the Catholic Church? Well, the Catholic Church claims to be the one true Church, that Church founded by Jesus Christ, that Church which holds the “Keys to the kingdom” of heaven. So, if this church isn’t evil or corrupt to the core, it’s very possible that they are existing illegitimately as churches outside of that Church that Jesus founded. I posit this as a counter-argument to Pastor Meadows’, which is that such hatred is actually proving that the church is evil.

Accusation 5: Because we call the Pope “Father”, “Holy Father”, “Vicar of Christ”, etc. we have essentially cast off Christ as the head of the Church and have put in his place a usurper. Thus the Pope IS in fact the Anti-Christ.

Part of the objection here is that we should “call no man father.” – This article gives a fair treatment of that question, and in all honesty, that one bores me.

“Vicar” as Pastor Meadows asserts, is tantamount to saying that the Pope is the “Substitute” for Christ. Or rather that the Pope somehow replaces Christ with himself at the head of the Church. First of all, the Pope didn’t place himself there at the head of the Church. As St. Francis de Sales says in The Catholic Controversy, had anyone other than Christ placed Peter as head of the Church, he would protest along with the rest of the objectors. But if Jesus Christ placed him there, who are we to wrest that away from him? Secondly, just because Jesus placed him there does not mean that Jesus is not the Ultimate Head of the Church.

Let me here quote from St. Francis de Sales’ The Catholic Controversy (which is, by the way, an invaluable resource if you are pondering these questions and would like to see the true Catholic defense against the charges of Calvinists, specifically. He was a missionary to the Calvinists in the Chablais region of France, south of Geneva, whose population of about 72,000 was almost entirely made up of Calvinists. Because they would not listen to him preaching, he wrote tracts to reach them, and by the end of his four years among them had brought almost ALL 72,000 back to the ancient Catholic faith. The tracts have been gathered into a book titled The Catholic Controversy.):

 “Our Lord then is foundation and S. Peter is also, but with so notable a difference that in respect of the one the other may be said not to be it. For Our Lord is foundation and founder, foundation with-out other foundation, foundation of the natural, Mosaic, and Evangelic Church, foundation perpetual and immortal, foundation of the militant and triumphant, foundation by his own nature, foundation of our faith, hope, charity, and of the efficacy of the Sacraments.

“S. Peter is foundation, not founder, of the whole Church; foundation but founded on another foundation, which is Our Lord; foundation of the Evangelic Church alone, foundation subject to succession, foundation of the militant not of the triumphant, foundation by participation, ministerial not absolute foundation; in fine, administrator and not lord, and in no way the foundation of our faith, hope and charity, nor of the efficacy of the Sacraments. A difference so great as this makes the one unable, in comparison, to be called a foundation by the side of the other, whilst, however, taken by itself, it can be called a foundation, in order to pay proper regard to the Holy Word. So, although He is the Good Shepherd, he gives us shepherds [Eph. 4.11) under Himself, between whom and His Majesty there is so great a difference that He declares Himself to be the only shepherd [John 10.11].” (246-7)

Even in all of our signs of honor for the Pope, he is not above or even equal to Jesus Christ. We respect his office not because he claimed it for himself, but because Jesus instituted this office in authority over His Church, and placed Peter there as the first Apostle, as the head of the Church here on earth.

How, then, could Saint Peter and his succession be usurpers if Jesus Christ placed Peter in this position with regard to His Church? Could we then accuse Jesus Christ of placing an anti-Christ in a place of power over His Church?  St. Francis’ section on the Papacy continues for 70+ pages chock full of Scriptural evidence of Peter’s status in the Church. He is the primary representative of Jesus Christ on earth.

Taking purely the definition of the Pope’s role as Vicar of Christ is perhaps damning if you take into account the definition of “anti-Christ” that Pastor Meadows quotes from protestant scholar, Turretin:

“The term Antichrist implies two meanings: (1) That he is an Enemy and Rival of Christ; (2) That he is His Vicar. The definition of the prefix anti, indeed, introduces both, which, when used in conjunction with a noun, means, on the one hand, before, and on the other hand, against. It can also mean in place of, and, indeed, a substitute. . . . In this regard, the Antichrist certainly presents himself as the great adversary of Christ, in so far as he makes himself equal to Christ as a rival, while professing to hold the place of Christ on earth, as His Vicar.[7]”

This definition, in a sense, defies refutation. I mean – the anti-Christ is one who both places himself as an equal and rival to Christ (I assume this is meant secretly) while also representing himself to be the one holding the place of Christ on earth, as His Vicar? So even a valid “Vicar” could easily be accused of this title, and would have no defense since the first part is a secret motive which cannot be proved about him. But by this same standard, such an accusation can also not be confirmed. But, in all arguments, the burden of proof always lies with the one making the claim, not with those denying it.

Or as Pastor Meadows says in the comments section of this post, he would not expect Catholics to own up to Pope-worship…that would undermine the second part of the definition. Interesting. I’m not sure if this means that as Catholics we are all “dupes” as Pastor Meadows says, because we believe the Pope is truly the Vicar of Christ, in some grand cover-up since the very beginning of the Church, or if we are somehow all players, participating in some great conspiracy against the Christian world. (Hence, probably why he calls the Church “Satanic.”)

The best response I can give to this is that 1) this definition says that the anti-Christ presents himself in this way, or makes himself, and 2) is that we do see in Scripture that Jesus Himself places Peter  in this role, and if you believe that, then you know that he (Peter) could not possibly be an anti-Christ since God can neither deceive nor be deceived. Why would Jesus set up an Anti-Christ in His own Church?

On the other hand, if you question that Peter was the first among the Apostles, and that in Scripture there is a clear standard set for Apostolic Succession, then I suppose you have good reason to wonder if he is an anti-Christ.

Since this is such a serious matter, I suggest that you check this out:

Even if you argue that Peter is not the “rock” on which Jesus is building his Church (which seems a weaker and weaker argument), whatever does he mean by giving Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and telling him that whatever he binds on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever he looses on earth will be loosed in heaven? These are powerful statements about Peter that I have not ever heard a satisfactory response to from the RBC or any protestant. They have to strip Jesus’ words of their meaning, or they would have to admit that there is something very special here about the status of Peter in the Church.

Accusation 6: Catholics have, indeed elevated the Pope to the status of God.
Since he has “proved” all his other points, Pastor Meadows would like to take it one step further and make the claim that we actually worship the Pope as God, putting the final nails in the coffin of his case against the Catholic Church. This is a new one for me. I have never actually been accused of Pope-worship before.

Here for his proofs, he quotes from some Puritan sources, which I can tell for certain from one text, and is quite possible from the other that these are not, in fact the words of the Church being cited in these texts (either Pastor Meadows has refrained from giving us the section cited or the Puritans themselves, in their work, failed to report it word for word). These portions actually appear to be Puritan commentary on the Church originals.

That being the case, I have seen in other cases (especially regarding the Unam Sanctam) where a protestant “re-telling” of what the document said is actually quite heretical and differs in some crucial points from the original. While Pastor Meadows is happy to trust these sources with their versions of the documents, I am not. As those who historically have not attempted much honesty in their reports about Church teachings and practices, and who also by Pastor Meadows’ admission have always hated the Church, I don’t think their “versions” will be accurate.

Advancing into absurdity:

As such, perhaps pride got the better of me, and I challenged Pastor Meadows to find even one instance where the Church proclaimed the Pope to be “Lord and God” as he stated in his post. He took me up on it and posted this link for my perusal:
After reading through it in it’s entirety, here is what I can summarize: there was a papal document that was published with a gloss (commentary). In the earliest versions, and several of the reproductions of this document there is a consistent referral to the pope as “our Lord the Pope.” However, some later re-printings had the wording “our Lord god the Pope.” This wording was found, as the writer of the article admits, not in the authoritative papal statement, but rather in the commentary. So far as I know from my vigilant internet scouring, there is no other instance of this.

Now, according to this website, the Catholic response to this was that it must have been a scribal error. Catholics will admit that this is very odd. This website (a protestant source) would have us believe that rather than being a scribal error, it was in fact some sort of slip of the tongue betraying our “TRUE feelings.”

In favor of the scribal error response: because in the life of the church we are constantly using the phrase “Our Lord God” not in reference to the Pope, but in reference to God, it is quite possible that a scribe, in attempting to write “Our Lord the Pope” accidentally wrote, “Our Lord God the Pope.” The other difficulty I have here, is that this is something that is not authoritative. So saying that something should be made of this, which Catholics themselves admit to be an irregularity, seems a bit foolish. I have heard protestants, in Bible study, insist that to avoid a “Catholic” interpretation of a passage, are fully willing to embrace Arianism. Does this mean that they have slipped up and the whole of Protestantism is therefore corrupt because someone leading a study insisted on this heresy?

Even if it is not a scribal error, which according to the website poster (protestant) is not possible, this person seems to be making a mountain out of a mole-hill – pretending that somehow a commentary of which there are multiple copies to be found, proves that Catholics worship the Pope rather than that it is what it is: some weird aberration from the rest of Catholic teaching.

Further down on this site, beyond the “Our Lord God the Pope” documents, the writer also seems to try to make a great proof against the church by posting John Foxe’s “version” of the Unam Sanctam (which has since been promulgated throughout the internet by anti-Catholics) claiming it to actually be the verbiage of the Unam Sanctam (this is the kind of sketchy “reporting” I’m talking about, people!)

Wrapping it up:
In a few final jabs, Pastor Meadows suggests that we as Catholics have all been “duped” into following a string of anti-Christs. Can I just ask this: if the Catholic world does not regard the pope as anything other than a man holding an office that Christ himself instituted in the Scripture, wouldn’t it be the Pope who is then the “dupe?” If he is hoping to be worshiped and regarded as a God, he’s apparently doing a very bad job of it! If he has set himself up as a rival to Christ, even secretly, then why does he always point us back to Christ in everything?

He also said that if we as Catholics will hold to CCC #882, that we are then admitting that we have placed the Pope as an idol, rather than worship Christ….I fail to see that. Probably because 1) it doesn’t say that, and 2) CCC #871-882 make it very clear that any authority the Pope has he receives from Christ. I’ve already demonstrated this with St. Francis above, and the Catechism is in full agreement with this. So, no, believing #882 does not make one worship the Pope. Perhaps Pastor Meadows, who has “studied the Catholic Church” for “many years” should have his reading comprehension checked. I hate to say it, but I repeat Pastor Meadow’s words back to himself:

“Even when irrefutable evidence is simply and plainly held up before your very eyes, you will not acknowledge the truth. “None so blind as those that will not see.” Grace alone enlightened me, and I pray the same blessing for you.”

I do not have a great animosity for Pastor Meadows or the RBC – I grew up in those churches. And while my discovery of the Catholic Church made me realize that I had been deceived on so many counts, I do not fault my pastor or Pastor Meadows individually. I fault the entirety of the anti-Catholic tradition.

“It is impossible to be just to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it. But when that affection has passed a certain point it begins to take on the tragic and menacing grandeur of a great love affair.”

— G.K. Chesterton



  1. I saw your comments on the first website. Good work. Thanks for your efforts .

  2. Thanks Sean. It’s my hope and prayer to one day have open dialogue with Reformed Baptists about the Catholic Church. My own experience (though I know it is only my own) is that once you reveal the old lies of anti-Catholicism, they would rather drop the argument than really try to seek out the truth through dialogue. My own pastor was either not equipped or not interested in wrestling with the scriptural defense of the Catholic Church. I would hope that on a website frequented by many RB pastors, there would be one willing to engage, but it seems that time and time again what I suspect is proven true: that without their lies, the argument against the Catholic Church has no legs to stand on. By my own admission, I have not reached the same levels of education that these men have, but a great education doesn’t do a lot of good if you are not willing to humbly seek out Truth, and I have enough education to know that.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: