I thought you may still be a little confused by Catholics

Dear Sir,

I've read a lot of what you've written and I believe that you are very well educated. I thought you may still be a little confused by Catholics and I would like to help if possible.

First the sacraments we use are meant to strengthen our relationship with God, and remind us of him as often as possible.

The church doesn't discourage Bible reading at all. There are many prayer groups, and Bible study groups throughout our religious community.

We don't descriminate other religions and would never say that if you weren't Catholic you can't be in Heaven. Being saved completely depends on your relationship with God. No one knows who is saved and who isn't. If you are truly remorseful and sorry or your sins and believe Jesus died for your sins to save you, you can be in Heaven.

I admit that the church does too often put emphasis on what religion we are but does it really matter? We are all his children no matter what. He will except us always.

Catholics are usually very strong in their belief that the religion is God's truest because Peter was appointed head of His church on earth. Therefore giving Peter the responsibility. He created the bases for our church. Our church has been in existence for 2000 some years, I can't say all that time doesn't mean something. For anything to last so long and remain as solid as it has there has to be some substance in it. I hope I could have in some way helped.

My response is in Green:

Thank for taking the time to write me. I have been told before that I am confused or mistaken about what Catholics believe. I will tell you that I have made a point of trying to find out exactly what the Catholic Church believes. Notice I said the Catholic Church, not individual Catholics. See anyone in any religion may have views which are different than the church they attend, but the important point is what does the religion itself believe and teach.

I am sure you have heard of the three documents which address and ordain what the Catholic Church believes; the Council of Trent, Vatican I and Vatican II, but do you know what they say? If not then you may not truly know what your church believes. I do not want this to be Catholic bashing, I don't mean it that way, I only want to explain what the Catholic Church believes and tell you what my problem is with that doctrine. Now these three documents are very large and I am not going to try to go over all of them, in fact most of my material will come from the first one; the Council of Trent. Although the Council of Trent was held over 400 years ago this is still doctrine believed and taught by the Catholic Church.

You made several statements which I want to explore. First you said that the sacraments are meant to strengthen your relationship with God. I believe you made that statement to refute what I have said about the Catholic Church claiming that the sacraments are necessary for salvation. Let me explain briefly. You say I don't have to be a member of the Catholic Church to get to heaven, but if the Church claims that the sacraments are necessary for salvation and the sacraments by pure definition are only given by the Church, then you are wrong. So I would like to take a look and see.

All the quotes I have taken from the Council of Trent or Vatican I or Vatican II will be in black so that they can be easily identified. One last item before I start. In the Council of Trent, anytime the Church wanted to show that a person could not be a believer if they disagreed with a point of doctrine the words; 'let him be anathema' which is the same as saying let the person be cursed or damned or excommunicated. This is important because by saying this the Church is also saying this person is not going to heaven.

Fifth Session 17 June 1546 Decree Concerning Original Sin

...or if he denies that that merit of Jesus Christ is applied both to adults and to infants by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the Church, let him be anathema...

I used this quote only to show that the Church considers baptism a sacrament and it has to be administered by the Church. Also if I disagree that a child is saved by infant baptism I am anathema, which I do so I am...

Seventh Session 3 March 1547 Decree Concerning the Sacraments
Canons on the Sacraments in General

Can. 4. If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation but are superfluous, and that without them or without the desire of them men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification, though all are not necessary for each one, let him be anathema.

Notice is says that the sacraments are necessary for salvation. In your message to me you stated: Being saved completely depends on your relationship with God. No one knows who is saved and who isn't. If you are truly remorseful and sorry for your sins and believe Jesus died for your sins to save you, you can be in Heaven. Well your church denies that and even goes so far as to say that if you believe that you are anathema.

Canons of Baptism

Can. 5. If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema.

We have already seen that baptism is considered a sacrament and that it must be done by the Church, now we see that it is necessary for salvation and to even disagree brings a curse by the Church.

I think I have proven that the Catholic Church as stated in the Council of Trent indeed says that the sacraments are necessary for salvation. Another statement you made was: If you are truly remorseful and sorry for your sins and believe Jesus died for your sins to save you, you can be in Heaven. But again this is not what the Catholic Church believes.

Sixth Session 13 January 1547 Decree Concerning Justification
Chapter XVI Canons Concerning Justification

Can. 9. If anyone says that a sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.

Can. 24. If anyone says that the justice received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works, but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of its increase, let him be anathema.

Can. 30. If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.

Your statement which I quoted above makes it sound like you believe that all it takes to get to heaven is being remorseful for your sins and to believe that Jesus died for your sins, but as we see in the quote above that will get you anathema by your own Church. The Catholic Church does not believe that Jesus' death on the cross was full and complete payment for sins. They do not believe that God fully forgives a person unless that person in some way pays for his or her own sins. This is not a minor point, either Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice and was all that was needed or He was not. The Catholic Church says He was not.

What does the Bible say?

(Acts 15:9 NIV) He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.

(Acts 2:21 NIV) And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

(Acts 16:30-31 NIV) He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" {31} They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-- you and your household."

(Romans 10:9-13 NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. {10} For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. {11} As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." {12} For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, {13} for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

There are more passages I could quote but even one which says we are saved by faith or by believing should be enough to prove the point.

Seventh Session 3 March 1547 Decree Concerning the Sacraments
Canons of Baptism

Can. 5. If anyone says that baptism is optional, that is, not necessary for salvation, let him be anathema.

I have already quoted this one, but it applies here too. The Catholic Church adds the work of baptism to belief in Jesus Christ as necessary for salvation.

Fourteenth Session 25 November 1551 The Most Holy Sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction
Chapter VI The Minister of this Sacrament and Absolution

For faith without penance effects no remission of sins, and he would be most negligent of his salvation who, knowing that a priest absolved him jokingly, would not diligently seek another who would act earnestly.

Canons Concerning the Most Holy Sacrament of Penance

Can. 6. If anyone denies that sacramental confession was instituted by divine law or is necessary to salvation; or says that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always observed from the beginning and still observes, is at variance with the institution and command of Christ and is a human contrivance, let him be anathema.

Can. 12. If anyone says that God always pardons the whole penalty together with the guilt and that the satisfaction of penitents is nothing else then the faith by which they perceive that Christ has satisfied for them, let him be anathema.

Notice again that faith alone without penance (meaning paying for your own sins) effects no remission of sins according to the Council of Trent. We also see that the Church believes that confession is necessary for salvation and that the sacrament of confession that they believe is required is not just confession of our sins to God, but to a human Priest of the Catholic Church. Again the Church disagrees with what you said. We see that the Church does not believe that God fully pardons the sinner who comes to Him unless they do penance.

I won't quote the same passages of Scripture here that I did above but they all apply here also.

You made mention of Peter being made the head of the church 2,000 years ago. I disagree that Peter was made head of the church. The whole idea of Peter being made the leader of the church rests on one passages of Scripture: (Matthew 16:18 NIV) And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. So I want to look at whether this is what Jesus meant or not. I have quoted a lot of Scripture below, but this is too important an issue to take lightly. First I want to look at the reason the Catholic Church believes this. The name Peter means rock, so the assumption is made that when Jesus said upon this rock I will build my church, He was referring to Peter. That is what it might sound like to us, but what would it have sounded like to a Jew during the time of Jesus?

(Genesis 49:22-25 NIV) "Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall. {23} With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility. {24} But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, {25} because of your father's God, who helps you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and womb."

The Rock of Israel was who? God!

(Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NIV) I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! {4} He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

Again God is the Rock referred to here.

(Deuteronomy 32:15 NIV) Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior.

(Deuteronomy 32:18 NIV) You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.

(1 Samuel 2:2 NIV) "There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

Over and over we see God referred to as the Rock.

(2 Samuel 22:1-3 NIV) David sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. {2} He said: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; {3} my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior-- from violent men you save me.

(2 Samuel 22:32 NIV) For who is God besides the LORD? And who is the Rock except our God?

Who is the Rock except our God? Those around Jesus would have thought of God immediately when Jesus mentioned 'upon this rock' and you can see why when you read the Old Testament.

(2 Samuel 22:47 NIV) "The LORD lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God, the Rock, my Savior!"

(Psalms 19:14 NIV) May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

(Psalms 18:2 NIV) The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

(Psalms 19:14 NIV) May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

(Psalms 95:1 NIV) Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.

(Isaiah 26:4 NIV) Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

(Isaiah 30:29 NIV) And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the LORD, to the Rock of Israel.

(Isaiah 44:8 NIV) Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.

(Isaiah 51:1-2 NIV) "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn; {2} look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.

(Habakkuk 1:12 NIV) O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die. O LORD, you have appointed them to execute judgment; O Rock, you have ordained them to punish.

There are more but I wanted to make the point that this is not some obscure idea, rather it was a very common idea in Scripture.

(Romans 9:33 NIV) As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

Who is the rock referred to here? Christ!!

(1 Corinthians 10:2-4 NIV) They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. {3} They all ate the same spiritual food {4} and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

Talk about clear this last one flatly says that the rock was Christ. So you see when Jesus said (Matthew 16:18 NIV) And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. The disciples would have known He was talking about Himself.

Next I want to look at other Scripture to see what it says about the leader of the church (by church I mean the body of believers; all true believers not any one denomination or church).

(Ephesians 5:23 NIV) For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

We see that Jesus is the head of the church.

(Colossians 1:15-20 NIV) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. {16} For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. {17} He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. {18} And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. {19} For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, {20} and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (emphasis added)

In this passage too we see that Jesus Christ is the head of the body or in other words the leader of His church.

One last point. If Jesus made Peter head of the church and gave him the authority then why would Paul be willing to rebuke Peter in front of the other believers as we see in the following passage?

(Galatians 2:11-14 NIV) When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. {12} Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. {13} The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. {14} When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

Not that you would, but in case someone might try to tell me that you can't trust Paul's writings, let me remind you of what the Council of Trent said about the books of the Bible (in which they included the Apocrypha and which I disagree with, yet both us accept the book of Galatians):

Fourth Session 8 April 1546 Decree Concerning the Canonical Scriptures

If anyone does not accept as sacred and canonical the aforesaid books in their entirety and with all their parts, as they have been accustomed to be read in the Catholic Church and as they are contained in the old Latin Vulgate Edition, and knowingly and deliberately rejects the aforesaid traditions, let him be anathema.

My conclusion is that Peter was not the leader of the church, Jesus Christ, was and is the leader of the body of believers.

I am sorry this has gotten to be so long, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible. The differences between our two beliefs are major differences. Now I could agree with the statements you made, but unfortunately that is not what the Catholic Church believes.

Belief in Jesus Christ is the only important thing; not which church you are a member of, not whether or not you take or have ever taken the sacraments. (Romans 10:9-13 NIV) That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. {10} For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. {11} As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." {12} For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, {13} for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Ralph

Quotes from the Council of Trent taken from: H.J. Schroeder, translator, The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Tan Books)

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