By Richard Bennett
In face of the alleged catastrophic effects of global warming, Pope Francis has called the nations of the world to an ethical and economic revolution. The Vatican insists that the destruction of the world’s ecosystem calls for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert an unprecedented destruction of the planet before the end of the century. This is just a recent example of the continual onslaught of orders concerning temporal things that the Vatican gives to its faithful and also to the people of the world.
Whether on television, radio, Internet news sites, or YouTube videos, Pope Francis is presented as the likeable hero of the day. What most people do not adequately assess is the platform from which Francis speaks. Without the papal stage, Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina would be unknown to most people in the world. The papal system stands unrivalled as a monolithic, institutional, religious global system, yet it appears friendly and inviting. The Papacy has immense wealth, worldwide outreach, and dictates its faith to millions.[i] As one of the largest organizations on earth, it shows superb skill in promoting its primary agenda through many diverse endeavors.
However, the papal system is first and foremost an elitist bureaucratic machine. It is so powerful that even the Pope himself must conform to its rule or face the consequences. An example of this is the murder of Pope John Paul I (Albino Luciani) in September 1978, only thirty-three days after his election.[ii] At that time the Catholic news service, Zenit, reported that Cardinal Ratzinger said, “his death was totally unexpected. John Paul I seemed to enjoy good health.” Ratzinger would also have known of the abnormal deaths of other popes. For example, the number of murdered popes include Stephen VII (896–897) strangled; Stephen IX (939–942) mutilated; John XII (955–964) murdered; Benedict VI (973–974) strangled; John XIV (983–984) starved to death; Gregory V (996–999) poisoned; Clement II (1046–1047) poisoned; Damasus II (1048) murdered, and Pope Pius XI (1939) alleged assassination. Later, in 2013, Ratzinger, then Pope Benedict XVI, appeared to have been forced to resign.
An Overview of the History of the Papal System
By the fourth and fifth centuries, when the great persecutions against Christians were over and Constantine had made Christianity the religion of the Imperial Roman Empire, the Gospel had been watered down to accommodate pagan practices and Gnostic speculations. The true worship of God and the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit had been gradually replaced by a spirit of worldliness. Pagan cultic practices were assimilated into what was called the Church, which was becoming merely an externalized ritualistic form of Christianity alien to Scripture and devoid of authentic spiritual life and experience. The history of the Vaudois, the Paulician churches, and later the Waldenses, shows that what was called “Church” was more and more separating itself from true biblical faith. As such, it was becoming a vicious persecutor of any who stood for the truth revealed in the New Testament.
From the beginning of New Testament times, the Gospel had produced an internal unity among the believers; however, the substitution of ritualism for the Gospel produced merely an external, visible unity for an institutionalized system. The fallacious clergy-laity division spawned an emergent priestly-episcopal authoritarian order of parochial dominion. This further devolved into an established hierarchy of ruling clergy lording it over the flock of God. By the end of the fifth century, these so-called “priests” presumed to mediate between God and man. These men had replaced the early pastors of the Gospel who had simply taught the Scripture. The Church no longer was the fellowship of believers in Christ Jesus united by the Gospel; rather, for the most part, it was rapidly becoming a system dominated by a hierarchy of bishops and elders.[iii]
The rise to power of this developing religious system was made possible by several major factors in the sphere of civil rule. In 330 A.D, the Emperor Constantine removed the seat of the Imperial Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople. The power vacuum left by this move opened a foothold whereby the developing religious system could be positioned to attain a greater grasp on civil power. Second, the barbarian invasions of the Western Roman Empire created overwhelming chaos, particularly within Rome itself. Not letting these crises go to waste, enterprising religious men used them to build step by step the emerging structure of what would become the papal system of the Holy Roman Empire.
Further, through religious assimilation of the barbarians, the bishop of Rome increasingly cemented his place as a primary unifying force that held a corrupt and shattered society together. Thus, from the decaying, confused ruin of the Western Imperial Empire, the Vatican system emerged triumphant and began to appropriate to itself the prerogatives of the Caesars. In addition, it asserted itself as possessing political authority above all rulers, prime ministers, and kings of the world and, as the main spiritual authority, subject to none of them. This was one of the primary battles throughout the centuries of the Holy Roman Empire. Although the Reformation of the sixteenth century eventually divested the Vatican of its status in the civil arena, to this day the Vatican has never given up its desire to rule the world, spiritually and temporally.
Beginning in the fifth century, continuing through several successive centuries, as new tribes of barbarians desired to become Christian, the papal system received these new peoples as they were, unconverted. Because the true gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone had been abandoned by the evermore worldly religious system, there was no call to repent and believe. The papal system simply baptized the people from these barbaric tribes into what was called the Church and their names were inscribed in its registers. This is in total contrast to the Scripture, in which there is an absolute connection between the Holy Spirit and the Word of God — not between physical water and grace. Coming to new birth, as seen in the New Testament, is by the Holy Spirit through the instrument of God’s Word. Thus, the I Peter 1:23 proclaims, “being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” Nonetheless, the papal teaching of alleged rebirth by water baptism, which started in those early centuries, still continues in the system to the present day. The current papal Code of Canon Law, Canon 849 states,
“Baptism, the gate to the sacraments, necessary for salvation by actual reception or at least by desire, is validly conferred only by a washing of true water with the proper form of words. Through [water] baptism men and women are freed from sin, are reborn as children of God, and, configured to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated in the [Roman Catholic] Church.”
Thus at least by the fifth century, men called priests presumed to mediate between God and men.
However, in Scripture, before the All Holy God, an individual is saved by God’s grace alone. Scripture is crystal clear in Ephesians 2:8-9, “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.” Ephesians 2:7 states that it is in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus that God shows the riches of His grace, “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” That He alone saves is the whole meaning of divine grace.
Attempting to imitate saving grace from the late fifth century, the papal system began to claim that its sacraments were necessary for salvation. It took many centuries for this sacramental system to be fully developed into seven sacraments; as we see today, its official teaching states the following, “The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation.”[iv] This is the guiding policy of the papal system. Thus, on Sunday, May 3, 2015, Pope Francis strictly obeyed the Vatican’s guiding policy regarding the sacraments. He said,
“Jesus is the vine, and through Him … we are the branches, and through this parable, Jesus wants us to understand the importance of remaining united to him. Grafted by Baptism in Christ, we have freely received from Him the gift of new life; and we are able to remain in vital communion with Christ. We must remain faithful to Baptism, and grow in friendship with the Lord through prayer, listening and docility to His Word, reading the Gospel, participation in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation….”[v]
Establishing the System with the Pope as Actual Head
Emperor Justinian I (527-565) was the primary person who established the bishop of Rome as head of the religious system. He did it in a formal and legal manner by bringing purely ecclesiastical edicts and regulations under the control of civil law. The historian Le Roy Edwin Froom summarized what took place,
“Justinian’s third great achievement was the regulation of ecclesiastical and theological matters, crowned by the imperial Decretal Letter seating the bishop of Rome in the church as the ‘Head of all the holy churches,’ thus laying the legal foundation for papal ecclesiastical supremacy.”[vi]
Emperor Justinian’s decree did not create the office of the Pope. Rather it set the legal foundation for advancement in ruling power by the bishop of Rome. The Emperor wished to allay the demise of the empire; thus, ecclesiastical unity was imposed. Consequently, the bishop of Rome became the head of the Empire’s church. Formerly, ecclesiastical unity came by the moral persuasion of the Gospel and the Scripture to save individuals who then would be salt and light to their civil societies. Thus, it was in the eighth century that civil power came within the grasp of the Papacy. As the power of the “system” grew, so did the immorality of the lives of both those who led the system and those who were under its control.
Immorality Followed by Ecclesiastical Murder and Torture
The year 1073 was a turning point from the centuries of gross immorality. Rigorous discipline now became the norm of the Papacy. In addition to the lusts of the flesh, papal minds continued to lust for total dominion, both ecclesiastical and civil. By this time, the line of Charlemagne had grown too weak to keep papal ambitions in check, and Pope Gregory VII (also known as Hildebrand) was ambitious beyond all who had preceded him. He was convinced that the reign of the Pope was in fact the reign of God on earth and determined to subject all authority and power, both spiritual and temporal, to the “chair of Peter.” It was Gregory VII who envisioned what was to become the vast structure of the papal system. His goal was to be the supreme ruler and judge of all leaders, both Church and State. What Gregory so astutely grasped was the notion that to be dominant over the temporal realm, the Papacy needed to claim to be God. This notion, powered by his crushing ambition and coupled with the enormous wealth that the Roman Catholic Church by then possessed, made its implementation possible.
These shrewd enactments began to bear fruit even during Gregory’s own rule (1073-1085). Popes Innocent III (1198-1216) and Boniface VIII (1294-1303) put the final touches to the papal system’s spiritual and temporal power. Pope Innocent III proclaimed a crusade against the Albigenses and offered to all who would engage in it the pardon of all sins to get to heaven without passing through purgatory. It was a war perpetrated with unimaginable cruelty. Whole villages and towns were indiscriminately butchered; thousands were burned at the stake, while others were subjected to the most hideous torture. The history of these horrendous deeds of cruelty and murder are established by numerous accounts. Pope Boniface VIII “was stubborn, ambitious, intelligent, vain, and unscrupulous. He believed deeply that the Pope was literally the Vicar of Christ on Earth and that he held extraordinary powers. Anyone who opposed him opposed God and therefore must certainly be wicked.”[vii] He is well-known for a statement in his papal bull Unum Sanctum, “We declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.”[viii]
Seventy-five popes, one after another, from Pope Innocent III to Pope Pius VII, approved of torture, murder, and burning at the stake, and the confiscation of the property of believers in the horrific six centuries of the Inquisition.[ix] The Papacy inflicted excruciating torture and cruel death on true believers.
The Glorious Reformation and the Malevolent Counter Reformation
The Reformation in the sixteenth century greatly restored the biblical faith that had been proclaimed by the Apostles. Not only was biblical faith restored, but right across Europe the papal system was devastated. The men of the Reformation were such as Luther at Wittenberg; Erasmus, and Colet at Oxford; Bilney, Latimer, and Cartwright at Cambridge; and Lefevre and Farel at Paris. These leaders of the Reformation were highly trained men of that generation.
The Reformation was a glorious spiritual awakening. The primary response of the Roman Catholic system to the biblical faith of the Reformers was the Counter-Reformation. It was advanced principally through the political and educational influence of the Jesuit Order. The Jesuits, in an uncompromising and militant manner, led a movement to restore the Roman Catholic system to the position it had had before the Reformation. The Jesuits’ intention, then and now, is to indoctrinate populations. Populations that are not grounded in the Bible are notoriously superstitious and servile to the motions of sentimental religion and mysticism. Because they do not have any sure knowledge of God through Jesus Christ and His written Word, Jesuit mysticism has a great appeal for them. To such people adrift in spiritual darkness, the Roman Catholic system offers both the spiritual authority of the Pope, his visible rituals, and effective psychological conditioning.
By the mid-seventeenth century, the Jesuit Order had thousands of members across Europe. Their mission, then and now, has been to undermine confidence in the Bible as the Word of God and to extirpate the effects of the Reformation. Over the next few centuries, they became the Papacy’s most powerful force to subvert Western culture from Christian-biblical principles and liberties. The Jesuits have had a strong political influence with Catholic monarchies across Europe. They have led the main Counter-Reformation efforts for four centuries by upholding papal authority, restoring the sacramental system, and promulgating a compelling version of Roman mysticism and superstitions to many nations that had been touched by the biblical principles of the Reformation. Much of what papal Rome has achieved since the Reformation, and in modern times, has been due to the planning, strategy, and fanatical dedication of the Jesuits.
The Papacy Promotes Its Own Cultural System
The concept of “the common good” is an integral part of the Catholic social doctrine. They define “the common good” as follows,
“The common good does not consist in the simple sum of the particular goods of each subject of a social entity. Belonging to everyone and to each person, it is and remains ‘common,’ because it is indivisible and because only together is it possible to attain it, increase it and safeguard its effectiveness…The common good, in fact, can be understood as the social and community dimension of the moral good.”[x]
Implicit in this statement is the idea that all property, wealth, and goods are never fully privately owned. Elsewhere, it is officially stated that private property and all goods are always subject to regulation so that “the common good” will be the foremost beneficiary.[xi] Further, their present Catechism declares,
“It is the role of the state to defend and promote the common good of civil society. The common good of the whole human family calls for an organization of society on the international level.”[xii]
By aligning itself with current socialist trends, the system hopes to gain an increasing position of relevance in secular political, economic, and social circles. Catholic social doctrine aims at a Marxist-type collectivism in which each person has an equal portion of “the common good” based on his so-called claimed human dignity and rights. Such a concept teaches people to depend on civil government rather than taking responsibility for their own lives and choices, as the Bible requires. Nowhere does the Bible call on believers to depend on government for their livelihood, but rather they are to look to God who will provide for His own.[xiii] If, however, the Bible can be made to be irrelevant[xiv] and the Gospel perverted, then the Catholic Church will once again have an opportunity to become the international moral authority that it now claims to be in primarily Catholic nations.
In Conclusion, the Lesson to be Learned
The papal system arose under the Imperial Roman Empire and survived the Empire’s demise. In 537 A.D., Justinian gave the legal base for it to acquire civil power, which it did throughout the course of the next ten centuries. Its temporal power was arrested by the recovery of the Bible and the Gospel during the Reformation of the sixteenth century. It was held at bay by the Puritans of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Nevertheless, it survived the demise of the Holy Roman Empire to become a “sovereign nation” in the 20th century and now set to continue as a major power player in the present century. Pope Francis is currently the visible head of the Roman church, but the papal system is still the power behind the throne. The papal system is nothing less than the satanic counterfeit of the true Christian Church; indeed, it is the “mystery of iniquity.”[xv] The outcome over the centuries has been the system’s “deceivableness of unrighteousness.” Such apostasy is marked by hypocrisy and deceit. The apostate papal system, while outwardly striving to appear righteous and holy, is aimed at deceiving even the very elect, were that possible.
The true Church is one of the great mysteries revealed by God, which had its full manifestation in the New Testament as the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.[xvi] True Christianity is focused on the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ and not on a political and ecclesiastical system.[xvii]
As we behold the power, wisdom, and goodness of the heavenly Father, we also behold the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ; for as the Mediator, He has the nature and perfections of God in Himself. The Lord Jesus Christ alone reconciles us to God by the full, legal satisfaction for our sin made by His substitutionary death on the cross.
There is absolutely no church system that can redeem a soul by ritualized, sacramentalized actions, or by any other means. Nor can we justify ourselves before God by religious works, which are always stained by imperfect performance and tainted by self-focused motives. A soul will have no peace with God while striving to save itself by any means that God does not accept. It is only the Lord Jesus Christ’s atoning work of shedding His blood on our behalf that meets the demands of an All Holy God and His perfect law; i.e., it is by simply trusting upon Christ as the Lamb of God that we are saved. By believing on Him, we are delivered from the universal penalty of the second death and have assurance before God that we are accepted in Him.[xviii] There is no other way of salvation that God the Holy Spirit testifies as being validated by Him to the consciences of men.[xix] “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Thus, His Word expresses it, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.”[xx] Ultimately it is the glorious person of the Lord Jesus Christ who is revealed and gives life and salvation. In total contrast, the papal system that promises life and salvation, factually delivers servitude rituals and immorality, and finally death and damnation.
Were it not for the recovery of the absolute authority of the Bible alone, and the Gospel of grace in salvation during the Reformation of the sixteenth century, the papal system might still be undetected. In spite of the papal system being so rampantly displayed in the world today, the Holy Spirit still convicts individuals of their sin before Holy God, and sends them repentance unto life in Christ Jesus. “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”[xxi]
Richard Bennett, a former Roman Catholic priest is the founder of “Berean Beacon”. You can learn more about him and the Catholic religion at www.bereanbeacon.org.
[i] The papal system rules more than one billion Roman Catholics worldwide.
[ii] Vid David Yallop, In God’s Name: An Investigation Into the Murder of Pope John Paul I (Bantam Books, 1984)
[iii] Vid J. A. Wylie, The History of Protestantism, Vol. I, Book I, pp. 3-14. See also D’Aubigne, Book I, pp.1-34. Historian William Gilly shows that in the early fifth century, Vigilantius, a native of Acquitain, stood firmly against the developing clerical system.
[iv] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para 1129 (Italics in original)
[v] www.missionsandiego.org/pope-francis-bear-the-fruits-of-membership-in-christ-and-the-church-regina-caeli-messsage-may-3-2015/ (Bolding of the names of the sacraments is not in the original.)
[vi] Le Roy Edwin Froom, The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Vol. I, p. 507.
[viii] Henry Denzinger, The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Revised by Karl Rahner, B. Herder Book Co., 1957), #469.
[ix] See the video The Inquisition at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx8PdvOELvY
[x] Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_doc_20060526_compendio-dott-soc_en Sect. 164
[xi] Compendium, Sect. 177, 178
[xii] Catechism, Para. 1927
[xiii] Matthew 6:31-32
[xiv] This agenda has been taught ubiquitously in Western colleges and universities at least since the 1960’s.
[xv] II Thessalonians 2:7 b. This particular lawlessness arose gradually within the papal system as the Imperial Roman Empire gave way to what became the Holy Roman Empire.
[xvi] The term mystery means that something that is now revealed has been hidden from ages past. One of the great mysteries that God reveals in the New Testament is the mystery of the church. This is a new thing: the church is made up of Jew and Gentile, one in Jesus Christ.
[xvii] I Corinthians 12:27 “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
[xviii] Ephesians 1:3-7
[xix] Romans 5:1
[xx] Psalm 73:25
[xxi] Luke 24:46-47; Acts 5:31