Clerical Celibacy: Its Root and Fruit

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On July 26, 2013, as Pope Francis was riding in his motorcades through Rio de Janerio, Brazil, a boy, Nathan de Brito broke past the barriers and went to the pope, whispering into his ears:

Your holiness, I want to be a priest of Christ, a representative of Christ.”

The Pope burst into tears and said to Nathan, “I am going to pray for you but I ask that you pray for me.” The video trended, and it brought tears to the eyes of passionate Catholics.

I wonder how many times the boy had to rehearse this before he heard the count: One… Two…Three…action! The timing and location had to be right too, with a lot of cameras around. I love good drama, don’t you?

Without being distracted by the emotional tryst, Nathan de Brito did raise a serious point: the priest represents Jesus to the Catholic. The same belief was echoed by “mother” Teresa:

“When the Priest is there, then we can have our altar and our tabernacle and our Jesus. Only the Priest puts Jesus there for us… This is why I love Priests so much” (Speech at a Retreat for Priest Worldwide, October 1984).

There you have it. Without the Catholic Priest, there can be no Catholic Jesus.

One of the things that gives priests this exalted position is celibacy. Since the sacrament of holy orders is deemed higher than the sacrament of matrimony, priests and nuns are believed to be on a higher spiritual footing.

However, celibacy is still an intolerable burden which only a small minority of persons could possibly bear. Once you strip this whole celibacy business of all its tabloid fancies and sentiments what you are left with is a pretentious joke.

The Roots

Celibacy was well known in pagan Rome. The vestal virgins and the priests of Cybele were known to be celibate. It was also observed by ascetic pre-Christian philosophers (like the Pythagoreans) and the Stoics and in some forms of Gnosticism.

Celibacy, as part of asceticism, was observed by Hindu and Jaina priests. The same goes for Buddhism. If you are conversant with the news, you will agree with me that sexual depravities fill up their clergies.

In Judaism, however, the case is different. “Celibacy has played little role in Judaism in which marriage and raising children are understood as holy obligations,” says the Britannica. “The prophet Jeremiah, who apparently chose not to have children, is the only prophet who did not marry.”

The Old Testament priests were married but forbidden from marrying “a wife that is a whore, or profane … [and] a woman put away from her husband [a divorcee] …” (Leviticus 21:7).

In the New Testament, nowhere is celibacy made a standard of church leadership either. The apostles were married (1 Cor. 9:5) and a bishop was to be “the husband of one wife.” Apostle Paul in fact, classed the doctrine of forced celibacy as part of “doctrines of devils” (1 Tim. 4:2-3).

The Catholic Encyclopedia also admits: “We do not find in the New Testament any indication of celibacy being made compulsory either upon the apostles or those whom they ordained” (Vol. III, 483 “Celibacy”).

It was not until the second century that celibacy began to crop up.

(a) During the early persecutions, some people apparently withdrew themselves into the deserts and began to form communities believing that a life of persecution was better lived in isolation.

(b) Some early Christians also believed that the coming of Christ (parousia) was imminent and therefore it was useless to marry and raise families. Of course, this was an extreme view.

(c) Some people came under the influence of Gnosticism and began to embrace its pagan philosophy that the evil body had imprisoned the pure soul, hence the soul had to be set free by withholding all bodily pleasures and subjugating all its passions.

They observed how priests of Eastern religions were dedicated to their gods to the point of being celibate and began to copy that mode.

(d) Celibacy found its way in gradually. A rule was established at the Council of Neo-Caesarea in 315 that “absolutely forbids a priest to contract a new marriage under the pain of deposition” if his wife died (Cath. Ency, 484).

Later an edict in 386 forbade married priests from having sex with their wives (Imagine how unbiblical and unreasonable this was).

(e) The church fathers also had a very low view of women which didn’t help matters. This further created an extreme aversion towards marriage and women. For example:

John Chrysostom wrote: “It does not profit a man to marry. For what is a woman but an enemy of friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a domestic danger, delectable mischief, a fault in nature, painted with beautiful colours?” (cited in Ranke-Heinemann, Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven, 1988, p. 130).

Origen described women as “the devil’s gateway … the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree; the first deserter of the divine law… she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack” (On the Apparel of Women, Chapter 1).

Augustine of Hippo: “I consider that nothing so casts down the manly mind from its heights as the fondling of women, and those body contacts which belong to the married state” (Soliloq I:10).

Since such a low view of women was being espoused by these leading men, it became a condition for all “good” men to avoid women and sex. The more they kept to this twisted tradition, the “holier” they appeared to be.

(f) Celibacy wasn’t really about chastity per se, rather it had a lucrative side to it. As the Catholic church was conquering nations and gaining more wealth, it would prevent the priests, bishops or popes from bequeathing the wealth to their families, which may end up impoverishing the Church.

Nevertheless, even in the 11th century, it was still accepted for priests and bishops to be married and supposedly live in celibacy with their wives. Celibacy was finally made official at the second Lateran Council (1139).

The Fruit

A Catholic historian honestly wrote: “The fact is that priestly celibacy has hardly ever worked. In the view of some historians, it has probably done more harm to morals than any other institution in the West, including prostitution … This theological confusion in an age of depravity led the clergy, in fifth-century Rome in particular, to become a byword for everything that was gross and perverted” (Peter de Rosa, The Dark Side of the Papacy, 1988, Crown Publishers, pp. 395, 402).

According to a writer, “all the ecclesiastics had mistresses, and all the convents of the Capitol were houses of bad fame” (J. H. Merle D’Aubigne, History of the Great Reformation of the 16th Century in Germany, 1843, II:11).

Rome soon became a “holy city” in name only. As celibates multiplied, so did prostitutes. Pope Sixtus (1471-84) developed a lucrative means of charging all the brothels in Rome and each priest who kept a mistress with a tax – and it made the Catholic Church more wealthy.

At the time: “There were 6800 registered prostitutes in Rome in 1490, not counting clandestine practitioners, in a population of some 90,000” (Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, Simon and Schuster, 1950, IV:18).

Cardinal Pierre D’Ailly (1350-1420) wrote that he dared not describe the immorality of the nunneries, that taking the veil was simply another mode of becoming a public prostitute.

In 1477, the night dances and orgies held in the Catholic cloister at Kercheim (Germany) was described by a historian as being “worse than those seen in the public houses of prostitution” (A. C. Flick, The Decline of the Medieval Church, 1930, I:295)

The ugly fruitage of celibacy is not limited to centuries ago; the wholesale exposure of the gross immorality of the Catholic clergy in the last two decades proves that.

Even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that the tendency of some to exaggerate details of these “is at least marked as the tendency on the part of the Church apologists to ignore these uncomfortable pages of history altogether” (Vol. III, 483).

Having realized that celibacy is a curse, rather than a blessing, there were pleas to have it cancelled during the Second Vatican Council. It wasn’t granted.

Some Catholic bishops from Canada once appealed to Pope John Paul II to allow married priests under certain conditions. The request was turned down. Centuries of an “infallible” decree can’t be turned around so easily. So let the ball keep rolling.

Today, it has become public knowledge that the Catholic church has served as an umbrella to all sorts of sexually depraved “celibate” priests. In Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Belgium, France, Germany and Australia, more cases are springing up almost daily and they are too many to recount here.

A BBC news report stated the Catholic church has confirmed sex abuse allegations concerning about 3,000 priests dating back to up to 50 years. This is even a conservative estimate as there is still much cover up of such abuse in third world countries.

Even with these wholesale media exposures, Rome still attempts to deny, threaten, bribe and minimize the pain of her victims with various tactics, while the thousands of criminals in its ranks are protected.

Former pope, Joseph Ratzinger, while the archbishop of Munich protected many paedophiles such as Fr. Hullerman who abused many boys for many decades. “During that time, church officials repeatedly transferred Father Hullermann to new parishes and allowed him to work with children” (New York Times, March 25, 2010).

In another report, out of the examined 10,667 allegations against 4,392 paedophile priests between 1950-2002, 81 per cent of their victims were found to be male while the females were younger than 8 years!

A 2012 police report detailed 40 suicide deaths in the state of Victoria, directly related to abuse by Catholic clergy (Canberra Times, 13, April 2012)

A religion that covers and abets such heinous crimes against the innocent is marked for divine judgement (Mark 9:42).

Catholicism’s clerical celibacy – both past and present – has resulted in a very rotten fruitage with effects reaching far beyond its capacity.

The hypocrisy is when this same religion stands to lecture the world on morality and piety. Shame died for Rome a long time ago.

I am saddened for many Catholics who still look up to mere men as “Christs” and for many souls out there who have turned away from God because of a priesthood of depraved men.

The Myth of Mary’s Assumption

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Every August 15, many Catholics celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary. It’s a time Mary’s ascension to Heaven – body, soul and spirit – is observed.

I saw one of such celebrations years ago. The statue of Mary in the church was dressed up for the occasion and surrounded by an arch of beautiful flowers. After the procession, a crowd of Catholics gathered before it, holding their candles and sang.

The scenario was similar to Hindus carrying lamps before goddess Lakshmi during Diwali or devout crowds singing to the sea goddess in Brazil. “Our mother Mary has been assumed and glorified,” said a man “and we know that one day we are going to be glorified as she is now.”

The belief that Mary was taken up to heaven is not in the Bible, since little is said about Mary in it anyways. Even Apostle John, the longest lived apostle, didn’t write about this.

Catholics have attempted to “find” this belief in Psalm 132:6-7 predicated on a false assumption that Mary is the ark of God. This is an attempt to graft an error onto another error.

Others point to Revelation 12:11-12. Of course, no one is denying that God is able to take people to heaven bodily (like He did for Enoch and Elijah), but since this didn’t happen to everyone in Scripture, it can’t be applied to Mary.

It’s just like saying everyone who mocks us must die because bears killed some youths who mocked Elisha. That would be irrational.

Catholics believe Mary died of a broken heart and on the third day, the apostles couldn’t find her body; she had been taken to the Celestial paradise where she was to have a throne by Jesus’ right hand as the “Queen of heaven.”

These beliefs were obviously contrived to exalt Mary to the divine plane which Jesus Christ is, and replace Him. But as far as the Bible is concerned, it is Jesus who is at God’s right hand, He alone is the Mediator and the King of kings, not Mary.

The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits: “There is no explicit reference to the Assumption in the Bible, yet the Pope insists in the decree of promulgation that the Scriptures are the ultimate foundation of this truth” (Vol. 1, 972).

If this belief lacks Biblical support, what about support from tradition? David Farmer stated:

“[I]n the early church, as in Christ’s ministry, she [Mary] remained so much in the background that it is difficult to know where she lived or even where she died. Both Ephesus and Jerusalem claimed to be the place of her death, with the Eastern Fathers generally supporting Jerusalem” [1]

Catholic scholars say: “Furthermore, the notion of Mary’s assumption into heaven has left no trace in the literature of the third much less of the 2nd cent. M. Jurgie, the foremost authority on this question concluded in his monumental study: ‘The patristic tradition prior to the Council of Nicaea does not furnish us with any witness about the Assumption.” [2]

Early church fathers like Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Tertullian, Melito, Cyprian, Irenaeus, Theodoriet, Cyril of Jerusalem all lived and died, wrote volumes of theology and wrote thousands of works on diverse topics without uttering a single word about the Assumption of Mary.

Catholics argue that the grave of Mary was unknown therefore, she must have been taken to heaven bodily. But early church writings show that the burial sites of many other early Christians were also unknown. For example, John Chrysostom wrote:

“And as to those of the Apostles we do not know where those of most of them are laid. For of Peter indeed, and Paul, and John, and Thomas, the sepulchres are well known, but those of the rest, being so many have nowhere become known. Let us not therefore lament at all about this, nor be so little minded. For where-ever we may be buried, ‘the earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is’ [Psalm 24:1]” [3]

Eusebius also made reference to Dionysius of Alexandria (a 3rd century bishop) who fled with his wife to the Arabian mountain and did not return, neither were their bodies found (Church History 6: 42: 3).

Now, if Eusebius considered the disappearance of a common bishop so important, wouldn’t he have recorded the bodily assumption of Mary if it was true? At least one church father would have mentioned such a key event.

This raises another point, the fact that someone’s body wasn’t found doesn’t mean that a bodily assumption has occurred. That Mary’s tomb wasn’t known or her remains weren’t found doesn’t imply that she was bodily assumed into heaven.

If you examined the writings of the church fathers, you would realize that they were silent about the Assumption. Why? Because it never happened!

Tertullian, for example, cited Enoch and Elijah (in Treatise on the Soul, 50) without including Mary.

Irenaeus in Against Heresies (5:5), wrote about the power of God to deliver people from death and used Enoch, Elijah and Paul as illustrations of those “assumed” or “translated” but says nothing of Mary.

An opponent of Augustine also wrote to him saying:

Besides that, it is not only Elias, but Moses and Enoch you believe to be immortal, and to have been taken with their bodies to heaven.” [4]

Why would Christians for hundreds of years have known about a bodily assumption of Mary and yet say nothing about it? Isn’t that strange?

It’s often argued that Epiphanus wrote about the assumption of Mary, but such deductions are faulty. A Catholic scholar said:

“In a later message, he [Epiphanus] says that she [Mary] may have died and been burned, or been killed- as a martyr. Or she remained alive, since nothing is impossible with God and he can do whatever he desires; for her end, no one knows … Epiphanus does not speak of a bodily resurrection and remains noncommittal on the way Mary’s life ended … He suggests several different hypotheses and draws no firm conclusion” [5]

If the Assumption of Mary lacks historical support, where did it originate? A respected patrologist explains:

“The entire silence of the apostles and the primitive church teachers respecting the departure of Mary stirred idle curiosity to all sorts of inventions, until a translation like Enoch’s and Elijah’s was attributed to her … Two apocryphal Greek writings, de transitu Mariae of the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century, and afterward pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Gregory of Tours (+ 595), for the first time contain the legend that the soul of the mother of God was transported to the heavenly paradise by Christ and His angels in presence of all the apostles, and on the following morning her body was also translated thither on a cloud and there united with the soul” [6]

Another Catholic scholar admits that:

“The idea of the bodily assumption of Mary is first expressed in transitus- narratives of the 5-6th centuries. Even though these are apocryphal they bear witness to the Faith of the generation in which they were written despite their legendary clothing.” [7]

What this scholar doesn’t admit however, is that these transitus writings were condemned as heretical by Gelasus, the bishop of Rome.

In the 6th century, Hermisdas, another bishop of Rome, called anyone subscribing to the assumption belief a heretic. It wasn’t until 1950 that this myth became a dogma.

“Pope Pius XII … defined it as a divinely revealed dogma making claims that have little historical support: What is clearly true is the recognition that it is ‘deeply embedded in the minds of the faithful’ (or at least many of them), and on this basis it was declared and defined as a dogma revealed by God.” [8]

This brings us back to the issue of Roman Catholic authority. Their final authority is their “Church” leadership (sola ecclesia) not the Bible or even their traditions.

This is why they dismissed the church fathers and endorsed spurious apocryphal legends on this issue. They just wanted their “Mary” exalted, no matter what the Bible or history says.

From pagan times, the month of August had been a period of feasts for pagan goddess Diana and Isis, thus the smooth transference to the Catholic Mary.

In Astrology, Virgo (the queen of heaven) is believed to rule over the period between August and September.

Today, forms of idolatrous devotions – image processions, bonfires and offerings – are still being observed to pay homage to Rome’s “virgin” goddess.

Notes

  1. Oxford Dictionary of Saints, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, 336.
  2. Raymond Brown, Joseph Fitzmyer, Donfried K., Mary in the New Testament, Paulist Press, 1978, 266.
  3. Homily on Hebrews 26:2:22.
  4. Reply to Faustus the Manichean, 26:1.
  5. Theotokos: Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Michael Wilmington, 1988, 135.
  6. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, sec. 83.
  7. Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Herder Books, 1955, 209.
  8. John Bowler, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, 1999, 101.

Was the Early Church Catholic?

“The Catholic church is the only Church around for 2,000 years!” To a Catholic, this is the strongest proof that he is in the ‘true Church of Christ.’

All that a Catholic needs to shut down his mind to your arguments is to chant this magic word. Once he mouths this line, he disconnects his brain from any form of critical thinking and dismisses evidence from the Bible or history exposing his belief system as a fraud.

There’s no doubt that history is the game changer. Rome too is aware of this, so she either denies history or re-writes it to suit her ways. As a result, there is a big difference between how the Catholic religion and Bible Christianity both approach history.

While we take history as it is, a Catholic theologian describes Rome’s style:

We think first of developed forms for which we need to find historical justification. The developed forms come first and the historical justification comes second” (Kilan McDonnell, Journal of Ecumenical Studies 7:213).

This is called revisionism. If a Catholic, for example, attempts to prove that the Assumption of Mary was taught from the early days of the church, he would take this doctrine (as defined in 1950) and read it into certain isolated words from the early church fathers.

To them, ancient “Catholicity” is whatever modern Romanism demands it to be. They interpret past beliefs based on the present. This is classic anachronism or Orwellian double-think, which attempts to re-write historical documents to match the constantly changing party line.

Up until the 17th century, the Roman “church” taught that all her doctrines and practices came from the apostles and have never changed from that time. They want us to believe Romanism just sprang up like Athena from Zeus’ skull!

However, very few modern Catholic scholars adhere to such peroration. What they hold to is Newman’s “development” theory, that the understanding and concept of Catholic doctrines have changed over time.

Such a lame excuse was cooked up to explain the huge disconnect between the beliefs of the early church and modern Roman Catholicism.

Catholic or Roman Catholic?

Many Catholics try to prove their church was “the first church established by Christ” by quoting the words of Ignatius of Antioch (75-110 AD) who wrote that “even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church.”

The Pavlovian programming Rome utilizes makes Catholics think Ignatius was referring to their church here.

In several early church writings, the word ‘catholic’ (spelled in lower case except in modern Catholic literature) from the Greek word catholikos, was used. It means ‘universal’ and was used to differentiate between true believers who made up the universal church from those outside. This is different from the term ‘Roman Catholic’ which includes the idea of papal authority, purgatory, indulgences etc. Therefore, the early church was not ‘Roman Catholic.’

In fact, the word ‘catholic’ has been used before and after Romanism gained its hold. For instance, that someone uses the term “orthodox” doesn’t mean he’s referring to Eastern Orthodox Church.

The same applies to the word “catholic.” The Nicene creed confessed by the Orthodox church (and even the Mormon Church) includes the term “the catholic church.” The 1615 Irish Articles of Religion uses the term ‘catholic church.’

Even the 1646 Westminster Confession of Faith speaks of the “catholic or universal church.” Yet no one would say these churches are under the pope of Rome, because the term ‘catholic’ means ‘universal’.

Catholics can’t just hijack the word and misdefine it to suit their religious institution. Their church can’t be “universal” and “Roman.” That is a paradox.

From the Bible itself, it’s clear that in the first century there was not a single “authoritarian” church in Rome to which all churches looked up to. Rather, the churches in Rome were house-churches led by simple Christians.

“Some details in the NT point indisputedly in the direction of house churches presided over by patrons and patronesses, including references to ‘the church in the house’ of particular patrons. The model of a house church presupposes a patron or patroness who owns or rents the space used by the Christian community. A number of such persons are mentioned in the Pauline letters, including Phoebe, Erastors, Crispus, Stephanos, Gaius, Appia, and Philemon and his wife, Nympha” (Robert Jewett, Romans, MN: Fortress Press, 2007, 64-65).

Professor of Biblical studies, William Lane wrote: “In Romans 16:3-15, Paul shows an awareness of the existence of several house churches in Rome, one of which was associated with the Jewish Christian leaders Aquila and Priscilla…” He concluded that “there is no evidence for a common meeting of the Christians in Rome, let alone a single church structure” (Judaism and Christianity in First Century Rome, ed. by Donfried K. and Richardson P., 1998, 208-10).

There are some key beliefs that set Romanism apart from other communions. They are: the papacy, purgatory, transubstantiation, Marian dogmas and the concept of extra-biblical revelatory “traditions.” History shows that the early church didn’t hold on to these beliefs.

By “early church” I mean the church of the first 3 centuries (or “the Nicene Church”). There is not one single person at the council of Nicea  that held on to the definitive beliefs that Catholics today hold.

Of course, the Roman church may trace its ecclesiastical genealogy back to this period, but to trace its doctrines back to the Nicene church is impossible. Continuity in genealogy doesn’t imply a continuity of teaching or truth.

Before I proceed:

(a) The reliable record of what the early church believed is in the New Testament. The teachings of the early church leaders (whether they were Christians or not) is not an infallible authority and can only be accepted as true on the basis of their harmony with Scripture.

(b) Many Catholics have a stultifying habit of “copying and pasting” isolated quotes from early church fathers to prove their beliefs without regard to historical or literary contexts. This is intellectual dishonesty and it’s self-defeating.

We don’t have to re-cast the church fathers as Protestants. We can just let them be who they are even though we don’t agree with everything they taught.

(c) The early church was not Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox. The challenge is not for Rome’s apologists to find some areas of agreement with the Nicene church (we can find the same), but rather to find all its major beliefs in early church history. That is the focus of this piece.

I. The Papacy

The myth that Peter is the first pope has been debunked here.

In early writings such as The Shepherd of Hermas, which is the most detailed account of the church’s organization, there is not a single testimony suggesting the unique position of a bishop as the general leader of the entire Christian community.

The Matthew 16:18 “You are Peter…” passage used as support of the papacy is absent from The Didache, the writings of Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and the fragment of Piapas.

The first reference to the confession of Peter in Matt. 16:18 was vaguely mentioned by Justin Martyr (c. 160) in his Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon but his interpretation opposes that of Roman Catholicism (Migne, S. G., 571).

The few fathers from that period (like Tertullian) also gave a spiritual, metaphoric interpretation to the text which indicates that they didn’t consider a special priviledge attached to Peter (or alleged successors) over the rest.

When the Arian controversy came up in the 4th century, the bishop of Rome couldn’t settle the matter. Why? Because no one believed the bishop of Rome was the universal head of the Church. He was the bishop of the greatest see in the West, but not the head of the Church.

The fact that a council had to be called to settle the matter – without the authority of a Pope – proves there was no Papal system at the time. Rome has tried to revise this historical fact by claiming (400 yrs later) that the bishop of Rome (pope Sylvester) convened over the council of Nicaea. But history is not on their side.

“Religious partisanship has in the past led some scholars to suggest that Sylvester, bishop of Rome, convoked the council of Nicea, but modern Roman Catholic Scholars honourably dismiss this idea” (R. P. Hansen, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, Edinburgh: 1997, 154).

Catholic historian, Joseph Kelly, wrote that: “The second ecumenical council, Constantinople I was called in 381, met, decided the issues, and adjourned without informing the pope, Damasus I (366-384), that a council was being held” (The Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church, Liturgical Press: Minnesota, 2009, 5)

Another Catholic historian admits:
“In all the early writings of the hierarchy there is no mention of a special role for the Bishop of Rome, nor yet the special name ‘Pope’ … Of the eighty or so heresies in the first six centuries, not one refers to the authority of the Bishop of Rome, not one is settled by the Bishop of Rome … No one attacks the [supreme] authority of the Roman pontiff, because no one has heard of it” (Peter de Rosa, Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy, 1988, 205-06).

Roman Catholicism today realizes it didn’t have the past position it claims for itself, so it has tried hard to revise history by making up fraudulent documents like the Donation of Constantine and the false Isidorean Decretals as evidence of papal supremacy. These documents remain false.

2. Purgatory

The origin of purgatory has been addressed here. The concepts of purgation and merit led to the doctrine of purgatory and later the “treasury of merits.” These also gave rise to indulgences.

No one in the Nicene church ever spoke of purgatory, let alone the treasury of merits or indulgences.

Purgatory, treasury of merits and indulgences are held together by Rome’s dogmatic authority – an authority that Rome didn’t have in the early church. Besides, Rome’s belief about salvation (soteriology) from which these 3 concepts sprang up lack early historical support. Two centuries before the council of Nicaea, Clement of Rome wrote:

“They all therefore were glorified and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous doing which they wrought but through His will. And so we, having been called through His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith whereby the Almighty God justified all men that have been from the beginning…” (Clement of Rome, 32)

This contradicts the modern dogma of Romanism. Jason Engwer points out that in earliest patristic works, deceased Believers are mentioned as being in heaven and not purgatory. This is seen in the works of Clement of Rome (1 Clement, 5-6, 44).

The same is true of Polycarp in his Epistle to the Philippians and in a document written by the church of Smyrna after his martyrdom (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 19).

Other sources refer to all believers going to Heaven or a heavenly region of Hades that doesn’t have suffering associated with purgatory. For example, Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho, 5), Athenagoras (A Plea for the Christians, 31), Irenaeus (Against Heresies, 5:5:1), Hippolytus (Against Plato, 1-2), Cyprian (Treatises, 7) etc.

That Tertullian advocated prayers for the dead doesn’t logically follow that he taught purgatory. Church historian, Philip Schaff explained:

“The ante-Nicene idea of the middle state of the pious excludes, or at all events ignores, the idea of penal suffering, which is an essential part of the Catholic conception of purgatory. It represents the condition of the pious as one of the comparable happiness, inferior only to the perfect happiness after the resurrection. Whatever and wherever Paradise may be, it belongs to the heavenly world; while purgatory is supposed to be a middle region between heaven and hell, and to border on the latter” (History of the Christian Church, 156).

3. Transubstantiation

The early church didn’t believe in transubstantiation. What the Nicene church believed about the “real presence” is not relevant to what Romanism made a dogma a thousand years later. Nowhere in their writings would you find them setting aside consecrated hosts in a tabernacle or monstrance for worship.

Even Catholic sources admit that the early church had no altar and use of tabernacles didn’t develop for at least 600 years after the council of Nicaea! The reason: transubstantiation didn’t come up until that time.

Catholics love to quote Tertullian: “We take anxious care lest something of our Cup or Bread should fall upon the ground.” But there is a sleight of hand Catholic trick here.

This quote, properly translated, reads: “We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground.” The full context of the passage shows he wasn’t speaking of the Eucharist there.

Others cite Ignatius of Antioch: “They abstain from the eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ…” (Romans 7:3)

There is nothing about transubstantiation in these words. Who are “they?” he was talking about? Why do they not confess the eucharist to be the flesh of Christ? And what did Ignatius mean by “Eucharist and prayer?” It is when the whole passage is read that one can understand what he was really writing about.

Ignatius was writing against the Docetists (a Gnostic sect who denied the physical incarnation of Christ). They did not confess the Eucharist because they didn’t believe Jesus truly suffered or had a real human body. This was why they didn’t participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Catholic apologists decontextualise patristic works on this topic and read into them a kind of Aristotelian dogma of accidents and substance which was made up in the 13th century. This woefully consistent practice of misrepresentations to support transubstantiation has been addressed in another post.

Catholic scholar, Joseph Kelly admits that a spiritual view of the real presence was believed by early theologians in contrast to the views of later theologians who had “a more material understanding of the real presence” (p. 5).

If transubstantiation wasn’t part of the faith of a church, then it wasn’t the Roman Catholic Church.

4. Marian Dogmas

The perpetual virginity, “Mother of God,” Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary beliefs were made official later in the centuries. They all lack any early historical support.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says that during the first centuries of the church there was no emphasis on Mary whatsoever (15:459).

Early church writings had more positive titles for the original apostles like apostle John than for Mary (e.g Against Heresies V:18:2, Polycrates Letter etc). Second century writings also addressed her as Mary without the additional descriptions Rome have attached later (e.g Ignatius to Ephesians, 7; 18).

Regarding the devotion to Mary, the Catholic Encyclopedia (1912, Vol XV) admits:

“Seeing that this doctrine is not contained, at least explicitly in the earlier forms of the Apostles’ Creed, there is perhaps no ground for surprise if we do not meet with any clear traces of the cultus of the Blessed Virgin in the first Christian centuries … Further it is quite likely that the mention of the Blessed Virgin in the intercessions of the diptychs of the liturgy goes back to the days before the Council of Nicaea, but we have no definite evidence upon the point, and the same must be said of any form of direct invocation, even for purpose of private devotion.”

5. The Authority of Traditions

Since the Roman concept of Papal authority was not in place in the Nicene church, the concept of “Sacred Tradition” as unwritten Scriptures was absent as well. The early fathers made references to “traditions,” but what they meant by it differs from what Rome today define them as.

What they meant by traditions were the different ecclesiastical customs and practices (such as dates of feasts) believed to be handed down from the Apostles, which didn’t involve doctrines of the faith. And they didn’t view them as binding as inspired Scripture.

Church historian, J.N.D. Kelly stated:
“The clearest token of the prestige enjoyed by Scripture is the fact that almost the entire theological effort of the Fathers, whether their aims were polemical or constructive, was expended upon by what amounted to the exposition of the Bible… for any doctrine to win acceptance, it had first to establish its Scriptural basis” (Early Christian Doctrines, Harper and Row, 1978, 42, 46).

Their views of Scripture, traditions and authority were far removed from anything a modern Catholic would wish to present. For example:

Basil of Caesarea: “The hearers taught in the Scriptures ought to test what is said by teachers and accept what agrees with the Scriptures but reject that which is foreign” (Moralia 72:1).

Irenaeus: “We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith” (Against Heresies III:1:1).

Hippolytus: “There is, brethren, one God, the knowledge of whom we gain from the Holy Scriptures, and from no other source …Whatever things, then, the Holy Scriptures declare at these let us look; and whatever things they teach, these let us learn” (Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 9).

Athanasius: “The holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the Truth” (Contra Gentes 1:1).

From all presented so far, we can conclude that “to be deep in history is to cease to be a historically consistent Catholic.” There is no “acorn” seed developing into their “oak.” What we find are rather apple and mustard seeds (or even an evil seed).

Catholics are caught in two traps. One, their blind submission to Rome prevents them from an objective view of church history. Two, the destructive pride of belonging to “the oldest and largest, one true Church” keeps them in Rome’s chains.