On Exorcism and Rome’s Authority

Exorcist-rite
Exorcism rite is based on Rome’s authority

In previous articles, the authority of Rome has been examined in the light of the Bible, its history, doctrinal and institutional consistency, and its Petrine office (its presumed succession from apostle Peter, infallibility and moral credentials).

The spiritual credential of the Roman Catholic institution, specifically in the context of its exorcisms, has also been engaged previously.

After reading The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio (Doubleday: 2009), it dawned on me that more needs to be said on this rite, as it had been sensationalised and overrated in popular culture.

I will quote mainly from Baglio’s The Rite to highlight my arguments that even in this rite, the legitimacy of Roman Catholicism is shown to be patently undermined.

The Vatican issued a decree which says:

Among her sacramentals, the Catholic Church, in obedience to the Lord’s Prayer, already in ancient times mercifully provided that through pious prayers her people may ask God to liberate the faithful from all dangers and especially from the snares of the Devil.

In a truly unique way, exorcists were established in the Church who, in imitation of Christ, could cure those obsessed by the Evil One, even by commanding demons in the name of God, so that they might depart, lest for whatever reason they do further harm to human creatures (Decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship of the Faith, Nov. 22, 1998).

This establishes that exorcism is a sacramental in which the exorcist imitates Jesus in liberating the faithful from the powers of the devil and commanding demons to depart.

This presupposes an authority that comes from Christ and is exercised uniquely by Rome. The Catechism of the Catholic Church brings this out more clearly:

When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism … Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church.” (par. 1673).

From this, it can be inferred that the rite of exorcism is based on:

1. The authority of Jesus Christ
2. What Jesus taught and did
3. Having the same results that Jesus had.

On a flip side, if this rite is based on the authority of an institution, or prevalent superstition, if it’s not based on how Jesus and the apostles expelled evil spirits and the results seen conflict with what was obtained within the pages of the New Testament, then the authority of Rome is dubious and the Jesus it appeals to is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Before I elucidate on these arguments, I want to point out that not everything stated or described in The Rite is actually false or misleading. There are parts of it that are quite revealing, though not in the way the author supposes.

For instance, it correctly draws the curtain on the existing tension between a religious institution that is blinded by its rigid structures, elitism and skepticism and the European culture which in the past relied on it for its dictates.

It quotes Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII (Pope John XXIII Community Association), that “about 25 percent of Italians, or about 14 million, are involved in some way or another in the occult.” (p. 16) Note: about 83% of Italians are Roman Catholics.

Whilst many European Catholic priests and bishops scoff at the existence of the devil and demons, Tarot card readers congest the late-night cable channels hawking their divination wares and “lucky” amulets.

It was also estimated that “as many as 8,000 satanic sects with more than 600,000 members exist within Italy” alone.

The book appealed to an occult expert, Fr. Aldo Buonaiuto, a member of the Pope John XXIII Community Association, who admits the prevalence of many hardcore satanic groups in Italy.

He classifies them into “Youth Acid” (consisting of mostly young people involved in the physical trappings of Satanism), “Power Satanism,” (those seeking power and riches from Satan) and “Apocalyptic Satanism,” which has as its goal, the total destruction of life as we know it (p. 45).

These startling realities have been fuelled, in part, by a traditional church that has failed to provide spiritual succour and a sound moral template to souls hungry for God and His intervention.

Roman Catholicism has lost much of its respectability in the West. While drowning in the cesspools of clerical concubinage, pederasty and paedophilia, it can’t be griping about satanic ritual abuse perpetrated by satanists without being hit by an irony of shame.

By whose Authority?

There are several guidelines that are laid down by Rome on how exorcism must be conducted

The Ritual itself has undergone several adjustments over the centuries and the one currently used is the 1998 Revised Ritual.

Guideline 13 of the Ritual stipulates that only a priest found worthy and nominated by a bishop of a diocese can perform an exorcism.

If a priest doesn’t have the express permission of a bishop, he can’t cast out any demon. His prayers “wouldn’t have the same effect on the demon because essentially the exorcist would be praying the Ritual in a state of disobedience and the demon would know it,” writes Baglio (p. 58).

But from the NT, it’s evident that every disciple of Christ had the authority from Christ to cast out demons. Jesus spelt it out:

“And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons” (Mark 16:17).

This was why the early church had no officially appointed “exorcists” since it was generally known that every Christian has received power to cast out all evil spirits.

Paul and Silas didn’t need any permission from a bishop in Philippi in order to cast out a demon from the diviner following them in Acts 16:18.

It now gets fuzzy when Baglio writes, “Not everybody has to be a Catholic, or convert to become liberated, though some do.” He appealed to the authority of Fr. Gabriele Amorth who “has exorcized Muslims and Hindus on rare occasions, but mentions that he will pray the Ritual using the name of Jesus Christ. ‘I also ask them to fulfill their spiritual duties. For example, Muslims have the obligation to pray and so I tell them to do so'” (p. 149).

So even if a person doesn’t submit to the authority of Jesus Christ, he/she is still supposedly liberated using Christ’s authority. Quite intriguing isn’t it?

Again, Jesus clearly stated that demons are expelled using His name, but this rite appeals more to the authority of Catholic icons of veneration and religious objects.

In the prologue of the book, Baglio recounts an exorcism in which the demon speaking through Anna describes seeing “St” Gemma Galgani, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John Paul II and Mary the Queen herself joining the exorcists in the spirit to cast him out (pp. 7-8).

Quite a scintillating conference of spirits. But that’s not all. Baglio also informs us:

“Many exorcists invoke Mary during the Ritual. ‘The demon is so terrified of her that he will never pronounce her name. He’ll say ‘that woman’ or ‘she destroys me,’ says Father Amorth. ‘The Marian prayer, especially the rosary, is a very powerful weapon in the fight against Satan,’ explains Father Bamonte. ‘That is why [Mary] insists so much that we pray the rosary; the rosary is a prayer that really whips the demon into a frenzy’.” (p. 137)

It would seem to us that these demons are rather excited that the exorcists are perpetuating the very deception they wish to plant in the minds of many Catholics. Baglio adds:

“For the Church, these sacred objects (holy water, blessed oil, a crucifix) possess a kind of “power” because they carry the blessing of the Church (p. 119).

In plain terms, this rite is not essentially based on the authority of Jesus Christ. It’s based on the authority of an institutional hierarchy, Mary, saints, objects and like the case of Silvia recounted in the book, the promise of a demon (p. 147).

How Jesus expelled Demons

Without missing words, Jesus never performed an exorcism and was not an exorcist. Exorcism is not even biblical; it was an old Jewish ritual that was observed by the sons of Sceva – who had their clocks cleaned in return (Acts 19:12-16).

Modern exorcisms are marked by rituals, incantations, formulas, liturgies along with incense, holy water, and crucifixes. Sometimes they are interspersed with candle lighting. None of these things can expel demons.

A Roman Catholic publication says:

‘‘Elements of the rite include the Litany of Saints; recitation of the Our Father, one or more creeds, and other prayers; specific prayers of exorcism; the reading of Gospel passages and use of the Sign of the Cross’’ (Matthew Bunson, 2004 Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Almanac. Indiana, 2004, p. 137).

When we compare this complicated Roman ritualism with the simplicity and demonstration of authority with which Jesus and the apostles expelled demons, a striking contrast is seen.

For example, in Mark 1:25, ‘‘Jesus rebuked a demon, saying, ‘Be quiet, and come out of him!’’’ and he did at that instant.

Again in Mark 9:25, Jesus said, ‘‘I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!’’ The ease and brevity with which Jesus dealt with evil spirits is far from what is being practiced in the rite of exorcism.

The New Testament contains great resources for the believer’s spiritual warfare: the Saviour’s victory at Calvary (John 12:31, Rev. 12:11). The promise of overcoming (1 John 5:4-5; Rev. 21:7). The intercessory ministry of Christ (John 17:15, 20). The knowledge of Satan’s tactics (2 Cor. 2:11). The believer’s spiritual armor (Eph. 6:10-17). The Holy Spirit’s indwelling power (1 John 4:4). The believer’s prayers (Matt. 6:13; Eph. 6:18-20; Mark 9:29). The instructions for defeating Satan (James 4:7-8) and the stripping of Satan and his ranks of their powers at Calvary (Col. 2:15).

Having abandoned and rejected these spiritual weapons that are mighty through God to deal with the powers of darkness, Roman Catholicism has as substitutes, carnal weapons, religious paraphernalia, fetishism and rituals that are rooted in medieval mythology and ethnic folklore.

Such traditional rites were known in the time of Christ, He simply didn’t acknowledge them.

Jesus refused to endorse their superstition and cryptic formulas because it has always been the work of devil to complicate things that are otherwise simple – especially receiving spiritual freedom.

The Jews in the time of Jesus believed demons dwelt in crumbs so Jesus had the apostles gather up the leftover bread to enjoy it.

The Jews believed demons dwelt on unwashed hands, but Jesus did not insist on ceremonial hand washing.

The Jews believed that demons prowled in deserted places, but that is exactly where Jesus goes to enjoy
communion with God the Father.

They believed that demons infested Samaria, so Jesus boldly went there. He intentionally negated these rules because they are based on human wisdom and devoid of spiritual value (William Alexander, Demonic Possession in the New Testament, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1980, pp. 28-29).

On the other hand, Rome’s belief in the “power” of the Eucharist, rosaries, medals, “holy” water, incense and images of the Virgin to vanquish demons are vestiges of older folk or sympathetic magic as well as subjective demonic manifestations.

Rome’s failed experiments

If the exorcist is actually representing or imitating the Jesus of the Bible, then the results of these exorcisms should match what we see in the Gospels.

In The Rite, Baglio makes at least seven references to fruitless exorcisms (all emphasis mine):

• A group of Catholic charismatics in Italy who tried to cast out an evil spirit from a man. “Without warning, the demon turned on them saying, ‘Who are you?’ Then he launched a bookcase at them, sending them all
to the emergency room with injuries.” (p. 63)

• A demon possessed nun named Janica who has been exorcised for 9 years without a headway (pp. 99-102).

• A statement credited to Fr. Amorth, the late Vatican foremost exorcist: “I have people that I’ve been exorcising for twenty years” (p. 130).

• A statement credited to Fr. Carmine: “the hardest thing is that the liberation never happens right away. Sometimes you need years and years, and this methodical perseverance is not only very tiring, but the demon takes advantage of it…’” (p. 134).

• Giovanna who “had been undergoing exorcisms for more than forty years, and her case was considered one of the most severe…” (p. 142).

• Beatrice who had a “grueling two-year battle involving weekly exorcisms” (p. 151). The evidence offered in support of her liberation is as deluded as her visions during the rite itself.

• Stephanie who was said to have been sexually abused by her father and was demonized. She and her husband, Chris, “searched for other priests who might be willing to help them but had been turned away each time” (pp. 170-177). They eventually didn’t receive any help.

• Maria, a twenty-seven-year-old originally from Honduras, who had been seeing demons and hearing them tell her, “You belong to us!” After the exorcism, her mother told Fr. Gary that “her daughter’s reaction to the prayers had been similar to the [pagan] exorcism in Honduras, this time it was much more intense.” (pp. 177-178). That gives little or no hope.

Neither Jesus nor the apostles spent months or years in expelling demons from people. Yet the diary of the Catholic exorcist is laden with clients who struggle fruitlessly for decades to be free from defeated foes.

In a bid to offer a convenient excuse for these failed experiments, Baglio says God “does permit it [demon possession] for some good purpose (similar to temptation).”

He cements this with a quote from John Chrysostom, “Possessed persons can obtain a twofold benefit from their condition. In the first place they can become more holy and good; secondly, having paid the debt for their sins here on earth, they can present themselves pure before the Lord.” (p. 47).

This is a colossal tragedy. Imagine being told week after week by a religious system you trust that God who sent Jesus to deliver the oppressed and destroy the works of the devil relishes your demonized state of suffering and this is how the debt of your sins will be cleared!

This is a doomed religious vessel; a destructive cage that every truth-seeking Catholic must escape from.

This work is not how exorcists are made, it’s how deceivers are schooled and the deceived are groomed.

 

 

Was Sunday Observance adopted from Paganism?

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The myth that Sunday was formerly a pagan day of worship of the sun adopted by the church, is a proverbial horse that has been ridden to death. Even worse, this ghostly horse has taken on a life of its own and has moved beyond the religious fringes where it was initially stabled.

The basic idea is this: Sunday was the established day of rest, the weekly holiday in the ancient pagan world. On this day each week, the Romans, Greeks, and other pagans, gathered in temples to worship their pagan gods, particularly the Sun-god—hence the term Sun-day.

This misinformation has been repeated so much that it’s time we threw it in the dustbin for the falsehood that it is.

In two previous articles (one/two), I’ve examined the erroneous claims made by Seventh Day Adventists regarding the Jewish sabbath and the Lord’s day from historical and biblical perspectives.

Now, I still intend to refute the tortuous, incoherent and intellectually suicidal connections they (and other religious groups adhering to the Jewish sabbath) forge between Sunday as a day of worship and ancient Greek or Roman Paganism.

1. Those making this claim of “Sunday stolen from the pagans” usually fail to back it up with historical sources. They will quote virtually anyone but a reputable historian – and by this, I mean someone whose credentials are in History and has published academic works in that field.

If you scan through SDA materials, you will observe the curious absence of citation of primary sources to corroborate their assertion of Sunday being a pagan day. Instead, they conveniently declare this information to be historical “fact” and quickly move on to their next rhetoric.

But on the odd occasion that a source is cited, it’s usually Arthur Weigall’s 1928 work “The Paganism in Our Christianity,” in which he states that the church made Sunday sacred “largely because it was the weekly festival of the sun; for it was a definite Christian policy to take over the pagan festivals endeared to the people by tradition, and to give them a Christian significance” (p. 136).

Aside from the fact that this man had cultic agenda (he was a Unitarian), SDA writers who cite him don’t disclose to their readers that he also declared:

  • The virgin birth is of pagan origin (p. 44)
  •  Jesus’ miracles are of pagan origin (p. 58)
  • Jesus didn’t really die (p. 93)
  • The Jewish Sabbath is of pagan origin (p. 136)

It’s clear that Weigall’s work is a sword that cuts three ways. If it proves Sunday to be a pagan day, it must also prove Saturday to be a pagan day, and if either assertion is to be accepted as valid, then Christianity as a whole would have to be rejected as pagan! Certainly, this is not a source a believer would want to appeal to.

2. A competent study of history and ancient Greek and Roman religions shows that neither the Romans nor the Greeks ever had a regular weekly day of rest from secular work.

Neither did they have a regular weekly festival day. They didn’t have a regular day of the week on which they gathered for pagan worship. These are facts of history.

Dudley M. Canright, a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, researched these facts early in the 20th century. He sincerely believed Sunday worship came from paganism—since this teaching had been passed on to him. But when he began to look into the subject more fully, he came to a different conclusion.

It was at his time (c. 1913-1914) that he contacted four Greek and Roman history scholars with ten questions that he submitted to them separately. These scholars were:

F. N. Pryce of the Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, British Museum.

R. Rathborn of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

George F. Moore, Professor of Ancient Roman and Greek History, Harvard University in Cambridge.

Prof. W. H. Westerman of the University of Wisconsin.

D. M. Canright reminds us that: “All four of these specialists in ancient history agree in answering these questions though neither one knew that they had been submitted to the others yet all four exactly agree in every particular, though widely scattered … Such a unanimous agreement would settle any question in a court of law.”

These findings were published in his work, The Lord’s Day From Neither Catholics or Pagans. I reproduce here only two of the historians’ answers:

From the world renowned British Museum in London, England, Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities

Sir: I am commanded by the Assistant Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities to reply as follows to your questions on the ancient week:

Q. 1. Did the pagan Romans and Greeks ever have any regular weekly day of rest from secular work?
Ans. No.

Q. 2. Did they have any regular weekly festival day?
Ans. No.

Q. 3. Did they have any regular weekly day when they assembled for pagan worship?
Ans. No.

Q. 4. Did they have any special day of the week when individuals went to the temples to pray or make offerings?

Ans. No; both for Greeks and Romans the month was the unit and not the week. The Greek calendar varied in different states but the month was generally divided into three periods of ten days. The Romans reckoned from three fixed points in the month, the Kalend or first, the Nones fifth or seventh, the Ides thirteenth or fifteenth. These subdivisions in themselves had no religious significance.

Also in the Roman calendars were nundinal, or market days, at periods of eight days, or, as the Romans reckoned time. On these days farm work, etc., stopped and citizens flocked into the town markets. To some extent this may be a regular stoppage of secular work.; but it had no religious significance, except that it was considered an evil omen when the nundinal coincided with other festival days, e. g., the: Nones. The nundinal period seems derived from a blundering reminiscence of a quarter of a lunar period, and there seems no connection with the later seven days’ week (see below).

Q. 5. As Sunday was sacred to the Sun, Monday to the Moon, Saturday to Saturn, etc., were those supposed deities worshipped on their own particular days more than on any other days?

Ans. No; the old worship of the gods was disappearing when the seven-day week came about. The significance of the deities’ names was astrological, not religious, e.g., if a person were born on Monday, the moon would influence his horoscope, but the moon was never an object of common worship.

Q. 6. When was our week of seven days first introduced into the Roman calendar?

Ans. There are traces in the literature of the late republic (first cent. B.C.) that the Romans used the week of seven days for astrological purposes, in connection with the many Eastern superstitions of the period. It was probably the third century, A.D. before the seven day week came into common use.

Q. 7. From whom did the Romans learn the week of seven days?

Ans. From the Jews, alternately the Assyrians and Babylonians; the names were probably fixed by the Hellenistic Greeks.

Q. 8. Did the pagan Greeks ever adopt in common life, or in their calendar, the week of seven days?
Ans. No.

Q. 9. Did Apollo, the Sun god, either among the Romans or Greeks, have any special day on which he was worshipped with prayers or offerings more than on any other day?

Ans. There were certain set festivals at various temples; these were annual, not weekly.

Q. 10. Did the pagan reverence for Sunday have anything to do in influencing Christians to select that day as their rest day?

Ans. No; it can hardly be said that there was any special reverence for Sunday in pagan times (see answer to No. 5).

I am, sir,
Your obedient servant,
F. N. PRYCE.

3. The following was the response from George Moore, Professor of Ancient Roman and Greek History, at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Dear Sir:

There are two seven-day weeks: the Jewish week, with a Sabbath on the seventh day; and the Astrological week, with days named after the sun, moon, and five planets, in our order determined by the theories of astrology, but without any day of rest

The Astrological week first appears in Greek and Latin writings about the beginning of the Christian era … It had no use in ordinary life. Abstinence from labor on the seventh day, or on one day in seven, is a distinctively Jewish institution.

The edict of Constantine (321 A.D.) closing the courts on Sunday and prohibiting some kinds of labor on that day, is the first recognition of a seven-day week in Roman law. The ancient Romans had a market day every eight days, when the peasants came to town to market, but it was in no sense a day of rest.

In the old Roman calendar there were many days when the courts were closed and other public and private business was not done. They had also many festivals on which the people left their ordinary occupation to take part in the celebrations, but these have no periodicity like that of the week

The planetary week in which the days were named from their regents, Saturday, Sunday, etc., was an invention of the astrologers, probably in the second century, B.C., and has no relation to religion or influence upon it. Saturn, for example, was not worshipped on Saturday, nor Jupiter on Thursday. The festivals of the several gods were never weekly festivals, nor did they occur on days fixed by other divisions of the month, say the tenth day …

Private persons went to the temples when they had occasion to offer prayers or sacrifices or to make vows, etc. There were no stated days for such visits-though some days were in some temples luckier than others, and there was nothing like a stated day for the assembling of a worshipping congregation except the festivals of the local calendar.

Very truly yours,
George F. Moore.

4. One of the most detailed works on ancient Roman religion that I’ve read is, The Roman Festivals of the Period of the Republic by Warde W. Fowler (The Project Gutenberg, e-book released in 2009).

In it, Fowler describes Roman festivals in detail but says nothing about a weekly day of worship. This would have been a strange omission if Sunday had been “a venerable day of the sun” observed by pagans in Rome. Instead, the work shows that their festivals were seasonal or monthly.

The Roman annual calendar started on March 1; April was regarded as the month of opening or unfolding vegetation; May was the month of growing and June, the month of ripening and perfecting.

The Roman calendar at the time of Christ was divided into months, not weeks; they didn’t use our modern calendar. Therefore, the idea that the Romans specially worshipped the sun on Sunday, the moon on Monday or Frigg on Friday is a hoax.

5. The Encylopedia Britannica, article “Week” says: “For a time the Romans used a period of eight days in civil practice, but in AD 321 Emperor Constantine established the seven-day week in the Roman calendar and designated Sunday as the first day of the week.”

The Encylopedia Americana on the same topic says, “The Romans and Greeks …were not acquainted with the week till a late period. The Romans had, however, for civil uses, as the arrangement of market days, a cycle of eight days, the ninth being the recurring one, instead of the eighth as with us.”

In other words, the edict of Constantine in 321 A.D. was the first time in Roman law that Sunday was set aside as a holiday. It simply means before then it wasn’t recognized as a pagan holiday of the Empire. Before Constantine, the Roman Empire had eight days in a week (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, then 1, 2, 3, 4 etc.), but he made it into seven (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 then 1, 2, 3, 4 etc)

Assuming the Roman or Greek festivals were observed weekly, this calendar eliminates the possibility of pagans holding a feast for the same deity on the same day of the week, let alone being adopted by the church. Ralph E. Woodrow aptly pointed this out:

“Now this should be carefully noticed. IF pagans gathered on the first day of the week to worship Apollo, Mithra, or some other Sun-god, this would not correspond, week after week, to what we call Sunday. For example: Suppose our calendar had eight days in a week (instead of seven), and we met for Christian worship at seven day intervals. This would require a change of day each week!

“If we met the first week on Saturday, seven days later we would meet on Friday. Seven days later we would meet on Thursday. Seven days later we would meet on Wednesday, etc. There is simply no way that the first day—of an eight-day cycle—will consistently correspond with the first day of a seven-day cycle. This cries out in a loud voice, then, that the pagan Romans did not observe what we call Sunday as a weekly sacred day!” (Did Sunday Worship Come from Paganism? Palm Springs, CA., February 1999, p. 3).

It’s one thing for a denomination to say, “We meet for worship on Saturdays because we believe the New Testament does not really impose any particular day on believers, but gives us freedom to choose our own day of gathering for worship in church” – which is biblically fair. And I personally respect such sincere differences.

But it becomes a totally different ball game when a sect dogmatically says, “Sunday observance came from paganism! It originated from the worship of the Sun god in Rome and it won out because church leaders rebelled against God’s law. Sunday means ‘day of the sun,’ so if you go to a church on a Sunday, you are worshipping the sun god – Satan, and God told us through a 19th century visionary that Sunday worshippers will receive the mark of the Beast!”

This is a rhetoric laden with gross misinformation, falsehoods, fanaticism, poisoning the well, and religious mind control.

The Saints are not Watching Us

The unbiblical nature of Catholic sainthood has been discussed in a previous post. Popular Catholic apologists, however, are (predictably) trying to support this error with selected Bible verses. One of them wrote:

If it is objected that the dead saints cannot hear us, we reply that God is fully able to give them that power – with plenty of supporting biblical evidence: 1) the “cloud of witnesses” that Hebrews 12:1 describes; 2) in Revelation 6:9-10, prayers are given for us in heaven from “saints”; 3) elsewhere in Revelation an angel possesses “prayers of the saints” and in turn presents them to God … The saints in heaven are clearly aware of earthly happenings. If they have such awareness, it isn’t that much of a leap to deduce that they can hear our requests for prayer, especially since the Bible itself shows that they are indeed praying” (The One Minute Apologist p. 121).

The theological aberration here is glaring. To assert “that God is fully able to give them (dead saints) that power” to answer our prayers presupposes that God has somehow delegated some of His attributes to spirits of the dead. This is theologically objectionable.

For instance, if I’m praying to St. Raphael or St. Joseph to help find me a wife, he would first have to know who I am. We didn’t live in the same century and he obviously can’t understand my language.

There would also be thousands of men from around the world praying to the same saint at the same time for the same request, all in different languages.

Since this “saint” has a specific role in helping single men find a bride, he would need to be able to process all these requests or sort out those praying with a wrong motive. There’s no human, whether living or dead, that can listen to 100 people let alone help them at once. It’s beyond any human ability.

Not to mention that St. Joseph – not God – is the one doing the work (just like when St. Anthony searches out lost items).

For these saints to know about anything we might need or want to ask from God, hearing our thoughts or our words spoken in private, they would have to be gods.

Only God can possess all knowledge of human affairs, problems, thoughts, and words. So, technically, these “saints” would need to be at the least, quasi-omniscient and quasi-omnipotent gods to be able to know, hear and do what have been ascribed to them.

Second, this apologist has thrown in a red herring. The dispute isn’t about what God is able to do or not do.

If He wanted, He could have made saints intercede on our behalf in a Christianized pantheon of gods in heaven. So the real issue is: has God given the saints power to hear prayers? The answer is no.

Prayer is an act of worship, and it’s to be offered to God. Praying to any other being, whether in heaven or on earth, is a violation of the first commandment – acknowledging another God.

It’s the height of disservice to argue that praying to some spirits on the other side for supernatural, individual and personal help is “just asking them to pray for us.”

Before I examine the “proof texts” this apologist presented, I need to bring up a statement he made elsewhere:

Protestants try to explain this away, because they seem to fear the notion that saints in heaven and earth have an organic connection. They want simply to “go straight to God” and bypass all the mediating functions of the saints… The saints are alive and they love us!” (The Catholic Verses pp. 136, 137).

It is actually Roman Catholicism that attempts to explain away what God has made very clear in His Word that there is only “one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ” (1Tim. 2:5). The idea of “mediating functions” of saints is totally unbiblical.

God has “reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ” (2Cor. 5:18) and “through him [Jesus] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Eph. 2:18). We don’t gain access to God through a myriad of spirits.

It’s an affront to God to replace the closeness to and relationship we should have with Him with greater closeness to other invisible personages treated as intermediaries.

An analogy commonly given is: God is like an earthly boss and if we need a raise from him we need to go through levels of bosses as intermediates.

This conflicts with the revelation of the Fatherhood of God. Jesus said “the Father Himself loves you” (John 16:27). Christ removed the dividing wall of hostility sin created between God and man. Through His blood, we who were once far from God have been brought close (Eph. 2:13-14).

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba Father’” (Rom. 8:15).

Through Christ, every Believer can have an intimate fellowship with God. This blows the heresy of an “organic connection” between dead “saints” and the living into ashes.

Let’s take a brief look at the proof texts given:

Hebrews 12:1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and sin which so easily entangles us…”

It’s assumed that the “cloud of witnesses” here refers to saints in heaven observing events on earth. This passage comes after Hebrews 11 where faithful men and women of old were referred to. The term ‘witness’ doesn’t imply one who is observing events, but one who testifies or witnesses by one’s life.

This passage is simply saying that the faithful people were witnesses to God’s faithfulness by their own lives, and since we have their testimony, we are to run the race with patience and joy. There is no justification to make this teach that saints in heaven are watching and hearing us.

In fairness though, some Pentecostal preachers also misuse this text to teach that “all the other believers who have ever died are watching us from the grandstands in Heaven as we run our spiritual race.”

No one who takes Heb. 12:1 in its context, without reading into it a preconceived idea of the dead observing the earth will arrive at such a conclusion. You can’t juxtapose the words “witnesses” with “spectators”. Marcus Dods has this to say:

“Martu,rwn [meaning] ‘witnesses,’ persons who by their actions have testified to the worth of faith. The cloud of witnesses are those named and suggested in chap. xi; persons whose lives witnessed to the work and triumph of faith, and whose faith was witnessed to by Scripture, cf. xi. 2, 4, 5… It is impossible to take ma,rturej as equivalent to qeatai [spectator]. If the idea of ‘spectator’ is present at all, which is doubtful, it is only introduced by the words tre,cwmen … The idea is not that they are running in presence of spectators and must therefore run well; but that their people’s history being filled with examples of much-enduring but triumphant faith, they also must approve their lineage by showing a like persistence of faith” (The Expositor’s Greek New Testament (IV: 365).

Revelation 6:9-10. When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; and they cried out with a loud voice saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?

From this passage, did you come across anything like “prayers [that] are given for us in heaven from saints” like Rome’s defenders want us to believe?

Here we see martyrs asking for God’s vengeance and judgement on the wicked for murdering them. In response they were given a white robe and told to wait a little longer for the rest of the tribulation saints that will be martyred (v. 11).

Where is the evidence that they have knowledge of what is happening here on earth? What they know is that God is just and will punish sin, which we too also know here on earth, since God’s Word says it (Gen. 18:22, Ps. 9:8).

The fact that they were informed that more martyrs will join them shows us that they didn’t have this information naturally. They would have known this if they were observing events on earth.

This verse doesn’t picture anything even remotely like the saints in heaven praying for us and our problems much less hearing us or helping us to find a wife, husband or a missing pair of shoes.

Another proof text used is: “The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand” (Rev. 8:4)

Biblically, everyone who is saved is a saint. The Greek word for saint is hagion and it means holy ones. There are holy ones both in heaven and on earth, so it’s Catholic anachronism to assume that “prayers of the saints” refers only to holy ones in heaven.

It was actually an angel that was presenting the prayers of God’s people before Him. Nothing here supports praying to saints, or that saints in heaven have knowledge of earthly events much less answer our requests.

These modern Catholic apologists are digging a pit for themselves whether they realize it or not. On the one hand, they attack private interpretation of the Bible, telling us only Rome can interpret the Bible for us. And on the other, they trot out verses (which by the way, are out of their contexts) from their own private interpretation; verses which their church have never infallibly interpreted.

So when a Catholic trots out these “proof texts,” a good question to ask is: Has your church “infallibly” defined these Bible verses for you? Finally, he wrote:

Asking a saint in heaven to pray for us no more interferes with the unique mediation of Christ than does asking a person on earth to pray for us. We always pray in Christ, through his power, and to him, whether it is directly to him, or by means of another person or angel, in heaven or on earth (The Catholic Verses, p.143).

Asking a friend to pray for you is not and will never be relevant to Jesus’ role as a sole mediator. Jesus’ role as mediator is essential and necessarily different because He has a ground to stand on as mediator that no one – including Mary – can ever possess.

Interestingly, Santerios and Voodoo adherents also pray to the same “saints” as Catholics and we all know they are not connecting to the God of the Bible through them. If you are accessing the same “friends on the other side” as pagans and occultists, what does that say about your belief system?

To say that you believe Jesus as a unique mediator, that you always pray through him but then say in the same breath that you need other “mediating functions” of spirits of the dead and angels is serpentine forked tongue rhetoric. The Biblical prohibition of contacting those who have passed from this world is unmistakably clear.

Have you observed that all these Catholic arguments are not compelling to any serious Bible student? They are not meant to be. They are just meant to have enough appeal to keep an average Catholic who wants to believe the lies of Rome in a state of faith.