My previous entry in this series GOD & the Gods was on the topic of LaVeyan Satanism. I concluded that writing with the statement that LaVey had “appropriated the spiritual into an extreme atheistic and carnal belief system”1 because LaVey never believed in a literal Satan. In a way you could say that LaVey’s Church of Satan consisted primarily of philosophies espoused by its founder and not necessarily those of its namesake. In the same way, it can be argued that Catholicism appropriated spiritual concepts into an outward form of Christianity that embraces tradition and ritual over sound biblical teaching.
Not many readers will disagree with my observation concerning ritual, but my statement on tradition (human customs) is sure to ruffle some feathers. However, my intent is not to ruffle feathers, but to encourage the reader to re-examine their belief system.
Let’s set the record straight, I’m not someone who was always on the outside looking in; I was raised a Catholic and received my First Holy Communion at St. Mary of Czestochowa R.C. Church in Bound Brook, NJ. By the way, I’m the expressionless communicant highlighted in the photo in Figure 1. Most all my close relatives on both my father’s and mother’s side were Catholic—what would you expect from Polish-Americans and those of Polish descent? I am also a godparent to my niece.
St. Mary’s Church uses the “R.C.” designation in its name indicating that it associates with the Roman or Latin rite in Catholicism. The designation also signifies that the church recognizes the authority of the Pope in Rome. In this writing however, the focus is primarily on doctrine not liturgy. Some readers may choose to split hairs over my use of the term Roman Catholic to describe the Catholic Church, but be that as it may. I understand the academic term for the Church and all its rites is simply Church of Rome.
For the practicing catholic who happens upon this blog post, there is no need to be overly concerned because you will not find the usual rantings that can be found on other protestant-oriented sites. My position is to confront not condemn by adhering to the charge given by Timothy in the following scripture:
…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (2 Tim. 4:2 NASB)
Nevertheless, why include an installment on Catholicism in a series GOD & the Gods which implies there are other gods other than the one God? Doesn’t the Catholic Church believe in the one true God just as other Christian churches believe? Well…that’s the whole point of this installment. The premise being put forth here is that the worship of other gods in the Catholic Church is shrouded in doctrine and tradition.
Unfortunately, Catholic doctrine is not derived from Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura) but from Tradition, Scripture, and the Magisterium of the Church. The Catechism teaches that these sources of Revelation are co-dependent, meaning all three sources have equal authority.2 The Catechism goes on to teach that Sacred Scripture is inspired by God and is God’s Word3 which is all well and good. That being true then why has Catholic doctrine undermined God’s authority by elevating human tradition and church bureaucracy (office-holders) to the level of Deity. If God is God, wouldn’t His inspired Word as given in the Bible be sufficient, complete, and final?
The Catholic Church distinguishes between Holy Tradition with a capital “T” and human tradition. Tradition (capital “T”) is what the Catholic Church believes has been passed down from the apostles. If I remember correctly, there is an entire book in the Bible called Acts which records the Acts of the Apostles. The Tradition that Catholics hold in such high regard is redundant at best and irreverent at worst since God has already provided us with all the information we need in His written Word.
Before continuing on and in order to avoid confusion, a definition of the word “worship” needs to be established. Wikipedia defines worship as an “act of religious devotion usually directed towards a deity.” [emphasis added] Also, it’s important to remember the following synonyms: reverence, veneration, adoration, praise, devotion, and glorification.
So then, in the context of this discussion, who are the “other gods?” Certainly not the mythological gods: Zeus, Odin, Apollo, Thor, etc., as they would be too obvious. But what happens when a church officially sanctions the use of iconography in its liturgy, that is, its worship, even though the images are representations of biblical characters or even God himself? The answer is the religious icons used in worship have become idols in violation of God’s specific command:
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God… (Exod. 20:4-5)
These two verses are taken directly from the Ten Commandments. What other interpretation of these two verses can be argued except that which is obvious. This is why Bible-based, evangelical protestant churches never display or possess statuary and images in their sanctuaries, only empty crosses.
Evangelical Christians have many issues with Catholic doctrine, but this writing is primarily focused on Marian Veneration with only a passing mention of Apostolic Succession and Sacramentalism.
Consider the words of the Hail Mary (Traditional) Catholic prayer:
Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
The first four lines of the prayer are scriptural but the remaining lines of the prayer go off the rails. In Luke 1:35, Mary calls herself a bondslave and she goes on to declare what God has done for her and that “holy is His name.” Mary puts the focus rightly on God, yet somehow the Church of Rome elevated her with the title, Mother of God. Fact is, Mary is the mother of Jesus. Since Jesus is God, therefore Mary is the Mother of God. Does this line of reasoning make sense? Obviously, it does to the Church of Rome.4
As an adolescent, Jesus willingly submitted Himself to his parents until He entered His ministry.
Then His mother and His brothers *arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him.
A crowd was sitting around Him, and they *said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.”
Answering them, He *said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”
Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He *said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!
“For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)
The event described in these verses demonstrate that Jesus afforded no special privileges to His mother or to any of His brothers. If Mary didn’t get any special consideration while on earth, what evidence is there that she has special privileges in Heaven? Not even the angels in Heaven are worthy of our worship as John records in Revelation:
Then I [John] fell at his feet to worship him. But he *said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God…” (Rev. 19:10)
Jesus had to be conceived without the intervention of any earthly father so that Adam’s sin wouldn’t be imputed to Him, therefore He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Can the same be said of Mary? In order for Mary to have been conceived without original sin, as the Catechism teaches, she would have to have been conceived by the Holy Spirit just as Jesus had been. In order for Mary to be born without original sin, the same would also be true for Mary’s mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and so on, all the way back to Eve. Were all these women without original sin and were all these women eternal virgins? I think not since if it were true, then all women in Mary’s lineage would be placed on at least an equal plane as Jesus, guiltless and perfect.5 This doctrine is not derived from Scripture but from the Magisterium, that being the Pope and the bishops. The Catechism also teaches in no uncertain terms that Mary lived her entire life without sin,6 just as Jesus had done.
I remember during one of our vacations at Cape May, NJ while strolling through the Washington Street Mall, I noticed something interesting over the entrance to Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church which I had never noticed before during any of our previous visits to the area. What I noticed over the entrance to the church was an image of Mary surrounded by the Latin words, “Ad Jesum per Mariam” which is translated, “To Jesus through Mary.” So ingrained in Catholic theology is the worship of Mary!
Let us also not forget that the Church of Rome teaches that Mary precedes Jesus in the order of salvation. What else would the saying, “Ad Jesum per Mariam” infer? I wonder how many practicing Catholics realize that their Church teaches this error.
In addition, Catholic doctrine places Mary as the Mother of the Church7 and since she was without sin, she holds the office of advocate for sinners seeking forgiveness from Jesus as there is no salvation (forgiveness) outside of the Church.8 According to Catholic doctrine, one must receive the sacraments administered by the Church in order to be saved. Since the sacraments can only be administered by the Church, which is Christ’s instrument on earth, there can be no salvation outside of the Church.
Philip C. L. Gray, from a reprint of his Lay Witness article, puts an interesting spin on this no salvation outside of the Church doctrine claiming that this teaching doesn’t necessarily apply to those who through no fault of their own, were never offered the truth, that being the Gospel.9 For the most part, Gray quotes the appropriate Scripture verses to make his point along with examples of Old Testament saints who were not baptized yet were saved. He explains this situation with a quote from the Catechism, “God has bound salvation to the Sacrament of Baptism, but He Himself is not bound by His sacraments.”10 In other words, God has given, to the Church, unnecessary and non-binding commands. Of course, it is no surprise that the Church teaches that those who willingly reject the authority of the Church of Rome, the Pope, and the sacraments are lost.11
Getting back to my discussion on Mary, if, as the Church believes, Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium are co-dependent and co-equal, you would expect that one wouldn’t contradict any of the others but that is not the case. How is it that both Tradition and Magisterium are in contradiction with Scripture concerning “Ad Jesum per Mariam” as illustrated by the following verse:
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; (1 John 2:1)
Let’s see how this would work; Mary advocates for sinners with Jesus, then Jesus advocates for Mary with the Father? Since Mary is the Mother of God and the Father is God, and Jesus is God, then Mary is really the one dispensing salvation to the Church. This may make sense in Rome but nowhere else. Interestingly, if Mary is as indispensable for the economy of salvation as the Church of Rome contends, then why is her name only mentioned once in the Book of Acts?
Coincidentally, or perhaps by design, the Church of Rome consists of an earthly trinity: Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterium. However, the notion of a trinity is not unique to Christianity. You can find many instances of trinitarianism in the belief system of Hinduism and the Celtics in particular. Alexander Hislop, in his book The Two Babylons, points out that the worship of the first person of the Hindu Trinity, Brahma, is almost never worshiped, even in India.12 He goes on to say that even in Europe, the worship of a Father God, first person of the Christian Trinity, has been replaced with the worship of the Mother and Child.13 Hislop’s contention is that the Catholic images of the Virgin Mary holding her child originated in ancient Babylon, “The Babylonians, in their popular religion, supremely worshipped a Goddess Mother and a Son, who was represented in pictures and in images as an infant or child in his mother’s arms.”14
Just as Hislop’s premise that the Mother and Son originated in Babylon, he also claims that the statues of Peter, who is claimed to be the first Pope, which are found in Rome are really statues of the Roman god Jupiter; and likewise, Peter’s keys15 are those of the Roman god and goddess Janus and Cybele.16
Hislop’s book, The Two Babylons, is probably one of or the most thoroughly researched book on the subject of the origins of the Catholic belief system. I challenge anyone to dispute Hislop’s academic rigor, though many will certainly dispute his findings, but not on the merits of his arguments.
This concludes my discussion on Catholicism as it relates to the GOD & the Gods series. I plan another writing on the Church of Rome by evaluating some books written by Catholic apologists which will hopefully provide the opportunity for me to expand on the Apostolic Succession doctrine and the Magisterium. In addition, I plan to examine the history and beliefs of the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) headquartered in Scranton, PA. I doubt many people have ever heard of this church but nevertheless I believe it deserves consideration.
Gerard Sczepura, “GOD & the Gods: LaVeyan Satanism,” Theological Ruminations (blog), February 17, 2019, https://gerardsczepura.com/god-the-gods-laveyan-satanism/. ↩
U. S. Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Complete and Updated, (Image, New York, 1995), 34. ↩
Ibid., 36. ↩
Ibid., 139. ↩
Ibid., 138. ↩
Ibid., 140. ↩
Ibid., 273. ↩
Ibid., 244. ↩
“Without the Church There Is No Salvation,” Philip C. L. Gray, Catholic Education Resource Center, accessed April 1, 2019, https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/religion-and-philosophy/apologetics/without-the-church-there-is-no-salvation.html. ↩
Hislop, Alexander. The Two Babylons or The Papal Worship Proved to be the Worship of Nimrod and his Wife (p. 18). Kindle Edition. ↩
U. S. Catholic Church, Catechism, 178-179. ↩
Hislop, The Two Babylons, 188. ↩