Case Study On The Roman Catholic And Protestant Beliefs Regarding

by Matt Slick

Neither Protestantism or Catholicism is the true religion. It is not an issue of a movement, or a position, or being a member of the "right church." Instead, true religion, as it relates to Christianity, is that which agrees with the Bible and does not violate the essentials of the Christian faith. The question, in the case of Protestantism and Catholicism, is which view is most biblical. At CARM we say that without a doubt the Protestant movement is far more biblical than the Catholic Church since it has added many doctrines that are not found in Scripture. In fact, so many were added that God eventually ordained the Protestant Reformation an effort to get back to what Scripture says.

But, generally speaking, Roman Catholics will say that their church is the most biblical because they include "sacred tradition" as part of the revelation given by God. They will say that there are verses that support tradition (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6; 1 Cor. 11:2), the source of their teachings which are not found in Scripture. However, the same Scripture they appeal to to support tradition, also says to beware of tradition.

  • Matt. 15:3-6, "And He answered and said to them, 'And why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, Honor your father and mother, and, He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death 5But you say, Whoever shall say to his father or mother, Anything of mine you might have been helped by has been given to God, 6he is not to honor his father or his mother. And thus you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition."
  • Mark 7:8-9, "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men. 9 He was also saying to them, You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition."
  • Col. 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ."

Tradition is only good if it conforms with Scripture. It is bad if it contradicts Scripture. In fact, we are told in the Bible to not go beyond what is written in its pages. In other words, we are not to teach as Christian doctrine that which is not confirmed in Scripture

"Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other," (1 Corinthians 4:6).

So, we have an explicit statement in the Bible not to exceed what is written in Scriptures. Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church has, without a doubt, exceeded what is written in the word of God. Please consider the following Roman Catholic teachings that cannot be found in Scripture.

  1. Only the Roman Catholic Church has authority to interpret Scripture:   "The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 100)
  2. Forgiveness of sins is by faith and keeping the commandments:  "so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments," (CCC 2068)
  3. Grace can be merited:  "Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods." (CCC 2027)
  4. Penance is necessary for salvation:  “This sacrament of Penance is necessary for salvation for those who have fallen after Baptism, just as Baptism is necessary for salvation for those who have not yet been reborn." (CCC 980)
  5. Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Christ:  "Mary "remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin" (St. Augustine, Serm. 186, 1: PL 38, 999): with her whole being she is "the handmaid of the Lord" (Lk 1:38)," (CCC 510).  (Contrast this with Matt. 1:25)
  6. You must go through Mary to get to Jesus:  "so no man goeth to Christ but by His Mother." (Vatican Website:  Encyclical of Pope Leo 13th on the Rosary, Octobri Mense, Pope Leo 13th, 1903-1914)
  7. Becoming gods, "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." "The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods," (CCC 460).(See the article The CCC paragraph 460 and becoming a god)
  8. Muslims worship the true god.  "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day, " (CCC 841).
  9. Purgatory, The 2nd Vatican Council, p. 63, "The truth has been divinely revealed that sins are followed by punishments. Gods holiness and justice inflict them. Sins must be expiated. This may be done on this earth through the sorrows, miseries, and trials of this life and, above all, through death. Otherwise, the expiation must be made in the next life through fire and torments or purifying punishments."
  10. Indulgences, "An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity," (CCC 1478).


So which is the true religion, Protestantism or Catholicism?  It cannot be the Roman Catholic Church since it not only adds to Scripture but also violates it. As far as Protestantism goes, there are many denominations within the overall movement, and each would have to be examined against Scripture. There are good churches and bad churches within the Protestant movement. So, again, they are only as good and true inasmuch as they agree with Scripture.

For criticism of Christianity in general, see Criticism of Christianity.

Criticism of the Catholic Church includes the observations made about the current or historical Catholic Church, in its actions, teachings, omissions, structure, or nature. The logical disagreements are covered on a denominational basis. Criticisms may regard the concepts of papalprimacy and supremacy, or aspects of church structure, governance, and particular practices. Since the Catholic Church is the largest Christian church representing over half of all Christians[1] and one sixth of the world's population,[2] these criticisms may not necessarily represent the majority view of all Christians and non-Christians.

Criticism of the Catholic Church in previous centuries was more closely related to theological and ecclesiological disputes. The Protestant Reformation (16th-century Europe) came about due to abuses of church practices by corrupt clergy in addition to these same theological disputes.[3] Political disputes compounded the theological grievances between Protestants and Catholics and to this day the debate begun at the Reformation has been reflected in the diversity of Christian denominations. Some contemporary criticisms of the Catholic Church relate to philosophy and culture e.g., Christianity vs. humanism.

Criticism of Catholic beliefs[edit]

Paganized Christianity[edit]

See also: Christianity and Paganism and Synchretism

Some dissenters believe that the early Church, especially in Rome, was influenced by pagan rituals and beliefs from the Roman imperial cult, Hellenistic philosophy, including Neoplatonism, and Gnosticism.

As one example, some Protestants criticize the Catholic Church because they believe that the latter allowed the Roman traditions back into the church.[4][5] They have stated that to conciliate the Pagans to nominal Christianity, the Catholic Church took measures to combine the Christian and Pagan festivals [6] so pagans would join the church; for example, Easter (a celebration of the Germanic goddess Ēostre) as a 'substitute' for Passover, though no record of Christian celebrations have necessarily yet been found that indicate that the celebration of Easter was observed as importantly before the second century.[4][5][7][8]

Scripture and tradition[edit]

Protestants have questioned the Catholic Church's reliance on what it calls "Sacred Tradition", handed down from the apostles, whether orally or in writing (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:15 – "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught by us, whether by word, or our epistle"), and which the Church distinguishes from human traditions or customs,[9] and sees not as a distinct revelation parallel to Sacred Scripture but rather as the context within which Sacred Scripture is understood.[10]

Therefore, it holds that Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted in accordance with the Spirit who inspired it, in a manner "especially attentive to the content and unity of the whole Scripture", "within the living Tradition of the whole Church", and "attentive to the analogy of faith".[11] The Catholic Church distinguishes Sacred Tradition from traditions, including theological ones, that the Church can retain, modify or even abandon.[12] Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (not these changeable traditions) must be accepted and honoured with equal devotion and reverence, since they are both modes of transmission of the revelation that comes from a single divine source[13] and make up "a single sacred deposit of the Word of God".[14]

Regarding 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and the term "tradition", Evangelical Lutherans interpret the verse as Paul strengthening the Thessalonians by encouraging them to hold on tight to the gospel that he "had once handed down by preaching and teaching". The Lutheran apologists conclude that within the context "tradition" was referred to the divine gospel handed down (v. 14), not human traditions.[15] Lutherans believe that ordaining others to teach does not mean giving them the right to claim inspiration from the Holy Spirit which Jesus said he would give to his chosen apostles, all church leaders since the apostles are bound to Scripture like Timothy and Titus were, and that the canon was not established by church councils but by the apostles whom Jesus chose. Lutheran churches teach that 2 Peter 3:2 limits the Word of God to that which comes from the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles chosen by Christ. Moreoever, in their teachings in Revelation 2:2 John, the last of the apostles, commends the Christian church for rejecting anything that did not come from the Apostles of Jesus Christ. Lutherans believe that these passages show that the apostles established the canon before God took them to heaven and that not everything Roman Catholicism teaches agrees with the Scripture. They conclude that the Roman Catholic teachings show that the so-called oral traditions do not come from God who inspired the Scripture.[16]

Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide[edit]

On the basis of their doctrines of sola scriptura (scripture only) and sola fide (faith only), Protestants have questioned and criticized the Catholic Church's use of tradition as well as Scripture, and its teaching regarding salvation through faith and good works. There has been disagreement between Catholics and Lutherans on these two matters.[17] The Catholic Church teaches that it is the grace of God, "the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call", that justifies a person,[18] a grace that is a prerequisite for a free response of "collaboration in justification through faith, and in sanctification through charity",[19] "With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man",[20] so that "we can have merit in God's sight only because of God's free plan to associate man with the work of his grace. Merit is to be ascribed in the first place to the grace of God, and secondly to man's collaboration. Man's merit is due to God."[21] Catholic writers have cited against the Lutheran teaching the Epistle of James2:24-26, the only passage of the Bible that speaks of "faith only", and other scriptural references.[22][23]

Confessional Lutheran apologists reject this interpretation of James on faith-works relations, teaching that the whole context of the Epistle and the Bible rather show that good works are a result of justification, not a cause:[24]

[We] strongly teaches good works, but not as a cause of our forgiveness. We do works not to be forgiven, but because we have been forgiven. St. Paul strongly teaches the importance of good works, but he also clearly says that salvation is by faith, not by works. The Catholic church elaborates on this and teaches that salvation is by faith alone, which is strengthened by works .[25]

Lutherans interpret the verses in the Epistle of James: "we are justified/declared righteous by people when they see the good works we do as a result of our faith and they conclude that our faith is sincere."[26] They conclude:

Paul is writing to people who said that faith in Jesus alone does not save a person, but one has to also obey God's law in order to be justified (Gal 3:3, 5:4). To counter the false idea that what we do in keeping the law must be added to faith in what Christ did for us. Paul often emphasizes in his letters (esp. Galatians, Romans, Colossians) that we are saved by grace through faith alone. James is writing to people who felt that believing in Jesus saved a person, but that having faith did not mean that a person necessarily would keep God's commandments out of love for God (James 2:14, 17). To show that faith is not really faith unless it leads a person to thank God for salvation in a life of glad and willing obedience to God's holy will. James emphasized that a faith which did not show that it was living faith was really not faith at all.[27]

A Lutheran exegesis further points out that James is simply reaffirming what Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:1-29 regarding works as a fruit of salvation, instead of a cause,[28] and that James 2:10 too denies works as a means to obtain forgiveness:

James here (verse 10) also shoots down the false doctrine of work-righteousness. The only way to be free of sin is to keep the law perfectly and in its entirety. If we offend it in the slightest, tiniest little way, we are guilty of all. Thank God that He sent Jesus to fulfill the Law in its entirety for us[29]

Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification[edit]

The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Catholic Church on 31 October 1999 (and later by World Methodist Council meeting in Seoul, South Korea, on 18 July 2006) [30][31] stated that "a consensus in basic truths of the doctrine of justification exists between Lutherans and Catholics", making acceptable "differences of language, theological elaboration, and emphasis in the understanding of justification".[32] It was agreed that, "when Catholics affirm the 'meritorious' character of good works, they wish to say that, according to the biblical witness, a reward in heaven is promised to these works. Their intention is to emphasize the responsibility of persons for their actions, not to contest the character of those works as gifts, or far less to deny that justification always remains the unmerited gift of grace."[33] Regarding the belief of Lutherans, it was agreed that, "when they view the good works of Christians as the fruits and signs of justification and not as one's own 'merits', they nevertheless also understand eternal life in accord with the New Testament as unmerited 'reward' in the sense of the fulfillment of God's promise to the believer."[34]

Some Lutherans,[35] namely the second and the third largest Lutheran church bodies, namely International Lutheran Council (ILC) and the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC), reject and criticize the Catholic-LWF joint declaration [36] stating that the document is not a real agreement and "should be repudiated by all Lutherans":

To put it mildly, confusion and not clarity reigns. The biblical Lutheran teaching of "forensic" justification maintains that the only effective cause of our forgiveness is a verdict of God that takes place outside of ourselves. We are declared "not guilty" entirely on the basis of what Christ has done for us. Catholic teaching on justification makes a change within man part of the cause of our forgiveness. The Joint Declaration does not represent a change in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. It does nothing to repudiate Rome's historic position on the doctrine. The Joint Declaration is nothing more than an ambiguous statement, carefully worded to make it possible for the Pope's representatives to sign it without changing, retracting, or correcting anything that has been taught by the Roman Catholic Church since the time of the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century.[37]

These particular Lutheran theologians comment that the Joint Declaration does nothing but simply "link" the Lutheran teaching of "Being declared righteous by God" with the Catholic teaching of "Becoming righteous by living a sanctified life", and is therefore not a real agreement but only "an agreement to disagree" on the teaching by which, as Lutheran reformers said, "the church stands or falls":[38]

The Joint Declaration is a compromise. It masquerades as a significant change which brings Roman Catholicism in line with confessional Lutheranism on the teaching of justification. In fact, it is a deception that presents the appearance of agreement without any real substance that would make agreement possible. It is a thinly veiled attempt on the part of ecumenicism to embrace Catholicism. In the final analysis it appears that Rome has moved closer to reattaching what was lost in the sixteenth century without any substantive change in its doctrinal position.[37]

Four Marks of the Church[edit]

Section 8 of the Second Vatican Council's Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium stated that "the one Church of Christ which in the Nicene Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic ... subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the sole successors of Peter the Apostle and by the Bishops in communion with him".[39] (The term "successor of Peter" is here used of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope; see Petrine theory.). The Catholic Church likewise teaches that the "true Church of Jesus Christ ... is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church",[40] and that "the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing".[41]

It is also Catholic teaching that the one Church of Christ is present and operative also in those Churches that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but that have preserved apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist and are therefore true particular Churches; and that the members of the ecclesial communities that lack apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist and are thus not Churches in the proper sense "are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church".[42][43]

Other Christian denominations, notably Protestant ones, who hold rather that the Church of Christ is the universal gathering of all believers,[44] disagree with these teachings. Protestants said they were saddened by the reiteration in 2007[43] of the teaching that, for lack of apostolic succession, the Christian communities born out of the 16th-century Protestant Reformation cannot be called churches.[45]Pope Benedict XVI issued the papal document Dominus Iesus which stated that Protestant denominations are not churches "in the proper sense."[46]

It is the Catholic Church's belief that it will last until the end of time and is indestructible, because Christ promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18) and that he would be with it always (Matthew 28:20).[47] This is criticized by Lutheran churches because the verses are ambiguous at best and say nothing of the traditions of the papacy.[48] Protestant apologists further comment:

It is not correct to say that the Roman Catholic church was the original Christian church. The apostles came to Rome rather late in the NT. There was a genuine congregation in Rome, served by Paul and maybe by Peter, but the Roman Catholic church is an aberration from the apostolic church. The chief errors of the Catholic church were already there during the apostolic era in the opponents of the apostles, for example, in the Judaizers who opposed Paul in regard to the doctrine of justification by faith alone and in Diotrophes who opposed the apostle John by setting himself up as a little pope. Both of these trends are well established by the second century...We can say that the bishop of Rome was trying to be a pope by the second century and was well established as pope by the 5th and 7th centuries. Errors continued to be more brazenly promoted with the passage of time, but they were almost all there in seed from the earliest centuries. The Catholic church is not in succession from the apostles but from the Judaizing party in the Christian church which opposed the apostles. Its' doctrine of salvation is the doctrine of the Judaizers, not the doctrine of Paul or Peter.[26]

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Opposition to teaching on modern ethical grounds[edit]


Proselytism is the practice of attempting to convert people to a religion. The Catholic Church has been criticised, by the Russian Orthodox Church of continuing aggressive proselytism, mainly by the Eastern Catholic branches of the Catholic Church.[49][50] The Church maintains that it "has a duty to evangelize; it is also its inalienable right".[51]

Interactions with other religious groups[edit]

Jewish criticism[edit]

In 1998, Pope John Paul II apologized for past actions by Nazi 'Protestant Christians' that caused suffering to the Jewish people, calling them "our elder brothers" in the faith.[52]

Critics reply that Pope Benedict XVI was a member of Hitler Youth, a paramilitary organization of the German Nazi Party, although membership was required by law for all 14-year-old German boys after December 1939.[53]

There was also controversy over Pope Benedict allowing a wider use of the Tridentine Mass in the 2007 motu proprioSummorum Pontificum. Concern was focused on the Good Friday liturgy in the Tridentine missal, which contained a prayer "For the conversion of the Jews" referring to Jewish "blindness" and prays for them to be "delivered from their darkness."[54] The American Jewish Committee (AJC) stated in a press release:

We acknowledge that the Church's liturgy is an internal Catholic matter and this motu proprio from Pope Benedict XVI is based on the permission given by John Paul II in 1988 and thus, on principle, is nothing new. However we are naturally concerned about how wider use of this Tridentine liturgy may impact upon how Jews are perceived and treated. We appreciate that the motu proprio actually limits the use of the Latin Mass in the days prior to Easter, which addresses the reference in the Good Friday liturgy concerning the Jews," Rosen added. "However, it is still not clear that this qualification applies to all situations and we have called on the Vatican to contradict the negative implications that some in the Jewish community and beyond have drawn concerning the motu proprio."[55]

In response to such complaints, Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 replaced the prayer in the 1962 Missal with a newly composed prayer that makes no mention of blindness or darkness. However, Jewish leaders were still disappointed by the revision.[56]


In 2006 Muslims objected to Pope Benedict XVI quoting the 14th-century Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II who wrote "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."[57] The Pope emphasized that he was quoting the emperor, and he neither agreed with nor disagreed with the statement.

There was considerable response to the pope's quote.[58] Islamic political and religious leaders expressed their concerns about his speech.[59] There were protests in much of the Islamic world, including Turkey, the West Bank of the Jordan,[60]Indonesia, and Iran.[61]

Turkey's ruling party likened the pope to Hitler and Mussolini and accused him of reviving the mentality of the Crusades, while Malaysian PM Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that "The Pope must not take lightly the spread of outrage that has been created".[62]

The Pope responded "In the Muslim world, this quotation has unfortunately been taken as an expression of my personal position, thus arousing understandable indignation. I hope that the reader of my text can see immediately that this sentence does not express my personal view of the Qur'an, for which I have the respect due to the holy book of a great religion. In quoting the text of the Emperor Manuel II, I intended solely to draw out the essential relationship between faith and reason"[63]

Separation of church and state[edit]

See also: Relations between the Catholic Church and the State

Throughout much of the history of Western Civilization, the Catholic Church has exercised many functions in Catholic countries that are more usually associated with government today. Many functions like education, healthcare, and a judicial system covering religious and some social areas were begun and undertaken by the Church. Certain bishops acted as secular rulers in small states in Italy and the Holy Roman Empire, notably the Papal States, although these were always unusual. The full separation of church and state in Catholic Europe and Latin America was a gradual process that took place over time. The church openly opposed the abuses of Spanish and Portuguese authorities over their colonies during the Age of Reason and took steps to operate outside of these authorities in spite of protests from the various monarchs.[64]

The Catholic Church has tried to influence governments to preserve Sunday as a day of worship, to restrict or, as in Ireland, Italy, the Philippines, and Latin America, forbid divorce, abortion and euthanasia. It has also pressured governments to restrict or not to promote the use of contraceptives.

Catholic Social Teaching advocates a living wage, proper work hours and fair treatment of workers.[65] Freedom to practice one's religion is one of the basic human rights the Church has been noted in defending especially in Communist countries around the world.[66]

Human sexual behavior and reproductive matters[edit]

See also: Homosexuality and Catholicism

The Church teaches the practice of chastity. It interprets this to mean that believers should eschew fornication,[67] and that no persons inside or outside of marriage may practice masturbation, sodomy and homosexual practices (The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches "They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided" and that "Homosexual persons are called to chastity"),[68]artificial contraception,[69]coitus interruptus,[70][71] sterilization, and the procurement of or assisting in an abortion.[72]

The official Catholic teaching regards sexuality as "naturally ordered to the good of spouses" as well as the generation of children.[73]

The Church teaches fidelity, sexual abstinence and opposes the use of condoms, seeing them as counterproductive [74] The Catholic Church has been criticized for its pro-life efforts in all phases of society. The Church's denial of the use of condoms has provoked criticism especially in countries where AIDS and HIV infections are at epidemic proportions. The Church maintains that countries like Kenya where behavioral changes like abstinence are endorsed instead of condom use, are experiencing greater progress towards controlling the disease than those countries just promoting condoms.[75]

Opposition to contraception[edit]

See also: Sex, gender and the Roman Catholic Church

The Catholic Church maintains its opposition towards artificial means of birth control.[76][77] Some Catholic Church members and non-members criticize this belief as contributing to overpopulation and poverty.[78]

Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church's position in his 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae (Human Life). In this encyclical, the Pope acknowledges the realities of modern life as well as the questions and challenges these raise.[76] Furthermore, he explains that the purpose of intercourse is both "unitive and procreative", that is to say it strengthens the relationship of the husband and wife as well as offering the chance of creating new life. As such, it is a natural and full expression of our humanity. He writes that contraception "contradicts the will of the Author of life [God]. Hence to use this divine gift [sexual intercourse] while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will."[76]

Supporters of birth control argue that economic growth which allows for a high population density without poverty is a direct function of the availability of birth control, as it leads to smaller families (as is the case in all nations which allow birth control), which in turn have more purchasing power to support themselves and provide their children with education, which is universally recognized as necessary for sustainable growth.

The Church counters this argument with its claim that "Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it —in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong."[76]

The Church stands by its doctrines on sexual intercourse as defined by the Natural law: intercourse must at once be both the renewal of the consummation of marriage and open to procreation. If each of these postulates are not met, the act of intercourse is, according to Natural Law, an objective mortal sin. Therefore, since artificial contraception expressly prevents the creation of a new life (and, the Church would argue, removes the sovereignty of God over all of Creation), contraception is unacceptable. The Church sees abstinence as the only objective moral strategy for preventing the transmission of HIV.[79][80]

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragán, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, has stated that Pope Benedict XVI asked his department to study the question of condom use as part of a broad look at several questions of bioethics.[81] However, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, in an interview reported by the Catholic News Agency on May 4, 2006, said that the Church "maintains unmodified the teaching on condoms", and added that the Pope had "not ordered any studies about modifying the prohibition on condom use."[82]


The Church has been criticized for its opposition to promoting the use of condoms as a strategy to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, and STDs. Church officials deny that their teaching against condom use is followed by those same people who flout Church teaching on illicit sexual activity, such as its absolute condemnation of anal intercourse between men.

The Catholic Church emphasizes "education towards sexual responsibility", focusing on partner fidelity rather than the use of condoms as the primary means of preventing the transmission of AIDS.[83] This stance has been criticized as unrealistic, ineffective, irresponsible and immoral by some public health officials and AIDS activists.[83] Some evidence suggests that abstinence-only sex education does not work, and comprehensive sex education should be used instead.[84][85][86]

Criticism of Catholic prayer and worship[edit]

Sacrifice of the Mass[edit]

Amongst the gravest of criticisms made by non-Catholic Christians of the Catholic Church surround those criticizing the central Catholic worship service: "The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass", also called the Eucharist. For Catholics, it is the centre and summit of Catholic worship and the greatest of the seven sacraments of the Church. For them it is "a sacrifice, because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit", and "the sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: 'The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different'"; "when the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present; the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present";[87]

The German Reformer Martin Luther strongly criticizes this belief: "They [Catholics] made the sacrament which they should accept from God, namely, the body and blood of Christ, into a sacrifice and have offered it to the selfsame God...Furthermore, they do not regard Christ's body and blood as a sacrifice of thanksgiving, but as a sacrifice of works...This is the true and chief abomination and the basis of all blasphemy in the papacy."[88] The Church of England, in the Book of Common Prayer, Article of Religion #31, uses similarly strong language: "Wherefore the sacrifice of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain and guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits."[89]

In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the writer plainly states that "He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever." (Hebrews 7:27,28 NABRE) Protestants interpret this as implying that 1) human priests offering sacrifice are redundant as Christ is the eternal and perfect High Priest, 2) the sacrifice of the Mass is redundant as Christ does not need to offer sacrifices day after day as practised in Catholicism and 3) Christ sacrificed Himself once and for all and then ascended into Heaven where he sits bodily at the right hand of the Father. Hence, for a priest to "call down" Christ from heaven in order to "mystically slay" Him on the altar for the remission of sins, is not just bad doctrine for Protestants, but repugnant and blasphemous [see Article XXXI above, also, Hebrews 6:1 (NABRE) "Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again: repentance from dead works and faith in God..."]


Catholics have venerated Mary and other saints for supplication, or requested help of some sort. Prayers to the saints have their origin in the earliest centuries of the Catholic Church. Some ProtestantChristians argued that, in order for Mary and the saints to actually hear all the prayers directed to them, they would by necessity be required to possess the attributes of omniscience and omnipresence, thus allowing them to know all the requests made by either ultimate knowledge or by actually being present with each supplicant simultaneously. Many Protestant churches have not traditionally called on the saints or apostles as intermediaries as do Catholics, citing 1 Tim. 2:5[90] to support this view.

Catholics answer that when they have prayed to a saint they have asked the saint to pray to God for them, not to have the saint do something for them personally. For Catholics, belief in the "Communion of Saints" means that death does not separate believers and requesting prayers of a saint is the same as asking any friend. They also say that Christians have historically believed that only material beings occupy time and space. Spirits, saints and angels do not occupy space nor are they subject to linear time.[91] This, they argue, would suggest that angels and saints do not need to be omnipresent or omnipotent to answer prayers. Apart from all time and space, they participate in the life of God in Heaven, through Theosis.


For the critics of the traditional role of women in Latin America, see: Marianismo.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, asserted "The issue of Mary remains one of the hottest debates on the Protestant/Catholic divide, and new proposals for Marian doctrines are likely to ignite a theological conflagration. It has been suggested by some Protestant writers that the Catholics worship Mary as a goddess."[92] These suggestions continue to be made in recent times.[citation needed]

However, the Catholic Church teaches that Mary is a created being, not a goddess, and has always taught that adoration (latria) is due to God alone and not to any created being. Whereas only God is entitled to receive latria, the saints are offered veneration (dulia), and Mary is offered a special veneration, hyperdulia - the highest possible veneration short of worship. Mary is also honoured, as she is the Mother of God— not in the sense that she is the mother of pre-existent Divine Nature, but in the sense that she gave birth to Christ, who is God.

Lutherans respond that what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says of Mary amounts to worship:

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