The most lasting impression in our minds of the events surrounding the death of Pope John Paul II is that of the honour and glory that was given to him by the world. Leaders of all nations and all faiths paid tribute to him and, in one photograph, three US Presidents and the serving Secretary of State are shown kneeling before the body of the Pope in prayer. The adulation extended to the late Pope by a godless world stands in stark contrast to the humiliation and murder of the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ.
And yet it is hard to discern what were the outstanding accomplishments of the Pope that gave occasion for such a widespread outpouring of public adulation and testimony. Certainly, he spoke out against the twentieth century’s worldly doctrines of materialism, consumerism and sexual “liberation”, but without much measure of success within his own Church, where the practice of contraception, for example, is widespread. Nor are Romans Catholics any less voracious in their pursuit of material wealth and comfort than the Western world generally.
It is also true that the late Pope embraced the Biblical position on a range of social issues, such as the ordination of women, homosexuality and the murder of the unborn and elderly (euphemistically described as “abortion” and “euthanasia” respectively). But it is equally true that he failed to address the longstanding scourge of paedophiliac priests within the Church or relax the prohibition on married clergy, two issues that probably bear some relation to each other. But his most notable failure was that he refused to release Roman Catholics around the world from their religious bondage to the Church, thus allowing them to find liberty in Christ Jesus.
The English word “religion” derives from the Latin religio, meaning “things that bind” and is to be contrasted with the doctrine of being “in Christ”, wherein is truth and freedom. In ancient pagan Rome, it was religion that bound the people together with the State, with priests appointed to various temples from the leading political families. Many Christian, and in particular, Roman Catholic, traditions and habits derive from the pagan religion of Rome, including the veneration of the virgin, the pantheon of canonised saints, the professional priesthood and the building of lavish temples (now called churches) dedicated to religious figures. The Roman religion, as it has evolved, is but one of many examples of the misuse and abuse of scriptures by false prophets, false teachers and corrupt Churches to bring God’s people into bondage and to keep them there. As the heretical cult that has endured the longest, it bears examination.
The claim to authority of the modern papacy was asserted by Pope Boniface VIII, in his unam sanctum of 1302, in which he wrote; “we declare, we say, we defend and pronounce that to every human creature it is absolutely necessary to salvation to be subject to the Roman Pontiff”. This, of course, is to directly contradict the scriptures, which give Headship of the universal ecclesia to the Lord Jesus Christ and teaches sanctification by the Spirit and faith in truth as the essential pre-requisites to salvation (2 Thessalonians 2). Moreover, it is to ignore the warnings of scripture not to yield our crowns to men, nor to allow others to lord it over our faith.
But the doctrine of the papacy goes further. The Pope is known as the “Holy Father”, a title that scripture gives to the Father in heaven (See John 17:11). Moreover, one of the titles by which the Pope is referred to is “Pontifex Maximus”, which means the Greatest High Priest, an expression used in scripture as a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ (See Hebrews 4:14). Then, of course, the Pope is known also as the “Vicar of Christ on earth”, thus usurping the function of the Paraclete, the One called alongside, Whom Jesus sends, that is, the Holy Spirit (See John 14:26). All of these titles are utterly blasphemous and lie at the heart of the religious idolatry that is Roman Catholicism.
These false titles are reinforced by the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope, a doctrine that had been bandied about for centuries before it was formally adopted by the Vatican Council in 1870, in which it was asserted that; “The Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, is, by reason of the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrines of faith and morals.”
Thus, the pope is preserved from errors of judgement, according to this declaration, by which all Christians are claimed to be bound. Over the centuries, this doctrine has allowed different Popes to make ex cathedra announcements on a range of issues that cannot be substantiated by reference to scripture. Notable among these are those that relate to the virgin Mary, whom the Roman Church regards as having perpetual virginity.
In 1854, Pope Pius IX issued the following decree; “We, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles, Peter and Paul and by our Own, declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instance of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the omnipotent God, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God and therefore is to be firmly and constantly believed by the faithful”.
This is the doctrine of the “immaculate conception” of Mary, a doctrine of which the late Pope, as an ardent Marian, was fully supportive. This ignores what scripture has consistently to say about the universal sinfulness of man, as for example in Romans 3:10, there is none righteous, no, not one; in Romans 3:23, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 1 John 1:8, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us; and 1 John 1:10, if we say that we have not sinned we make Him (God) a liar, and His Word is not in us.
To rebut this heresy, we need go no further than Mary herself who, on being greeted by her cousin Elizabeth, said; My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour (Luke 1:46,47). On the testimony of Mary’s own words, she acknowledges her need of a Saviour and, since only sinners need a Saviour, Mary is admitting that she, too, is part of the sinful human race, thus giving the lie to the traditions of men, as promulgated by the Roman Church.
A more recent example of Mariolatry, the idolatrous worship of Mary, is provided by Pope Pius XII who, in 1950, issued an ex cathedra announcement in the following terms; “By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce declare and define it to be a dogma divinely revealed; that the Immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever virgin, on the completion of her earthly life, was assumed to heavenly glory both in body and soul.”
When such deceptions are embraced, they lead inevitably to further deception and, eventually, idolatry. Thus, despite what scripture tells us, that there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5), the Roman Church has embraced Mary as a “co-mediatrix” with Christ and also has a vast array of “saints” to whom one may address prayers. Thus, to Roman Catholics, Christ is insufficient to meet their needs. In holding to doctrines such as these, the Roman Church has really separated itself from Christ to the extent that it can hardly be described as a Christian Church. Indeed, most Roman Catholics, if given a choice between describing themselves as Christians or Catholics, would opt for the latter.
Yet, to the world, the Roman Church IS Christianity, in all its opulence, grandeur and worldly glory. The public adulation afforded to the dead Pope shows how readily the coming anti-Christ will be accepted by the world and by worldly Christians.