Roman Catholicism in Theory and Practice

By William W. McConnell
Pioneer Missionary to Costa Rica

First Missionary of the Central American Mission International, an organization founded by C.I. Scofield in 1890.

This article is from the March 1904 "The Missionary Review of the World."

It is a source of grief to us, as workers on a field where Romanism is seen at its worst, as we realize the absolute hopelessness of the multitudes, and our inability to reach them with the Gospel with so few workers before they pass into eternity, that there is so little interest, so little apparent care for their souls, on the part of the Christian people in the home land. Africa, China, and all heathen lands far away across the sea appeal to the hearts of Christians at home, and call forth men and means to give them the Gospel; but here at our door are five republics whose people are, for the most part, as ignorant of God as revealed in Christ as are the heathen across the sea, and a vast majority of God's children take no thought as to the responsibility laid upon us to evangelize them.

The causes of this indifference we believe to be the notion that Romanists are Christians, and are therefore numbered among God's people. A people who may be saved through the religious systems to which they belong naturally do not appeal, as do the Africans and Chinese, to the sympathy of those who have some sense of their responsibility to obey Christ's commission. With the profound conviction that the great mass of true Romanists in this and all lands are without a saving knowledge of Christ, and have as much need of the Gospel as any heathen, and with the hope of leading some of God's people to realize that these Romanists need the Gospel, I have collected some quotations from Roman Catholic theologians, showing what all true Romanists must believe, under pain of anathema.

Seven Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church

I. Baptism. A sacrament which takes away original sin, and makes us Christians, sons of God and the Church. It takes away all voluntary sin committed before receiving it. It remits all punishments merited for sin. It is impossible to be saved without being baptized.

II. Confirmation. A sacrament which infuses in us the Holy Spirit, with all the gifts, and makes us perfect Christians.

III. Eucharist. A sacrament which contains truly, really, and substantially the body, blood, soul, and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ under the species or appearances of bread and wine. It gives us the life of the new Adam.

IV. Penance. A sacrament instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ to forgive the sins committed after baptism. No sin, however great, remains unremitted when this sacrament is properly received.

V. Extreme Unction. A sacrament instituted by our Lord, for the spiritual and corporal relief the of the sick. It purifies the different senses anointed, and takes away the sins of which they were the instruments.

VI. Orders. A sacrament which gives power to exercise ecclesiastical ministry, and the grace to perform it holily. These orders confer upon the priests two powers: one over the natural body of Jesus Christ and the other over his mystical body, which is the Church.

VII. Matrimony. A sacrament instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ to sanctify the union between husband and wife.

Canons of the Council of Trent

"Canon 1 (p. 90): If any one says that the sacraments of the new law were not all instituted by Jesus Christ our Lord, or that there are more or less than seven -- that is, Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Orders, and Matrimony, or that any of these is not a sacrament in all truth and propriety -- let him be anathema.

"Baptism. -- Canon 5 (p. 94): If anyone says that Baptism is not arbitrary -- that is, not necessary to obtain salvation -- let him be anathema.

"Eucharist. -- Canon 1 (p. 134): If anyone denies that the Eucharist contains truly, really, and substantially the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently all of Christ, but shall say, on the contrary, that He is only present in sign or figure, let him be anathema. Canon 5: If anyone says that the principal fruit of the Holy Sacrament is the pardon or sins, or that no other proceeds from it, let him be anathema.

"Penance. -- Canon 6 (p. 175): If anyone says that the mode of confessing in secret to the priest is foreign to the institution and precept of Jesus Christ, and that it is an invention of men, let him be anathema. Canon 7: If anyone says that it is not necessary, by Divine right, to confess in the Sacrament of Penance, to obtain the pardon of sins, all and each one of the mortal sins which, after due, diligent examination, can be remembered, altho they be hidden sins, and committed against the two last precepts of the decalog, or that it is not necessary to confess the circumstances, which change the species of sin, ....or that it is not necessary to confess venial sins, let him be anathema. Canon 10: If anyone says that priests, who are in mortal sin, have not power to bind and loose, or denies that priests alone are ministers of absolution ....let him be anathema. Canon 14: If anyone says that the satisfactions with which, through the grace of Jesus Christ, penitents redeem their sins, are not the worship of God, but human traditions, which obscure the doctrine of grace, the true worship of God, and even the benefit of the death of Christ, let him be anathema.

"Extreme Unction. -- Canon 2 (p. 179): If anyone says that the sacred unction of the sick does not confer grace, nor pardon sins., nor alleviate the sick, ....let him be anathema. Canon 4: If any one says that the presbyters of the Church, which the blessed James exhorts to be taken to anoint the sick, are not the priests ordained by the Bishop, but the elders of any community, and that therefore the priest is not the only proper minister of extreme unction, let him be anathema.

"Orders. -- Canon 1 (p. 267) : If anyone says that there is not in the New Testament a visible and external priesthood, or that there is no power to consecrate, and offer the true body and blood of the Lord, nor to pardon or retain sin, but only the office and mere ministry of preaching the Gospel, ....let him be anathama. Canon 6: If anyone says that there is not hierarchy in the Catholic Church established by Divine institution, composed of Bishops, Presbyters, and ministers, let him be anathema.

"Matrimony. -- Canon 1 (p. 297): If anyone says that matrimony is not truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of the evangelical law, instituted by Christ our Lord, but invented by men in the Church, and that it does not confer grace, let him be anathema."

Extracts from Ripaldes' Catechism

"Who is our Lady the Virgin Mary? She is a lady full of virtue and grace, who is the mother of God, and is in heaven. Our Lady the Virgin Mary is the only descendant of the sinner Adam, who was conceived without a spot of sin (p. 126).

"The Church has always condemned as heretics those who at any time have declared against the veneration and worship of the sacred images . . . the Council of Trent says that we ought to have and preserve, principally in the temples, the images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mother of God, and the other saints, and give them the honor and veneration due them (p. 128). Are we to pray also to the angels and saints? Yes, Father, as to our mediators (p. 131).

"Priestly Dignity. -- The dignity of the priests is such that, according to the expression of St. Augustine, the Son of God incarnates in his hands as in the bosom of the Virgin. The priest making Jesus Christ come into being upon the altar, by virtue of the words of consecration, becomes as his father, and as the husband of his most holy mother. The Son of God has put in the priest's power the keys of heaven, and in his hands has deposited the treasures of the faith, and into his care has delivered the flock, which he bought with his life. All the spiritual and eternal interests of humanity, all the value of the blood of Jesus Christ, all the work of sanctification and salvation of men, is in the priest's care. Jesus Christ has put himself, so to speak, at the disposition of the priests. Be stupefied with astonishment, O Heavens, be terrified, O earth, be confounded, O hell, at contemplating the immense dignity which God has given to the priest! Ah, if angels were capable of envy, they would envy none but the priests! Oh, the dignity of priests! Oh, my beloved priests, of how much veneration you are worthy! Angels reverence you, dominions venerate you, and princes in humiliation attend your sublime ministry! Oh, Christians, with what veneration, with what respect ought we to acknowledge these agents of God, these visible gods, who represent us to the invisible God, these gods on earth who take the place of God of Heaven! But the priests are not only worthy of our veneration on account of their sacred character and elevated dignity, but also for the multitude and greatness of the blessings which they dispense to us (p. 390)."

Extracts from Liguoris' "The Glories of Mary"

This is a very popular Roman Catholic book, many editions having been published, fully approved by the Church, and especially recommended by the cardinals Wiseman and Manning. Quotations are from the sixth edition, Spanish, Paris, 1883:

"She (Mary) is . . . the only hope of sinners (p. 69). In Judea, in olden times, there were cities of refuge, in which the criminals who there sought refuge were exempted from the punishment they merited. These cities are not now so numerous: there is only one, and this is Mary (p. 407).

"No one can be so suitable as Mary to detain with her hand the sword of Divine justice, preventing it from striking sinners. Before Mary came to the world, God lamented that there was no one to detain Him in the punishment of sinners; but the Virgin having been born, she appeases Him (p. 72).

"We will be heard and saved sooner by going to Mary, and invoking her holy name, than that of Jesus our Savior. We will find salvation sooner going to the mother than going to the Son (p. 82).

"Many things asked of God and not received are asked and received from Mary (p. 82). All obey the precepts of Mary, even God (p. 115).

"The salvation of all consists in being favored and protected by Mary. He whom the most holy Virgin protects is saved; he whom she does not protect is lost (p. 107).

"Whatever Mary says, the Son does (p. 118). Mary is called the door of heaven, because no one can enter that happy mansion who does not enter by Mary, who is the door (p. 99), Jesus Christ said: ....No one comes to me, unless my Mother first draws him by her prayers (p. 105). Having with God, O Mary, the authority of a mother, secure the pardon of the most obstinate sinners (p. 119).

"It is impossible for a devotee of Mary, who faithfully waits upon her, and commends himself to her, to be condemned (p. 147).

"He who does not serve the Virgin will die in sin; he who does not go to thee, Lady, will not get to heaven (p. 148).

"Mary says: He that comes to me, and hears what I tell him, will not be lost (p. 149)."

Testimonies from Missionaries in Central America

All consistent Roman Catholics serve and worship the creature more than the Creator. To them Mary is the sinner's hope, the door of refuge. Their confidence is in rites and ceremonies, images, saints, and men, and not in the only Savior. If salvation is of faith, then it is not of works; if of works, then not of faith. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." Among all the converts from Rome which I have met I never have encountered a single one who had any conception of the finished work of Christ while they remained true to the teachings of Rome. -- A. E. BISHOP.

The devout Roman Catholics in Central America are idolaters, and we are told that no idolater shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven (1. Corinthians 6: 9, 10; Revelations 21: 8). It is a well-known fact that in every community in this country the most religious or devout persons are those who have the greatest number of images in their houses, who most frequently bow down to these images, and who give the most toward the idolatrous processions which are so frequent. Salvation is not secured only by faith in Jesus' atoning blood. Paul had lived in "all good conscience," but when the light of Heaven shone into his heart he saw himself as the "chief of sinners." Cornelius was a "devout" man, yet it was necessary for Peter to go to him, and tell him words whereby he should be saved (Acts 10: 1, 2; 11: 14). The Roman Catholic Church positively denies the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for salvation, and constantly and persistently puts good works and human merits in place of faith and the merits of Jesus Christ as the means of salvation. I do not remember having ever met a Romanist who as such had any conception whatever of Christ's perfect work for the sinner. -- J. G. CASSEL.

After having worked for six years among Romanists, I have never found one who even pretended to be saved, and as for trusting in the merits of the Son of God, it is always through the hands of Mary. Rome teaches that the priest brings Christ down from above by the mystery of the words: "This is my body." (Romans 10: 6). -- A. B. DE Roos.

Romanists are not taught the perfection of Christ's work; they are taught that they must supplement the work of Christ by their own meritorious works. The priests come between them and God, and God has said: "There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." -- R. H. BENDER.

Roman Catholics put the creature before the Creator, giving to the Virgin the place of intercessor, which belongs to Christ (Romans 1: 25; 1 Timothy 2: 5; Acts 4: '2). They rob the sacrifice of Christ of its atoning merits and power to save, and save completely, all who believe (Hebrews 6: 15, 27, 28; 7: 25).

A lawyer expressed his belief in the following terms, and it is the faith of every true Roman Catholic: "The sacrifice of Christ atones for our original sin, but the actual sins of our lives need to be purged by good works, obedience to the Church, and at last by the fires of purgatory, which are more or less severe and lengthy, according to the circumstances and actions of the person in this life, from which he is ultimately liberated by the intercession of Mary."

They deny the possibility of anyone asking for and receiving the assurance of pardon and eternal salvation in this life, which fact they declare can only be known when one stands in God's presence, when pardon will be given on merit, thus denying John 3: 36; Ephesians 5: 9; Romans 10: 13. -- EVA RIDGE.

Here in Nicaragua the great mass of people have no clear idea whatever of salvation. Those who understand a little more, invariably tell you that by good works, penances, and purgatory they pay the debt of sin and thus buy salvation, coming in as auxiliaries, images, Mary, masses, baptism, etc. They thus place salvation on their own efforts as the foundation instead of upon the finished work of Christ. Salvation impossible; the foundation is faIse. I have never found a Romanist in Central America who had any conception of the perfection of Christ's work for the sinner. " -- ETA AVILES.

I asked the girl who lives with me, a native convert from Romanism, whether one can be saved in the Church of Rome, and she replied: "It is impossible, because God says that all idolaters shall have their part in the lake of fire; and in II Corinthians 6: 16, 17, that the Spirit of God can not have communion with idols, and God promises His Spirit to those who separate themselves from such things. And to live in the Church of Rome, it does not matter what other qualities one may possess, he is an idolater, and is occupied in everything under the sun but obedience to God's Word. " -- CALLIE HAM.

The doctrine held by Roman Catholics of Transubstantiation is entirely anti-Christian, and substitutes the sacrificial work of the priest in the place of Christ's sacrificial work on the cross as the ground of pardon. Every Roman Catholic must believe that baptism is God's way of canceling sin, and that only those baptized will be saved. This destroys entirely the efficacy of Christ's work, and substitutes for it a mere ceremony. Confession to the priest, and believing that he has power to forgive sins, perverts the whole plan of salvation. This every Roman Catholic believes in. During my ten years in Costa Rica, I have not met one Roman Catholic who could give a clear and simple testimony of the plan of salvation, as given in the Scriptures. I have met many thousands who believe that the saints, and especially Mary, can and will save them. One text describes Romanism as I know it, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." - Take away Christ, and what have we left but dry formalities and ceremonies which never did and never can take away sin. Christ says: "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me." This means put Mary, good works, or some creature in the place of Christ, and you can not come unto the Father. -- JAMES HAYTER, Missionary of the Jamaica Baptist Missionary Society, Cartago, Costa Rica.

Romanism has not the slightest idea of the efficiency of Christ's redemptive work. As well ask heat of the moon as ask this of Rome. Neither priest nor people know or experience it. We have a proof of this in the sickness and death of Pope Leo XIII., invoking the Virgin, asking for the blessings of the priests, seeing shadows and phantoms, and having to be tranquilized by worldly men. -- F. G. PENZOTTI, a converted Romanist, for many years a missionary and agent of the American Bible Society in South and Central America.

We were greatly impressed [in Italy] as never before with the need of Protestant missions in Roman Catholic countries. Whatever truth the Romish Church conserves is buried under a mass of rubbish, both ecclesiastical and doctrinal. We saw even in Dublin, on a Roman Catholic church, the blasphemous inscription, 'Maria Peccatorum Refugio,' (Mary is the refuge of sinners); and on many a church in Italy the notice that in her name full indulgence for sin might there be procured." -- DR. A. T. PIERSON.

May God graciously awaken His children to the condition and need of the Roman Catholics, and raise up men and means for their evangelization.


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