Clearing Up Misconceptions about the Catholic Church
By Ron Kempen, Gospel Light Ministries Email: Gospel-light@ sbcglobal.net
This month we’ll begin to look at ten misconceptions that those who oppose the Catholic Church may have. Scripture will help show that these so-called misconceptions are in truth honest and accurate insights given to help Catholics understand the errors of their church.
Misconception: The Church Discourages Bible Reading
According to Catholic apologists, “the very first Christian Bible was produced by the Catholic Church - compiled by Catholic scholars of the 2nd and 3rd centuries and approved for general Christian use by the Catholic Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). The very first printed Bible was produced under the auspices of the Catholic Church, printed by the Catholic inventor of the printing press Johannes Gutenberg. The very first Bible with chapters and numbered verses was produced by the Catholic Church, the work of Stephen Langton, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury.
“At every mass in the world everyday, the Bible is read aloud by the priest. In the traditional mass, there is one reading from the general body of the Bible (excluding the gospels) and two readings from the gospels. In the modern Catholic mass, there are two readings from the general body of the Bible and one from the gospels. All Catholic homes have a Bible and the Bible is taught in Catholic schools (as is its perennial tradition).
“This myth about Bible reading being discouraged has come about because Bibles were often locked away in churches in the past, but that was not to prevent people from having access: rather it was to prevent the Bibles from being stolen. These were handwritten Bibles which were incredibly valuable due to their scarcity. Furthermore, people think the Church forbade people from reading the Bible by putting it on the Index of Forbidden Books, but the Bibles placed on the Index were Protestant versions (lacking 7 books) or badly translated versions, the most famous of which is the King James Version, which Catholics are not supposed to use.”
Although I do not have any proof that the Bible had a Catholic beginning, I can say that neither Catholics nor anyone else should take the credit for us having the Bible today. Second Timothy 3 tells us that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” not of man. The people of Thessalonica were commended for having this outlook: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13).
People have to know that the Bible is authored by God, not by man. Additionally, having a Bible doesn’t mean a thing if people are told that they are incapable of learning from it or that they cannot accurately interpret it. The Catholic Church states on the Catholic Answers website that “Such an official interpreter is absolutely necessary if we are to understand the Bible properly.” Even the Pope believes that a normal person is incapable of reading and understanding the Scriptures when he points out that we seem to ignore Bible verses such as 2 Peter 1:20–21 where it says that no prophecy of Scripture is made by private interpretation. However, Jesus told us that, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32), and if we would “Seek, we would find” (Matthew 7:7).
In addition to the claim that all could have access to a Bible and could even own one, I want to make it clear that to just have a Bible isn’t the same as studying it. It doesn’t help you to carry a Bible around like a rabbit’s foot. However, if you were to do so, you are advised to have a Catholic Catechism or an instructor with you to learn the Catholic ways. But this places a mere man’s view ahead of God’s view.
These beliefs, straight from the Catholic web page, show us that “The official Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, clearly spells out the Church’s beliefs.” In addition, the truth about the Apocrypha books is that they were added to the Canon in 1546 by the Council of Trent as a specific response to the Reformation. Thus, it is not a misconception that the Catholic Church discourages Bible reading.
Misconception: Catholics Worship Mary and are, Therefore, Committing Idolatry
Once again, according to Catholic apologists: “In Catholic theology there are three types of worship, one of which is condemned in the Bible if offered to anyone but God:
“1) Latria. This is adoration which is given to God alone. Giving this type of worship to anyone else is considered to be a mortal sin and it is the idolatry condemned in the Bible.
“2) Hyperdulia. This is a special type of worship given to Mary the Mother of Jesus. It is only given to her and it is not considered to be idolatry as it is not adoration but merely reverence.
“3) Dulia. This is the special type of worship given only to the saints and angels. It is also not idolatrous because it, too, is a form of reverence. The distinction was made by the 2nd Council of Nicaea in 787 AD. The council was called to condemn the people who claimed that it was idolatrous to have statues and images of saints.
“For clarification, ‘Latria’ is a Latin term (from the Greek λατρεια) used in Orthodox and Catholic theology to mean adoration, which is the highest form of worship or reverence and is directed only to the Holy Trinity. There are lower forms of worship (as is implied here). A Catholic who may kneel in front of a statue while praying isn’t worshipping the statue or even praying to it any more than the Protestant who kneels with a Bible in his hands when praying is worshipping the Bible or praying to it. The images of saints (whether it be in statue form or in a painting) serve as a reminder of the holiness of the person depicted.”
It would be okay if people would think of Mary with the idea of respect and honor, for the Bible tells us that “all generations will call me (Mary) blessed.” However, there is more to this than that, and the different types of worship noted above are irrelevant when we look at what Scriptures tell us. Five times in Isaiah 44 to 46 we read the statement “For I am God, and there is no other.” First Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” Hebrews 4:16 tells us that we have a high priest and that we can “Come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Now, I understand if Catholics believe they are simply honoring Mary, but Jesus told us in Luke 11: 27-28 that Mary had no special advantage just because she was His earthly mother. When we look at the examples of people whose “god is their belly” (Philippians 3:19) as being a form of idolatry, and read the angel telling John, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant … Worship God” (Rev. 22:8) and Isaiah 8:19 adding, “Should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?,” then you can clearly see that when over a billion prayers per second go to Mary, it is simply a form of idolatry and another manmade tradition that goes against the Word of God. The Bible tells us that “Jesus is a jealous God,” and wants us to know Him as God. Why should we go to Mary?
In addition to being mistaken about the role and power of Mary, the Catholic church has erred in its appraisal of why having statues is wrong. This is primarily because, as Exodus 20:4 shows us, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image - any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” If you look closely at that verse, you will notice that it is one of the Ten Commandments, which for some reason the Catholic Church has chosen to eliminate. There is nowhere in the Bible where it says that anyone should be “reverenced” because of holiness other than God.
To sum up, regardless of what the Catholics try to say, if it looks and feels like idolatry, it probably is idolatry. In this case, there is no doubt about it.