One… Holy… Catholic… and Apostolic…
Last month (in Part 1) we talked about how the Catholic Church claims that these are the four “marks,” or attributes, of the true church of Jesus Christ, and how the Catholic Church sees itself as the only church that has the “fullness” of these marks / attributes. We also shared some thoughts about their claim of “oneness” (their unity), and the weakness of that claim. But today we want to talk about the second mark -- holiness. Is the Catholic Church holy as they claim? Do they have some special gift of holiness that others don’t have?
First of all, let’s define what “holy” means. According to the Bible, someone or something that is holy is “set apart” for God’s special use (e.g., Exodus 3:5; 29:37; 30:22-33; Ezra 8:24-29). It refers to something sacred. When referring to a person, it also suggests the presence of a certain level of piety or godly living
(Mark 6:20; Ephesians 3:5; 1 Peter 3:5).
As an institution, how does the Catholic Church view its own holiness? First of all, Catholics believe that they are the guardians of special gifts called sacraments, and it is (supposedly) mainly this “sacramental means" that sustains the person and makes him holy
Also, according to the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “Christifideles Laici,” given by former Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church is to be considered the “sign and instrument of holiness” (Chapter 1, Paragraph 16).
Furthermore, according to the Catholic Catechism, "The Church ... is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy” (CCC #823). [Emphasis added]
Pretty strong claims! Let’s recap: Their church is the “guardian” of that which makes one holy; it is the “instrument of holiness”; and it is “unfailingly holy.” Wow! They’re not just claiming a simple or basic holiness, but a very special type. It would take some pretty convincing proof to support this kind of claim, but this proof is not to be found.
Just what is it that makes theirs a (supposedly) unique brand of holiness? Is it the individuals in the Church? No, to their credit, the Catholic Church admits that all its members are sinners (CCC #827). So, it is not their individual members. Many Catholics will say that their holiness comes from Jesus. They’ll claim that the Catholic Church is holy because it is Christ’s church and it is founded upon Christ’s holiness and not upon the personal condition of its members.
Well, that’s really convenient. No Christian should have a problem with admitting that Jesus is holy, but it’s the Catholic Church that we have a problem with. Anyone can claim to get his holiness from Jesus, but that person needs to prove it by some level of personal holiness and by following the teachings of Jesus. If you’re going to call someone or some particular group “holy,” then something should set them apart.
As far as claiming to be Christ’s church, this is begging the question, i.e., they are assuming that the Catholic Church is the church that Christ established. Yet that, too, needs to be proven, not just assumed. But there is much evidence presented on this blog (and many other websites) that demonstrates that the Catholic Church cannot be Christ’s church.
Generally speaking, a church’s morals or holiness reflects most in its leaders, those most likely to be true representatives of the group. But some of the Catholic Church’s highest and most respected leaders have purposely committed, aided and abetted some of the most horrible sins. Just a few examples include the sexual sins of popes during the “pornocracy” in the tenth century; the torturing and murders of the inquisitions; and in more recent times, the protecting of pedophile priests by secretly moving them to new locations, etc. It was these types of acts of extreme UN-holiness by many Catholic leaders that have caused untold damage to the name of Jesus Christ and true Christianity, and have caused many to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14). The apostle Paul warns us that even deacons are to be “beyond reproach” in their lifestyle (1 Timothy 3:1-10 - NASB). How much more should popes (“Vicars of Christ”) be examples of holiness! Not to mention the fact that the office of “pope” is not even biblical to start with.
Much has been written on this topic, but we want to point out, in particular, a book by the late Dave Hunt, “A Woman Rides the Beast” (Harvest House Publishers, 1994). It contains many sobering and compelling arguments against the Catholic Church, and Hunt gives example after example of documented perversion and debauchery of Catholicism’s highest-level “role models.”
Hunt also equates the Catholic Church with the main character of Revelation chapter 17, i.e., the “woman” riding the beast, and her destruction in chapter 18. It is hard to miss the connection or to deny the identity of this woman and how she fits the description of Rome / the Vatican in the Apostle John’s prophecy. But contrast this with the sentimental, touchy-feely slogan that Catholics often use: “Come home to the Catholic Church.” But before you give in to that warm and fuzzy ecumenical feeling, note that the Bible tells us to “… Come out of her, my people, that you may not participate in her sins and you may not receive of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4 - NASB) [Emphasis added]
See also these articles:
According to the book of Revelation, it may well be that the Catholic Church is indeed “set apart” by God, Himself… but for plagues, torment, mourning and destruction (Revelation 18:6-8), rather than for good. John’s description of this “woman” is anything but holy.
The Catholic Church does not (and cannot) live up to its claims concerning its holiness. We are not saying that no Catholic could be holy, but a truly holy person (i.e., one who is set apart for God, and who studies the Scriptures) would, at some point, recognize the false doctrine taught by that church. And we believe that when he does recognize that, he would be compelled to leave that church.
The Catholic may point to certain Protestant leaders who also live less-than-holy lives. That is a valid point, but we don’t know of anyone else who makes the type of exaggerated claims of special holiness and exclusive ownership of the “four marks” that the Catholic Church makes. And if some Protestant group did indeed make such claims, or if its leaders live like the corrupt popes did, then its members should also be compelled to leave that particular church.
In conclusion, what makes the Catholic Church’s holiness better than anyone else’s? If the Catholic Church is not holy on the basis of its individuals (as they admit), and if they are not holy on the basis of its leaders (which has been obvious in many cases), and if they are not holy on the basis of being the true church (as is biblically evident), then what exactly IS the basis of their claim of a “special holiness”? There is no valid basis. This is just another example of the many exaggerated, self-proclaimed Catholic boasts that are empty.