Sunday, December 27, 2009


“In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority. Indeed, the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #77; referencing “Dei Verbum,” a document of the Second Vatican Council)

One of the foundational claims of the Catholic Church is that of “Apostolic Succession,” which means that they (supposedly) possess an unbroken, uninterrupted, and lawful chain of legitimate successors (popes) from the Apostle Peter all the way down to the present pope, and this will last until the return of Jesus Christ. But is this claim true? Does such a continuous, lawful chain of popes really exist?

Much could be said about the incredible amount of corruption in the lives of some of the popes while in office. But rather than deal with the lives of popes after they got in office, the focus of this article will be on some of the actual methods which were used to obtain this office. Even if the office of “pope” were a valid and biblical one (and it is not), there is still a serious problem in the way that some popes acquired this position.

According to some church scholars / historians, a number of popes have obtained their positions 1) by buying their office [a form of simony], 2) through the working of influential prostitutes, or 3) by the use of force, even murdering the previous pope! These facts are validated by some eye-opening books (written by Catholics or former Catholics), which include Peter De Rosa’s “Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy”; “Lives of the Popes” by Richard P. McBrien; Former Catholic priest Joseph McCabe and his “A History of the Popes”; J. H. Ignaz von Dollinger’s “The Pope and the Council”; and “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church,” by Malachi Martin.

Lest anyone say that these authors / scholars / historians were not good Catholics, or that they are not credible historians, we also provide the following quotes from these official Catholic sources

1) Concerning Simony:

To uproot the evil of simony so prevalent during the Middle Ages, the Church decreed the severest penalties against its perpetrators. Pope Julius II declared simoniacal papal elections invalid, an enactment which has since been rescinded, however, by Pope Pius X. (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, online, under “Simony.”)

“The worst period was from the ninth to the eleventh century when simony pervaded the monasteries, the lower clergy, the episcopacy, and even the papacy.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIII, page 228)

Pope Benedict IX and simony:

“He was a son of Alberic III, leader of the Tusculani, and he simoniacally succeeded his uncles, Benedict VIII and John XIX.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. II, page 274)

“Then on May 1 Benedict sold his papal office to his baptismal sponsor, the reforming archpriest John Gratian, Pope Gregory VI.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. II, page 275)

Benedict IX not only purchased his office, but he later sold it to another pope-to-be when he was finished with it. Remember, for every “transaction” in simony, there are two guilty popes, a “buyer” AND a “seller.”

In one of his papal documents, Pope John Paul II states that if simony occurs in the election of a pope, then those guilty will be excommunicated. But at the same time, he still honors the outcome of that election, so that the validity of the election of that pope “may not… be challenged.” (“Universi Dominici Gregis,paragraph 78, Feb. 22, 1996)

May not be challenged? Why should the validity of any simony-induced election NOT be challenged? Doesn’t such an election COMPLETELY DISPROVE the idea of God-ordained “Apostolic Succession”? In his statement, Pope John Paul II was (unsuccessfully) attempting damage control in light of an embarrassing past (when simony was common among popes). So he rebukes those who commit simony (as he should), but he then declares that it’s really not a problem for the papacy. To the Catholic Church, such an election is still “official” because “Apostolic Succession” needs to remain intact at all costs, right? Is it just me, or does anyone else see the inconsistency here?

2) Concerning the prostitute Marozia, who was the mistress of Pope Sergius III, during the era commonly known as the “pornocracy” (Rule of the Harlots):

“She imprisoned Pope John X in Castel Sant’ Angelo, where he died in 928 either by assassination…or from other causes. In 931 she had her son, probably by Sergius III…elected to the papacy as Pope John XI.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. IX, page 253-54)

Concerning the prostitute Theodora (the mother of Marozia):

“Besides being personally avaricious, she – together with her family – exercised undue influence on Pope Sergius III and Pope John X, thus causing grave harm to the authority of the popes.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIV, page 15-16)

Here, influential prostitutes were able to place in office the pope of their choice, or put him in prison, if they so desired. Indeed, “grave harm” was done to the papacy, since this influence of prostitutes reveals to all of us the false nature of this claim of “Apostolic Succession.”

3) Concerning the papal office being taken by force:

In the beginning, the Bishop of Rome was elected by the local clergy and laity along with neighboring bishops. In time, this process came under the influence of secular leaders with negative results. Influencing papal elections, powerful lords and kings hoped to manipulate the office of the papacy in order to advance their temporal ambitions. (The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, Liturgical Press, page 653)

“From the fourth to the eleventh century the influence of temporal rulers in papal elections reached its zenith… This civil intervention ranged from the approval of elected candidates to the actual nomination of candidates (with tremendous pressure exerted on the electors to secure their acceptance), and even to the extreme of forcible deposition and imposition.” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XI, page 572)

So, here we see heathen kings exerting their military might to forcibly depose (remove) and forcibly impose (put in office) the popes they wanted!

Should we consider any of this “lawful” or “legitimate” Apostolic Succession? Were these popes ordained by God? Anyone who obtains an ecclesiastical (church) office illegally, immorally, or violently has wrongfully acquired that position, and simply cannot be considered a legitimate holder of that office.

Would we tolerate any of this from those seeking a position in “non-religious” fields? Would you trust a medical doctor who purchased his degree? Or a schoolteacher who committed fornication to get his teaching position? Or how about a senator who took his office by force, or killed the previous senator to obtain that office? Of course, no honest institution would allow their people to obtain an office in such a way. Should we not expect far more from the “Vicar of Christ,” the (supposedly) highest ecclesiastical office of all? We rightfully demand moral accountability in the business, financial, political and medical fields, so why should a religious institution like the Catholic Church not likewise be morally accountable? There are definitely some illegitimate “links” in this “apostolic chain of successors.” But then again, all it takes is one “infected” link to make this Catholic claim (and the whole system) collapse.

Interestingly, the New Catholic Encyclopedia also states, “But it must be frankly admitted that bias or deficiencies in the sources make it impossible to determine in certain cases whether the claimants were popes or antipopes.” (Volume I, page 632)
[Note: An antipope is one who makes an illegal or false claim to the office of pope.]

By this statement alone, they have refuted their own position on Apostolic Succession. If the Catholic Church can’t really know who was actually pope at any given time, then Apostolic Succession is a myth.

The words of John the Baptist come to mind: “And think not to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham to our father’; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9) John was condemning the unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees, who looked to some physical lineage all the way back to Abraham for their “righteousness.” But John was showing them that God is more concerned with a person’s heart than his lineage or ancestry. The same principle applies today. All true believers are successors of the apostles (Acts 2:42), not just certain leaders. We should look to the teachings of the apostles, as outlined in Scripture, not to a physical line of successors. It may sound good, but the Catholic concept of “Apostolic Succession” is simply an unbiblical, arrogant and false claim. And since it is a foundational claim of the Catholic Church, what will happen to this “house built upon the sand”? (Matthew 7:26-27)


  1. One of the apostles was chosen by lot. Would you accept a senator or doctor or schoolteacher who got their position by lot? Yet God was able to work through this method. Are you telling me God couldn't work his will even through the things you mention. I'm not saying that he did, just that you can't prove he didn't.

    1. Hello Larry,

      The Bible never mentions the apostles having successors; but it repeatedly prophesizes false apostles. If it is not the Pope, then who else could it be since he also claims to be an apostle? Where does the Bible say that the Roman bishop (Pope) is the successor to Peter? Why is the Bible completely silent about an individual bishop ruling over the entire church? Without such clear commands of Christ, those Popes must have arrogated themselves to extreme levels of wealth and authority.

      1. An apostle must be a direct eye-witness to the risen Lord ( Acts 1:8 and 1 Corinthians 9:1).
      No one has seen Christ since His resurrection and ascension into heaven. We will not see Him until the very end of the age. Since the Popes who supposedly succeeded Peter have never seen Christ, they could not possibly be true apostles!
      2. As recorded in the New Testament, the apostles could cast miracles such as casting out demons, performing physical miracles( healing the wounded or ill), and speak prophecy and tongs ( 2 Corinthians 12:12). As you can see, none of Catholic priests and bishops can achieve such tasks! Thus, no one is divinely inspired today and no one holds the same authority today.
      3. Bishops must be married and have children ( 1 Timothy 3: 2 and 4). None of the Popes today are married. They are not even qualified to be authentic bishops! I wonder, what do you have to say about the supposedly "unbroken" line of Popes?
      4. The apostles were only foundational in the development of the early church (Ephesians 2:20). There was never a plan for a succession. As a matter of fact, all believers of Christ are called to be priests and participate in the spread of the gospel ( 1 Peter 2:5,9 and Revelation 5:10).

      Does it not seem strange and odd that the successor of a king is a king, the successor of a president is a president, and the successor of a governor is a governor, but the successor of an apostle is a Catholic bishop or priest!? Give it up already...


    2. Martin Luther recognised Eucharist as the body of christ you deny your your arguments are invalid.There had been bad popes and Jesus said that peter is to be rock not martin luther.

    3. Hi Bless t anto,

      First of all, your first comment about Martin Luther has nothing to do with the article. Second, Martin Luther is certainly not my “creator,” and what he believed or taught does nothing at all to invalidate my arguments. If you could show me that my arguments don’t line up with Scripture, then you might have a case. And by the way, no one is suggesting that Martin Luther is the “rock” that Jesus spoke of, either.

      Finally, I am glad to see that you acknowledge that there certainly were some bad popes. And I don’t see how you (or anyone) could disprove the contents of the above article by using Scripture, logic, or history.

  2. Hello Larry,

    Thank you for your comments.

    First of all, let me repeat what I said in the article: The office of “pope” is totally unbiblical to start with. But even if it were biblical, the following remarks would still apply.

    You’re asking me to prove a negative (i.e., “Prove that God CAN’T choose a pope through fornication, force or finances”). But it is actually you Catholics (I’m assuming that you are Catholic) who bear the burden of proof. To say that God COULD HAVE done it this way is irrelevant… He is omnipotent and He can do what He wants. He COULD have done a thousand things differently -- but He gives us patterns and principles to follow in Scripture. Since Catholics defend the validity of these popes, and since the popes mentioned are clearly violating the principles of Scripture IN THE VERY WAY THEY OBTAINED THE OFFICE, this obligates Catholics to show how those corrupt popes were STILL somehow “legitimate” and “lawful” holders of that office.

    Larry, from the Catholic perspective, this office is supposedly the highest human office in Christianity. So, how should one achieve this office? One of my points in the article was that even worldly leaders have standards to get into secular office. So, HOW MUCH GREATER a standard should the “Vicar of Christ” have? But when it comes to the pope acquiring his office, it seems that there ARE no standards. Anything goes! But, for God to allow these things goes against His very NATURE and against His biblical requirements for spiritual leaders (1 Timothy chaps. 3 and 5; Titus chap. 1).

    And I don’t think that the choosing of the Apostle Matthias by lot (Acts 1:23-26) was just a casual flip of a coin. It was apparently similar to the Urim and Thummim (Exodus 28:30) of the Old Testament. In these cases, God was personally and actively involved in these decisions. But it is foolish to compare the LEGITIMATE choosing of an apostle (by lot) to the usurpation and corrupt manipulations of an immoral pope who forces or schemes his way into the position.

    So, I think we can safely say that this is NOT God’s way of “choosing” someone to a high position in the church. Even if the “pope” were a biblical office, these were still illegitimate and unlawful pretenders.

    One has to wonder, why do Catholics strive so hard to defend this type of behavior?

  3. Hello Russell,

    I have a question that pertains to apostolic succession and the list of Popes. How did the Vatican manage to establish a list of an unbroken line of Popes in the first place(since Peter was not a Pope) and the existence of some of them is questionable?


  4. Hello Jesse,

    Good question. You are correct that Peter was never a pope and that (according to Scripture) no such office exists. Furthermore, even if one COULD prove that Peter was a pope, there is still no “lawful,” “uninterrupted” and “unbroken” line of successors going back to Peter, as they claim. There are some gaps in their list of popes, sometimes several years, when no pope existed. This is not just something that Protestants made up, but this list is an official list of popes put out by the “New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia” online. See also this article:

  5. Hello Jesse,

    I miss you! I thought you were going to consider converting to Catholicism( you said so a few years ago). You do to know that Peter was the first Pope (Matthew 16:18-19) and that the pope is the good Shepard (John 21:15-17). Why would you listen to a man who tells a bunch a fables? Russell has a straw-man argument on his part. We were the first Church ever established. Come home to the true Catholic faith were you belong!!!


    1. Hello Jonathon,

      Indeed. It has been a lengthy time since we have had communication with each other.

      Allow me to get a few things straight with you Jonathon. First of all, I never planned a supposed conversion the Roman Catholic Faith ( I do apologize if this sounds somewhat rough). I made a few complements about your religion because I thought it contained partial biblical truths to it. On the contrary, a customary reading of the New Testament will reveal that the Roman Catholic Church does not have its origin in the teachings of Jesus Christ or the apostles. Also, you will discover that every Catholic doctrine either contradicts the Scriptures or cannot be found within the pages. According to the Bible, if anyone teaches anything that opposes Scriptural teaching or things not found within the Word of God, then it is considered adding/subtracting from what is taught within it and you are living a different gospel ( see Revelation 22:18-19, Deuteronomy 4:2, Mark 7:7-13, and Galatians 1:9). Why would you think that I would convert to such a religion in the first place?

      Concerning Matthew 16:18-19 and John 21:15-17:

      - Where do these scripture passages even give the slightest implication of Peter having "successors"?
      -How come the New Testament is completely silent about an individual bishop ruling over the entire church?
      -All of the apostles had the same authority (Luke 22:24-27 and Matthew 18:18).
      -Peter was NOT the first Pope ( 1 Corinthians 3:11)
      There is NO historical or New Testament evidence that Peter had "apostolic successors". Do you not find this strange Jonathon?

      Jonathon, I ask you, where exactly did Russell make a mistake on this page? How is this wonderful article a "straw-man" argument or a big "bunch of fables"? Please, show us the evidence. As you can see, Russell has provided information from official Catholic documents proving every one of his claims true and you have supplied us with none! Unfortunately, I must deny your request. I believe that it is reasonable to conclude that you are the one who is posting a "straw-man" argument and a big, big "bunch of fables". YOU should convert out of the Catholic religion, learn the pure and simple truth of the Gospel, and spread the Good News to your friends, family, and all of your neighbors.

      May God bless your soul and have a happy new year!


    2. Hello Jesse , I see you are knowledgable in the topic. May I have your e mail, to ask you a few questions? Mine is


    3. Hello Marcos,

      Unfortunately, I do not have an email account. However, you can ask me any question you want. I keep in contact with this blog.


    4. Jesus said to Peter: Matt 16:18 "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

      The Protestant interpretation is that Jesus was telling a little joke here (I guess he thought it was SO funny, it was worth changing Cephus name to remember it?) "You, Cephus, are a little puny pebble, but upon THIS ROCK (Jesus), I will build my church." ...(Jesus would then have said "I thought I would just out of the blue say that, because, you know, I was hinting before that you might be something Peter, but really, you are just a disciple of mine, no big deal. And, anyway, I just had to say that because the Protestants will get such a KICK out of it!!")

      I have heard countless sermons preached on this, with everyone chuckling in the congregation, knowingly, as a slight to those stupid, unlearned, evil Catholics! So, really, Prods do look at it as the greatest joke in the Bible.

      Actually, Jesus spoke Aramaic. So what he really said was:
      “Again I say to you that you are the Rock (Kepha), and upon this Rock (Kepha) I will build my Church, and the gates of Sheol will not subdue it.”

      The word for ROCK in aramaic is the same in both cases.

      So, why would Jesus bring this up and change his name to Peter? Just for the funny joke?
      It makes no sense for Jesus to even bring it up. No one was claiming Peter to be anything. Why would Jesus just throw his name in there, and change it, if it didn't mean anything?

      For more info on the Aramaic use of Peter's name:

    5. Hello Cas,

      I certainly don’t think that any part of Matthew 16:18 is a joke. And I don’t think that anyone should see it that way.

      Yes, Jesus spoke Aramaic. But the inspired New Testament is telling us more accurately what Jesus actually spoke when it was translated into Greek. Greek is a more precise language than Hebrew or Aramaic. I believe that God wanted those words in Greek so that we could more accurately understand the nuances in the New Testament. It IS a big deal that the two “rocks” in Matthew 16 are two different Greek words.

      Cas, I have an article which gets more deeply into this exact topic, if you are interested. It can be found here:

      Even if I would concede that Peter was the rock of which Christ spoke and that he was also the first pope, you would still have a lot of explaining to do with the contents of this “apostolic succession” article. And here is another that causes major problems with the Catholic view of “apostolic succession”:

    6. By the way, Cas, I will read that article in the link you posted above and give my thoughts on it.

    7. Hi Cas,

      I read the “Called to Communion” article you had linked to above, and I’m really not impressed. I don’t mean this in an ugly or sarcastic way, but these guys at “Called to Communion” are generally considered high-powered Catholic apologists. But (although they were highly praised in the comment section of the article) all they had was the “Peter couldn’t be given a feminine name” argument; the “Peter was called Cephas, an Aramaic name” argument, and the “Syriac is close to Aramaic” argument, along with some “possibility” language, like “this may indicate,” or “this seems to indicate,” etc.

      Again, this is not impressive at all. I would like to refer you to a simple article here that I believe makes more sense:


  6. Hi Jonathon,

    Thanks for taking time to comment.

    You said that I have a straw man argument. A straw man argument implies misrepresentation. So please tell me how I misrepresented the Catholic Church in the above article. The “bunch of fables” that you accuse me of come straight from official Catholic sources. So it seems that your argument is with them, and not with me.

  7. Hello Russell,

    Since Peter WAS NOT the first Pope, then who was the actual first Pope?


  8. Jesse,

    I really can’t answer that, since Protestants (and probably others) have different arguments on this. But this article might help a little:

  9. Hi Russell,

    Do you think the fact that Peter was married destroys the concept of him being Pope? If so, what other biblical facts destroy the concept of Peter being a Pope?


  10. Hi Jesse,

    How are things going for you? Hope all is well.

    Yes, I think that the fact that Peter was married certainly weakens the Catholic Church’s concept of a “pope.” If the very “first pope” was married, then why would celibacy be required for all the other popes? Did Jesus make a “mistake” in choosing a married man as His supposed “primary” apostle? And was the Apostle Paul wrong to suggest that an overseer / bishop (a position Catholics claim for the pope) must be the “husband of one wife”? (1 Timothy 3:2) Maybe Paul was not saying that marriage was NECESSARY here, but surely marriage was ACCEPTABLE in this context (unlike in the case of the pope).

    Another indication that there is no pope is the fact that there is no biblical account of an infallible leader on ANY level in the post-apostolic church.

    The same power that is given by Jesus to Peter in Matthew 16:19 (binding and loosing), He also gives to the other apostles in Matthew 18:18.

    Also, Jesse, note that in Matthew 20:20-28, when the mother of John and James asked Jesus for a special position for her sons, Jesus did not say, “Hey, of course not! Don’t you know that Peter is the main guy here?!!!”

    Well, those are just a few things right off the top of my head. But I hope this helps you.

    Thanks for writing, Jesse, and keep sharing the gospel.

    1. a married man can become a priest, but a priest cannot Marry. if you were familiar with the Catholic Church you would know that we have 23 rites, of the 23 only one rite, the Latin/Roman rite has a discipline of celibacy and Married men can be ordained in those rites. Peter was a married man so he could become a priest but John and Paul were single they could not marry after they became priest. can you show among the disciples who married after Jesus left

  11. Hello Mug,

    I am fully aware that only one rite (the Latin Rite) mandates celibacy in most cases. You asked who married after Jesus left… I don’t know and I really don’t care about that.

    The point of my comment above to Jesse was that this “special” Rite, from which the pope comes, is the LEAST biblical, since the apostle Paul encourages marriage AS THE NORM for church leaders. Otherwise, if one thinks he is “called” for celibacy, yet he is not, there will be some serious issues to deal with later. The Catholic Church knows that very well!

    Anyway, I don’t want to get too far off topic here.

    1. what do you mean by LEAST biblical. is it LEAST biblical because you do not agree with how it interprets the Bible?

      you are right but he does not make it mandatory. After all he himself is was not married. the one who goes thinking he is called is better off not going but that does not discredit those who are called and living faithfully to that call even if the number is as few as 1

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  13. Jesse,

    Very well said. Thanks for this valuable info. Good job!