With that in mind, I start with a recent exchange I had with a Catholic in regard to a comment I made concerning Pope Francis' condemnation of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. In my comment, I listed (close to verbatim, in English) the decrees of the Papal Bull "Cum nimis absurdum" from Pope Paul IV (July 14, 1555). In that decree, the Pope condemned Jews to "eternal slavery" (and he declared it absurd to believe otherwise).
In response, a Catholic scolded me for not knowing history and pasted a link about Pius XII helping Jews during the Holocaust. Well, everything I posted in that discussion was directly pulled from Paul IV's Papal Bull.
This is an example of what I've encountered countless times: quoting Popes and Councils is somehow tantamount to "Catholic bashing," apparently.
You will encounter argument flows along the following lines.
- A. Catholic argues that they have the Popes to gather around; state there are 220,000 different "Protestant" denominations because we have no central authority [Note: very few, if any, of them, understand what the Evangelical gospel teaches about "the church" which adds to their confusion].
- B. You are told that Jesus founded the only true church on Pope Peter and they have 2000 years of tradition and the "early church fathers." The Seat of Peter has "the keys of the kingdom" and he may "bind and loose" on all matters of faith and morals. The RCC is thus superior because of this single, unifying, infallible source.
At this point, you may start quoting contradictory or vile or crazy things from Popes and Councils.
You may be called a "Catholic basher" at this point (I was banned from a Catholic forum for quoting popes and councils) or you will encounter one of two responses:
- A. Catholics don't really have to listen to the Popes. It's only when they speak "ex cathedra" that they are infallible. Push them and it comes down to only two doctrines. They then feel free to disagree on just about everything else. What they don't realize is that the popes and councils have a very different view of their obedience and what MUST be obeyed. They are charged with "submitting both mind and will" to the Pope on all matters of faith and morals, whether spoken ex cathedra or not. Ecumenical Councils are also said to be "infallible."
- B. Another popular response to quoting a pope from the 12th, 16th, 19th centuries (etc.) goes something like this, "how about quoting something since the invention of the light bulb!" The inference, of course, is that somehow popes long removed from the "early church fathers" are better equipped to interpret doctrines in the present (ignoring those 2000 years of tradition in the process).
Can you see what happens? While arguing a unifying source and 2000 years of tradition, they feel free to tell us that they essentially are allowed to disagree with Popes, even on the matter of salvation itself.
If one pope can be wrong, ALL popes can be wrong.
Of course, as with most of these arguments, their worst witnesses are the popes and councils themselves. In this latter case, the idea that a clearly stated decree from Pope or council can be "better understood" over time is itself condemned by Popes (Leo XIII, etc.).
So, before long, you have Catholics who just touted the "2000 years of tradition" and "Apostolic succession" and "unity under the popes" denying popes and councils and arguing they don't have to listen to some old pope.
Now, Catholic apologists have their own list of stupid "Protestant" arguments or some list of atrocities, etc. But there is a stark difference, I don't care what anybody else taught. Luther being an Anti-Semite means nothing to me. But if you tell me Paul IV is infallible on all matters of faith and morals, and that he may bind and loose... and he declares that Catholics must refuse to eat with Jews (etc.) as a matter of faith and morals... you have the problem, not me. Often the phrase, "we declare, affirm and pronounce" is used in regard to a doctrine held by "the universal church."
Another tactic is to put arguments into your mouth. "You Protestants believe" or "You think Catholics believe" are convenient ways to set up red herrings and straw men. Beware and don't allow them to caricature biblical truths. And, again, if I say "You Catholics believe X because Pope Y and Council Z decreed it so," they must defend. I only have to defend my own beliefs, not those of any other Christian.
I am careful not to put arguments in their mouths and I try to use only Catholic sources (the Vatican web site when possible).What I will do, however, is put Papal arguments in their mouths. I defend the popes as knowing what the CC teaches! I've been accused of being a Sedevacantist on more than one occasion, to which I reply, "No, but I admire their knowledge of CC history and their fidelity to what the popes have taught."
And, as noted, they will readily dismiss "Sacred Tradition" too when it becomes uncomfortable.
I taught Religious Education in the CC. I still have my textbook on this subject. I have other books (with imprimatur) denying inerrancy. They will attack these textbooks and authors (nuns and priests and archbishops, etc.), but you will not find them demanding these things be removed from CC classrooms or textbooks. How can they if the material has an imprimatur of a "prince of the Church?"
I'll stop here. As noted, I don't engage much these days as it has grown tiresome over two decades to deal with such arguments.
But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.When someone starts to contradict one of his own core premises in order to salvage a pronounced conclusion, such a one probably has no interest in truth, only in argument.
From such, turn away.
Having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
-2 Tim 3:5
Remember, many lay Catholics just like being Catholic. I saw a bumper sticker recently which read "I love being Catholic!" I bet they do... but I bet they'd quickly deny Popes, Councils and more in a heartbeat if confronted with certain quotes and declarations.
That's all I'm going to say on this topic. If you know a Catholic who is truly seeking truth, trust the scripture. Preach grace. Invite them to read the Book of John.
Part 1 can be read HERE