Constantine was known as the “vicar of Christ” (another Christ - representative of Christ) and the papacy took over this title. He was also the head of the pagan priesthood, with the title of Pontifex Maximus, another title taken by the papacy. During the middle ages, “the bishops of Rome began to claim that they were the sole representatives of Christ upon the earth.” (Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast, p.46).
If the papacy did indeed represent God on earth, we should expect the office to be in conformance with God’s will. Some examples of the behavior of popes throughout history show just how out of conformity with Scripture the office has been:
“Sergius III (A.D. 904-911). Said to have had a mistress, Marozia. She, her mother Theodora, and her sister, ‘filled the Papal chair with their paramours and bastard sons, and turned the Papal Palace into a den of robbers.’ Called in history The Rule of the Harlots (904-963).
“…John X (914-928) ‘was brought from Ravenna to Rome and made Pope by Theodora for the more convenient gratification of her passion.’ He was smothered to death by Marozia, who, then, in succession, raised to the Papacy Leo VI (928-929), and Stephen VII (929-931), and John XI (931-936), her own illegitimate son. Another of her sons appointed the four following Popes, Leo VII (936-939), Stephen VIII (939-942), Martin III (942-946), and Agapetus II (946-955). John XII (955-963), a grandson of Marozia, was ‘guilty of almost every crime; violated virgins and widows, high and low; lived with his father’s mistress; made the Papal Palace a brothel; was killed while in the act of adultery by the woman’s enraged husband.’
…“Boniface VII (984-985), murdered Pope John XIV, and ‘maintained himself on the throne…by a lavish distribution of stolen money.’…
“Benedict VIII (1012-1024), bought the Office of Pope with open bribery. …
“John XIX (1024-1033), Bought the Papacy. He passed through all the necessary clerical degrees in one day.
“Benedict IX (1033-1045), was made Pope as a boy 12 years old, through a money bargain with the powerful families that ruled Rome. ‘Surpassed John XII in wickedness; committed murders and adulteries in broad daylight; robbed pilgrims on the graves of martyrs; a hideous criminal, the people drove him out of Rome.’ …
“Gregory VI (1045-1046), Bought the Papacy. …
“The Inquisition, called the ‘Holy Office,’ was instituted by Innocent III [1198-1216]….
“John XXIII (1410-1415), called by some the most depraved criminal who ever sat on the Papal Throne; guilty of almost every crime; as cardinal in Bologna, 200 maidens, nuns and married women fell victims to his amours; as Pope he violated virgins and nuns; lived in adultery with his brother’s wife, was guilty of sodomy and other nameless vices; bought the Papal Office; sold Cardinalates to children of wealthy families; and openly denied the future life….
“ Pius II (1458-1464), was said to have been the father of many illegitimate children, spoke openly of the methods he used to seduce women….
“Sixtus IV (1471-1484). Sanctioned the Spanish Inquisition…. Was implicated in a plot to murder Lorenzo de Medici, and others opposed to his policies. Used the Papacy to enrich himself and his relatives. Made eight of his nephews Cardinals, while as yet some of them were mere boys….
Innocent VIII (1484-1492). Had 16 children by various married women. Multiplied Church Offices and sold them for vast sums of money. Decreed the extermination of the Waldenses….
“Alexander VI (1492-1503), called the most corrupt of the Renaissance Popes, licentious, avaricious, depraved; bought the Papacy; made many new cardinals for money; had a number of illegitimate children, whom he openly acknowledged and appointed to high church office while they were yet children, who, with their father, murdered cardinals and others who stood in their way. Had for a mistress a sister of a Cardinal, who became next Pope, Pius III (1503)….
“Julius II (1503-1513)…with vast income from numerous bishoprics and church estates, bought the Papacy…. [note from Hunt, p.169, was that Julius was a notorious womanizer who had many illegitimate children and was so eaten with syphilis that he couldn’t expose his feet to be kissed.]
“Paul III (1534-1549). Had many illegitimate children… (Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook, 24th Edition, pp.774-780)
As you can see from this abbreviated list, many popes purchased the position and many were very immoral and wicked, yet this office claims to be a representative of Christ. The papal office declared a war on Germany which lasted for 200 years in the middle ages, and over the centuries popes have had hundreds of thousands of people murdered for refusing to accept Rome’s teachings, and had hundreds of thousands more imprisoned for the same reason. For centuries Rome has persecuted - and very often murdered by hundreds - Jews, outlawing commerce or any association between them and Christians, and marriage between a Jew and a Christian was punishable by death. (In fact, ahead of the Nazis by centuries, Rome required Jews to wear an identifying badge, including a yellow circle of cloth in the 16th Century). Rome outlawed reading of the Bible by the individual and punished those caught doing so. Rome has declared there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, condemned all religious freedom, and also condemned the translation of the Bible. And, as Dave Hunt said, the “popes have built an unrivaled worldwide empire of property, wealth and influence.” (Hunt, p.70)
Jesus told us in Matthew 7:15-23 that false teachers can be known by their fruits, and the office of the papacy is rife with bad fruit, including numerous popes who taught heresy. Let’s look at a small sampling of some decrees from the papal office, which also demonstrate their bad fruit and anti-biblical/unbiblical teachings.
Liberius (352-366) said Jesus was less than God - the Son was less than the Father.
Innocent I (401-417) taught that un-baptized babies went directly to Hell.
Gelasius (492 -496) taught that baptized babies went to Hell if they never had communion.
Urban II (1088-1099) decreed that heretics were to be tortured and killed. This became a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church.
Innocent III (1198-1216) stated that “Every cleric must obey the Pope, even if he commands what is evil; for no one may judge the Pope.” (Hunt, p.86)
Boniface VIII (1294-1303) in his Bull Unam Sanctam in 1302, “claimed authority over all temporal powers, made absolute obedience to the pope a condition of salvation.” (Hunt, p.235)
Gregory XI (1370-1378) issued a decree in 1372 claiming “papal dominion over the entire Christian world, secular and religious, and excommunicated all who failed to obey the popes and to pay them taxes. [It] was confirmed by subsequent popes and in 1568 Pope Pius V swore that it was to remain an eternal law.” (Hunt, p.70)
Martin V (1417-1431) “commanded the King of Poland in 1429 to exterminate the Hussites” (Hunt, p.247)
Although previous popes granted indulgences for those living, Sixtus IV (1471-1484) granted indulgences for the dead; relatives could buy an indulgence for a dead family member to be released from purgatory sooner.
Innocent VIII (1484-1492) granted a 20-year indulgence for “purchasing the privilege of eating favorite dishes during Lent and at other times of fasting. It was a way to be credited with fasting while indulging oneself in the richest of foods.” (Hunt, p.185)
“Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) claimed that all undiscovered lands belonged to the Roman Pontiff, for him to dispose of as he pleased in the name of Christ as His vicar.” (Hunt, p.70) This pope divided up most of the world between Spain and Portugal, except for North America, which was settled mostly by Protestants.
Clement XII (1730-1740) prescribed the death penalty for members of Freemasonry, as well as to those giving any sort of aid to them.
Pius IX (1846 -1878) in his 1864 Syllabus of Errors, decreed the union of Church and state, that Roman Catholicism must be the state religion everywhere, and that the Church may use force to compel obedience. He also reiterated that there was no salvation outside the Catholic church. It was he who declared the dogma of Papal Infallibility.
Pius X (1903-1914) said he could not sanction Jews going to Jerusalem because, “The Jews have not recognized our Lord; we cannot recognize the Jews.” (cited in Hunt, p.292)
Paul VI (1963-1978) told influential Hindu leader Sri Chinmoy, “The Hindu life and the Christian life shall go together. Your message and my message are the same.” (Hunt, p.417)
John Paul II (1978-2005) declared that images of saints have power: “A mysterious ‘presence’ of the transcendent Prototype seems as it were to be transferred to the sacred image…. The devout contemplation of such an image thus appears as a real and concrete path of purification of the soul of the believer…because the image itself, blessed by the priest…can in a certain sense, by analogy with the sacraments, actually be considered a channel of divine grace.” (Hunt, p.184)
Now that we have looked at several examples of how many popes acquired their office, the behavior of popes, and the unbiblical teachings of popes, let’s look at the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope.
Originally, infallibility was ascribed to the Roman emperor. Pope Leo I (440-461) said, “By the Holy Spirit’s inspiration the emperor needs no human instruction and is incapable of doctrinal error.” (Hunt, p. 156). One of the first popes to claim infallibility was Nicholas I (858-867) who said, “It is evident that the popes can neither be bound nor unbound by any earthly power, nor even by that of the apostle [Peter], if he should return upon the earth; since Constantine the Great has recognized that the pontiffs held the place of God upon earth, the divinity not being able to be judged by any living man. We are, then, infallible, and whatever may be our acts, we are not accountable for them but to ourselves.” (Hunt, pp.153-154)
Although many popes over the years claimed infallibility, This doctrine was defined dogmatically in the First Vatican Council of 1870. It has been reiterated in Vatican II. And The Code of Canon Law, Canon 333, par 3, says, “There is neither appeal nor recourse against a decision or decree of the Roman Pontiff.”
So, just what does this doctrine teach? Whenever the pope speaks ex cathedra, that is, from his chair of authority, he cannot and does not teach false doctrine. Vatican II goes so far as to say that even when he does not speak ex cathedra, Catholics are still expected to obey him without question. Bearing in mind this teaching, look again at some of the teachings and decrees made by popes in the past and then ask yourself if the pope is really infallible, whether or not he is speaking ex cathedra? Do the examples of actions of the papacy in the past (and numerous more examples could be cited) demonstrate that the papal office has any special connection with God, or that it represents Christ on Earth? The answer must be, “no.”
As part of the teaching of infallibility, when all the bishops agree on a doctrine, then they are also considered to be infallible in that decision. This leads to the idea of the teaching Magisterium, which “is a body made up of the bishops and the pope. It functions as the authoritative teaching body of the Church that safeguards doctrines. … It alone has the right to interpret and judge the correct meaning of God’s Word.” (Ron Rhodes, Reasoning From the Scriptures with Catholics, pp.89-90) As cited by Rhodes, the book Dogmatic Theology for the Laity declares, “the teaching office of the Church is more important than the Bible; only an infallible Church can interpret the true meaning of Sacred Scripture; no one can do this for himself.” (Reasoning From the Scriptures, p.90).
Some questions to ask about the papacy and the teaching Magisterium:
1. Why is there no mention of the papal office in Scripture if God wanted this office? Scripture gives us Apostles, prophets, teachers, elders and deacons, yet no popes.
2. Throughout history, there were 35 times when there was more than one pope, each condemning the other; how could this be if the office is infallible and the true representative of Christ on earth.
3. “If the pope is infallible, how can it be that Pope Honorius I (A.D. 625-638) was condemned for teaching heresy by the Sixth General Council?” (Rhodes, p.97)
4. If the individual is unable to understand Scripture without the Church, why does the Bible praise the Bereans for searching the Scripture? (Acts 17) Why does the Scripture tell us to individually examine teachings? (1 Thes. 5:21, et al). Why would Scripture tell us to handle the Word of God rightly? (2 Tim. 2:15; 2 Cor. 4:2)
Rome teaches that their authority comes from their claim that Peter was the first bishop - or Pope - of Rome, and that those who succeed him as bishop also succeed him as Pope. They teach that he was given primacy over all the other apostles, yet in Acts 15 we see that James is the one in charge of the Council of Jerusalem. Rome also teaches that Matthew 16:18 states that Jesus was building his church on Peter, while the actual context is that Jesus was going to build his church on Peter’s confession of faith (in fact, Ephesians 2:20 states that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ as the cornerstone, rather than being built on one apostle). In fact, no place in Scripture is Peter elevated to any supremacy over the other apostles. So we see that, far from Rome’s claim that Peter’s position was supreme and that he was the Bishop of Rome (with no supporting historical evidence) and that by virtue of this the Roman bishop became the authority for the church, the real reason the Roman bishop became the head of the church was because of his political position in the Roman Empire.
It is very important to understand that the pope is just another man with no special teaching authority from God, especially when it is understood that the unique teachings of the Roman Church derive from the Pope and his councils. Now that we’ve looked at the Pope and his supposed gift of infallibility, as well as the teaching Magisterium, in the future I will discuss some of the unbiblical teachings of the Roman Catholic Church which places them in the category of being cultic.