The Pope calls on Roman Catholics to observe the Sabbath
THE Pope has issued an apostolic letter, second only to an encyclical in the scale of papal writing, in which he instructs Roman Catholics to respect and defend the Sabbath. It is called Dies Domini (The Day of the Lord) and is a lengthy document (filling more than 50 pages of the same size as this). The Sabbath observance which the Pope has in view principally is attending mass along with family relaxation.
It is not spiritual love to the Lord’s Day which prompts this papal directive, for the Church of Rome has never been careful about the keeping of the Fourth Commandment. Boettner, in his excellent book, Roman Catholicism, says about the Sabbath, “It is generally accepted that Romanists, having been to mass . . . can employ as they please, the remainder of that day.” It is also generally accepted that in the first half of this century, those countries where Roman Catholicism was dominant, and the state religion, that Sabbath desecration was the norm. This is also well illustrated by Dr James Begg in his Handbook of Popery, in which he shows how in various countries, in his day, the “Romish Church overturns the authority of the Fourth Commandment”.
Rome now knows that the increasing non-observance of the Sabbath is a principal factor in the decline of numbers attending mass, and she sees that in an increasingly secular society a degree of Sabbath observance is a bulwark to her maintaining her hold over her people. Ironically, the EU countries where the Vatican wields great political power have legislation that is more protective of the Sabbath, and so of the Romish status quo, than legislation in the UK.
Agreement on Justification?
THE agreement on certain doctrines between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics in the USA – Evangelicals and Catholics Together – has received considerable publicity and a degree of more-than-justified criticism. Now comes news from Germany of a recent Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between Lutherans and Roman Catholics, after 30 years of discussions. The Vatican has recently announced its approval although, in the words of Time magazine, “some of the Vatican’s fine print was shockingly critical of the text, but it let stand without objection the Declaration’s grandest statement: Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works'”.
The first point to notice is that this statement continues, in true Roman Catholic fashion, to confuse justification and sanctification. What the parties involved in this agreement have called justification is in fact a combination of justification and sanctification.
One of the great difficulties with the joint ecumenical statements of this century is that words are used very flexibly – according to the reader’s preference they can be moulded into any shape whatever. In particular, the parties to an agreement tend to be satisfied with a form of words to which each can attach their own – often significantly different – meanings. It is not surprising in this case to find that German Protestant critics of the agreement are asking: “What is, then, grace? What is faith? All of this remains unclear.” In other words, the meaning of the statement on justification remains unclear until we are provided with definitions indicating how the parties involved understand such words as grace and faith. Too often, words can be made to mean whatever suits those who are using them.
The agreement certainly indicates an unwillingness to use the great Reformation watchword, By Faith Alone. This is a point taken up in a letter of protest signed by more than 165 Lutheran scholars. In it they argue that no consensus has in fact been reached on justification by faith alone and the “importance of good works for salvation”.
The president of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church has claimed that Luther would have been “filled with joy” as a result of these discussions. One is bound to express strong scepticism on this point, especially if one compares the statement above with the following paragraph on justification from the Augsburg Confession of 1530, during Luther’s own lifetime: “It is also taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for His sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Romans 3:21-26 and 4:5.”
That same doctrine, expressed in words of definite and unambiguous meaning with such admirable clarity and brevity, appears in the Shorter Catechism. With the benefit of the further thought which the later Reformers and their successors gave to the matter in the light of the Scriptures, the Westminster divines answered the question, “What is Justification?”, thus: “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.”
One is left with the question: Has Rome given up the authoritative statements of the Council of Trent on the subject of justification? For instance: “If anyone says that the sinner is justified by faith alone, meaning that nothing else is required to cooperate in order to obtain the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary that he be prepared and disposed by the action of his own will, let him be anathema.” The authority of these repeated anathemas of the Council of Trent remains, even in the closing years of the twentieth century, when Rome has acquired a public image of such remarkable niceness. Although the velvet glove may be on public display, there is still an iron hand inside. But the day will come when the iron hand and every other part of Rome will be destroyed by the power of Almighty God.
The Pope’s edict to curb liberals
LIBERAL Roman Catholics are threatening to leave their Church following the issue of an apostolic letter by the Pope proposing to excommunicate those who persistently undermine Roman Catholic teaching. The document, Ad Tuendam Fidem (On the Defence of the Faith) is directed at teachers and those in public office, although it applies to all Roman Catholics. It calls for obedience on such issues as women priests, euthanasia, sexual morals, and divorce and remarriage. It is designed to curb the activities of liberals, whose ideas have resulted in a growing number of Roman Catholics thinking that they can take mass without obeying certain of Rome’s rules to the letter. The Pope has pronounced that people who refuse to yield obedience are no longer “in communion with the Church”.
Many people are concluding that the Pope is trying to improve general morality and promote holiness in his Church, but in fact his primary purpose is to prop up papal authority which he sees being undermined by liberal elements. For all its talk about morals, in practice Rome is notorious for its lack of Biblical morality, as is shown by the sexual immorality of very many of its priests, and by other scandals, some financial, which she has not been able to hide. Rome continues to engage in its number one business that of gaining and maintaining power. Mighty though that great system is, the day will come when the cry of her besotted devotees will be heard, “Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour thy judgement is come.”
Abuse by Roman priests
SINCE last commenting on increasing revelations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, some other press news items on the subject have appeared.
Further charges are being made against Cardinal Groer, 78, former Archbishop of Vienna. It is now claimed that up to 2000 pupils or monks have been his victims since the fifties, when his systematic abusing began, and that his last offence was as late as 1996.
The Roman Catholic diocese of Dallas, USA, has recently agreed to pay £314 million to nine former altar boys sexually abused by a priest. This is in addition to the £4.5 million paid in the previous month to three other altar boys who were victims of a Father Rudolph Kos.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton, California, has been ordered by a jury to pay £18.3 million to two young men who endured years of sexual abuse by a priest.
The former bishop of Galway, Eamonn Casey, who fathered a child by his housekeeper, is to return from Ecuador. He has been appointed to a chaplaincy in the Westminster archdiocese in London. His remaining in ecclesiastical office after being guilty of such scandalous conduct raises the question, Does the Roman Catholic heirarchy really take seriously his gross sin?
So much for Roman Catholic morality. When those who are the public face of Rome use their position of trust to gratify their perverted lusts, it is little wonder that Rome’s hold over its people is weakening in some quarters. We may have missed it, but we have yet to hear the Pope, in his pronouncements about modern immorality, make any reference to the vile conduct of those whom he addresses as “My esteemed brothers in the Priesthood”.