Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
An Appropriate Reformation Day Post
10/31/2009 - James White
There are some topics that really do not require much effort in the way of argumentation. Frank Beckwith’s recent “pet peeve” article about the use of such terms as “Roman church” and “Roman Catholic church” is so easily refuted from Rome’s own official documents that it is amazing the discussion is still going around the net. I was directed to an article by Scott Windsor commenting on the topic, and ironically, Beckwith commented as well. But let’s start with a simple experiment. Open up www.papalencyclicals.net and use the search function. Let’s just search for “Roman,” shall we? And lets just look at, say, Vatican I, given that this was the Council that proclaimed Papal Infallibility (over against the witness of history itself). Did the Council share Dr. Beckwith’s “pet peeve”? Do we find them sticking solely with the term “Catholic”? Let’s see:
I, Pius, bishop of the catholic church, with firm faith believe and profess each and every article contained in the profession of faith which the holy Roman church uses, namely:
I acknowledge the
* apostolic and
church, the mother and mistress of all the churches.
The holy, catholic, apostolic and Roman church believes and acknowledges that there is one true and living God,
On the permanence of the primacy of blessed Peter in the Roman pontiffs
For no one can be in doubt, indeed it was known in every age that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, the pillar of faith and the foundation of the catholic church, received the keys of the kingdom from our lord Jesus Christ, the saviour and redeemer of the human race, and that to this day and for ever he lives and presides and exercises judgment in his successors the bishops of the holy Roman see, which he founded and consecrated with his blood.
[Note: if that statement, given the context in which it is placed, does not cause you to recoil in horror at such a gross twisting of the glorious gospel of Christ, you really should think through what it is you believe! Christ's church is indeed founded by Christ, and consecrated with His blood, but to apply such language to the individual church that has brought so much shame upon Christ's name (remember the Pornocracy?) and has dipped its hands in the blood of the saints for centuries is beyond the realm of merely blasphemous.]
For this reason it has always been necessary for every church—that is to say the faithful throughout the world—to be in agreement with the Roman church because of its more effective leadership. In consequence of being joined, as members to head, with that see, from which the rights of sacred communion flow to all, they will grow together into the structure of a single body.
• if anyone says that
o it is not by the institution of Christ the lord himself (that is to say, by divine law) that blessed Peter should have perpetual successors in the primacy over the whole church; or that
o the Roman pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in this primacy:
let him be anathema.
which must be believed by all faithful Christians, namely that
• the apostolic see and the Roman pontiff hold a world-wide primacy, and that
• the Roman pontiff is the successor of blessed Peter,
o the prince of the apostles,
o true vicar of Christ,
o head of the whole church and
o father and teacher of all christian people.the Roman church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other church
In this way, by unity with the Roman pontiff in communion and in profession of the same faith , the church of Christ becomes one flock under one supreme shepherd
Furthermore, it follows from that supreme power which the Roman pontiff has in governing the whole church, that he has the right, in the performance of this office of his, to communicate freely with the pastors and flocks of the entire church, so that they may be taught and guided by him in the way of salvation.
Since the Roman pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole church, we likewise teach and declare that
• he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that
• in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment  .
• The sentence of the apostolic see (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone,
• nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon  . And so
• they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman pontiff.
• if anyone says that
o the Roman pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and
+ not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole church, and this
+ not only in matters of
# faith and morals, but also in those which concern the
# discipline and government of the church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that
o he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that
o this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful:
let him be anathema.
Chapter 4. On the infallible teaching authority of the Roman pontiff
1. That apostolic primacy which the Roman pontiff possesses as successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, includes also the supreme power of teaching.
• This holy see has always maintained this,
• the constant custom of the church demonstrates it, and
• the ecumenical councils, particularly those in which East and West met in the union of faith and charity, have declared it.
[Note in passing: this is a historical fallacy on a grand scale, one that caused Newman and others to blush in its grandiose arrogance and ease of refutation. It illustrates how Rome’s claims are far removed from historical reality.]
• we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma that
o when the Roman pontiff speaks EX CATHEDRA,
+ that is, when,
1. in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians,
2. in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority,
3. he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church,
o he possesses,
+ by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter,
o that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals.
o Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.
So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema.
And so on. A quick scan for the term “catholic” indicates that in the very act of defining the infallibility of the Roman pontiff the Roman church referred to herself more often as the “Roman church” than the “catholic church.” So if Rome can do this self-referentially, upon what logical basis can Francis Beckwith, or others, take offense?
So I was directed to a blog article written by one of the first Roman Catholics I engaged, years and years ago (late 1980s), on the subject of Rome’s claims. For many years I tried to correct Mr. Windsor’s misapprehensions and confusion, to no avail (though, in retrospect, I learned a lot myself, which may have been God’s purpose in the extended correspondence and contact). He continues to miss the essence of my points. He writes,
That being said, White rightly points out that our communion is with the “Bishop of Rome.” However, he wrongly states it is not with the bishop of Constantinople, Naples, London or Milwaukee - for as much as those bishops are in communion with the Bishop of Rome, we are also in communion with them!
I never said there was no communion with those bishops, of course. I said that it is not communion with those bishops that defines the teachings of the Roman church, as seen with such clarity above. You will not find any dogmatic teachings of Rome that speak of the bishop of Milwaukee in the terms seen above. Mr. Windsor goes on with a number of oft-refuted arguments in support of the papacy (anyone who has watched any of the debates we have done on the papacy over the past 15 years knows how to respond to each of these simple arguments). So after providing argumentation that really does not stack up to even the standards of Catholic Answers, Frank Beckwith decides to comment:
Francis J. Beckwith said…
Nice work. BTW, I still call what Luther wrought the “Reformation,” even though I don’t think it actually reformed anything. Yet, I use the term “Reformation” out of respect for my Protestant brothers and sisters.
I too am proud to be a “Roman Catholic.” But my dislike of the incessant use of “Rome” and “Roman” by critics is how they apply it as a slur. The guy who cannot write “Catholic” without saying “Roman” in front of it every single friggin’ time is probably not going to be swayed by appeals to charity.
That’s when you the put the pearls back in your pocket, shake the dust off your feet, and not look back
In any event, nice work.
Nice work? We get the distinct feeling that despite spending 90 days doing the study that led him back to Rome, Dr. Beckwith somehow missed the best works from the non-Roman Catholic viewpoint. I see no reason to believe he worked through Chemnitz or Whittaker or Goode or Salmon. It seems most of his reading was in secondary, pro-Roman sources, or at least fuzzy ecumenical ones. In any case, we see that Dr. Beckwith’s call for “respect” on the part of us non-Roman Catholics by asking us to refrain from using terminology drawn from the dogmatic documents of his own communion is indefensible. Rome’s self-exaltation precludes the exclusion of her own name in making reference to her arrogant claims and her false gospel.