Look at the fruit of the Reformation, with its many divisions and denominations among the Protestants," is the frequent cry from Catholic apologists. "How can such confusion be of God!" The implication is that only Protestants have doctrinal differences among themselves, while the Roman Catholic Church is a unity of 980 million faithful adherents who all believe and practice the same thing. That is, of course, far from the truth. Catholicism gives a false impression of unity because wide disagreements in doctrine and practice are retained under its broad cloak. As Fidelity editor E. Michael Jones, a leading Catholic writer, puts it, the faithful -
[do not abandon] the Catholic Church ... [because it] is the only barque of Christ ... no matter what waves of heresy buffet its sides, one is never justified in jumping ship, not even during the fiercest storms.3
As we have already seen, popes disagreed with and excommunicated one another as heretics (yet those excommunicated remain on the list of popes today); councils disagreed with one another and there were even serious differences of opinion within the same council. There were many dissenters at the Council of Trent-a council which did not represent the mind of the Church at large, yet remains the major fount of official dogma today. At Vatican I many bishops were opposed to papal infallibility and only later confirmed the vote to spare themselves the pope's wrath. It was much the same at Vatican II, with Pope Paul VI smothering opposition.
The English version of the new Universal Catechism had been held up for more than a year because of serious differences among the bishops. Some of these were aired at the November 15-18, 1993, National Conference of Catholic Bishops held in Washington D.C. Many bishops expressed doctrinal concerns. Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee told the Conference, "There is enormous unrest and unease about liturgy right now."4
The numerous divisions within the Roman Catholic Church range all the way from archconservatism to beliefs and practices of priests and nuns deeply involved in Hinduism or Buddhism to Hans Kung's liberalism. The latter is so far from Rome's official party line that in 1979 the Vatican revoked his status as a theologian. Yet he remains a powerful influence within the Catholic Church. Or take Fr. Matthew Fox, silenced for one year by the Vatican but vocal thereafter with views that can only be called pagan and New Age. Expelled from the Dominican order for insubordination but not excommunicated from the Church for his gross heresies, Fox has since become an Episcopalian. A wide range of other theologians and clergy remain in the Church, from Maryknoll priests and nuns advocating Marxism and Liberation Theology to Society of St. Pius X zealots who are scandalized by John Paul II's ecumenism.
The Great Schism
There have been at least as many divisions among Roman Catholics through the centuries as among Protestants, and there still are to this very day. Some of these disagreements were fought with sword and spear. Consider, for example, the Great Schism when France and Italy struggled for possession of the lucrative papacy. In 1378, Urban VI, a Neapolitan, became pope. Trying to effect some much-needed reform, Urban excommunicated the cardinals who had purchased their benefices. It was a well-intentioned but politically foolish move. As von Dollinger explains:
Simony had long been the daily bread of the Roman Curia and the breath of its life; without simony the machine must come to a stand-still and instantly fall to pieces. The Cardinals had, from their own point of view, ample ground for insisting on the impossibility of subsisting without it. They accordingly revolted from Urban and elected Clement VII, a man after their own heart.
And thus it came to pass that from 1378 to 1409 Western Christendom was divided into two Obediences.5
In 1409, Pisa was the scene of a synod from all Europe that was called to heal the breach. It was the first time in 300 years that those attending such a gathering dared to speak openly and vote freely. There was a sense of relief, even of triumph when the two reigning popes, Gregory XII and Benedict XIII, were deposed as heretics and a third pope, Alexander V, was elected. Of course neither of the two "popes" yielded to the synod's decision. Now there were three "vicars of Christ" instead of a mere two, just as there had been 350 years before. That situation lasted from 1409-15.6
Could it be that one of the "abominations" to which this woman in John's vision would give birth was a man claiming to be "vicar of Christ," and even worse, three men each claiming to be Christ's true and only representative on earth, each damning those who followed either of the other two? Catherine of Siena, who persuaded Gregory XI, seventh of the Avignon popes, to return to Rome, is recognized today as a Catholic saint. She was a staunch supporter of Urban VI, but he is shown on the lists as an anti-pope.
The Worst Abominations
Just before her death, Catherine, who had lengthy trances in which she allegedly saw heaven, purgatory, and hell, received permission from God (so she said) to allow her "to bear the punishment for all the sins of the world...." 7 Yet Christ's death had already paid the full penalty for sin. Was she excommunicated as a heretic for such blasphemy? No, she was so admired for her "sacrifice" that the Roman Catholic Church made her a saint.
Five hundred years later the Church would accept the claim that the sufferings (evidenced by the stigmata bleeding in hands, feet, and side where Christ was pierced) endured for 50 years8 by a monk named Padre Pio were also in payment for the sins of the world. Pio claimed that more spirits of the dead than living persons visited him in his monastery cell. The spirits came to thank him for paying for their sins with his sufferings so they could be released from purgatory and go to heaven. Other monks testified that they heard multitudes of voices talking with Padre Pio at night.9
The Bible, however, repeatedly assures us that Christ suffered the full penalty for sin: "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7; cf. Colossians 1:14). There is nothing left for sinners to pay in order to receive the pardon offered by God's grace. The debt has been paid in full. "It is finished!" Christ cried in triumph just before He died upon the cross (John 19:30). To suggest otherwise is the most serious heresy.
John the Baptist hailed Christ as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). All others (including Pio, et al), being sinners ("all have sinned"Romans 3:23) would have to die for their own sins and therefore could not also pay for sins of another person. Peter declared that Christ once for all time "suffered for sins, the just [sinless one] for [us] the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
Yet Catherine of Siena, Padre Pio, and other such "suffering saints" are revered and prayed to by millions of Catholics, including the current pope, for having suffered for the sins of others. They are greater than Christ in the sense that His suffering leaves good Catholics still in purgatory, whereas Padre Pio's suffering releases multitudes to heaven. Vatican II declares that believers have always "carried their crosses to make expiation for their own sins and the sins of others ... [to] help their brothers obtain salvation from God...."10
Such blasphemy is one of the abominations to which the Roman Catholic Church has given birth and which she still nurtures today. Can there be any greater abomination than teaching that sinners for whom Christ paid the full penalty of sin need yet to "make expiation for their own sins and the sins of others"?
Idols of Thy Abominations
In the Bible the word "abomination" is a spiritual term associated with idolatry. God condemned Israel for the "idols of thy abominations" (Ezekiel 16:36). Occult practices are also called abominations, along with illicit and perverted sex. Since the woman astride the beast is "the mother of harlots and abominations," it seems clear that these evil practices rooted in Babel will, under Antichrist, characterize the world religion which this woman represents. She is called the "Mother" of these things because she has fostered and encouraged them. The description fits exactly both the history and the present practice of the Roman Catholic Church.
The biblical prohibition against making images for religious purposes and bowing down before them (and God's abhorrence of this pagan practice) is clearly set forth in the second of the Ten Commandments and in numerous other passages of Scripture. For example: "Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image ... to bow down unto it.... Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the Lord" (Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 27:15). Yet Vatican II commends images in churches and says they are to be "venerated by the faithful." In Catholic churches and cathedrals around the world one sees the faithful on their knees in front of images of this or that "saint," most often "Mary."
The second of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Israel states: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath.... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them" (Exodus 20:4,5; cf. Deuteronomy 5:8,9). How does the Roman Catholic Church get around this clear prohibition? She does worse than ignore it; she literally hides it from the people.
The "Ten Commandments" shown in Catholic catechisms leave out the second commandment prohibiting images and divide the last one, prohibiting covetousness, into two. It is a flagrant rejection of a clear command by God. Moreover, that rejection is dishonestly covered up by pretending the command doesn't exist. It is a deliberate deception practiced upon the members of the Church, most of whom know nothing of the Bible except what the clergy tell them.
When Emperor Leo III issued an edict from Constantinople calling for forcible baptism of Jews, he was praised. But when, in 726, he demanded that all images be broken, there was a great outcry from citizens and clergy. Pope Gregory II claimed that images were not worshiped but reverenced. The truth slipped out, however, in his letter to the emperor: "But as for the statue of St. Peter himself, which all the kingdoms of the West esteem as a god on earth, the whole West would take a terrible revenge [if it were destroyed]."11 A bloody war was fought around Ravena over this issue and a synod in Rome excommunicated all who dared attack the images.
Christians had not used images until Constantine became the de facto head of the Church. The door that was opened to paganism at that time has never been shut. The Church attempted to accommodate the pagans joining it by retaining their idols under Christian names. That practice is still part of Santeria, voodoo, etc. today.
Catholic apologists insist that veneration is not of the image itself but of the "saint" it represents. Yet John Paul II openly promotes the pagan belief that images have power. Recently at St. Peter's Basilica the Pope declared:
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.12
Such idolatry the Bible repeatedly condemns as spiritual adultery or fornication! Rome is the "Mother of Harlots" in this way as well, having led untold millions into idolatry.
Salvation for Sale
The Roman Catholic Church has been in the business of selling salvation to the naive, with much of her great wealth accumulated from that source. And she does this in the name of the Christ, who offers salvation as a free gift! He told His disciples, "Freely ye have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:8)! There could be no greater abomination than selling salvation, yet Rome has never repented of this evil but continues similar practices to this day.
Under Pope Leo X (1513-21)-who cursed and excommunicated Martin Luther-specific prices were published by the Roman Chancery to be paid to the Church for absolution from each imaginable crime. Even murder had its price. For example, a deacon guilty of murder could be absolved for 20 crowns. The "anointed malefactors," as they were called, once pardoned in this way by the Church, could not be prosecuted by civil authorities.
Leo's sale of salvation was nothing new. Two hundred years earlier John XXII (1316-34) had done the same, setting a price for every crime from murder to incest to sodomy. The more Catholics sinned the richer the Church became. Similar fundraising schemes had been in operation for years.
Innocent VIII (1484-92), for example, had granted the 20-year Butterbriefe indulgence. For a certain sum one could purchase 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. The people believed that the popes had such power. After all, wasn't whatever the vicars of Christ bound or loosed on earth similarly bound or loosed in heaven? The proceeds from this enterprising scheme built the bridge over the Elbe. Julius III (1550-5) renewed this indulgence (for a handsome fee) for another 20 years after he came to office.
Leo X tore down Constantine's basilica and built St. Peter's, largely with monies paid by people who thought they were thereby gaining forgiveness of sins and entrance to heaven. That magnificent structure stands as one more piece of evidence that Rome is the "Mother of abominations."
As Giovanni de Medici, Leo had been made an abbot at age seven for his first communion and a cardinal at age 13. Though he was the youngest cardinal to that time, Pope Benedict IX ascended to Peter's throne at age 11. Imagine an 11-year-old solemnly pronouncing forgiveness of sins as Christ's one true representative on earth! It was Leo X who commissioned the Dominican Friar Tetzel to sell indulgences, which it was promised would free those in purgatory or release the purchaser, if bought in his own name, from having to spend any time in that intermediate place of torment.
Tetzel's infamous sales pitch went, "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs!" How could anyone be so naive as to believe that the forgiveness of sins for which Christ had to endure the full wrath of God upon the cross could be purchased with money? This "God" of Catholicism who moves in response to whatever regulations a corrupt Church invents is clearly not the God of the Bible. (It was this particular abomination of selling salvation that scandalized Martin Luther and sparked the Reformation.)
Well-meaning Protestants, wanting to believe the best, imagine that Roman Catholicism has rid itself of past abominations, including indulgences. Charles Colson's book The Body contains examples of such incorrect information. Though the book eloquently speaks much truth, it erroneously presents Roman Catholicism as biblical Christianity and calls for union therewith on the part of evangelicals. Colson writes: "The Reformers, for example, assailed the corrupt practices of indulgences; today they [indulgences] are gone (save for the modern-day equivalent practices by some unscrupulous television hucksters, ironically mostly Protestants, who promise healing and blessing for contributions)."13
We endorse his condemnation of "unscrupulous television hucksters," but wonder at his incorrect interpretation of Rome. A major document of Vatican II devotes 17 pages to explaining indulgences and how to obtain them and excommunicates and damns any who deny that the Church has the right to grant indulgences today for salvation.14 The rules are complex and ludicrous as well as abominable. Try to imagine God honoring such regulations as granting certain indulgences "only on set days appointed by the Holy See" or that a "plenary indulgence, applicable only to the dead, can be gained in all churches...on November 2,"15 etc. The entire teaching on indulgences denies the sufficiency of Christ's redemptive sacrifice for sins upon the cross. (See Appendix B for further details.)
Some ancient indulgences even remain in force today. A recent notice in Inside the Vatican reminded Catholics that on August 28 and 29, 1994, an unusual opportunity for obtaining a special indulgence would occur:
Pope Celestine V gave a Holy Door to the Cathedral of Maria Collemaggio in his Bull of 29 September, 1294. To obtain this "perdonanza" indulgence, it's necessary to be in the Cathedral between 18:00 (6 P.M.) 28 August and 18:00 (6 P.M.) 29 August, to truly repent of one's sins, and to confess and go to mass and communion within 8 days of the visit. The Holy Door is open every year, but this year, 1994, is the 700th anniversary of the Bull of Pardon. Go there!16
Warning: Reformation Ahead
Inside the door of the Wittenberg castle church to which Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses were relics (including an alleged lock of the Virgin Mary's hair) offering 2 million years in indulgences to those venerating them according to prescribed rules. Never has the Roman Catholic Church apologized for having led multitudes astray in this manner. And how does one apologize to souls now in hell for having sold them a bogus "ticket to heaven"?
For both ingenuity and infamy, no money-grabbing scheme of the past or of today's unscrupulous television hucksters even comes close to the sale of indulgences. It provided much cash for the popes at the time of the Reformation. In A.D. 593 Pope Gregory I had first proposed the unbiblical (but ultimately very profitable) idea that there was a place called "purgatory" in which the spirits of the dead suffered in order to be purged of their sins and fully delivered from "the debt of eternal punishment." This fabrication was declared to be a Church dogma by the Council of Florence in 1439 and remains an important part of Roman Catholicism today.
It was not such abominable heresies, however, that divided Roman Catholics. All seemed content with the promise that the Church would somehow get them to heaven, no matter how repugnant to common sense and justice the methods were. As Chamberlin has said, "the eye of faith was blind to the incidental discrepancies."17 It was the division caused by rival popes, each claiming to be in charge of the machinery of salvation, that stirred the Church to action.
By deposing all three rivals who each claimed to be the Vicar of Christ, and then appointing a new pope, Martin V, the Council of Constance (1414-18) reunited the Church. (See Appendix D for more details.) Many bishops were convinced that a reformation was desperately needed. To move the Church toward reformation, Constance decreed that there should be another ecumenical council each ten years. Pope Martin V dutifully -
summoned the Council in 1423 to meet, first at Pavia, then at Sienna. But the moment any signs of an attempt at reform manifested themselves, he dissolved it "on account of the fewness of those present." However, shortly before his death, he summoned the new Council to meet at Basle.
Martin V's successor, Eugenius IV, could not avoid carrying out the duty he had inherited from his predecessor, to which he was already pledged in conclave.18
The Struggle for Supremacy
Eugenius ordered the council disbanded almost immediately upon a pretext, but the assembly refused and a contest with the pope began, at first with the backing of the general populace of Europe and King Sigismund. In vain the pope excommunicated the prelates involved. Support for reform poured in to the council from kings, princes, bishops, prelates and universities. Under pressure the pope was forced to give the council his full sanction, an acknowledgment once again of the superiority of council over pope (which Pius IX would manage to reverse at Vatican I).
The council deposed Eugenius, calling him "a notorious disturber of peace and unity of God's Church, a simoniac, a perjurer, an incorrigible man, a schismatic, an apostate from the Faith, an obstinate heretic, a squanderer of the Church's rights and property, incapable and harmful to the administration of the Roman Pontificate. . . ."19 (Yet his name remains on today's official list of the vicars of Christ.) With great courage the council decreed:
All ecclesiastical appointments shall be made according to the canons of the Church; all simony shall cease ... all priests whether of the highest or lowest rank shall put away their concubines, and whoever within two months of this decree neglects its demands shall be deprived of his office, though he be the Bishop of Rome.
... the popes shall neither demand nor receive any fees for ecclesiastical offices. From now on, a pope should think not of this world's treasures but only of those of the world to come.
That medicine proved too strong, and the tide of opinion turned against the council.20 The people wanted reformation, but not that much; and the last thing the pope and the Curia wanted was to be required to live as true Christians with a council making certain they did. Pope Eugenius summoned his own council at Florence, deposed and anathematized the members of Basle, "laid Basle under interdict, excommunicated the municipal council, and required every one to plunder the merchants who were bringing their wares to the city, because it is written, `The righteous hath spoiled the ungodly."'21 The pope then bribed King Frederick with 100,000 florins "together with the imperial crown, assigned tithes to him from all the German benefices and....gave full power to his confessor to give him twice a plenary absolution from all sins." Such is the abominable manner in which the popes dispensed their favors, including forgiveness of sins.
The Council of Basle could not compete with the power and wealth of the pope. Eugenius now had the backing he needed. Von Dollinger comments, "The victory of Eugenius was complete. When on his deathbed he received the homage of the German ambassadors, the event was celebrated (February 7, 1447) in Rome with ringing of bells and bonfires. Even the slight concessions the pope had made to the Germans he thereupon recalled in secret Bulls." In 1443 an anonymous German Catholic, in mourning for his Church, seemed to echo the very vision God had given John in Revelation 17:
The Roman harlot has so many paramours drunk with the wine of her fornications, that the Bride of Christ, the Church, and the Council representing her, scarcely receive the loyal devotion of one among a thousand.22
As he died, having triumphed over the council and Germany, Eugenius cried in agony of conscience, "How much better were it for thy soul's salvation hadst thou never become Cardinal and Pope! "23 The next pope, Nicholas V (1447-55), voided Eugenius's decrees against the Council of Basle (yet both remain on the official list of popes today). It was the last chance for the papacy to be reformed, but it would not happen. In only a short while the Curia's diligent forgers were at work again producing more false documents to prove the popes' infallibility and dominance over all.
Corruption of the Era
Rome's dominance of Church and world for more than a thousand years through excommunication, torture, and death had led to corruption of such proportions that even the secular world recoiled in shame and horror. The cry resounded throughout Christendom for a reformation of the Church. All knew, however, that it was impossible as long as the Court of Rome remained what it was: "There every mischief is fostered and protected, and thence it spreads, but there, unless by a miracle, there is no hope of reformation."24
Among the popes who followed Nicholas on Peter's alleged throne were some whose evil was beyond imagination. Von Dollinger says of Paul II, Sixtus IV, Innocent VIII, and Alexander VI that each tried "to exceed the vices of his predecessor." One contemporary said that Paul II had "made the Papal Chair into a sewer by his debaucheries."25 Pilgrims who went to Rome with high hopes returned disillusioned, like Martin Luther, to declare that "in the metropolis of Christendom, and in the bosom of the great mother and mistress of all Churches, the clergy, with scarcely an exception, kept concubines."26 And the Church made a profit from it.
Sixtus IV (1471-84), who had licensed Rome's brothels for an annual fee and taxed the clergy for their mistresses, invented an even more ingenious method of filling the Church's coffers. It would be used by the popes after him to full advantage. Sixtus decided that he, as Christ's vicar, could apply indulgences to the dead as well as to the living. It was a novel idea which no one had thought of before, and one which turned out to be incredibly profitable.
What surviving relative could refuse to purchase the release of a deceased mother, father, aunt, uncle, or child from the tortures of purgatory? And of course the richer the living relatives were the more it invariably cost to transfer the deceased from purgatory to heaven. One marvels that anyone would take the word of such an evil pope, but Sixtus was no worse than many others, and after all, evil or not, he was Christ's vicar and the successor of Peter, was he not? Again Chamberlin put it so well: "No lay monarch, no matter how powerful or virtuous, could hope to attract to himself the deep instinctive reverence that men felt for the successor of St. Peter, no matter how unworthy .... "27 The few bold souls, such as Savonarola, of Florence, who dared to criticize Rome's abominations, were consigned to the flames for their zeal.
The Council of Trent
Such was the state of the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the Reformation. Remember, Luther and Calvin were devout Catholics. There were no Protestants. That word had not been invented. Multitudes had been crying for reformation for at least 200 years. No one, however, Calvin and Luther included, wanted to leave the Church. They desired to see it reformed from within.
Furious at the challenge to their power, the popes would have consigned Luther and Calvin to the flames, but, unable to get their hands on them because of the protection afforded by certain German princes, the hierarchy threw them summarily out of the Church. Sick to death with the arrogant despotism of the papacy, with its oppression and slaughter of any who would not bow to its imperious demands, multitudes followed Luther and Calvin and the other Reformation leaders out of the Church, giddy with the first gasping breaths of spiritual freedom they had ever drawn.
Suddenly Protestantism, this upstart clamor of "heresy," was thriving and on the march everywhere. Pope Paul III saw his empire dwindling and his influence over kings coming to an end. A despotic, Renaissance pope who had "bestowed the red hat on his nephews, aged fourteen and seventeen, and promoted them despite their notorious immorality,"28 Paul III acted decisively on two fronts. He convened a council in Trent (northern Italy) that would condemn the Reformation theologically; and he went to work behind the scenes to organize a holy war that was intended to militarily wipe Protestantism from the face of the earth in Christ's name.
Rome's popularity was at a low ebb when the Council of Trent met in 1545 to consider its response to the menace of Protestantism which threatened the Church in much of Europe. There were still many clergy within the Catholic Church who realized the need for a reformation and hoped that Trent would bring it about, thereby making it possible to welcome those who had left the Church back into its fold. The pope and his Curia, however, had other plans.
The opening speech at the council, by Bishop Coriolano Martorano, encouraged those who hoped for reform. Unfortunately, very few so minded were present, for the pope had stacked the deck with his own men. Von Dollinger describes that stirring oration:
The picture he [Martoranol drew of the Italian Cardinals and bishops, their bloodthirsty cruelty, their avarice, their pride, and the devastation they had wrought of the Church, was perfectly shocking. An unknown writer, who has described this first sitting in a letter to a friend, thinks Luther himself never spoke more severely.29
In fact, this lone cry for a return to genuine Christianity was followed by a chorus supporting the very evil which Martorano had exposed. The Council of Trent, controlled by Italians, was to prove itself incapable of facing the facts. When once again a non-Italian delegate dared to bring up charges that reflected badly upon the papacy, the Italian bishops shouted, stamped their feet, and cried that this "accursed wretch must not speak; he should at once be brought to trial."30
The "freedom of speech" at Trent was similar to what it would be 325 years later in Rome at Vatican I. A famous eyewitness wrote shortly after the council opened that nothing beneficial was to be hoped for from the "monstrous bishops" attending; there was "nothing episcopal about them except their long robes ... [they] had become bishops through royal favor, through solicitation, through purchase in Rome, through criminal arts, or after long years spent in the Curia." They "must all be deposed" if Trent was to produce anything worthy, but that was impossible.31 Another contemporary, Pallavicini, wrote:
The Italian bishops knew of no other aim than the upholding of the Apostolic See and its greatness. They thought that in working for its interests they showed themselves at once good Italians and good Christians.32
The Catholic-Protestant Wars
Not satisfied with damning the Protestants theologically (the canons and decrees of the Council of Trent contain more than 100 anathemas against Protestant beliefs), Pope Paul III wanted to destroy them physically. He offered the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V of Spain, "1,100,000 ducats, 12,000 infantry, 500 horses, if he would turn his full force against the heretics." The Catholic emperor was only too happy to have a reason to bring the rival Protestant princes of Germany into subjection and "to crush Protestantism and give to his realm a unified Catholic Faith that would, he thought, strengthen and facilitate his government."33
Nearly ten years of war across Europe ensued. Paul III "issued a bull excommunicating all who should resist Charles and offering liberal indulgences to all who should aid him." After heavy losses on both sides and much treachery among the rival rulers, the Protestants remained strong enough to force the emperor into a compromise. Will Durant explains the settlement that created the state churches which still exist in Europe today:
In order to permit peace among and within the states each prince was to choose between Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism; all his subjects were to accept "his religion whose realm" it was; and those who did not like it were to emigrate. There was no pretense on either side to toleration; the principle which the Reformation had upheld in the youth of its rebellion-the right of private judgment-was as completely rejected by the Protestant leaders as by the Catholics....
The Protestants now agreed with Charles and the popes that unity of religious belief was indispensable to social order and peace ... the princes [were to] banish dissenters instead of burning them.... The real victor was not freedom of worship but the freedom of the princes. Each became, like Henry VIII of England, the supreme head of the Church [whether Catholic or Protestant] in his territory, with the exclusive right to appoint the clergy and the men who should define the obligatory faith.
The "Erastian" principle-that the state should rule the Church-was definitely established. As it was the princes, not the theologians, who had led Protestantism to its triumph, they naturally assumed the fruits of victory-their territorial supremacy over the emperor, their ecclesiastical supremacy over the Church.... In effect the Holy Roman Empire died not in 1806 but in 1555.34
The story of the Reformation has been told elsewhere. There were evils perpetrated on both sides, which we lack the space to recount. We are pursuing one objective primarily in this book: to identify the woman riding the beast in Revelation 17. In this chapter we are demonstrating the fact that "Mother of abominations" was inscribed on her forehead. Let us now move from the past to the present.
"Abomination" is a spiritual term. There is no greater abomination than rejecting the sacrifice Christ made on the cross for our sins-unless it is leading others astray also. That abomination in varying forms continues in Roman Catholicism to this day. Another of Rome's great deceptions relates to marriage and divorce.
Divorce by Another Name
The Roman Catholic Church is known for its adamant stand against divorce. Yet at the same time she is a veritable and unique divorce mill, hiding this fact by deceitfully calling it by another name. The Church grants in the United States alone "annulments" by the tens of thousands each year.35 Her use of psychology is particularly perverse. Many annulments are granted for "psychological" reasons such as being raised in a "dysfunctional" family or being "psychologically unprepared" for a marriage that occurred decades before and produced
numerous children. It is the ultimate in hypocrisy and cynicism, another of the abominations Rome has birthed.
Here is an excerpt from a typical letter from a Catholic diocese justifying to a distraught woman an annulment granted to her husband of 30 years (five children, husband and wife both Catholics):
This investigation by a court of the Catholic Church determines whether an essential element of the Sacrament of Matrimony was missing at the time the marriage was entered. If a careful investigation should determine that such an element as perceived by the Church was lacking, then your marriage does not bind you or Mr. _____________ so far as the Catholic Church is concerned. This decision does not have civil implications and does not make your children illegitimate.
Of course there are no "civil implications." As unjust as the courts may be at times, civil judges are not yet ready to pretend a marriage didn't actually occur because one of the parties now claims that he or she was not psychologically prepared at the time or held some mental reservation as to whether it would work out. Sadly enough, some Catholics now file secret letters with their attorneys at the time of marriage, expressing doubts, just in case they want an annulment later. Common sense would say that if there are doubts, then the vows should not be taken; and once the promise is made to be faithful "for better or worse," it should be kept. If couples can make solemn vows of fidelity and later break them without penalty and with the blessing of the Church, then all interpersonal relationships break down, whether business or private. No one can be trusted anymore to keep any promise.
The PrimeTime television show of January 6, 1994, dealt with the issue of Catholic annulments. A Catholic priest remembered hearing a Church canon lawyer tell him, "Charlie, there isn't a Catholic marriage in the United States that we couldn't annul." A number of women guests told of their exhusbands, after a divorce, seeking annulments so they could remarry in the Church: Barbara Zimmerman, married 27 years and mother of five children; Pat Cadigan, married 23 years; Sheila Rauch Kennedy, married to Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, Bobby Kennedy's eldest son, for 12 years and mother of his twin sons.
A Catholic priest on the program, Fr. Patrick Cogan, explained that annulments are granted even though the Church doesn't believe in divorce, because "the Catholic Church believes that it must hold onto a higher principle." Really? He explained that an annulment means "there was never a marriage from the very beginning." Mrs. Kennedy responded angrily, "To say that a marriage that lasted ... close to 13 years ... that took place after a nine-year courtship and a marriage that created two wonderful children never happened is, to me, outrageous." Joseph Kennedy had explained to her, "But you have to understand that nobody believes this anyway. It's-it's just Catholic gobbledygook. It's the way the Church requires that you say these things, so don't take it so seriously."36
While claiming to stand for holiness, Rome corrupts her followers. On PrimeTime Barbara Zimmerman declared: "For my Church to say, `Well, you know, you can't get a divorce, but we'll annul it and that'll take care of it'-it's-it's slimy. It's sleazy. It's dishonest. It's saying, `We'll get around our own rules."'
The implications for eternity are solemn indeed. If the Catholic Church can't be trusted to tell the truth about marriage and divorce, then how can it be trusted when it comes to salvation? To be cheated in this life is costly enough, but to be cheated for eternity is a loss from which there is no recovery.
The golden chalice held by the woman riding the beast was filled with "the abominations and filthiness of her fornication" (Revelation 17:4). There is not and never has been a city on earth except "Christian" Rome which perfectly fits that description. She has been the seducer of souls, leading multitudes into the abominations of idolatry, sexual immorality, the denial of the sufficiency of Christ's redemptive work upon the cross, and the sale of counterfeit salvation in its place-and has done it while posing as the one true Church acting in the name of Christ.