Common Protestant objections to Catholicism are presented as scriptural, when in fact they are misinterpretations, which render scripture inconsistent. The beauty of Catholicism lies not only in that the Church is the authoritative compiler of the Bible, but because Catholicism presents the Faith and Biblical interpretation as an integral whole.
Answering common Protestant objections to Catholicism, serves not only an apologetic role, but serves as a source of meditation on the integral truth of Divine Revelation. Let us consider specific common Protestant objections.
Catholics Worship Mary as a Goddess
Well, no we don’t. Anybody who thinks that isn’t paying attention. Nowhere in any Catholic document ever written does it say to offer sacrifice to Mary (which is what worship is in the Bible, offering sacrifice). Mary is our intercessor in heaven. In 1 Timothy 2:1, St. Paul says that intercessory prayer is a good thing. Luke 1:46 says that Mary’s soul magnifies the Lord, and that has to be a good thing. For the record, Mary’s soul is still very much alive, as are all souls ever created by God. Therefore, she is still magnifying God. Anybody who says that Mary is dead doesn’t read his Bible, specifically Luke 20:38, which says that God is the God of the LIVING, not the dead. Only atheists believe that being dead in the body equals being dead in the soul. It’s truly amazing that so many Protestants agree with the atheists that people in heaven are fully “dead.” To believe that would be to believe that the “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12:1 is a huge pile of corpses! Praying to Mary for her intercession is not worship. To pray, according to the dictionary, is to ask. Asking is not worshiping.
Catholicism Is Not Biblical
What Protestants mean when they say this is that Catholicism isn’t like Protestantism, which relies (1) on the one-time commitment to Christ to become “born-again” and (2) on a sermon, the Bible, and singing as the main aspects of the worship service. With respect to (1), being born from above of water and the spirit is baptism and has nothing to do with your personal commitment to Christ, which for infants, comes years later. To understand this, we only have to look at the baptism of Jesus to see water and the Spirit present in Baptism . With respect to (2), following the example of Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc., we offer physical things to God as worship, namely, consecrated bread and wine, the actual body and blood of Christ (John 6:48-58). The Mass is truly an encounter with heaven (Hebrews 12:18-24), wherein saints and angels offer our prayers to God in the form of incense (Revelation 5:8 and Revelation 8:3). Priests (presbyters in the New Testament) not only offer sacrifice, but have the power to forgive sins (John 20:19-23). No other denomination believes any of this. Catholicism is the most biblical of all.
The Pope is the Antichrist.
According to 1 John 2:22, the antichrist is anyone who claims that Jesus is not the Messiah. No Pope has ever claimed that. However, the Roman emperors sure did deny that Jesus was the Christ, so this may have been about whom John was talking. So to say that the Pope is the antichrist is to deny actual history and out-and-out to lie about the Papacy.
The Pope is not Biblical
The Papacy comes to us from the Old Testament, specifically in Isaiah 22:15-26, where Eliakim is taking the place of the Captain of the Temple (the second in command to the High Priest) named Shebna. We learn from Isaiah that he is to be a father figure to us all and that he will open and shut when it regards the faith. This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 16:18-19 when he said that Peter is to be the Rock that will bind and loose on earth, and his decisions will be bound and loosed in heaven. In the Bible, God typically works through a human to accomplish his purpose, whether it’s Noah, Moses, David, or Peter. Nothing has changed in this regard. Catholics go to God in prayer through Mary and the saints, as well as our priests, who worship God during Mass by offering sacrifice to Him.
Catholics are Idolaters
The argument is that Catholics have statues in their Churches, and they bow down to them. This is forbidden in Exodus 20 by God Himself, say Protestants. But this is wrong! A few chapters later, in Exodus 25, Moses builds the Ark of the Covenant, and it has 2 statues of angels on top of it. Joshua even bows down to this same Ark in Joshua 7:6! He bowed down to it not to worship it, but rather, because it was holy for what it carried inside of it (the 10 Commandments, the Manna from heaven, and the rod of Aaron (Hebrews 9:1-5). Moses makes a statue of a serpent in Numbers 21:8-9 that the snake-bitten Israelites look upon to be healed. Solomon’s temple is full of statues of Cherubim, oxen, and pomegranates (2 Chronicles 4). So the answer is that it is sinful to worship an image as really god, like the Israelites did with the golden calf in Exodus 32:1-6, but it isn’t a sin to have a statue in a church, or even to bow down to it because it is holy in whom it represents, as Joshua did to the Ark in Joshua 7:6.
Catholicism Believes that Works are Necessary to be Saved
Faith and works go together like heat and light in a flame. It’s really not either/or, but rather, both/and. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we, his followers, will do great works. Romans 2:6 says that we will be judged according to our works. James 2:26 says that faith without works is dead, and who wants dead (non-existent) faith? Revelation 20:13 says that the dead will be judged according to what they had done, not on what they believed. While works alone will save no one, they are a very necessary fruit of our faith (Colossians 1:10). What Martin Luther got wrong was identifying works as the very useless Jewish “works of the law”. Circumcision, kosher dietary laws, and the other 600 or so works of the Jewish law did indeed become useless with the New Testament. But those Jewish works of the law are not Christian good works.
Catholics Believe in Oral Tradition Instead of the Bible Alone
Guilty as charged. St. Paul says that tradition is a good thing (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Of course, St. Paul does condemn Jewish Tradition, which is being done away with in the New Testament. But Catholic Tradition, which he does recommend, has nothing to do with outdated Jewish tradition. Examples of Sacred Tradition include the canon of the Bible, the way that Mass is said, and the use of sacramentals. Nowhere in it, does the Bible list the books that are inspired; rather, the Church infallibly defined the list in the 4th Century.
Confession is Sacrilegious, because only God can Forgive Sins, Not a Man
Jesus Himself set up this sacrament (John 20:19-23), when He gave the apostles the power to forgive sins in His name. Jesus breathed on the apostles, imparting the Holy Spirit to them, which then gave them the power to forgive sins IN HIS NAME. This is only the second instance in the Bible of God’s breathing on man (the first was in Genesis, when God blew the breath of life into Adam). Also, St. Paul says that he has the power of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18), while James 5:16 says to confess your sins to one another (not directly to God!). In Mark 1:5, the people being baptized came up, confessing their sins.
Catholicism Kept People from Reading the Bible by Chaining Them to the Altars
False – Every Mass uses scripture readings. Before the printing press, Bibles cost, in today’s dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, because they were hand scribed by Catholic monks and took years to produce. To have a thief steal a Bible from the Church meant that no masses could be said, until huge sums of money could be found to buy another one. So yes, the priests chained the Bibles down to prevent theft, and not to keep the laity from reading them.
Thanks to Luther, the Bible was Finally Printed in a Language for All to Understand
False – St. Jerome, some 1100 years before Luther, translated the Greek and Hebrew scriptures into Latin, the modern language of the day.
The Catholic Church added Seven books to the Bible after the Protestant Reformation
False. Those seven books, Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Baruch, Sirach, and Wisdom, had been in the Bible since the days of St. Jerome, when the Council of Rome founded the canon of the Bible in 382 AD. In reality, the reformers threw those books out of the Bible due to theological problems with Protestantism. To check this out for yourself, go to the Ransom Center’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible, published in the century before Luther was born. Yes, they are all in there. Just enter the book name in the search box.
The Eucharist is Just a Symbol of God’s Love for Us
Yes, the Eucharist certainly proves that God loves us, but it is much more than just a symbol. Jesus says in John 6 that unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood that we will have no life in us. Some symbol. If you eat a symbol of a banana, like a plastic banana, you will get no nourishment from it. You have to eat the real thing to get the nutrients out of it. It’s the same with the Eucharist. How can a symbol give us life? It is food which leads to eternal life (John 6: 27). It is more supernatural than the manna, which Paul declared to be supernatural (1 Corinthians 10:3). An earthly symbol is not supernatural. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 that some have died from eating the Eucharist with sin on their souls. That would be one powerful symbol. Jesus says to “give us this day our daily bread,” which is a command to receive the Eucharist daily, like the Israelites did in the desert with the manna, their daily bodily nourishment while going to the promised land. In a similar way, the Eucharist, the new manna from heaven, gives our souls daily nourishment while we head to the new promised land of heaven.
Other Objections and Wrap-up
There are many more objections, such as there are no priests mentioned in the New Testament, so why do Catholics have priests? Because the word “presbyter” mentioned many times in the New Testament is translated as “Priest.” Why do we call these men “Fathers,” when the Bible (Matthew 23:9) says not to do so? Because Jesus was using hyperbole, trying to emphasize the greatness of God the Father. If that weren’t so, He would not have given us the commandment to “Honor thy FATHER and thy Mother,” and Jesus would not have called Abraham “Father” (John 8:56).
So don’t be fooled. It is great to have an intellectual belief that Jesus is our personal Lord and savior (by the way, this expression is not explicitly in the Bible). However, the Protestant objections above militate against the consistency of the Bible, which was given to us all as a whole in the fourth century by the Church and Pope Damasus I. These objections are a huge misreading of the integral message of Scripture.