The "Vicars of Christ"
The Roman Catholic Church asserts that, of all the churches claiming to be "Christian", it alone is genuine, because it alone stands on the foundation which Jesus established for it when, according to Matthew, Jesus said:
"Thou art Peter (a stone), and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
While the Bishops of Rome have made much of this passage, history shows that more often than not, the words that best apply to them are the one Jesus uttered just a few verses later, i.e.
"Get thee behind me, Satan. Thou art an obstacle in my path,
For the way they have thought, preached, written and acted has not been God's way but man's." Their's has been a "bait and switch" operation, where they advertise "Jesus Christ" to get people through their doors, but then deliver their very unique "Catholic faith" instead of the teaching of Jesus. Some people do find and follow Christ in the Catholic Church, but we believe that happens not because of those who claim to be the "Vicars of Christ", but in spite of them. The sad truth as history shows is that, rather than modeling themselves after the humble street-preacher of Nazareth – most popes have modeled themselves after the power-hungry Roman emperors, which is why they have become "Supreme Pontiffs", who are more more often rivals than vicars of Christ.–
"Jesus called them (the 12 apostles) to him and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."
Yet, for about a thousand years now, Roman Catholic popes have been doing in imperial style exactly what Jesus instructed the leaders of his church not to do. While Jesus himself did not want to be recognized or treated as a divine person, but instead walked the earth as nothing more than a poor carpenter's son , many popes have claimed titles and honors that Jesus not only shunned himself but clearly condemned. Perhaps the most egregious of these is the title of "Vicar of Christ". ( The word "vicar" means "stand-in" or "substitute" just like the word "vice-" does in titles like "vice-president".) Try to put yourself in Jesus' shoes, and ask yourself what he must think of people who claim to represent him, while doing exactly the opposite of what he taught.
"Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi.
But you are not to be called 'Rabbi', for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your 'father' on earth, for you have one Father – the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'instructors', for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted. "
Now, confront Catholics with these words and see if they choose to believe that their popes, cardinals, bishops and priests should be subject to Jesus' teaching, or if they are in effect above that teaching. How can anyone who really thinks of Christ as the Son of God treat his teaching as a quaint "dead letter" of the distant past? Does it really matter that we now call our houses of worship "churches", instead of "synagogues", and "reserved pews in the synagogue" have been superseded by ornate cathedral thrones, and the pompous garments worn by today's hierarchy differ in superficial ways from those of the high priests of Jesus' day ?
How can anyone read Jesus' demands that his disciples shun titles of honor, and never suspect that, if Jesus considered the titles "Father" and "Teacher" objectionable, how much more would he object to the use of titles like "Monsignor" (which is French for "My Lord"), "Your Excellency", "Your Eminence", "Your Holiness", "The Holy Father", "Supreme Pontiff", and perhaps most presumptuous of all, "Vicar of ( i.e. stand–in for ) Christ", the equivalent of "Vice–Messiah" !
The Vicars of Christ, by Peter De Rosa.Most of the material on this web page comes from an excellent book, by a former Jesuit professor at Rome's prestigious Gregorian University, Peter De Rosa. The Vicars of Christ was originally published in America in 1988 but has been out of print for a while and selling used on the internet for as much $ 139. But it has now been republished in the new millennium and is available ( for about $20 delivered ) from : Poolbeg Publishing, in Ireland.
I can't recommend this book enough to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. The excerpts below are only meant to give the reader a sense of how little they really know about this very powerful billion member church and how unjustified its claims are to being the "one, true, holy, catholic ( i.e. universal ) church of Christ".
" When Hildebrand became pope, he drew up a Dictatus, or list, of twenty-seven theses outlining his powers as Peter's vicar. Among them were these:
In light of what many books such as this one have revealed about the kind of men who have been Bishops of Rome, how can anybody with any kind of honesty and education continue to believe that Jesus was talking about the Roman Catholic Church when he said that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (my church)" ? its members are right to be proud of its church's many accomplishments, but no more so than the members of many other religions and / or other benevolent organizations. It is time that enlightened Catholics urge their church to abandon its arrogant claims of being "the one true church", to recognize, confess and repent for its own failings, and to show other churches, institutions and individuals the respect that they deserve.
The total number of popes is actually in doubt, as there have been times when there were two or even three contenders for that title. This book lists 263 popes. It doesn't cover them all, but it covers enough of them to show what a weird idea it is for people to believe that Christ entrusted "the keys of the kingdom of heaven" to a bunch of colossal liars, mass-murderers, rapists, pimps, sadistic tyrants, and financial connivers who turned "the sacraments" into gigantic money-making schemes and bought and sold "holy offices" like the profit-making business that they were. Roman Catholics are actually taught that a clergyman can only have Jesus on his side (as an authentic descendant of the apostles) if he can trace his ecclesiastical lineage to and through this long series of monstrous "stones" upon which God has built his church.
Far from being the exception to the rule, the author shows that this type of pope was the rule, and it was holy and wise men of God like John XXIII ( who died trying in vain to reform the church in the early 1960's) who were the very rare exception. And some Conservative Catholics would like to have this progressive pope's name stricken from the list of real popes!
Criticism of the Church is demonic, right ?
When a former Catholic priest such as myself criticizes the church, Roman Catholic apologists think that they can escape the truth by smearing the messengers with names like "anti-Catholic bigots" or "defrocked priest" (neither of which is true of me – not that that makes any difference to them –). But sincere Catholics have to think twice when Catholic popes and even saints are the ones delivering that same message. As De Rosa says so well, the history of the Church shows that the "fiercest attacks on the church came not from without; they came from within - in fact, from the papacy itself." (p. 46)
There are Catholics for whom reason is of no avail, because their idea of "faith" is to accept on faith propositions which defy human reason and logic, as epitomized by this quote from a very scholarly defender of the papacy, the Jesuit Robert Bellarmine, who was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1930, and declared a Doctor of the Universal Church in 1931, Their church wants Catholics to view as wise and holy a man who teaches in his book on the Roman pontiff that whatever the pope commands, however evil or ridiculous, has to be obeyed, as if it is virtue itself. " (p. 221)See Pope Urban's similarly nonsensical declaration to Galileo CatholicArrogance.Org/Catholic/PopesvsChrist-3.html.
Critics of the Papacy, beware!
The Council which met at Basle in 1432, like the Second Vatican Council which was held in the 1960's, made some rather idealistic efforts at church reform, declaring, for example that :
But these efforts at reform went nowhere. Soon after the reform Council ended, a "counter-reform" council was organized : "The ruling pope, Eugene IV, summoned his own Council at Florence. (The prior Council of) Basle he labelled 'a beggarly mob, mere vulgar fellows from the lowest dregs of the clergy, apostates, blaspheming rebels, men guilty of sacrilege, jailbirds, men who without exception deserve only to be hunted back to the devil whence they came.' " (p. 100)
In sections 2 & 3 we show that if Jesus had Peter's successors in mind when he promised to protect his church "from the gates of hell", history has proven him utterly helpless to fulfill that promise. And in section 4, we show what a remarkable (and funny) story the history of "papal infallibility" is.