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Is the Roman Catholic Church really
"the one, true, holy, and universal church"
that it claims to be ?

The Roman Catholic Church claims that -- unlike all of the other Christian churches, which are fraudulent and have nothing genuine to offer - "the Holy Catholic Church" is the one and only genuine, holy church in the whole world, the only one that Jesus intends this world to have, the only one that stands with an unbroken succession on the foundation laid by Jesus Christ in God's Word, the only one with a legitimate priesthood that can administer the "sacraments", i.e.  the sacred instruments which Jesus provided in order to enable people to become part of his one true church and only route to eternal salvation.
        While Conservative or "traditional" Catholics proudly embrace these claims, Liberal Catholics in more "multi-cultural" countries like the United States are sometimes so embarrassed by such claims that they accuse people like me of misrepresenting the actual teaching of their church, which they claim is not nearly so arrogant and/or so dismissive of other faiths. But anyone who consults the highest authorities in the Roman Catholic Church will see that this church has always seen itself as God's one and only legitimate child, and still does.

This is what leading R.-C. saints and
"Doctors of the Church" have said :

this is what R.C. popes
and/or church-wide
have said :

Since Catholics are only obliged to believe that their Popes, not necessarily their saints, are infallible, let's see what their popes have taught.
       Was not Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) speaking ex cathedra, when he proclaimed :
        "He himself may be judged by no one. . . All princes shall kiss his feet. and "The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in Her and asserts that none who are outside of Her will be saved."
        The Fourth Lateran Council, convened by Innocent III in 1215, was one of the most important ecumenical gatherings up until that point in history. More than four hundred bishops and archbishops, eight hundred priors and abbots, and the ambassadors of Europe's kingdoms and cities were in attendance. 'The Council established the main elements of Catholic culture as it exists today, and among those elements is the resolute assertion that "There is indeed one universal church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice."
        A little over a decade after the Fourth Lateran Council, in 1231, Council Pope Gregory IX established the Inquisition.

        Was Pope Gregory IX speaking infallibly for God, when he proclaimed "The pope is the lord and master of the Universe, things as well as people."?
        In 1229, this same pope decreed that only ordained priests were allowed to read the Bible, and two years later he began the Inquisition which lasted 600 years.
        In 1442, the Council of Florence proclaimed: `The holy Roman church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life, and will go into the everlasting fire, `which was prepared for the devil and his angels', unless they are joined to the Catholic Church before the end of their lives... Nobody can be saved no matter how much he has given away alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church "
or Pope Boniface VIII, who proclaimed in the Papal Bull "Unam Sanctam" in 1302: "We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman (Catholic) Pontiff."
        [ Catholic commentator's comments:  This means, and has always meant, that salvation and unity exist only within the Catholic Church, and that members of heretical groups cannot be considered as "part" of the Church of Christ.  This doctrine has been the consistent teaching of the Popes throughout the centuries.  Further, it is dogmatically set forth that no authority in the Church, no matter how highly placed, may lawfully attempt to change the clear meaning of this (or any) infallible dogma.] 

        Was not Pope Eugene IV speaking ex cathedra, when in 1441, in the Bull Cantate Domino he proclaimed :
        "The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire 'which was prepared for the devil and his angels' (Mt. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her. . .  No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."

        According to Pope Innocent IV, above and beyond being "Vicar of Christ", "The pope is the vicar of the Creator to whom every human creature is subject."

        And what about Pope Pius XII (1939-1958), when he proclaimed :
        "Some say they are not bound by the doctrine which teaches that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing.  Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation.  Others finally belittle the reasonable character of the credibility of Christian Faith.  These and like errors, it is clear, have crept in among certain of our sons who are deceived by imprudent zeal for souls or by false science."
                Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903), in his encyclical Satis Cognitum (On the Unity of the Church: June 29, 1896), spelled out quite clearly and in detail the need for holding the Catholic Faith in its entirety:

        "There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the entire cycle of Catholic doctrine and yet, by a single word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition ... For such is the nature of the faith that nothing can be more absurd than to accept some things and to reject others. If, then, it be certain that anything is revealed by God, and this is not believed, then nothing whatever is believed by divine faith... But he who dissents even in one point from divinely- revealed truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he refuses to honor God [who is one] as the Supreme Truth and formal motive of faith. In many things they are with me, in a few things not with me; but in those few things in which they are not with me, the many in which they are will not profit them....
        There should be no doubt that the Catholic Church teaches and has always taught that without believing and professing the Catholic Faith, in its entirety, no one can be saved. It is thus an infallible teaching which cannot be changed in any way, and which itself is necessary for belief.
        Venerable Pope Pius IX (1846-78) declared ex cathedra in his Bull Ineffabilis Deus (1854) on the Immaculate Conception of Mary that to deny a defined doctrine, or to even think "otherwise than has been defined," is to be condemned:
        Wherefore, if any should presume to think in their hearts otherwise than has been defined by Us, which God forbid, let them know and understand that they are condemned by their own judgment; that they have suffered shipwreck in regard to faith.
        In his Syllabus of Errors (1864) Venerable Pope Pius IX, in exercising his supreme teaching authority, solemnly declared that it is an error:
        16: to believe that men can find the path of eternal salvation and attain eternal salvation in the practice of any religion whatsoever.
        18: to believe that Protestantism is nothing other than a different form of the same true Christian religion, in which it is possible to serve God as well as in the Catholic Church.
        21: to believe that the Church does not have the power of defining dogmatically that the religion of the Catholic Church is the only true religion...
        Nevertheless, to make this teaching clear, the Church has exercised her highest authority in defining the necessity of believing and professing the Catholic Faith in order to attain salvation.
        Pope Pius XII (1939-58) unequivocally declares in Ad Apostolorum Principis that: No one can depart from the teaching of Catholic truth without loss of faith and salvation.
        Pope John XXIII (1958-63), in his Papal Oath, proclaimed: Outside this true Catholic faith no one can be saved, so help me God!

The papal tiara

When each new pope is crowned, he is told "receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art father of princes and kings, ruler of the world, vicar of our Savior, Jesus Christ." The complete inscription on the tiara, is "to the infallible vicar of Jesus Christ. To the supreme governor of the world on earth. To the father of nations and kings."

        While Roman Catholic Adolf Hitler promoted the idea of Germans being the world's "Master Race", his church has been promoting the idea of the Roman Catholic Church being the world's "Master Religion".

This is what R. C.
have said :

Extraordinary Magisterium :

As mentioned before, when the Church exercises her extraordinary teaching authority she is defining for all time truths revealed by God as necessary for belief, and hence, necessary for salvation . Dogmatic definitions are "irreformable by their very nature" (Lumen Gentium, 25). As a result, Catholics are solemnly bound in conscience to believe these dogmas precisely as they are declared and defined. Otherwise, the Church would have chosen different words, for this is the very point of defining a dogma.
        At the Council of Lateran (649), whose canons were approved and confirmed by Pope Martin I (649-653), it was solemnly declared:
        If anyone does not profess in accordance with the holy Fathers, properly and truthfully all that has been handed down and taught publicly to the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God, both by the same Fathers and by me approved universal Councils, to the last detail in word and intention: he is condemned, (canon 17)
        At the Council of Trent (1545-63) it was solemnly declared that one must hold that:
        Our Catholic faith, without which it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), must remain in its purity, sound, unshaken, and free from errors. (Session V, Intro.)
        At Trent it was solemnly declared concerning the doctrine of justification that:
        this Catholic doctrine of justification -which, unless he faithfully and firmly accepts it, no one can be justified. (On Justification, 16)
        No one can be justified if he rejects the Catholic teaching on justification. Of course if some one isn't justified, then they cannot be saved (i.e. enter heaven), and Protestants reject the Catholic teaching on justification. Thus, they cannot be saved as they are in rejecting this, or any dogma of the Church.
        Two years after the the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church's response to the Protestant movement, which Pope Pius IV had convened for and supervised, Pius promulgated a profession of faith which spelled out in much greater detail than the three other official Catholic creeds what Roman Catholics must believe in order to be saved, including the following :

    "The Apostolic and Ecclesiastical traditions and all other observances and constitutions of that same Church I firmly admit to and embrace.
    I also accept the Holy Scripture according to that sense which holy mother the Church hath held, and doth hold, and to whom it belongeth to judge the true sense and interpretations of the Scriptures. . .
    I acknowledge the Holy Catholic Apostolic Roman Church as the mother and teacher of all churches; and I promise true obedience to the Bishop of Rome, successor to St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and Vicar of Jesus Christ.
    I likewise undoubtedly receive and profess all other things delivered, defined, and declared by the sacred Canons, and general Councils, and particularly by the holy Council of Trent, and by the ecumenical Council of the Vatican, particularly concerning the primacy of the Roman Pontiff and his infallible teaching. I condemn, reject, and anathematize all things contrary thereto, and all heresies which the Church hath condemned, rejected, and anathematized.
    This true Catholic faith, outside of which no one can be saved, which I now freely profess and to which I truly adhere, I do so profess and swear to maintain inviolate and with firm constancy with the help of God until the last breath of life. And I shall strive, as far as possible, that this same faith shall be held, taught, and professed by all those over whom I have charge. I N. do so pledge, promise, and swear, so help me God and these Holy Gospels of God. "
       [ see http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Symbola/Tridentinae.html ]

Was not The First Vatican Council speaking infallibly when it declared solemnly and officially:  "The meaning of Sacred Dogmas, which must always be preserved, is that which our Holy Mother the Church has determined.  Never is it permissible to depart from this in the name of a deeper understanding."
        [ Catholic commentator's comments:  "This same Vatican I defined solemnly that not even a Pope may teach a new doctrine.  Naturally, the truth that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church has been supported by all the saints from every age." ]
        No one can be saved who is not first justified; and no one (assuming he has reached the age of reason) can be justified unless he has faith; and this justifying faith is the Catholic Faith. At the First Vatican Council, in the Dogmatic Constitution On Faith (chap.3), it was solemnly declared:
        Since without faith it is impossible to please God, no one may be justified without it, nor will anyone attain eternal life unless he perseveres to the end in it... all those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the written Word of God or in Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church either in solemn judgment or in its ordinary and universal teaching office as divinely revealed truths which must be believed.
        In Session IV, On the Church of Christ (Chap. 3) it was solemnly declared:
        When, therefore, this bond of unity with the Roman Pontiff is guarded, both in government and in profession of faith, the Church of Christ is one flock under one supreme shepherd. This is the doctrine of Catholic truth; no one can deviate from this without losing his faith and his salvation. (Italics added)
        All those things which God has revealed and which we must believe include the divine institution of the Catholic Church, the primacy of the Roman Church, Papal infallibility, all the Marian dogmas. Purgatory, Indulgences, the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Real Presence, etc. These are precisely what Protestants, Jews, and all non-Catholics for that matter, reject. They do not have the one true Faith revealed by God and given to us by Jesus Christ. This is the only Faith, the one Faith, as Trent declared, which pleases God. Thus, by their deviation from Catholic truth they cannot be saved as is defined at Vatican I. This teaching on the necessity of holding the Catholic Faith in its entirety must be believed with divine and Catholic faith. No Catholic can deny nor even deviate from this infallible teaching of the Church without losing his faith and, ultimately, his salvation. The indivisible unity of Divine Truth, and thus Faith, demands it. As Pope Benedict XV declared in Ad Beatissimi (1914):
        The Catholic Faith is such that nothing can be added to it nothing taken away. Either it is held in its entirety, or rejected ; totally. This is the Catholic Faith, which unless a man believes faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved. "

Those Roman Catholics, therefore, who view all their non-Catholic family and friends as good people who may be just as pleasing to God as they are, may be nice Catholics, but they are not authentic Catholics in that they don't believe what their church actually teaches.  That actually makes them "heretics" or "protestants" at heart, but don't tell them that.
        This is even true of the ultra-Conservative American Catholic.com web site, which tries to pass off the following unorthodox "liberal" theology as authentic Catholic teaching at www.catholic.com/thisrock/1997/9706qq.asp

" Question : What happens to those who die and do not believe?

Answer : Depends.  If you mean, "What happens to those who die rejecting Christ?" the Church's answer is uncompromising: They will go to hell.  But no one goes to hell by accident.  If someone is simply ignorant of the name of Christ through no fault of his own, there is no sin in that.  He has not rejected Christ.  Moreover, we know Christ is not constrained by our knowledge.  He can work in a heart even when that heart is only dimly aware of it."  ( Mark P. Shea )

" Question : What relationship does the Catholic Church perceive to exist between itself and various Protestants (the baptized ones who still accept their faith)?

Answer : Validly baptized Protestants are regarded as true Christian brothers and sisters who are in imperfect relationship with the Church. The nature of the imperfections is as varied as Protestantism itself.  The idea at work here is that the faith is an incarnational thing, not just a "spiritual" (disembodied) thing, just like Jesus himself.  Thus, it is possible to be out of union with the Church "bodily" (structurally, sacramentally, liturgically), yet still have a spiritual unity with the Church.  Likewise, it is possible to be "bodily" united to the Church yet cease to be in communion with her spiritually (as an apostate Catholic is if he keeps going to Communion yet rejects the creed or continues unrepentant in grave sin).  The latter form of disunity with Church is more serious than the former."   ( Mark P. Shea )

This doctrine was reaffirmed as recently as August 6, 2000, by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who then headed the Office for the Doctrine of the Faith, but has since become Pope Benedict XVI   It was made clear at the time that this official declaration of the faith of the church,"Dominus Jesus": On the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church   (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith } had the endorsement of then Pope John Paul II. 
       For what appears to be a good summary, see http://www.religioustolerance.org/rcc_othe.htm [middle of page].
        Some conservative Catholics are so convinced of the truth of the older Catholic teaching that they view the more modern liberal teaching even though promulgated by popes and the Second Vatican Council as heretical,  See www.MostHolyFamilyMonastery.com/VaticanII_mainpage.html

Although the Catholic Church claims to base its claims on Jesus, how many Catholics know that only one of the four Gospels even mentions the word "church" and all of the instances fit on a single page of Matthew's Gospel, i.e. verses 18 in Ch. 16, and verses 15,17 & 21 n Ch. 18?  Not only did Jesus never say anything about "bishops" or a "supreme pontiff", but the only time he referred to "priests" was when speaking of the Jewish priesthood, which he never gave any indication of wanting to the-RCC's-one-true-church-claimd.
        The Roman Catholic Church is governed like a dictatorship, from an imperial court called the "Roman Curia",  which functions as the executive, legislative and judicial branches all rolled into one.  It's this Vatican Curia which codified the church's rules and regulations ("Canon Law") and enforces them. It's this Curia which functions as the church's "Supreme Court", under the "Supreme Pontiff".  A retinue of "Princes of the Church", all appointed by the Pope govern sections of the church called "dioceses" under his (and the Curia's) direction.  ( according to the book, Vicars of Christ p. 143), upon their consecration, all Catholic bishops take an oath -- not to serve the Church as a whole, or its people -- but to "maintain, defend, increase and advance the rights, honors, privileges and authority of their Lord the Pope." 

The principal tools the Catholic Church has used to lead its members has been the "Mass", mandatory on Sundays for all the faithful and optional on weekdays for its more pious members, and Catholic education, in the form of full time Catholic schools where possible or extra-curricular Catholic education for youth unable to attend such schools.
    Unfortunately, while the Mass was bible-based, it was celebrated for centuries in Latin, a dead language, and during most of those centuries the Catholic Church discouraged the reading of the scriptures, which it considered dangerous.

        While "heretics" were saying things like :
  • 'The reading of the Holy Scriptures is for all men.' &
  • 'Christians are to sanctify the Lord's Day with reading godly books, more particularly the Holy Scriptures.' &
  • 'To pull the New Testament out of the hands of Christians is to shut the mouth of Christ against them.' &
  • 'To forbid Christians the reading of the Holy Scripture and especially the Gospel is to forbid the use of the Light by the children of Light and to punish them with a kind of excommunication.'

in 1713, all of these
propositions were labelled
"Jansenist heresies"
by Pope Clement XI :


"We declare, condemn and disallow all and each of these propositions as false, captious, ill-sounding, offensive to pious ears, scandalous, pernicious, rash, injurious to the Church and its practices, not only outrageous against the Church but even against the secular powers, seditious, impious, blasphemous, suspected of heresy and savouring of heresy itself, as also encouraging heretics and heresies and even schism, erroneous, often condemned, and lastly also heretical, containing divers heresies manifestly tending to innovation".  ( Vicars of Christ, p. 232)

PopeClement-XI's-coach How could anyone doubt
that a "Supreme Pontiff"
like Pope Clement XI,
who was carried around
in this sumptuous carriage,
was the authentic
representative of
Jesus of Nazareth, who
(according to Matthew
and Luke) said :
"Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
        John the Baptist explained that in order to be saved, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise" (Luke 3:11), So why have the self-proclaimed "vicars of Christ" built themselves a humble abode of 11,000 (as in "thousand") rooms, i.e. the VaticanPalace.html?

        For an eloquent Catholic layman's view of today's U.S. Catholic Church, see The Church That Forgot Christ, by the famous Irish-American writer, Jimmy Breslin.

        Catholics who think it is sacrilegious to criticize the church need to open their bibles.  The Book of Revelation sets an example for all Christians, when almost from the start it quotes Jesus as saying in a vision to John:
Revelation 2:1 - 3:13  
  • "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
            "I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance.  I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. . .  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember then from what you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
     . .  Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.
  • "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
            These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: "I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich.  I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  . . 
        Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.  Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death.
  • "And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword: "I know where you are living, where Satan's throne is.  Yet you are holding fast to my name, and you did not deny your faith in me even in the days of Antipas my witness, my faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan lives.  14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the people of Israel, so that they would eat food sacrificed to idols and practice fornication.  . .   16 Repent then.  If not, I will come to you soon and make war against them with the sword of my mouth.
            Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. . .
  • "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
    . . .  "I know your works--your love, faith, service, and patient endurance.  I know that your last works are greater than the first.  . .  But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols.  I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her fornication. . .  And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.
     . .  Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
  • "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write:
    . . .  "I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.  Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent.  If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.
     . .  Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
  • "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
            "I know your works.  Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.  I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying -- I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you.  Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.  I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. . . 
    Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
  • "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
      . . .  "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish that you were either cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  I reprove and discipline those whom I love.  Be earnest, therefore, and repent.
     . .    Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches."

the mantra of "Anti-Catholicism":
What is bigotry?

by Rosemary Ruether [a Catholic theologian], Autumn 2000

"It has become common among right-wing Catholics, such as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, to pillory various cultural phenomena in the United States -- ranging from movies such as Priest and Dogma -- to Catholics for a Free Choice as "anti-Catholic."  Significantly, this label is being used most frequently against liberal Catholics who hold views other than those of the Catholic League and other Catholic right organizations about what it means to be Catholic. . .
        American Catholics, since the Kennedy administration, have become fully integrated into American society.  They are generally treated respectfully by the dominant culture and media as a mainstream component part of American religious diversity, despite occasional exploitation of stereotypes of nuns.  There is no evidence of a rejuvenation of the old type of anti-Catholic bigotry in the United States, stemming from Protestant-Catholic conflicts of the Reformation. . .
        Rather, what is going on today is a new schism and conflict, stemming from the Second Vatican Council and new Catholic liberal thought, one that divides Catholics from each other.  The mantra of "anti-Catholicism" from the Catholic right is primarily a reflection of this internal Catholic conflict.  This term is being used by the Catholic right to claim that they and they alone are "authentic" Catholics, and Catholics that hold progressive views are not Catholics, are hostile to "authentic" Catholicism, and hence are "anti-Catholic."  Furthermore, non-Catholics in the larger society who listen respectfully to the views of progressive Catholics are therefore also "anti-Catholic."  In short, the charge of "anti-Catholicism" is being used as a scare tactic by the Catholic right in the service of repression of progressive Catholic views. 
        It might be useful in this context to sort out the fundamental difference between critical thought and bigotry.  Bigotry, whether racial or religious, is a stereotyping of an entire other religious or racial group as essentially evil and demonic by nature.  It is not factual and by nature cannot be factually proven.  It sets up the other group as the antithesis of all that is good and godly, characteristics supposedly monopolized by the bigot's own group.  Catholics have practiced this kind of bigotry against Protestants, claiming that they are "heretics."  Both Catholics and Protestants have a long and evil history of using this kind of demonic language against Jews as a religious and ethnic group.
        Critical thought is the fundamental opposite of such bigotry.  Critical thought is based on nuanced judgments founded on historical reality.  There is a world of difference between saying the Pope is the anti-Christ and making historically factual statements about the papacy as an institution as having been corrupt at various times, having abused power and wealth and having been less than truthful about its own history.  Garry Wills new book, Papal Sin, is this kind of carefully documented critique of the papacy.  Garry Wills is a Catholic.  He makes his critique for the purpose of arousing critical thought among Catholics about these papal defects in the hope of promoting church reform.  It is an insider's critique made by an esteemed Catholic scholar whose purpose is the improvement of the Catholic community's fidelity to its authentic values of truth and justice.
        The name for such historically accurate critique of a community made from within for the purpose of calling it to reform is "prophetic" thought.  This kind of insider's critique is the core of the Biblical tradition.  The Hebrew prophets and Jesus called down stern critique of the leaders of their own community in order to recall them to their more authentic traditions.  Civil discourse in any culture depends on being able to distinguish bigotry aimed at stereotypical demonization of the "other" from historically accurate criticism made for the sake of reform and renewal of authentic values.
        The Catholic Right's misuse of the language of religious bigotry to repress progressive Catholics threatens both to cut the life line of renewal within Catholicism itself and to collapse the fundamental distinction between bigotry and critical thought that is at the heart of educated, civil society.  In the Catholic Right's book, Jesus and Jeremiah would be "anti-Catholic" if the kind of criticism that they made at the religious leaders of their time had been directed against Catholic leaders.  It is time for American cultural leaders to stop being intimidated by such language and start exercising critical public evaluation of the accuracy and context of the use of the term "anti-Catholic."

        [ Rosemary Radford Ruether is the Georgia Harkness professor of applied theology at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois.  She is also on the board of Catholics for a Free Choice and is editorial advisor to Conscience. ]
        Conservative Catholics who complain of being "victims" of "anti-Catholic bigotry" remind me of this statement by their Conservative ally, Pat Robertson, who said in a 1993 interview with Molly Ivins:

"Just like what Nazi Germany did to the Jews, so liberal America is now doing to the evangelical Christians.  It's no different.  It is the same thing.  It is happening all over again.  It is the Democratic Congress, the liberal-based media and the homosexuals who want to destroy the Christians.  Wholesale abuse and discrimination and the worst bigotry directed toward any group in America today.  More terrible than anything suffered by any minority in history."

a prayerful response.

Take it from Stephen;
there is much more where
this came from, at my
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