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The "Vicars of Christ" exposed
[ Part 1 of 4 ]
Christ Sections :
a Pope


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."

{ch. 16:18-19}

vicars.jpg         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 thou thinkest is not God's way but man's."
{ch. 16:23}

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 instead of the teaching of Jesus what they deliver to "the faithful" is their very unique "Catholic faith".  Some people may occasionally find and follow Christ in the Catholic Church, but that doesn't happen because of those who claim to be the "Vicars of Christ", but in spite of them. ( I honor the best example of such a Catholic at my Franz Jagerstatter web page.   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 Emperor Constantine and his successors, which is why they have become "Supreme Pontiffs", who are more more often rivals than vicars of Christ.–

Matthew 20, 25-28 :

"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.

According to Matthew 23:1-14:

"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. "

A pope in all his splendor

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" !
PapalSediaFree.jpg        How can Jesus possibly smile on popes wearing robes and crowns that even the most powerful leaders in today's world would find embarrassing in their pompous arrogance?  The papal "tiara" isn't just a crown, it's three crowns in one!  And is there a head of state anywhere in the twentieth century who had the arrogance to have eight mere mortals carry them about on a royal "sedia"?  see Pius XII being carried in glory. Did you know that in Pius XII's day, it was considered an exclusive privilege for cardinals to be allowed to kiss the pope's foot and hand?  Mere archbishops only kissed the pope's foot and knee; and abbots only got to kiss the Holy Father's foot?

The costumes and the stagecraft of the Roman Catholic hierarchy are so outrageous that I have had to devote entire pages of their very own to VaticanPalace.html and EpiscopalExtravagance.html.

"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:

  1. "The pope can be judged by no one on earth.
  2. The Roman church has never erred,
    nor can it err until the end of time.
  3. The pope alone can depose bishops.
  4. He alone is entitled to imperial insignia.
  5. He can dethrone emperors and kings
    and absolve their subjects from allegiance.
  6. All princes are obliged to kiss his feet.
  7. His legates, even when not priests, have precedence over all bishops.
  8. A rightly elected pope is, without question, a saint, made so by the merits of Peter."
  9.   This sanctity he claimed to have experienced overwhelmingly at his election. 
    It was, incidentally, an idea that his successors dropped like a burning coal. " (p. 58)

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)

  • "One of the most intriguing conversations ever recorded in Rome was between the English pope, Adrian IV (1154 - 59), and his plain-spoken compatriot John of Salisbury, later Bishop of Chartres.  "What", the pope whispered, "do people really think of the Pope and the Church?"  "People are saying", John answered boldly, "that the church behaves more like a stepmother than a mother: that in it is a fatal vein of avarice, scribes and Pharisees laying grievous burdens on men's shoulders, accumulating precious furniture, covetous to a degree.  And " he added, " that the holy Father himself is burdensome and scarcely to be borne."

  • "St. Bonaventure, Cardinal and General of the Franciscans, likened Rome to the harlot of the Apocalypse, thus anticipating Luther by three centuries.  This harlot, he said, makes kings and nations drunk with the wine of her whoredoms.  In Rome, he claimed to have found nothing but lust and simony, even in the top ranks of the church.  Rome corrupts prelates, they corrupt their clergy, the clergy corrupt the people."

  • Dante, a devout Catholic, not only gave hell to pope after pope, he dealt just as firmly with the Curia.  Cardinals, who, according to a devout Durham monk, were once 'glittering like prostitutes', are stripped naked in the Fourth Circle of the Inferno.

            "Holy See" ?
        Isn't it amusing how English-speaking Catholic churchmen insist on translating the Latin "Sancta Sedes" into the meaningless "Holy See", instead of the correct, but silly sounding "Holy Seat"?

    a papal throne
  • "Bishop Pelayo, a papal aide in Avignon, suggested that the Holy See had infected the whole church with the poison of avarice.  "If the pope behaves like this, people say, why shouldn't we?"  On a quite ordinary day, his master, Pope John XXII, excommunicated one patriarch, five archbishops, thirty bishops and forty-six abbots.  Their only crime: they were behind in paying the pope his taxes. "
  • "St. Catherine of Sienna told Pope Gregory XI that she did not need to visit the papal court to smell it.  'The stench of the Curia, Holiness, has long ago reached my city.' "
  • "In the 15th century, St. Antonino, Archbishop of Florence, disapproved of his city selling bonds at a profit: this was usury.  When his critics argued, "The Roman church allows it", Antonino replied: "Members of the Curia have concubines.  Does that prove that concubinage is lawful?"  The sheer ordinariness of his argument is striking."
            "One reason for there being more prostitutes in Rome than in any other capital city was the large number of celibates.  The convents were often brothels.  Women sometimes took a dagger with them to confession to protect themselves against their confessor."
  • "Petrach's friend, Machiavelli wrote: "The Italians owe a great debt to the Roman church and its clergy.  Through their example, we have lost all true religion and become complete unbelievers.  Take it as a rule, the nearer a nation dwells to the Roman Curia, the less religion it has."

  • The 16th centuries scholar Erasmus, one of the wittiest men of his or any age, said the tyranny of Rome was worse than that of the Turks.  He wrote a sketch in which Pope Julius is trying to bluster his way past St. Peter at the heavenly gates.  Peter screws up his eyes, unable to recognize a successor (of St. Peter) in this bearded warrior.  Julius removes his helmet and dons his tiara.  Peter is even more suspicious.  Finally an exasperated Julius holds up his keys in front of Peter's nose.  The apostle having examined them, slowly shakes his head.  "Sorry, but they will not fit anything in this Kingdom."
  • The Dutchman, Pope Adrian VI, confessed to the diet of Nuremberg in 1522 that all evils in the church proceeded from the Roman Curia.  "For many years, abominable things have taken place in the chair of Peter, abuses in spiritual matters, translations of the commandments, so that everything here has been wickedly perverted."
  • "The Jesuit scholar and papal defender, (Saint) Robert Cardinal Bellarmine was later to admit: "For some years before Luther and Calvin there was in the church almost no religion left."  The papacy, he said, had almost eliminated Christianity."
  • "Two years before he was excommunicated by Pope Leo, Luther wrote "It is a distressing and terrible thing to see the Head of Christendom, who boasts of being the Vicar of Christ and successor to St. Peter, living in a worldly pomp that no king or emperor can equal: so that in him who calls himself most Holy and most spiritual there is more worldliness than in the world itself."  (pp. 119-120)
  • In his sixteenth-century Ecclesiastical Annals, which the famous Catholic Lord Acton called 'the greatest history of the Church ever written", Cardinal Baronius was understandably embarrassed by events he records with remarkable honesty.  The pontiffs of this period he calls "invaders of the Holy See, less apostles than apostates".  On the Chair of St. Peter sat not men but monsters in the shape of men.  "Vainglorious . . .   filled with fleshly lusts and cunning in all forms of wickedness governed Rome and prostituted the Chair of St. Peter for their minions and paramours." . . .

    And this is the lesson he drew from all his observations (as well as the whole point of this section of the "Liberals Like Christ" web site) :

  • "The chief lesson of these times is that the Church can get along very well without popes. What is vital to the Church's survival is not the pope but Jesus Christ. He is the head of the Church, not the pope.". . .
  • "For (the people of Rome), the Gates of Hell had visibly prevailed.  If this was not the victory of the Prince of Darkness, what was?  The only question that puzzled them was not 'How can the pope save the church?'   but 'How can the pope save his own soul?' "   (pp. 52-3 )

papal backwardness

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 JesusWouldBeFurious.org/about/the-RCC's-vicars-vs-Christ_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 :

  • "From now on, all ecclesiastical appointments shall be made according to the canons of the Church; all simony (the buying and selling of spiritual goods for money) shall cease.
  • From now on, the Roman Curia, that is, the popes shall neither demand nor receive any fees for ecclesiastical offices.
  • From now on, 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.
  • From now on, the ecclesiastical administration of each country shall cease to depend on papal caprice....
  • The abuse of ban and anathema ( imposed on Civil leaders) by the popes shall cease....
  • From now on, a pope should think not of this world's treasures but only of those of the world to come."

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.

Sections :  [1] ~ 2 ~ 3 ~ 4

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