Church

The Evangelistic Opportunity of a Pope Who’s a Bad Catholic

Seth Brickley

When I was in Seminary in 2013, I was an assistant track coach at the local high school where I lived. We practiced right after school, and at the beginning of each practice the athletes went through drills to warm up, during which the half-dozen or so coaches would engage in conversation. On this particular day, March 13th, the conversation focused on one topic: the new Pope.

The papal conclave in Rome officially elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina the new Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, replacing Pope Benedict XVI after his resignation. Bergoglio chose that he would be called Pope Francis in honor of Francis of Assisi. One particular track coach was thrilled. He had been a lifelong Catholic (a very conservative one at that), and he told me that we could be certain that Bergaglio’s’s selection as pope was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and according to Roman Catholic dogma he was correct.

“The Vicar of Christ”

The Pope is referred to as the “Vicar of Christ” on earth. That is to say, more than any other man on earth, the Pope in Rome speaks on behalf of Jesus Christ. This is taken from a misunderstanding of Jesus’ statement to Peter in Matthew 16:18 (“You are Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church”). Roman Catholics maintain that Peter is the Pope and every successor following him carries the same authority. According to Catholic dogma, when the pope makes pronouncements on faith, his declarations are infallible. I haven’t talked with the Catholic coach in years, but I wonder what he, as a conservative Roman Catholic, thinks today of Pope Francis and the Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility.

The last eleven years have been a series of episodes where the Pope makes pronouncements that not only show clearly to biblical Christians that he is a false teacher, but even honest Roman Catholics to see that he’s a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15-20). Let’s quickly run through a sample of anti-biblical (and even anti-Catholic) statements that Pope Francis has made in recent years.

Atheists in Heaven?

A number of years ago a young boy asked Pope Francis if his atheist father who had recently passed away, was in heaven. Pope Francis consoled the boy whose “father had baptized four children but was himself an atheist.” He told the boy that because his father was a good man the Lord would not “abandon his father.” But the Bible clearly teaches that anyone who rejects Christ will not receive entrance into heaven, but rather be forever under God’s wrath (John 3:36). Roman Catholics also understand that someone who outright rejects Christ will not receive entrance into heaven. The encounter with this young boy is an example of Pope Francis’s pluralistic and universalistic understanding of religion, an understanding completely out of step with the clear teachings of Scripture and even Catholic dogma.

Communion for Joe Biden

A couple of years back many wondered whether the Pope would let President Joe Biden, a professing Roman Catholic, participate in the eucharist. Across the board, Joe Biden’s views and policies are completely contrary to Roman Catholic Dogma, most notably in the areas of abortion and LGBT issues. But disregarding these direct contradictions to Christian ethics, Pope Francis allowed Joe Biden to take communion. In a similar episode in the past year, he publicly proclaimed that priests were able to bless same-sex couples, something that conservative Roman Catholics know goes against the clear teachings of their religion.

More Than One Jesus?

Recently we learned also that Pope Francis believes there are multiple Jesuses, as evidently children can be Jesus. But anyone who has even an elementary understanding of Scripture and Christianity understands that there is only one Jesus, the God-man described in the pages of Scripture (Colossians 1:15-16). To say that others can be Jesus is utter blasphemy – and it isn’t only biblical Christians who believe this, as Roman Catholicism also teaches the uniqueness of Christ.

To demonstrate his authoritarian side, Pope Francis also removed a Texas Bishop who was publicly critical of the Pope’s liberal views. In typical leftist fashion, rather than dealing with the content of their concerns, those who publicly speak out are eliminated. During his time in the prestigious position, Pope Francis has also been extremely pro-climate change agenda, and social justice, and went right along with the draconian COVID-19 restrictions.

A Secular Pope

Pope Francis is in line with the modern secular agenda almost to a tee. He is very obviously not a biblical shepherd, and one might venture to say that he’s also a pretty bad Catholic. Previous popes like Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict XVI may have not been at all in line with historic biblical Christianity, but it was hard to argue they were bad Catholics. Pope Francis is a bad Catholic through and through. His obvious frequent misfires have caused many conservative Catholics to voice their displeasure with him. Archbishop Maria Vigano called Pope Francis “a false prophet” and an “apostate pope.” Pope Francis has made Catholics not only upset with him, but some have rightly questioned the legitimacy of the Roman Catholic religion altogether. One of my relatives, a lifelong Catholic, informed me during the Christmas season that she left the Roman Catholic Church as she was “fed up with Pope Francis.” She’s now attending a Baptist church.

Opportunity to Engage

The anti-Catholic and anti-biblical leadership of Pope Francis shows a fundamentally fatal flaw in Catholic dogma. The pope is supposed to be the “Vicar of Christ on earth,” and yet he has made numerous statements on matters of faith that show he is not remotely speaking on His behalf. Pope Francis has shown the claim that the Pope is inspired and infallible to be untrue. He is not the first pope who has been worldly –anyone who has studied church history knows the great corruption of the popes in the Middle Ages and Reformation period.

Furthermore, biblical Christians know that Pope Francis is not the first pope to make false statements. Truly, every “pope” down through history (with the exception of the earliest ones, like Peter, who were given this title later on by Roman Catholics but would never have identified with this unbiblical office) has not spoken on behalf of Christ because they deny the clear biblical doctrine that sinners are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and not on the basis of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). The New Testament writers make painstakingly clear that justification by faith alone is the only way that a sinner may be counted righteous before God. This is the apostle Paul’s main argument in Galatians 3 and Romans 4. Honest Roman Catholics who read the Bible with an open mind will see this.

It may be that for the first time in the life of many Roman Catholics, the Lord may use an obviously corrupt “Vicar of Christ” like Pope Francis to elicit questioning of the truth of their religion. Maybe, some will read the Scriptures for themselves and see the foundational doctrines of Roman Catholicism collapse. What an opportunity for Bible-believing Christians to engage their Roman Catholic family and friends. True Christians are able to show Catholics the clear message of Scripture – that Christ paid the full penalty for sinners and anyone who sincerely believes in Him will receive eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 3:21-26).

Don’t miss this opportunity to take full advantage with Roman Catholics in your life. the Lord is pulling wide “open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak” (Colossians 4:3-4). By God’s grace, may the Lord use us to help free Roman Catholics “from dead works to serve the living God.” Pope Francis is obviously a major problem, but he is also a gift since he presents an effective conversation starter to lead Catholics in bondage to the light of true saving faith.

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