Lane's World: BeautyPage CatholicPage DisclaimerPage HomePage PoetryPage SundriesPage
Truth for Catholics:  Previous (The Books of the Holy Bible) |  Main |  Next (400,000,000 Protestant Popes) |  Bottom (This Page)

Thank God that Church Teachings Don't Change

replying to the disinformation in Evangelical Outreach's "Information for Catholics"

Chapter 4 of Truth for Catholics

"And this one thing at least is certain; whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this." (John Henry Newman)

Evangelical Outreach (EO), despite some shoddy scholarship, outdoes its own purposes on its Information [sic] for Catholics website in its Vatican Council II: Present-Day Official Teachings of the Roman Catholic Church webpage. Actually, that webpage is a two-for-one deal: EO's Information [sic] for Catholics webpage has a link to another location in the "Official Teachings" page, called Vatican Council II "Proposes Again" the Decrees of Trent. (EO's "shoddy scholarship"? Yes. About that, I have more to say below.)

One man's poison is another man's meat

Here is what Evangelical Outreach says in Information [sic] for Catholics about its "Proposes Again" webpage:

Many people in our day, decades after Vatican Council II, wrongly think the Catholic Church is changing its teachings. This is NOT true! The Mass has been changed from Latin to English. However, the meaning of the Mass today is identical to its meaning in the days before the dawn of the Protestant reformation.

Now, I understand Evangelical Outreach's "purpose": EO wants to make it clear that the Catholic Church has not changed its teachings in four centuries. Therefore—Evangelical Outreach would have you conclude—the Catholic Church is still the corrupt, evil, wicked tool of Satan that it was four, eight, twelve centuries ago.

But, insofar as Evangelical Outreach demonstrates that people "wrongly think the Catholic Church is changing its teachings", I cannot help but rejoice—for that merely helps to demonstrate that the Catholic Church is, indeed, what it has always said it is: the divinely appointed, infallible teacher of all peoples for all time.

In other words, when Evangelical Outreach asserts, correctly, "that the meaning of the Mass today is identical to its meaning in the days before the dawn of the Protestant reformation", EO wants you to cringe, gasp in horror, and shout in disbelief,

"Oh no! It can't be so!"

I, on the other hand, think that you should shout for joy:

"praise the Lord!!!"

I'll show you why.

The biblical and Christian doctrine of the Sacrifice of the Mass

Yes, I actually did it. I actually used the phrase "Sacrifice of the Mass". If your blood is now boiling, and your mind now racing with words like "blasphemy" and "sacrilege" and "pagan" and "satanic"... well, that's too bad. I choose to be faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the teachings of His Apostles: the opinions of Protestants based on the opinions of other Protestants based on the opinions of other Protestants going back through almost five centuries do not matter one bit compared to what Christians were taught from the beginning by the Lord Himself and His Apostles.

This topic is one of many that Evangelical Outreach touches in its "Official Teachings" webpage; here are the quotations that EO makes on the subject:

"In the sacrifice of the Mass in fact, Christ offers himself for the salvation of the entire world." (Vol. 1, p. 114)

"The celebration of the Eucharist which takes place at Mass is the action not only of Christ, but also of the Church. For in it Christ perpetuates in an unbloody manner the sacrifice offered on the cross, offering himself to the Father for the world's salvation through the ministry of priests." (Vol. 1, p. 103)

"We believe that the Mass which is celebrated by the priest in the person of Christ in virtue of the power he receives in the Sacrament of Order ... is indeed the Sacrifice of Calvary sacramentally realized on our altars." (Vol. 2, p. 393)

"The Eucharist is above all else a sacrifice. It is the sacrifice of the Redemption and also the sacrifice of the New Covenant ...." (Vol. 2, p. 75)

"We believe that the mass which is celebrated by the priest in the person of Christ in virtue of the power he receives in the Sacrament of Order, and which is offered by him in the name of Christ and of the members of his Mystical Body, is indeed the Sacrifice of Calvary sacramentally realized on our altars. We believe that, as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into his Body and Blood which were to be offered for us on the Cross, so likewise are the bread and wine consecrated by the priest changed into the Body and Blood of Christ now enthroned in glory in heaven." (Vol. 2, p. 393)

The biblical teaching on the Sacrifice of the Mass

The earliest Christians, including St. Paul's own disciples, took it for granted that the Mass—the Holy Eucharist, the Lord's Supper—was a sacrifice; here is what St. Paul had to say about that:

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons.... (1 Corinthians 10:16-21 New International Version)

What's that I hear? Are you asking, Where in that passage does St. Paul say that the Lord's Supper is a sacrifice?

Don't you see? The entire passage assumes that the Holy Eucharist is a sacrifice. For St. Paul is making a comparison here, a three-fold comparison between the Lord's Supper, the temple sacrifices of the Jews (which were still going on every day when St. Paul wrote this), and the sacrifices that the pagans offered to idols.

Don't you see? The comparison collapses if the Mass isn't a sacrifice. If St. Paul didn't believe that the Mass was a sacrifice, he would not have written comparing the Lord's Supper to the sacrifices of the Jews and of the pagans.

Look at the very words he uses: "participation" in the blood of Christ (verse 16), "participation" in the body of Christ (verse 16), "participate" in the Jewish sacrifices (verse 18), "participants" with demons in the pagan sacrifices (verse 20). He uses the same verb—to participate—whether he is talking about the Mass, or the Jewish sacrifices, or the pagan sacrifices. Why? Because they are all sacrifices.

Still, one might object, he didn't use the word "sacrifice" when writing directly about the Lord's Supper. Why not? Because he didn't have to use the word: the concept was there in the three-fold comparison and in the understanding of the Corinthians. They knew their worship involved sacrifice, and St. Paul knew they knew that: he could take it for granted.

What's more, look at the phrase in verse 21: "the Lord's table". St. Paul didn't make up that phrase: he took it from the Old Testament book of Malachi:

"Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you", says the Lord Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands. My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations", says the Lord Almighty. "But you profane it by saying of the Lord's table, 'it is defiled', and of its food, 'It is contemptible'. And you say, 'What a burden!' and you sniff at it contemptuously", says the Lord Almighty. "When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?" says the Lord. "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king", says the Lord Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations". (Malachi 1:10-14 NIV)

St. Paul got the phrase "the Lord's table" from the Old Testament—where it meant the temple's altar of sacrifice. So, why would it not have meant the altar of sacrifice for him and his fellow Christians? Where did he explain that he meant "the Lord's table" differently than what it had meant for the Jews? Nowhere. Because it still meant—for him and for the Christians at Corinth whom he had taught in person and to whom he was now writing—"the Lord's table" still meant the altar of sacrifice. And since that is what it meant for him and for them, that is what it should mean for us, too.

Other early Christian teaching on the Sacrifice of the Mass

"The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles"

Not only did the Corinthians, to whom St. Paul was writing, understand that the Lord's Supper was a sacrifice: all the earliest Christians understood that. We know that because nearly all of the earliest surviving Christian writings that aren't in the New Testament talk about sacrifices; here is an example:

On the Lord's Day... gather together, break bread and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure. Let no none who has a quarrel with his neighbor join you until he is reconciled, lest your sacrifice be defiled. For this is that which was proclaimed by the Lord; "In every place and time let there be offered to Me a clean sacrifice. For I am a Great King", says the Lord, "and My name is wonderful among the gentiles". (Didache 14:1-2; quoted in Jurgens' Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1, page 4; Evangelical Outreach thinks well enough of Jurgens to quote from him, too, in Mary's Virginity)

That passage is from the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles; though nobody really knows exactly when it was written, it has been dated to as early as AD 70, and it was certainly written before the end of the second century. Not only does it mention sacrifice twice in reference to gathering on Sunday for the Lord's Supper, it also quotes from the very same passage in Malachi from which St. Paul got his phrase "the Lord's table"—meaning the altar of sacrifice.

St. Clement of Rome

From about the same time, in another document surviving from the first century, we have another reference to Christians offering sacrifice:

Our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop.... Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily have offered its Sacrifices. Blessed are those presbyters who have already finished their course, and who have obtained a fruitful and perfect release.... (St. Clement to the Corinthians, quoted in Jurgens' Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1, pages 10-11)

That quotation is from the Letter of St. Clement of Rome to the Corinthians; though nobody really knows exactly when it was written, it has been dated to as early as AD 80, and was certainly written no later than AD 100. St. Clement was the fourth pope, and is said to have been ordained a priest by St. Peter the Apostle himself. In writing to the very same church at Corinth to which St. Paul had written comparing the Lord's Supper to other sacrifices, St. Clement mentions the offering of sacrifices in the same passage in which he writes of bishops and priests.

St. Justin the Martyr

Here is another early quotation, from a Christian who lived in the second century:

Moreover, as I said before, concerning the sacrifices which you [the Jews] at that time offered, God speaks through Malachias [Greek form of the name Malachi], one of the twelve [minor prophets], as follows: "I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices from your hands; for from the rising of the sun until its setting, my name has been glorified among the gentiles; and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a clean offering: for great is my name among the gentiles, says the Lord; but you profane it". It is of the sacrifices offered to Him in every place by us, the gentiles, that is, of the Bread of the Eucharist and likewise of the cup of the Eucharist, that He speaks at that time; and He says that we glorify His name, while you profane it. (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, quoted in Jurgens' Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1, page 60)

That writer was St. Justin the Martyr, the first Christian apologist, who was born into paganism around the beginning of the second century and was beheaded for his faith in Christ around AD 165. He, too, speaks of the Holy Eucharist as a sacrifice, and not only does he, too, quote from the prophet Malachi, but he explicitly says that Malachi's prophecy of a "clean offering" to the Lord "in every place" is fulfilled in the Christians' sacrifices "offered to Him in every place"—the Bread and the Cup of the Holy Eucharist.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons

Bored yet? Bored of reading the same idea from so many Christian writers in the first and second centuries? Well, if you're bored, I'm sorry.... Here's one more quotation:

Again, giving counsel to His disciples to offer to God the first-fruits from among His creatures, not as if He needed them, but so that they themselves might be neither unfruitful nor ungrateful, He took from among creation that which is bread, and gave thanks, saying, "This is My Body". The cup likewise, which is from among the creation to which we belong, He confessed to be His Blood. He taught the new sacrifice of the new covenant, of which Malachias, one of the twelve prophets, had signified beforehand: "'You do not do My will', says the Lord Almighty, 'and I will not accept a sacrifice at your hands. For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name is glorified among the gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure sacrifice; for great is My name among the gentiles', says the Lord Almighty". By these words He makes it plain that the former people will cease to make offerings to God; but that in every place sacrifice will be offered to Him, and indeed, a pure one; for His name is glorified among the gentiles. (Against Heresies, quoted in Jurgens' Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1, page 95)

That is from St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in what is now France, who wrote between AD 180 and 200. He, too, quotes from the prophet Malachi, and says that the Lord's Supper is the fulfillment of Malachi's prophecy because the Lord Jesus Himself "taught the new sacrifice of the new covenant".

Early Christian teaching to the contrary

Between the horizontal rulers immediately following, I will quote from the early Christians who taught that the Lord's Supper is not a sacrifice, but a simple memorial:

Yes, all the writings from ancient Christians who taught that the Holy Eucharist is merely a memorial, and not a sacrifice, are quoted in the horizontal bars immediately above.

That's right: there are none. There are no writings from ancient Christians who taught that the Lord's Supper is no more than a memorial. None.

Let's compare ancient Catholic teachings and "ancient" Protestant teachings

On the one hand, we have the teachings of the Catholic Church, from the twentieth century and from the sixteenth century, that the Lord's Supper (or Holy Mass, or the Holy Eucharist, or the Divine Liturgy) is a sacrifice; we also have Christian writings from the first century (including the writings of St. Paul in the New Testament) and from the second century that say the Lord's Supper is a sacrifice.

On the other hand, we have the belief of Protestants of the past five centuries: that the Lord's Supper is only a memorial, and most certainly not a sacrifice. There is no trace of any such belief before the sixteenth century. Can you say "False Gospel"?

(You may also be interested in reading Raymond Taouk's Eucharist as a Sacrifice, or James Akin's Christ's Sacrifice "Once for All", or Steve Ray's The Mass: Re-Crucify Christ Every Day?, or Dave Armstrong's The Sacrifice of the Mass: "A Lamb . . . Slain", or Fr. Scott Steinkerchner's Eucharist as Sacrifice: An Interpreter's Guide. By the way, Dave Armstrong and Steve Ray and James Akin are all Catholics who used to be Protestants. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a lengthy article on the Sacrifice of the Mass. It also has articles on St. Clement I, St. Ireneus, and St. Justin.)

Historical reality check

Yes, Protestants like those at Evangelical Outreach are quick to shout "False Gospel!" when they look at the teachings of the Catholic Church—and, especially, when they distort the teachings of the Catholic Church. But, when one reads what ancient Christians wrote about their beliefs and practices, one thing becomes clear—horrifyingly clear to Protestants, gratifyingly clear to Catholics: the beliefs and practices of the earliest Christians were Catholic, not Protestant.

I have given you examples on only one topic, the sacrificial nature of the Lord's Supper. I can do the same with all the other topics that Evangelical Outreach quotes about ad nauseam in its Vatican Council II: Present-Day Official Teachings of the Roman Catholic Church webpage—but I am getting tired of typing.

The earliest Christians believe what Catholics now believe about the sacrifice of the Lord's Supper, the teaching authority of the bishops (that is, not the "Bible Alone"), justification (that is, not by "Faith Alone"), the Real Presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, baptismal regeneration (a belief that many Protestants also have), the intercession and veneration of the saints, etc. Protestants believe none of that, but do believe that the Holy Bible is the only rule of faith and that justification is by faith alone. But none of the earliest Christians believed those things. The earliest Christians knew better than Protestants do because they had not been taught by Martin Luther, or John Calvin, or Thomas Cranmer, or John Knox, or Ulrich Zwingli—all of whom disagreed vehemently over essential doctrines. No, the earliest Christians had been taught by St. Peter and St. John and the other apostles who had been taught by the Lord Himself, or by those who had been personally taught by the apostles.

On which side do you stand?

(For a much fuller treatment of this topic, see Reformation: A Break With Christian Consensus, by David Palm. He, too, is a Catholic who used to be a Protestant. For more writings from the Fathers of the Church, See Joe Gallegos' Teachings of the Church Fathers, and the Beggar King's First Christians: our Forebears in the Catholic Faith.)

Evangelical Outreach's Shoddy Scholarship

EO's premise

Here is the introduction to EO's Vatican Council II: Present-Day Official Teachings of the Roman Catholic Church webpage (bolded as by EO):

The following statements can be verified by consulting volumes 1 and 2 of the book, Vatican Council II printed by Costello Publishing Co., Northport, New York. Austin Flannery, O. P., is the general editor and each volume contains the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur. The editions are: 1984 (Vol. 1) and 1982 (Vol. 2).

This most recent Roman Catholic Council, which closed on December 8, 1965, is the current official stand of Roman Catholicism. The following quotes are that official stand. (All bold print has been used for emphasis. Furthermore, brackets have been used to increase clarity.)

Quotations EO falsely attributes to Vatican II

Here are some of the quotations that follow in EO's "Official Teachings" webpage, none of which are from Vatican II (bolded as by EO):

"An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain defined conditions through the Church's help when, as minister of Redemption, she dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfaction won by Christ and the saints." (Vol. 1, p. 75)

That quotation is actually from Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences, as I point out in Thus Saith NOT Vatican Council II.

"Venerable brothers, pastors of God's flock throughout the world, and dearly beloved priest [sic by EO], Our sons and brothers: as We come to the end of this letter which We have addressed to you, We invite you, with a soul responsive to Christ's great love, to turn your eyes and heart with renewed confidence and filial hope to the most loving Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church, and to invoke for the Catholic priesthood her powerful and maternal intercession." (Vol. 2, p. 313)

That quotation, too, is actually from Pope Paul VI, Encyclical on Priestly Celibacy.

"And so I [Pope John Paul, II] desire that all of you should, with me, find in Mary the mother of the priesthood which we have received from Christ ... among the people of God which look to Mary with immense love and hope, you must look to her with exceptional love and hope. Indeed, it is your task to proclaim Christ, her Son. And who can better communicate to you the truth about him than his mother? It is your task to nourish men's hearts with Christ. And who can make you more aware of what you are doing than she who nourished him? Hail, true Body, born of the Virgin Mary.' There is a wonderful dimension to our ministerial priesthood: it places us near the mother of Christ." (Vol. 2, p. 360)

That quotation is from Pope John Paul II, as Evangelical Outreach indicates. It is from his 1979 Letter to Priests. (If anybody knows where that document is on the Web, please let me know.)

The Upshot

Now, get this: as you can see above, Evangelical Outreach knows very well that Vatican II was concluded in 1965. But Pope John Paul's letter is from 1979, Pope Paul's encyclical is from 1968, and his apostolic constitution from 1967. (Flannery has all these dates quite clearly in his books.) But EO blithely tells you that all three documents are from Vatican Council II. So, I have to ask a question here, too, that I asked in Thus Saith NOT Vatican Council II:

If Evangelical Outreach can't tell what's what in documents written and collected in the past four decades (like the documents of Vatican II and Pope Paul VI), why should we believe that EO can tell what's what in documents written and collected two or three thousand years ago (like the Sacred Scriptures)?

Ven. John Henry Newman
(AD 1801-1890)

To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.

Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine
(Part I, Introduction, Paragraph 5)

Truth for Catholics:  Previous (The Books of the Holy Bible) |  Main |  Next (400,000,000 Protestant Popes) |  Top (This Page)
Lane's World: BeautyPage CatholicPage DisclaimerPage HomePage PoetryPage SundriesPage


Webpage © 1998-2000 ELC The Webster Lane Core Jr.
(Created June 3, 1998; revised May 17, 2000)