by Rob Caines
The Council of Trent, in response to the Reformers’ doctrine of justification by faith alone, states the following:
If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sin for Christ’s sake alone; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified, let him be anathema (Session VI, Canon 12).
If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation but, that without them, men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification, let him be anathema (Session 7, Canons on the Sacraments in General, 4 [italics mine]).
These statements are diametrically opposed to the biblical Gospel. According to the Bible, a Christian is one who believes that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 5:1). A person becomes a Christian through faith (Eph 2:8-9). And the Christian can know that because of this faith he or she has eternal life (John 3:16; 1 John 5:13).
Many hold the mistaken opinion that Vatican II changed much of what Rome had believed. It did not. In fact it reaffirmed all of the main beliefs. This is what was written in Vatican II:
This sacred council accepts loyally the venerable faith of our ancestors in the living communion which exists between us and our brothers who are in the glory of heaven or who are yet being purified (in purgatory) after their death; and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicea (787), of the Council of Florence (1438-1442), and of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) (Austin Flannery, O.P., gen. ed., Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Documents, rev. ed. [Costello Publishing, 1988], 1:412, italics mine).
Similarly, Catholic apologist Rev. Anthony Schraner writes this in reply to the question “What is meant by faith?”:
It is not enough, however, to “hold as true” the truths of faith. For faith to be complete, its truths must bring us into a more personal relationship with God. In other words, we must live according to what we believe (Saint Joseph Annotated Catechism [Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1981], 11, italics mine).
We must remember that by far the larger percentage of those professing to be Catholic are not Christian, since most Catholics hold to Roman Catholic doctrine on salvation and have never trusted Christ alone for eternal life. We must reach out to these people. When in a position to present spiritual truths, we should not ask a Catholic if he is a Christian; he thinks he is. Instead we should ask questions like, “What do you believe you must do to go to heaven?” or, “Do you know where you’re going when you die?” The answers to questions like these are more likely to tell us most of what we need to know about their spiritual condition.
We should be aware that many Catholics are desperately seeking the truth. We can help them find it. We shouldn’t allow them to take us off on a tangent (i.e., Mary, the Pope, and purgatory), but we should stay as best we can on the Gospel that saves.
My greatest success over the years in leading people to Christ has been among Roman Catholics. It is truly rewarding to see them come to know the truth and to watch the truth free them from their bondage to salvation by works.
Rob Caines is an elder at Crossing Community Church in Newtown, PA. Rob and his wife Patty live in Yardley, PA with their three children. He is a technician for a major communications company in New Jersey and has been a member of GES for a number of years.