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What Are the Problems With Roman Catholicism?

What Are the Problems With Roman Catholicism?


Deviation from Sola Scriptura

One fundamental disagreement between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism lies in the authority of Scripture. Protestants adhere to Sola Scriptura, the belief that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority in matters of faith and practice. This contrasts sharply with the Catholic position, which places Sacred Tradition on an equal footing with Sacred Scripture. This tradition includes teachings and practices not explicitly found in the Bible, such as the veneration of saints and the assumption of Mary. Protestants argue that this approach can lead to doctrines and practices that are not firmly rooted in Scripture, potentially leading to errors in faith and practice.

Moreover, Protestants contend that the Bible contains all that is necessary for salvation and godly living. They believe that any doctrine or practice not grounded in Scripture is unnecessary and potentially misleading. This perspective stems from the belief that Scripture, as God’s revealed Word, is sufficient and complete for guiding believers in all aspects of their spiritual life.


The Papacy and Ecclesiastical Authority

The role and authority of the Pope are central points of contention between Catholicism and Protestantism. The Catholic Church’s doctrine of Papal supremacy holds that the Pope, the bishop of Rome, has supreme authority over the universal Church. This doctrine includes the belief in Papal infallibility, asserting that the Pope, when speaking ex cathedra (from the chair of Peter) on matters of faith and morals, is protected from error. This concept was solidified in the First Vatican Council of 1870.

Protestants reject the notion of Papal infallibility and supremacy as having no solid foundation in Scripture. They argue that such claims contradict the New Testament teachings on the priesthood of all believers and the headship of Christ over the Church (Colossians 1:18). Protestants maintain that Christ alone is the head of the Church and that no human leader, including the Pope, should wield such absolute authority.

In addition, Protestants often point to historical abuses of papal power and the centralization of ecclesiastical authority as issues that sparked the Reformation. They argue that the Papacy, as an institution, has deviated from the teachings of Christ and the apostles, emphasizing the need for a return to biblical Christianity.

Doctrines of Mary and the Saints

Protestants diverge significantly from Catholics in their views on Mary and the saints. Catholic doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception (the belief that Mary was conceived without original sin), her perpetual virginity, and her Assumption (the belief that she was taken bodily into heaven) are viewed by Protestants as unbiblical. These doctrines, Protestants argue, elevate Mary to a status that detracts from the unique and sole mediatorship of Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5).

Additionally, the veneration of saints and the practice of praying to them is another area of disagreement. Protestants reject the Catholic practice of asking saints to intercede with God on behalf of believers. They argue that such practices detract from the sole mediatorship of Christ and the direct access to God that He provides to believers.

Furthermore, Protestants question the biblical basis for the canonization of saints, arguing that the New Testament teaches that all believers are saints (1 Corinthians 1:2) and that special recognition of certain individuals can create an unwarranted hierarchy within the body of Christ.

Justification and Salvation

A central point of the Protestant Reformation was the doctrine of justification by faith alone (Sola Fide). This doctrine asserts that individuals are made right with God solely through faith in Jesus Christ, not by their own works or merits. This stands in stark contrast to the Catholic teaching that justification is a process involving both faith and good works.

Protestants argue that the Catholic view adds human effort to the work of Christ on the cross, undermining the sufficiency of His atoning sacrifice. They cite passages like Romans 3:28 and Galatians 2:16 to support the belief that justification is by faith apart from the works of the law. This difference in understanding has profound implications for how each tradition views the nature of salvation and the Christian life.

Moreover, Protestants contend that the Catholic emphasis on sacraments, penance, and purgatorial purification as means to achieve or maintain salvation further deviates from the biblical teaching of salvation by grace through faith.

Sacraments and Grace

In Protestant theology, only baptism and the Lord’s Supper are recognized as sacraments instituted by Christ. This is in contrast to the seven sacraments upheld by the Catholic Church, which also includes Confirmation, Penance, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony. Protestants argue that there is no clear biblical basis for considering these additional practices as sacraments.

Furthermore, the Protestant view of sacraments differs significantly in understanding how grace is dispensed. Catholics view sacraments as necessary channels of grace, administered by the Church, whereas Protestants see grace as a gift received directly through faith in Christ, not dependent on church-administered rituals.

Purgatory and Indulgences

The doctrine of purgatory and the practice of indulgences are additional points of contention. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory posits a state of purification for souls who have died in grace but still need to be cleansed of venial sins. Protestants reject this notion, arguing that it has no clear basis in Scripture and detracts from the complete and sufficient sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

The practice of indulgences, which the Catholic Church teaches can reduce the time a soul spends in purgatory, is also rejected by Protestants. They view it as unbiblical and inherently linked to past abuses within the Church, including the sale of indulgences, which was a key issue leading to the Protestant Reformation.


From a Protestant viewpoint, Roman Catholicism introduces various doctrines and practices that deviate from the foundational truths of Christianity as presented in the Scriptures. These issues encompass the authority of tradition and the Papacy, doctrines surrounding Mary and the saints, views on justification and salvation, the sacramental system, and concepts like purgatory and indulgences. These differences highlight the fundamental theological divides that have shaped the Protestant-Catholic dialogue for centuries.

Read More

“The Roman Catholic Controversy” by James R. White – This book by James White, a renowned Reformed theologian, delves into the core differences between Protestant and Roman Catholic beliefs. White critiques Catholic doctrines such as the Papacy, Mary, and the Mass, emphasizing the authority of Scripture and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. His approach is scholarly yet accessible, making it a valuable resource for those seeking a clear understanding of these theological contrasts from a Reformed perspective.

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