Question: Recently I read an article in the CRI magazine by Ken Samples. It was about the Catholic Church and said some pretty harsh things about you….I do hope you will read the article (Part II) and will answer Samples and enlighten TBC readers as to what you did, or said, that was wrong in his eyes.
Response: First of all, we appreciate the commitment of Hank Hanegraaff and CRI to a defense of the truth, want to work together with them to that end, and wish no public quarrel. On the extremely important and timely issue of Catholicism, however, we disagree and cannot remain silent. I call Roman Catholicism a cult because it has the major characteristics of one: 1) a false gospel of works and rituals; 2) an allegedly infallible leadership which must be obeyed; 3) the prohibition of its members to interpret the Bible for themselves; 4) the placing of its hierarchy’s dogmas and traditions on a par with Scripture; 5) its claim to be the exclusive vehicle of salvation; 6) the cultic claim that members cannot be saved apart from its sacraments; 7) the anathematizing of all who reject its dogmas and traditions, etc.
I do not, however, insist that others call Catholicism a cult, and made that clear in a meeting with Ken Samples and other CRI staff. Yet Samples wrote, “Hunt impugns the character of all of those individuals and ministries simply because they disagree with his theological assessment of Catholicism.” Not so! Whether Catholicism is or is not a cult is not the main issue, but its false gospel. Yet Samples spent a large part of this second article trying to prove that Catholicism is not a cult and, in fact, defending it. In response, I wrote a letter to the editor, but when they published it some of my most cogent points had been cut out.
I have pleaded with CRI, no matter what they call Catholicism, to state clearly that its counterfeit gospel is sending hundreds of millions to hell. Instead, CRI has defended Catholicism on radio and in its Journal, while its “criticism” has been so vague as to leave one wondering what was meant. The perception of numerous people who have contacted us is that CRI is more concerned with defending Catholicism than with opposing it.
Here are some examples. Catholic apologist Scott Hahn was given free rein to promote Catholicism on a “Bible Answer Man” program and to defend it from callers’ objections without any rebuttal from CRI to his false statements! In CRI’s Fall 1992 Journal, Editor Elliot Miller stated, “While Catholics and Protestants disagree on many important doctrinal points, they nonetheless agree on such core doctrines as the nature of God and the person and work of Christ.” The average reader would thereby conclude that Roman Catholicism is merely another denomination. After all, Baptists and Presbyterians also disagree on important doctrinal points.
Miller’s statement was false. Protestants and Catholics do not agree about “the work of Christ.” For Rome, Christ’s work on the cross was neither finished nor sufficient: “For it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, ‘the work of our redemption is [in the process of being] accomplished’” (Vatican II, Vol 1, p 1). Nor is the ongoing sacrifice of the Mass sufficient, but Catholics must suffer for their sins here or in purgatory: “Sins must be expiated…on this earth through the sorrows, miseries and trials of this life…[or] in the next life through fire and torments or purifying punishments [in purgatory]” (ibid., p 63). Rome even says that Catholics may “carry their crosses to make expiation for…the sins of others” (ibid., pp 71, 74). In Catholicism, “the work of Christ” is insufficient for our redemption.
Responding in the Journal to an ex-Catholic who complained that CRI, while severely condemning the “Faith movement,” was soft on Catholicism, the most Miller would say was that Catholicism was “seriously problematic”—weak language, indeed, to describe a false gospel. In his fundraising letter of January 6, 1993, Hanegraaff stated that The Cult of the Virgin, a book by Miller and CRI staff writer Ken Samples, helps readers “to better understand the main differences separating Catholics from evangelicals….” In fact, it deals only with Mariolatry. Is that the only difference? Silent about the horrendous errors of the Mass, indulgences, purgatory and sacramental salvation by ritual and works, the authors refer to “a new breed of ‘born-again Catholics,’” to “evangelical Catholics” and “Bible-believing Catholics” (all contradictory terms), with whom Protestants ought to maintain “positive fellowship in Christ and cooperative efforts in the common cause of Christ’s kingdom.” This CRI book unashamedly states (as did Hank in his letter) that its purpose is ecumenical!
Recently, on “Bible Answer Man,” Catholicism was defended again by Hanegraaff and Miller. Any criticism of it was weak and ambivalent. Both reiterated that although they had some “problems” with Catholicism, Rome’s gospel wasn’t false but, rather, “confused…semi-Pelagian…not outright heresy but a serious aberration….” Will it damn the soul? They didn’t face that question.
An ex-Catholic caller expressed his concern for the hundreds of millions of Catholics deceived by Rome’s counterfeit gospel, which he likened to “a good piece of meat with arsenic sprinkled on it.” When he tried repeatedly to elicit from Hank and Elliot a clear statement that Catholicism opposes the biblical way of salvation, they denied that it did so and reproved him.
“You’re not being fair to what Catholicism actually teaches,” countered Miller; “…they do teach that you are justified solely by God’s grace and not by any of your own merits.” On the contrary, as any ex-Catholic knows, if Elliot’s statement were true the entire structure of Catholicism would collapse, as the few quotes above demonstrate. Elliot then offered a most preposterous defense of Catholicism: that it can’t be judged by its beliefs officially stated in Trent, and that Vatican II’s affirmation of Trent came about merely because today’s hierarchy, though recognizing the mistakes of Trent, doesn’t dare to say so directly. For to do so would reflect badly upon Catholicism’s claim to infallibility. This is nothing but pure speculation on Miller’s part and begs the question. In fact, not only Trent and Vatican II proclaim in the clearest terms a false gospel of works and sacramentalism, but this is Roman Catholicism as it is declared in The Code of Canon Law, taught in every catechism and practiced today by its 950 million adherents. A salvation of works and ritual is the essence of Roman Catholicism inherent in its teaching, sacraments and structure and is certainly the understanding and practice of today’s Catholics.
Hank’s final comment summed it up: “We do believe that Roman Catholicism is foundationally Christian but it does undermine its Christian confession with some of its doctrines.” Undermines it to what extent? So far CRI has carefully couched its “criticism” of Catholicism in ambiguous terms. We can only hope that it will make its position clear, one way or the other, soon.