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1. Infallibility and Paul's rebuke of Peter

2. Peter versus James at the Council of Jerusalem

3. The Baptist "church"

4. The (KJV) Bible and the Church

5. Is Peter the rock?

6. Peter's authority based on Matthew 16:18-19

7. The visibility of the Church

8. The necessity of the Church

9. A dialogue on Peter, Rome and the Orthodox Church

10. The seat of Moses

11. Petros versus petra

12. Is the Church only a symbol?

13. A sensitive dialogue with someone considering the Catholic Church

14. A dialogue with a former (now, anti) Catholic

15. More challenges from a "Bible Christian"

16. A dialogue with an Orthodox Christian

17. Another dialogue with an anti-Catholic

18. The Church: "Truth" versus "conduct"

19. Matthew 18:17-18: "Tell it to the Church"

20. Papal Declarations on "No Salvation Outside the Church"

21. Debate on the Exegesis of Matthew 16:18-19: John Salza v. Evan May

22. A question about Pope Honorius

Back Home Next

1. Infallibility and Paul's rebuke of Peter

Patron: Mr. Salza, you responded to an email a while back concerning questions raised by my Protestant friend regarding Peter's role at the Council at Jerusalem in Acts. I just wanted to thank you and raise a few more questions posed by the same individual.

To me, it seems the heart of my friend's objection to the Catholic faith is the fact that the standard to which we, i.e. Catholics, hold all things pertaining to virtuous living is not only the Bible, but Tradition (which he does not, admittedly, differentiate with tradition). We both agree that there must be an objective standard for this purpose. However, his problem with Tradition seems to mainly stem from the fact that we had some corrupt popes, bishops, etc. at various points in history who taught different things on the same issue. He understands that Catholics say despite these corrupt leaders, the main, essential doctrines remain consistent throughout. He understands, too, the notion of papal infallibility to be the constant and true teachings of the popes on matters of faith and morals. How can we be guaranteed of this infallibility especially considering the inconsistent papal teachings on particular issues. If they are truly infallible, shouldn't they speak with one voice on some things such as indulgences? Why do teachings seem to "pop up" at various points in the Church's history? He also has great difficulty with the seeming inconsistencies and sometimes contradictory teachings found in the writings of the Fathers. He has given me a book written by William David Webster entitled The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, which you may or may not be familiar with. I have not read it yet; supposedly, however, the book in its entirety gives quotes from the Fathers which are contrary to contemporary Catholic teachings on all the major issues, i.e. justification, Eucharist, etc.

The other questions I wanted to resolve was regarding the fact that, according to my friend, Scripture records Peter as leading others astray from the true doctrine. The passage in question can be located in Galatians 2:11-15. What are your thoughts on this?

Thank you for taking the time to address these questions. Also, could I refer my friend to you if he has further questions? I think sometimes someone outside the situation can offer a more clear explanation given that they are not personally vested in the relationship.

J. Salza: Steve, first, your friend would have to prove that the popes were inconsistent on a teaching of faith and morals. I can assure that this is not the case. Your friend has the burden of proof on this. When you say that he has discovered “inconsistencies” in Catholic teaching, have him bring forward the evidence. It is easy to make such sweeping statements without proof.  Remember also that there is a distinction between discipline and doctrine. The Church's doctrine cannot change because it comes from Christ through the apostles. Disciplines, of course, can and do change, and the popes have made these changes throughout history (days of obligation, hours of fasting, liturgical things, etc.)

When Jesus told Peter “whatever you bind or loose on earth is bound or loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:18-19), He was promising to protect Peter from teaching error to the universal Church. Otherwise, Jesus could not make such a sweeping promise to Peter. Because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18), Peter must be protected from teaching error, since what he binds or looses, heaven binds and looses as well. Indeed, God intrudes into the mind of the pope and prevents him from teaching error, just like the Father penetrated the mind of Peter when he confessed that Jesus was the Christ.

You recall what happened next. Jesus said Peter is the rock upon which He would build the Church and gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. The basis for infallibility is the ability of the pope to accept and confess God's divine guidance without error. It has nothing to do with the pope's private opinions or conduct. The fact that all the popes have spoken with one voice over the past 2,000 years when it comes to dogmatizing principles of Catholic faith and morals proves that Jesus has kept His promise.

Note also that nothing the Church teaches on faith or morals just “pops up.” This is because the Church’s teaching comes from the Tradition of the apostles, which we call the sacred deposit of faith. The Church may try to clarifying the way she expresses doctrine, but there can be nothing new under the sun, as they say. Often, the Church will issue a dogmatic teaching to clarify a point of contention or refute a heresy. But clarifying the way in which she expresses the divine deposit of faith does not mean she makes up new doctrines. The doctrines remain the same.

Regarding Galatians, this passage has nothing to do with Peter leading people astray. Paul opposed Peter because he was separating himself from the Gentiles during meals. Why was this a big deal? Because Peter was the one who infallibly taught that the Gentiles were equal members of the New Covenant. Peter was the one who made this monumental decision as we read in the book of Acts. Paul was criticizing Peter's conduct, not his teaching authority. Everyone would have looked naturally to Peter and his conduct since he was the leader. God specifically reveals this in Scripture to teach us that there is a difference between a pope's private conduct and opinions and his official teaching authority.

I believe Peter's conduct can be viewed as legitimate. Peter had a mission to the Jews, and Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. Paul was therefore very concerned about how the Gentiles were evangelized. Paul viewed Peter's conduct as a possible scandal to the Gentile's evangelization. However, Peter had his own reasons. In the book of Acts, we read that the Jews were angry that Peter was dining with Gentiles. They could not understand this, since they always viewed themselves as having a preferential position with God. Peter was trying to pacify them for the moment by trying to make the best out of a difficult situation.

Paul probably should have known this. Paul did the very same thing, and Peter could have just as easily called Paul a hypocrite. Paul engaged in the Jewish purification ritual, and also had Timothy circumcised, even though Paul perennially taught that we were now free from the law of Moses. Why did he do this? For pastoral reasons. He was reaching out to the Jews, while trying to evangelize the Gentiles. Peter did the same thing.

Grace be with you.

John Salza



2. Peter versus James at the Council of Jerusalem

Scott: came across this website today and had a couple questions. A Protestant friend of mine, despite all the Scriptural evidence, is having a difficult time with two items regarding the primacy of Peter. First, he says it is James, not Peter, who opens the council at Jerusalem in Acts. Second, Paul, and I can't recall exactly where in the Epistles, speaks of how Peter was leading some away from the true doctrine. How can these Scriptural passages be reconciled with the Church's understanding of the special role of Peter in the early Church?

Thanks for your attention to these questions.

J. Salza: Scott, your friend has it all wrong. If we go to Acts 15, we read that there was a lot of debate in the Church about whether Gentile converts needed to be circumcised. After the debate, Peter "rose" and declared that circumcision was not necessary. James was not even in the picture at this point. Peter made an authoritative decision about the doctrinal question, and no one questioned him. In fact, after Peter spoke it says "all kept silent." When you read the Greek phrase, it is in the aorist tense, which means the silence was the effect of Peter's definitive teaching.

After Peter settles the issue, Paul and Barnabas speak in favor of Peter's teaching. Only then does James come in. A few things about James' discourse. First, James was the bishop of Jerusalem during the council, and it is common for a bishop to speak in favor of the pope's teaching at a regional or ecumenical council. This is what James does. He agrees with Peter's definitive teaching. Second, James begins speaking, not about the doctrinal issue, but about whether the Gentiles should obey the Noachide laws.  At the end of James' speech, he says "it is my judgment." The Greek here (ego krino) means that James was giving a personal opinion about a pastoral issue, and recommends that the Gentiles obey the laws of Noah so as to more easily fraternize with the Jews.

So we see that Peter is the one who rules definitively on the question of doctrine, and all kept silent. His bishops then spoke in favor of his teaching, acknowledging that Peter was indeed the authority in the Church. No one questions Peter's judgment.  Then we have James who speaks in favor of Peter's teaching by giving an opinion on a pastoral issue. Hardly a challenge to the authority of Peter. You should also point out to your friend that Acts 15 disproves the doctrine of sola Scriptura. If Peter would have relied upon the Scriptures, he would have concluded that Gentiles had to be circumcised, since all the Patriarchs and prophets were, the apostles were, and even Jesus was. But Peter, by virtue of his authority, decides the issue as the chief shepherd of the Church (and the decision was not based on the Scriptures).

Regarding any epistle where Peter was leading people away from the true faith, there is no such epistle. If your friend disagrees, have him produce chapter and verse.

Grace be with you.

John Salza



3. The Baptist "church"

Dennis: On your church history page you state that Baptists were started by John Smyth in 1609. Not so! Baptist had no one human founder. John Smyth only started one congregation in the Netherlands as Roger Williams started the first Baptist Church in America in 1639. There is evidence that Baptist go all the way back to the time of Tertullian (Edinburg Cyclopedia). Also from the "Apud Opera" pp> 112, 113 By Cardinal Hosius, President of the Council of Trent 1524 "Were it not that the Baptist have been grievous tormented (by the Roman catholic Church) and cut off with the knife during the past twelve hundred years, they would swarm in greater number than all the reformers".

Sir Isaac Newton wrote "The Baptist are the only body of known Christian that have not symbolized with the church at Rome. Therefore it would be no stretch of the imagination to believe that the apostles were in fact Baptist.

J. Salza: Your resources are incorrect. But even if you refuse to believe that the baptist church didn't start in 1609, the burden is on you to demonstrate that the baptist church is the church of the apostles. The problem, of course, is you cannot. First, there is not one single early Church father in the first seven centuries of Christianity who ever referenced the "baptist" Church (but many quotes referring to the "Catholic church.") If you disagree, then provide the quotes and the sources from which you are quoting. Further, the baptist church has no internal or systematic consistency on key core Christian doctrines, like justification, salvation, and, yes, baptism.

Again, the burden is on you to prove the apostolic roots of the baptist church, but I assure you that you cannot. The baptist church denies key tenets of the Christian faith that were believed and wrote about by the early church Fathers, such as the Eucharist as a sacrifice, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, salvation by grace through faith and works, baptismal regeneration, Peter as the chief shepherd of the universal church, etc.

Dennis: You say that my resources are incorrect.  In other words you are saying that Cardinal Hosius (Catholic, 1524, President of the Council of Trent) never said what I wrote He said. That Sir Isaac Newton never said what I wrote you he said and that it is not written in the Edinburg Cyclopedia what I wrote you is said in it. PROVE IT. By the way Baptist is not a denomination nor are they Protestants.  Also not everyone that call themselves baptists are true Baptists.

J. Salza: Dennis, for your information, neither Cardinal Hosiu, Isaac Newton nor the Edinburg Encyclopedia are able to make dogmatic pronouncements about what is true and what is not true concerning faith or morals. So your reliance upon them is misplaced. It is funny you bring up the Council of Trent. Have you actually read that council's documents? If you do, then you will discover that the Council of Trent rejected all of the fallacious views held by Baptists such as justification by faith alone, the Mass as a mere fellowship meal, and the non-inspiration of the deuterocanonical books. You really need to check your sources before quoting them, since your reliance upon Trent just bit you in the backside.

By the way, the baptists, and any other organization that claims to be Christian but is not in union with the successor of Peter, is a Protestant organization. That is, it is "protest"ing against the authority of Rome.

John Salza



4. The (KJV) Bible and the Church

Justin: You wrote to my friend, this...(quote)....

The Catholic Church wrote, translated, copied, and preserved God's written word throughout the ages. That is the only reason you even have a Bible. Quit trying to interpret the Scriptures without the Church, because it is the Bible AND the Church, both or neither.(unquote)

John, you seem to be a slow learner,. To begin with you say the church interprets the scripture for us. That’s an outright lie, I attended a Catholic college and University for 8 years and i asked the Priests etc to explain certain Scriptures and they either said they didn’t know or it wasn’t my problem to begin with.

Jesus said, But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him." (1 John 2:27)

You seem to take pride in the fact you are an intelligent man. Tell me, are you intelligent because God created you such or is it BECAUSE YOU ARE A SELF MADE MAN ?

J. Salza: Justin, I can't vouch for what a priest told you or didn't tell you. What I can vouch for is history. The hard nut for Protestants to crack is the fact that the Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture at regional councils in A.D. 382, 393 and 397. Even your own Protestant apologists recognize the same. Why don't you?

The Catholic Church translated the original copies during the first centuries of the Church and throughout the Middle Ages. She also made the Scriptures available in the vernacular so all could read them.  Study your history, Justin.  There was no other church around. Take a look at all the quotes from the Fathers on my site or using other resources.  They all claimed membership in the Catholic Church.

The Church came first, then the Bible.  The Bible wasn't even compiled until 382, and printing presses weren't invented until 1440.  If you really think that the Bible is the only way for salvation, then what about those poor souls for 1500 years who didn't have a Bible?  Justin, Christ established an authority on earth to preserve His revelation and decide the Bible canon. This authority is the Holy Catholic Church.

If you disagree, then tell me what authority determined the Bible canon.  I look forward to your answer.

Justin: John, maybe this will alter your Catholic thoughts on eternal hellfire. Jesus said  (not mary) "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25). The words of Jesus are true, that all who hear the quickening Voice of the Son are lifted from their appointment of death and live, even as you and I came alive upon hearing His call; but "Marvel not at this," as He went on to say, "for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto THE RESURRECTION OF DAMNATION" (John 5:28-29).

Contrary to popular belief, the resurrection of DAMNATION, as the King James Bible has it, is a very promising subject and merits closer examination. Although this translation is classified as a work of literary art, it is not noted for its accuracy. It is therefore, not the best one to use for study. It certainly has the beauty and flare of that day, but this poetic style of writing does not constitute infallibility, as some may suppose. The text is also written in the old English, which in itself makes it difficult to grasp at times. To compound the problem, a large number of the words carried a different thought than what they do today. The loyal translators of the king can be given credit for the wonderful truths contained between its leather-bound covers, for there are many, but we should also know they sanctioned approximately 70,000 errors as well. Fifty thousand of those discrepancies have since been corrected, to a degree. The above word --DAMNATION -- is one of the 20,000 remaining errors.

John, get on an airliner, and go to the Vatican and get the big boys to translate John 5:25 to you, then mail me their answer.

J. Salza: Justin, first of all, I have made no reference in this dialogue about “my views of eternal hellfire,” but I can assure that those views are consistent with Sacred Scripture, as is everything else I believe. In fact, I use John 5:28-29 quite frequently to refute your false, Protestant doctrine of “the Rapture.”

Second, the fact that the KJV has errors just bolsters my argument that you need an authority to tell you what translations are correct and what translations are erroneous. Since the Catholic Church wrote, translated, and handed down the Bible to us, I defer to her judgments on what translation is the best. Based on these historical facts, what gives you the authority to determine which translations are correct and which are not?

Speaking of the King James Version of the Bible, it has no authority either, to the extent that it deviates from the Latin Vulgate translated by Jerome in the fourth century. Moreover, King James was a sodomite politician. Why would anyone defer to an immoral, secular ruler’s interpretation of Scripture? Fortunately, King James’ wife figured it out, since she became a Catholic.

You see Justin, this is a question of authority. God gave us the Church, which interprets both the Scripture and Tradition to maintain unity in God's family and bring us to the truth of salvation in Christ. This is why the Catholic Church is one (for 2,000 years), and your Bible Christian church is a splintering off of thousands of different denominations. God is not the author of your Protestant confusion (cf. 1 Cor. 14:33).

Christ appointed a chief steward over His house, the pope, in order to be the unifying force for the Christian family. Christ knew that the Bible could not be such a force, since it is subject to many different interpretations. In fact, Christ never even commanded His apostles to write anything down. The Bible is not a complete catechism on Christianity. That is why the St. Paul calls the Church (not the Scripture) the pinnacle and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).

Your polemics against the Church are intellectually groundless.  You are not qualified to debate this topic.  If you think you are, then please tell me (1) what authority determined the canon of Scripture; and (2) what authority determined the proper translation of the Bible.



5. Is Peter the rock?

John: John, You know something you dogans always get your axles hung up on Peter's Rock. When Jesus came to the coast of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples a momentous question: "Whom do men say that I am?" (Matt. 16: 13). The disciples reported what others said as to Jesus' identity (vs. 14). However, Jesus placed the focus on them, "But whom say ye that I am? (vs. 15).Peter then confidently answered: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (vs. 16). Jesus then commends Peter and confirms Peter's answer (vs. 17). Jesus then enunciated: "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (vs. 18). The word "Peter" (petros) does mean stone. Peter was a mere man. Peter stood in the way of Jesus' sacrificial offering, denied the Lord, and sinned publicly (Matt. 16: 21-23, 26: 69-75, Gal. 2: 11-14). Does the church rest on Peter, a man? Back to "upon this rock." When Jesus said, "upon this rock I will build my church.," he used a different word in the original ("rock" here is petra). "Petra denotes a mass of rock, as distinct from petros, a detached stone or boulder, or a stone that might be thrown or easily moved..." (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Petros and petra also differ in grammar, petros (Peter) is masculine, referring to Peter and petra (upon this "rock") is feminine gender. Jesus did not build his church on a stone which could be easily thrown away (petros, Peter), but on a mass of rock (petra). Jesus, the Son of God, is the foundation, not Peter.

J. Salza: John, I have written a book that examines and refutes every single argument you just posed.  It is called The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith, published by Our Sunday Visitor (see pp. 40-64).  If you are really seeking the truth, I humbly ask you to get a copy. I am also working on another book called The Biblical Basis for the Papacy, which digs even more deeply into these issues, again, refuting all the arguments you have just advanced.

My website also examines and refutes the arguments you raise in your email. Your note is rife with erroneous exegesis which has no support from the patristics, medievals, or any Christian for that matter for the first 1,000 years of the Church.  Your analysis demonstrates a lack of understanding of the Greek language, and a distortion of the plain meaning of the texts (e.g., only Peter received the keys; binding and loosing in heaven what is bound and loosed on earth means the Church teaches infallibly; etc).  Your analysis is also devoid of any historical support.  But fundamentalist Christians such as yourself are expert eisegetes, privately interpreting Scripture to your own destruction.  I have been down this road to many times before.

Why don't we do this. You find me one Church father, one doctor, one medieval who agrees with your position that (1) Peter is not the rock on which the Church is built, and (2) all the apostles received the keys to the kingdom.  Okay?  Just find me one. Surely, if you are so confident of your position, then it must be supported by the writings of the early Christians. Let's see what you come up with.  If you are intellectually honest with yourself, you will begin to see that the early Church was Catholic.  This is also the same Church that gave you the Bible (the Bible didn't just fall out of the sky, John; it's canon was determined by the Catholic Church).

So, come up with the fathers for support for your position, otherwise this
dialogue is over.

Top John Salza


6. Peter's authority based on Matthew 16:18-19

Anthony: Dear John, my name is Anthony XXXX and I live in Dublin, Ireland. I have just read a portion of your website and I would like to ask you a few questions.

On one of your website pages, sourcing Catholicism in Scripture, you say that the Scriptures actually tell us that Peter was to be the foundation of the church, linking him to be " the rock". The Scriptures do not tell us this, let me explain.

After asking his disciples what did men say who he ( Jesus ) was, his disciples gave various answers. And Peter replied with these beautiful words " Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God". Now pay attention to what Jesus replies. "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it ". Peter cannot be the rock, because Jesus is the rock, the true foundation of the Church.

J. Salza: Anthony, "this" (in Greek, tautee) is a demonstrative adjective which is describing Peter, its nearest referent.  As a result, Jesus did not have to use any of the possible alternatives that you provide.  This is demonstrated when you pull out "rock" in the second clause.  It would read:  "You are Peter, and upon this I will build my church."  You see, "this" refers to Peter, the nearest referent, which is what the demonstrative adjective in Greek requires. The meaning of the sentence is clear. There is no ambiguity here. 

However, there would be ambiguity in your alternatives if Jesus used a non-demonstrative adjective such as "the" or "a" like:  "You are Peter, and upon the I will build," or "upon a I will build."  Thus, the original Greek language, which you evidently did not consider, displays the error of your arguments. 

Anthony: Allow me to read to you another verse, this time from the book of 1 Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 4.

" And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ". Again, we learn that the rock is Christ.

J. Salza: This is a fallacious hermeneutic. First, you are assuming that words in Scripture can only have one meaning.  This is not true.  Christ is called the shepherd and guardian in one Scripture, and the apostles are called shepherds and guardians in another Scripture.  Christ is called the foundation in one book, and the apostles are called the foundation of the church in another book. See my website for these Scriptures (1 Cor. 3:11/Eph 5:20; 1 Pet. 2:25/Acts 20:28). 

Second, no one is debating that Jesus is not the real rock.  He is. Jesus is also the one with the keys of death and Hades, as the Apocalypse shows us.  But Jesus confers these distinctions upon Peter, as His chief representative once Jesus has ascended to the Father.  This underscores that Jesus is giving Peter a divine appointment.  Your argument again proves nothing for you.

Anthony: But let us go back to the book of Matthew for a moment and examine another reference to the " rock ". This time lets look at the verse from Matthew again, notice the last wording in this sentence,  ".......and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it". If Peter, as you assume, is the rock, did the gates of hell fail to prevail against him? If you continue to read on, you will find that Peter was the one to fail. Jesus rebuked him to his face,

J. Salza: The nearest referent of "it" is "church," not Peter. This again is demonstrated by the Greek, which I suggest you study if you are going to properly exegete Scripture and make assertions against the Catholic Church.  It is the Church that will not be subject to the powers of death, not Peter or any pope.  A pope in fact can make errors, unless he invokes the divine charism of infallibility which Christ gave Peter with the authority to bind and loose.  So, again, your analysis fails to support your claim.

Anthony: " From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he ( Jesus ) turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God but those things that be of men". (Matthew 16:21-23 ).

J. Salza: First, this verse demonstrates that Jesus has given Peter a divine appointment, that is, to be the chief shepherd of the Church after Christ was no longer with them.  Jesus only speaks about His death after appointing Peter the chief shepherd.  When Jesus gives Peter the keys to the kingdom, Jesus is establishing Peter as the authority over the Church, and this also facilitates apostolic succession to his chair.  See Isaiah 22:15,19-22 which is the only other place where "keys" are used to descibe dynastic succession to the Davidic kingdom, which Jesus came to fulfill in His Holy Catholic Church.

Second, Jesus' rebuke of Peter actually underscores Peter's importance among the apostles.  None of the other apostles understood what Jesus was saying at this time either. Note also that Peter is rebuked for his private opinion, not for his official teachings.  Any pope can be rebuked for private opinions. Thus, Jesus’ rebuke of Peter in no way undermines the papacy or Peter’s teaching authority.

Anthony: Again, Peter is rebuked, this time by Paul in the book of Galatians;

"But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed". Basically, Peter in this case, was setting a bad example. Not a great start for a man who you claim to be the " rock ".

J. Salza: Before I answer you here, the other proof that destroys your arguments against Peter as the rock is the fact that Jesus calls Simon the rock in Mark 3:16 and John 1:42!  (Cephas is a Greek transliteration of Kepha which, in Aramaic, means rock).  This is one of those moments of "game over" for those who say Peter is not the rock. Now, regarding Galatians, you would agree that Peter taught and wrote infallibly regarding the salvation of the Gentiles, right?  So, Peter's teaching authority is not being rebuked. Peter's individual behavior is the issue, and this is always fair game for rebuke, which Paul rightly did.  There is nothing that undermines Peter's authority.  Any pope can be criticized for his behavior and personal opinions, which Catholic apologists sometimes do (so long as it is done with holy fear, dignity and respect).

Anthony: Another verse which totally counters your idea of Peter " the rock " is found in the book of Luke, chapter 9, verse 20 and verse 46. In verse 20, Peter again gives his confession of Christ, similar to what he said in the book of Matthew. If at this stage, it had been decided that Peter was the " rock", the pope, why do we find later in verse 46 the disciples arguing over who was the greatest among them?

J. Salza: Verse 46 is, at a minimum, nine days after verse 20 so there is no connection between the two, and hence no direct Scripture that takes away the authority that Jesus confers upon Peter in Matt. 16:18-19.  Yet, that is the type of desperate attempt that non-Catholics must make to somehow rescind the binding and loosing / keys to the kingdom authority that Jesus gave Peter in Matt. 16. 

Regarding verse 46, first we can safely assume that the apostles didn't understand Jesus mission at this point, for Scripture shows how confused and faithless they were until after the Resurrection.  So such an argument does not undermine the actual authority that Jesus gives to Peter.  Moreover, after the Resurrection, we see in John 21:15-18 how Jesus commands Peter to "tend the sheep."  The Greek word for "tend" (poimane) means to "rule."  Jesus is thus commanding Peter to "rule" over the other apostles as their head.  This is the same word that is used in Rev. 12:5 which describes that Jesus will "rule" all the nations with an iron rod.  This is because Peter is the rock on which Jesus has built His Church.

Anthony: I pray that the Holy Spirit may open your eyes to the truth.

J. Salza: Anthony, He has, and that is why I am Catholic.  I pray that He will move you to study the Church fathers who all bear witness to the truth of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Grace be with you.

John Salza



7. The visibility of the Church

Gene: Longtime no see John, 'know, I was just thinking -- this might be a lot easier than it looks. People are always debating whether the Church is visible or invisible -- but that is completely irrelevant. The real question is, "is the Church that Christ built united or divided?" What kind of person says, "I'm going to build a divided Church that is going to be in confusion and conflict for 1,900?" Certainly not Christ, because didn't He say "the gates of hell will never prevail against it?" Meaning it will never be divided against itself by Satan. And also that "a house divided against itself cannot stand."

Whether visible or invisible, we know with 110% certainty that the Church is one. And the only Church that has always been one is the Roman Catholic Church.


PS-- I'll be showing you my book of research soon.

J. Salza: Gene, your point on division is certainly critical.  Only the Catholic Church is not divided on matters of faith and morals.  But the visibility issue is also very important.  If you study the Church Fathers, they wrote a lot about the visibility of the Church.  This is in contrast to the Protestant idea that the Church is just an invisible body of believers, loosely connected to each other by faith in the Bible alone.  But St. Paul called the Church the "body" of Christ, not the "soul" of Christ.  Bodies are visible and souls are invisible.  But note that we can only be the body of Christ if Christ is giving us something physical, that is, His body.  So the visibility of the Church is based on the Eucharistic union we have with Jesus Christ. And the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian faith.

Grace be with you.



8. The necessity of the Church

Hey John, I've been wondering, why exactly is the Church necessary? You don't need the Church in order to practice virtue; there are men who practice it outside the Church and who did so before it existed.  Someone may say we need it because it preserves the true faith. But is stuff like whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, or from the Father and the Son really that significant? To be honest, it sounds rather childish. Another argument may be because of the sacraments. Yes, the sacraments are powerful, but we really only partake regularly of the Eucharist and Confession (Can't God forgive people apart from Confession?). Baptism is one sacrament that is valid in many Christian sects. So is that the answer, we need the Catholic faith because of two sacraments?

Is there any really significant reason why it is necessary? To be absolutely honest, I think I may just need more faith. If St. Peter were Pope instead of Pope John Paul II, I wouldn't dare to ask that question, because if you are against St. Peter, then you are certainly against Christ. But nevertheless, I would appreciate your comments.



J. Salza: Gene, we need the Church in order to be saved.  Jesus Christ gave us the Church as the exclusive means by which we become united to Him through the sacraments, which allow us to grow in holiness, and give us the best chance for salvation.  Those outside the Church are, objectively speaking, in a spiritually deficient condition, although they can still be saved by Christ.  But the Church gives us the totality of the means of salvation through Christ and His Eucharistic sacrifice, which the Church celebrates from the rising of the sun to its setting.  The Church is the sacrament of salvation.  Regularly receiving the sacraments that Christ instituted is the way that Jesus has set the whole thing up.  Confession is the normative way that God forgives sins.  The Eucharist is the greatest gift God has given to us this side of heaven - because it is Jesus Christ Himself.  It is only in the Church where we eat His body and drink His blood as Jesus commanded us. 

You cannot receive these sacraments outside the Church where there is no valid priesthood.  The Catholic Church is the bride of Christ, and we are adopted sons of the Father in Christ through His bride, the Church.  You are right to say this is also a matter of faith.  The Church is supernatural, not just a human institution.  That is why the Church is an article of faith.  Pray to Mary, the Mother of the Church, to give you the wisdom you need to truly comprehend its magnificence and necessity.

Grace be with you.



9. A dialogue on Peter, Rome and the Orthodox Church

Josh: Dear John, sorry for taking so long to get back to you.  I found what you said to be quite interesting (which is quoted below in case you've forgotten since it's been weeks since we last corresponded).  I do, however, have some questions and comments that might be of interest. I have a difficult time with the lineage argument.  From the Eastern perspective, Peter was never seen as the fulfillment of what Abraham, Moses, David and Melchezidek were sent for. 

J. Salza: Catholicism does not teach that Peter is the fulfillment.  Peter is only the earthly representative of the fulfillment. However, just as Moses, for example, had the seat of authority, had access to God’s infallible judgments, and ruled over his people, Peter holds the same position in the Church of the New Testament (which is the Catholic Church). Peter, in that sense, is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament leaders combined (Abraham, Moses, David, etc.)

Josh: I honestly feel that most Catholics would also agree with us that Jesus was that very fulfillment.  No one is questioning whether or not Catholics believe that Jesus is our King of kings, etc. but it does not work with the Eastern mindset to place Peter at the top of this Pyramid that is the Church. 

J. Salza: Peter is the rock on which the Church is built because Jesus said so in Matt. 16:18-19.  Jesus also gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, which was to institute his authority over the earthly Church and dynastic succession of earthly representatives.  See Isaiah 22:19-22. So Jesus tells us that Peter has a unique position among the rest of the apostles. Peter is the rock, the keeper of the keys, and the chief shepherd of the Church. These distinctions, of course, belong to Jesus alone. But Jesus shares them with Peter. Peter exercises these distinctions in the name of Jesus and at His direction, until Jesus comes again.

Josh: Christ is our intercessor between Heaven and Earth; He is Jacob's Ladder.  He became Man and continues to be so to this day leading our Church through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  This may seem simplistic to you and many other Catholics... perhaps even a cop-out, but this honestly is how we have always seen the structure Church.

J. Salza: Catholics have no disagreement here. Christ is our only mediator before the Father in heaven. There is no issue here.  But this does not preclude Christ from appointing an earthly representative to serve in his stead, which he did in Matt. 16:18-19 and other verses (see my link on Peter as the rock and Petrine Primacy). There is a distinction between Christ’s mediation in heaven and Peter’s ruling and guiding the Church on earth.

Josh: As far as Bishops go, this brings up an entirely different question.  It has come to my attention that the East and the West are not speaking the same language in dialogue regarding the hierarchy of the Church and even in terms of Apostolic Succession.  In the West, the Bishop of Rome is seen as the Successor of Peter.  But who was Peter?  Was he a Bishop? 

J. Salza: Yes, Peter was a bishop. But he had supreme and plenary authority over the other bishops. The other bishops draw their authority from the keys which only Peter holds. Certainly, bishops exercise their authority on the local level, but they are always subject to the authority of the bishop of Rome.  Regarding apostolic succession, the east and west do have apostolic succession and are in full union with the pope as the successor of Peter. 

If you are talking about the Orthodox (not the Eastern Catholic churches), then they do have apostolic succession (because their bishops all have a lineage to the apostles). But since 1054 they no longer recognize Peter as having supreme authority (they do acknowledge, however, that he had a primacy of authority in the New Testament).  All the apostles and their successors were bishops through the laying on of hands (also see my link on this).

Josh: From our point of view, a Bishop oversees, delegates and ministers sacramentally. 

J. Salza: Yes, agreed. That is the definition of "bishopric."

Josh: He himself may have been a one (of Antioch, or Rome... but then what was Paul doing in Rome?), but this is beside the point.  He was first and foremost an Apostle sent directly from Christ, just as Paul was (through the vision).  This is what distinguished Peter and the other Apostles from other disciples; they were "sent out" directly from Christ. 

J. Salza: I don't yet see the point.  Were Timothy, or Titus, or Matthias not worthy disciples because they were not sent directly by Christ?  Were they lesser because they were sent by the apostles' successors?  I don't think so. In fact, the direct lineage from the apostles to their successors demonstrates the truth and importance of apostolic succession.

Josh: Pope John Paul II (however much I admire him) was not.  He is the Bishop of Rome, one of the most distinguished and important Patriarchates of the historical Church. No Orthodox would disagree with the fact that the Bishop of Rome was first among equals in the Early Church.  Most Bishops at that time looked to Rome for guidance and a point of union, and why wouldn't we have?  First of all it was the center of the civilized world as we knew it.  No place was more important than Rome.  Everyone (regardless of religion) looked to it.  Second, (but not least) we looked to Rome because it is where Sts Peter and Paul were both martyred.  There is no question that St. Peter was revered among the Apostles as First among Equals... a leader so to speak.

J. Salza: Yes, I agree, but you look to Rome because Jesus Christ, through Peter and his successors, established the Church in Rome. You don't look to Rome because Paul (or even Peter) was martyred there.  This is why, in the book of Romans, Paul writes his letter but stresses that he does not want to "build on another man's foundation."  Paul was referring to Peter, who was the bishop of Rome and the head of the Church. It has nothing to do with politics, or culture, or future martyrdoms.  It has to do with Christ's choice to build His Church upon the “rock” of Peter, in Rome. Peter is not just “the first among equals.” Peter is the “first and foremost” (which is why Scripture describes him with the Greek protos). The other bishops derive their authority from the keys which only Peter holds.

Josh: Just as we also cannot question the fact that among the Apostles, no one had as much influence on the early doctrine of the Faith than did St. Paul (through his Letters that are now part of the Bible and through the Ecumenical Council in Jerusalem - Acts 15).  This is not to set Paul above Peter nor vice-versa.

J. Salza: Here, you err.  It was Peter who settled the doctrinal issue on circumcision at the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.  When Peter settled the matter, "the whole assembly kept silent." The other bishops who spoke after Peter relayed how Peter settled the matter, and spoke in union with him, just like bishops do today.  Paul obeyed Peter’s decision without question. Your reference to the council of Jerusalem proves too much for you.

Josh: Just to digress a little, if we look at Acts 15 and assume that Peter was a Bishop, he certainly doesn't exercise his right to universal jurisdiction. James presided over Jerusalem and it therefore makes sense when he says "It is MY judgment that..."  He has the last word. 

J. Salza: Wrong.  James wants every one to know at the beginning that he speaks in union with Peter when he says "Simeon has described..."  As far as the statement, "it is my judgment," it is commonplace for bishops to say "it is my judgment" when they are speaking in union with the successor of Peter (just read 2,000 years of encyclicals to see what I mean). Bishops exercise full pastoral authority and can pronounce judgments, so long as it is in union with the pope who is head of the universal Church. It is only a problem when a bishop says, "it is my judgment" when he is not in union with Peter.  Then we have a problem. Further, the Greek for “it is my judgment” (ego krino) really means “it is my opinion.” It does not refer to an authoritative, ecclesiastical pronouncement that James is making. This underscores that James is simply providing his opinion about how to pastorally implement Peter’s doctrinal decision.

Josh: It is evident that even Peter/Simon is afforded a special recognition within James' statement (v. 14) despite his error, and I would admit that this is due to his place of honor among disciples.  But he does not have the last word, or jurisdictional authority, at least not over Jerusalem.

J. Salza: This, as highlighted above, is incorrect.  Peter spoke first. Peter resolved the doctrinal issue first. Peter was the first to speak about salvation for the Gentiles first.  Peter did many things first.  Peter has a primacy in the NT that cannot compare with any other disciple.  Before Peter spoke, the matter was debated. After Peter spoke, the matter was settled (just like Saint Augustine said).

Josh: Now, returning to Peter and Paul, they had a very distinct mission among the Apostles and are equally revered in the Orthodox Church.  To this day, one hardly ever sees icons of just Peter or Paul, but of the two together.  This is both a symbol and call to unification among all Orthodox (and I would say Catholics).

J. Salza: They are both venerated in the Catholic Church.  But, remember, only Peter was given the keys (not Paul).  When the Orthodox realize the significance of the keys, they soon become Catholic. The keys of the kingdom cannot be overlooked in this argument, because they go to the very question of authority and dynastic succession. That is what they represent, and that is what they have effected for 2,000 years. This is why, In Galatians 1:18-19, it says Paul went to visit Peter in Jerusalem and examine (Greek, historesai) him for 15 days. Even though James was the bishop of Jerusalem, Paul chooses to examine Peter, not James. Why? Because Peter was the head of the Church.

Josh: I'm digressing though.  As far as Rome goes, I'm not going to dispute its apostolic and historical importance, but the East has never seen Rome as the end-all to the Church.  After the Fall of Rome, the East had no quarrel with looking towards the New Rome, Constantinople, as its "capital" so to speak.  If they had once believed that Rome was the necessary, all-time, Godly inspired center and head of the Church, why would they even toy with the idea of replacing Rome? 

J. Salza: This proves nothing other than a part of the apostolic Church left the seat of Peter.  This fragmentation continues pitifully every week and every day. One of the earliest letters in Christendom is Pope Clement’s letter to the Corinthian Church in the first century. Even though John the Evangelist was still living on the island of Patmos, and geographically closer to the Corinthian church, the Corinthians appeal to Rome to resolve their dispute (about ordinations). Clement makes it clear in his letter that Rome is the instructor of the other churches. This is a powerful witness of the early primacy that Rome had among the churches.

Josh: The fact is that the Eastern Church, as a whole, never saw Rome in this way, saw changing their focus from the Eternal City to Constantinople was a logical step for them.  Rome was no longer politically or culturally relevant to the East.  Naturally the West would not look towards Constantinople for the same reasons... they were western. 

J. Salza: This again proves nothing theologically.  It certainly does not address the authority that Christ endowed Peter with, in giving him the keys, and exhorting him to feed his lambs, and only praying for him to strengthen his brethren (the other apostles).  The orthodox have no Scriptural grounds to divest Peter from the authority that the Son of God gave him.  It also doesn't consider the many Eastern Catholic churches which have been in union with Peter for 2,000 years.

Josh: This is not to say that the Bishop of Rome was trivial to the East; all Patriarchates are vital and the fact still remained that this was where two of our greatest Apostles were martyred.  That alone afforded a special honor (regardless of Rome's political or cultural status at the time). 

J. Salza: Why don't you do research on what the Byzantine Fathers said about Peter.  If you do, you will be in for a big surprise.  They recognized Peter as Christ's representative, with supreme authority over the earthly Church.  Is this so hard to believe?  God always appointed an earthly representative over his flock throughout salvation history.  You need to dig into this history a bit more.

Josh: Even keeping this in mind, the East never saw Constantinople as the Catholic Church views Rome today.  Just as Peter did not have the last say in Jerusalem, neither did Constantinople.  But even here I am committing a logical fallacy for Peter and Rome are not one and the same.  Peter was Peter and Pope John Paul II is not Peter.

J. Salza: You fail to see the apostolic lineage to John Paul II from the very east you attempt to separate from the Catholic Church.  Your argument just doesn't work.  When you review the history, the east and west were united until the schism, when a portion of the eastern Church left the seat of Peter.  But most of the east is still in union with Peter.  And I pray the rest of the east will rejoin the one Body of Christ posthaste.  Christ prayed for this unity, so that the world would know that He was sent by the Father.

Josh: Now, I am not going to argue Peter's importance AMONG the Apostles. 

J. Salza: No one versed in the New Testament would do such a thing.

Josh: In the Orthodox Church there are still varying views on what Jesus meant by "on the Rock" (just as there was in the Early Church).  Most Orthodox will at least say that the "Rock" refers to Peter's confession but not Peter himself.  No, this is not an argument that Protestants invented for you can find it made by many Early Church Fathers.  (Understandably Catholics would disagree with this and that doesn't offend me in the least.) 

J. Salza: Please provide me with the Fathers who made this argument and their quotes.  And even before you do, saying its Peter's confession is just fine with Catholics, as long as you also say it is Peter the person as well.  My link on Peter the rock proves this beyond a doubt, through the use of Petros, tautee, etc. Jesus doesn’t just build His Church on “confessions” and “faith.” He builds it on people. This is why Scripture says that the Church is built upon the foundation of the apostles, with Peter as the rock, and Jesus the chief cornerstone. I am completing a book called The Biblical Basis for the Papacy, and the Appendix will include quote after quote from the early Fathers from the East to the West, all claiming that Peter is indeed the rock of the Church.

Josh: The most catholic-friendly Orthodox view I have read thus far says that, while "the Rock" referred to his confession, it also referred distinctly to Peter: that he himself was the Rock upon which the Church would build itself.

J. Salza: Now you sound Catholic (which, by the way, isn't so bad, since this position has been articulated by the Fathers and doctors and all the rest for 2,000 years).

Josh: Although his fallible doctrine (as read in Acts 15) and trials in faith (during Christ's passion and when he walked on water with Jesus)…

J. Salza: What?  Peter’s decision to dispense with the Old Covenant practice of circumcision in Acts 15 was fallible?  Help me out here.

Josh:do not argue this well, they do not disprove it either, for it proves him to be a very humble man who had the strength to admit his wrongs in both circumstances and grow from them, a quality that is necessary for any honorable leader.  In this way, it can be argued that Peter offers us an example that God does exclude anyone from His Church based on how perfect or imperfect they are. 

J. Salza: No argument here.  God always chooses the weak to make them strong. That is why he chose Peter to lead the early Church.

Josh: I am actually quite sympathetic to this last interpretation, saying that Peter (along with his confession) is this Rock.  In my mind there is no question that he was seen as First among Equals by his fellow apostle's, because of what Jesus said to him that fateful day.  I say "among Equals" because it is obvious that he did not have the last word... Christ (in the Holy Spirit) did not only speak through Peter but through all of His Apostle's in a special way.

J. Salza: The Holy Spirit spoke through all the apostles, and speaks through Peter and his successors today.  This comment does not in any way diminish Peter's authority and the early Church.  While all the bishops speak with authority, their authority is derived from the keys of Peter. Only Peter was singularly given the power to bind and loose. The apostles share in this authority collectively, not singularly like Peter. I notice how you have not chosen to address the significance of the keys of the kingdom. Protestants (and Orthodox) avoid this argument, because it doesn't generally end well for them. The typology of the chief steward or majordomo of the Davidic kingdom who held the keys, as a prefiguring of Christ’s prime minister in the New Testament Church, is compelling.

Josh: It should also be pointed that the Orthodox Church (unlike the Catholic Church, and I don't mean this disrespectfully, I'm only observing a difference) is conciliar.  Regardless of what the Bishop of Constantinople says, he in no way has the last word.  He has special honor to this day (but even this is just an honor by merit of antiquity) but is not a "Pope" so to speak.  In the same way, there is nothing to say that the Bishop of Rome was seen any differently from the East.  He was respected and revered, but in no means had the last word.

J. Salza: This again is a distortion. First, the Catholic Church is “conciliar.”  That is why it calls its formal meetings of bishops in union with the pope to provide definitive teaching "councils."  By the way, it was these "councils" that provided you the teachings of Christ's divinity, the trinity, the natures of Christ, the hypostatic union, the Bible canon, etc.  Second, Scripture and Tradition both show that Peter and his successors always had the last word. We see this in Acts 15. We see this with Clement’s letter to the Corinthians. And the Orthodox obeyed the councils that were headed and approved by the pope until they broke away from Rome.

Josh: In the end, from the Orthodox point of view, regardless of how one views Peter, his honor and place in the Church was not somehow passed on to his successor (who is in Rome... or is that Antioch? for he presided in both).  Peter is Peter. 

J. Salza: Tell me why not?  In fact, please find me one single quote from an early Church father during the first five centuries of the Church who believed that “Peter’s honor was not passed down to his successor.” The 264 successors to Peter would certainly disagree with you. Such a claim also ignores the Scriptural bases concerning the power and function of the “keys.” The keys not only symbolized the steward’s authority, but were also used to facilitate succession (see Isaiah 22).

Josh: Some Orthodox will say that all Bishops are the Successors of Peter, but this is meant in a very different way than when Catholics say that the Pope in Rome is the Successor of Peter.

J. Salza: Supremacy and succession in the early Church mean just that to Catholics. If you try to undermine the authority that Peter’s successors were given by virtue of their appointments, you essentially undermine the doctrine of apostolic succession, and call into question the authority of your own bishops.

Josh: We believe our Bishops are successors of Peter in that they participate in his Eternal Confession: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. 

J. Salza: All the apostles confessed that after Christ's resurrection (and after Peter betrayed Christ).  But only Peter received the keys of the kingdom. This proves nothing as far as Peter's supremacy.

Josh: Through the laying on of hands (ordination) they are given special sacramental duties and the responsibility to guard Christ's Flock, not the personhood of Peter. 

J. Salza: We agree on ordination, but again, what about the keys?  To whom did they pass?  I'll tell you:  to Linus, Anacletus, Clement, Avaristus, etc.  Why did the early Church know that the keys represented Christ's desire for dynastic succession (and history proves this), but you don't? Did the early Church have it all wrong? I don’t think so. That is the real issue here, and the burden remains with you to disprove what history has already proven. Why would Christ give Peter this supremacy during his life, but not pass it on to successors?

Josh: It should be noted that no bishop (Metropolitan, Archbishop, Patriarch, etc.) is, at least in theory, above any other bishop sacramentally or spiritually. 

J. Salza: The bishop of Rome (the one with the keys), while a bishop like the others, has the supreme authority over the earthly Church, for Christ told him to feed His sheep, and specifically prayed that his faith may not fail, and that he should strengthen the other apostles. Jesus did not grant these distinctions to any other apostle, and neither can we.

Josh: They are all bishops, some just have more jurisdictional responsibilities than others (and because of this are especially honored).  Were there to be a council today, either all bishops would have to be present, or, what is more likely, they would allow the bishop over them (jurisdictionally speaking... not doctrinally) as their representative (just as the Bishop of Rome was not present at some important councils, but he did send a delegate there to represent him).

J. Salza: Please give me an instance in Church history where a definitive teaching was rendered by the Church without the approval of the successor of Peter, and then we will have a discussion about this. A council has absolutely no authority unless and until it is approved by the pope, the bishop of Rome. Your previous bishops believed this until they decided to become schismatics. You keep referring to “honor” among the bishops, but this is really about “authority.”

Josh: Now, practically speaking, more honor often turns into more power... sometimes out of abuse.  I am not trying to be disrespectful, but we as Orthodox would not hesitate to say that the Patriarch in Rome began to abuse his place of honor and usurp special powers which his bishopric had never been afforded in the past. 

J. Salza: Again, please give examples. Of the 264 successors to Peter, I can think of about a half dozen scoundrels (which proves nothing other than members of the Church are not exempt from sinning).  But what compels me as a Catholic is that I see 2,000 years of consistent teaching on faith and morals (notwithstanding bad popes) which tells me, in spite of our sinfulness, God is going to take care of His Church and prevent it from teaching error on faith and morals. Again, you won't find any examples to indict Christ's Church on the grounds that its teachings on faith and morals have erred.  In fact, no church (including yours) has stood side by side with the Catholic church on certain moral issues, such as contraception (even though the apostolic church - read the Fathers - condemned contraception).  Why is that?

Josh: The same may be true one day of the Patriarch of Constantinople were we to have a new council... I don't know.  Also, it may not always be an abuse of honor, but rather out of practicality's sake.  Let's assume again that the Orthodox Church has another Ecumenical Council.  Many Russian bishops (for example) may just assume to follow the advice of the Patriarch of Moscow and stand behind what he says at a Council, trusting in his years of experience and that the Holy Spirit will work through him for the good of the Church.

J. Salza: Okay, fine, but again, this does not prove anything in regard to the supremacy of the successor to Peter.  Any council not in union with Peter is really no council at all, for Christ promised that He would lead His Church (one Church, one Bride, just as there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism) into all truth.  This is why you see the Protestant churches all falling away into serious errors (homosexual marriage, contraception, etc.)  Christ will let them go their own way.  But the gates of hell will never prevail against His Church, for that is His promise (Matt. 16:18-19).  As an orthodox, I would have a real problem with the recent compromises on morality in your church.  This would move me to ask questions about what I really believe and why.

Josh: After all of this, you may notice that not everything is as clean and proper in the Orthodox Church as our Western mentalities would like and there is no doubt that having such a central figure as the Pope has its benefits.  But I would point out that nothing in Church history or dogma (or the Bible) necessitates the Bishop of Rome as the Universal Bishop, not to mention the relatively new idea of infallibility. 

J. Salza: This is a statement that has come out of left field, and undermines the credibility of your otherwise thoughtful and charitable email.  There is a plethora of Scriptural evidence, not to mention a mountain of evidence from the early Church fathers, that points to the bishop of Rome as the successor of Peter.  The Bible gives the "mustard seed" version.  But that mustard seed has grown into an oak tree, as Christ has promised.  Please provide authorities for such incredulous (and unscriptural) statements.

Josh: Practicality may necessitate this for the West, and that's fine, but that cannot be forced upon the rest of the Church as if they are somehow "splintered" because they do not (and have never) seen the Pope of Rome as their Leader.  If we were to become one again, it would have to be similar to what Pope John Paul II has offered... the Pope in Rome would have no jurisdiction in the East, he would be Bishop of the West, and the East would continue as it always had... synodically.

J. Salza: Pope John Paul II offered no such thing. He wants to bring the Orthodox back into the one fold, under His rule. Christ gave us only one Church, with one earthly shepherd, just as God has fathered his covenant family since the beginning.  This usually comes down to pride.  Many people don't want to submit to a pope.  But if they don't, they inevitably become super-popes of their own.  They can easily disagree with their bishops, and priests, and theologians, and this does and has caused unprecedented splintering in Christ's Church during the past 500 years. The Orthodox church, unfortunately, is on the same splintered path, as its own teachings (particularly on sexual morality) become more and more compromised.

Josh: Our way is complicated and messy, even imperfect, but in the end, it works.  We (the Greeks, Russians, Antiochians and so on) have been able to hold one doctrine this way for nearly 2000 years... not without its cultural tiffs... but we are only human. Obviously one could go on forever on both sides.  I'm sorry I wrote so much.  It may make it difficult for correspondence so I will try and keep them shorter in the future.  Thanks so much for your patience in waiting for my response.  I am looking forward to yours.  I should also state that, like most things in history, this is not a black and white subject.  We can use the Church Father's writings to support almost anything, but I am simply looking at what the general mindset of the Early Church of the East was.  God bless you.

J. Salza: Josh, I truly admire your sincerity and your convictions.  You seem to be a man who wants to know the truth.  I have read substantial materials on the Orthodox and Protestant positions before becoming completely convinced of the Catholic Church.  I suggest you do the same.  It is often helpful to read the Catholic position, and then try to refute it, instead of reading an orthodox position and getting fired up about it in the absence of a Catholic rebuttal.  Many Catholics have traveled the rode you are on, and, with a sincere heart, fervent prayer, and an open mind, they see that Christ left us a visible, hierarchical, authoritative, and sacramental Church which has a visible head, and an earthly representative - the successor of Peter.  He has the keys of the kingdom.

Josh: Greetings in Christ. I found your email intriguing.  Before I respond I would like to check out your references.  I'm really curious what books you're reading.  I've been looking at some by some major Catholic theologians (Congar, Dvornak) but haven't been able to find the major points of difference you brought up (re: Rome having jurisdictional authority and such).  Also, I'm curious what Orthodox books you are reading.  But most important are the Catholic books so I can a look at them.  I'll do the same for you.

There are more things I would like to say, but I lack the time and think for now I will leave it at that in case there is anything in your references that make me re-analyze part of my view.  God bless.

J. Salza: Josh, ah, I can understand the lack of time. I barely have time to check all the emails I receive each week about the Church, not to mention my other writing and speaking endeavors, my full-time job, my wife and children. I appreciate the time pinch.

My analysis is based on the plain meaning of the Scriptures, as interpreted by the early Church fathers.  If you want additional (and much more valuable) analysis regarding Peter, go to my site and click on the "Church Fathers" link in my Links section. Mr. Gallegos does a very good job compiling the quotes of the early fathers regarding doctrines of the Catholic faith.  Also, you may want to check out the Navarre Bible commentaries and the Haydock commentary, which are also very good. In addition, I am working on a book called The Biblical Basis for the Papacy which will address all of the pertinent issues involved. Once you get through some of these, feel free to contact me.

Those who come home (become Catholic) most often do so because they cannot reconcile the varied opinions within their own churches on questions of morality, and they look at the 2,000 year history of the Church and (while vehemently try to challenge it) discover that her teachings have been the same since Christ ascended into heaven (the doctrine has developed as our minds have become more open to it, but the basics of the faith have been the same since the apostles - e.g, Peter is the chief shepherd of the earthly Church, the Eucharist is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, the Blessed Mother is the Ark of the New Covenant, the saints are our brothers and sisters in heaven, etc.) 

The morality question is particularly difficult (all churches, including the Orthodox, have compromised their moral positions), and most Christians believe that God would not allow such a thing in His Church.  He wouldn't, and that is why He said the gates of Hades would not prevail against her.  The Church is mystery, as it can only be truly understood by faith (that is why it is part of the Creed - put together by the Catholic Church). She is supernatural.  But she is the vehicle God created to give us His grace and further the work of the Holy Spirit, with Jesus as the cornerstone, Peter as the rock, the apostles as the foundation, and Mary as our Mother.

I am keeping you in my daily prayers.

Josh: Dear John. Thanks you so much for you cordial responses.  Regarding the Catholic Church.  I do respect your Church and Pope John Paul II immensely... but in the end there are things that I just don't agree with.  It's not necessary nor beneficial to talk about them because I have a feeling you are just as convinced of your position as I am of mine.  And I respect, that.  Not the same way I would respect a protestant for being Lutheran or Baptist.  I mean, I would respect this as their decision and as Christians certainly but it would be hard for me to respect the logic behind their stance.  As far as Catholics go, however, I respect their positions... I don't agree with them (when they differ with Orthodoxy) and I do not wish to get into that.  It's nothing highly personal... probably not reasons any different to those of other peole that have chosen Orthodoxy over Catholicism (and we know that it happens the other way too), I've just been in so many of these discussions that go nowhere.  I respect you for being Catholic and I see no reason for you to become Orthodox.  If you were ever to feel you had to, due to certain reasons of conscience, that's you're choice, but usually I would just say, if you are attracted to Orthodoxy, go to an Eastern Rite parish.

I see Catholics as my true brothers and sisters in Christ.  I lived in Spain for two years and although I missed dearly the Orthodox Church and could probably never settle down in Spain for that very reason, the RCC became kind of like an adoptive family for me while I was there.  Obviously nothing can replace the Sacraments (I'm not questioning the validity of your Sacraments, I just do not intercommune since we... are not it full communion), but at least there was that common fellowship which I find very difficult to share with protestants.  I am also very involved in a Catholic Bible Study here on campus. (here's our website  I don't know what I would do without this weekly fellowship.  I have grown to love Western traditions such as Eucharistic Adoration and the Rosary (two practices that in no way go against Orthodoxy but that are simply just traditions that developed in the West).

I should also mention that I became Orthodox about 5 years ago.  I was Lutheran and took a hard look at Catholicism.  I came across many useful resources from the RCC that helped me on my journey home, even though I did end up being lead to East.  Some of these were "Any Friend of God's is a Friend of Mine" (I think that's what the title is.. it's been a while) and Scott Hahn's lecture series on the Gospel of John which was strongly based on the very Catholic Navarre Commentary.

I am not telling you this in hopes that you will think that the Pope is not such a big deal... he is for you... and should be... you're Catholic!  Just like you, there is a little hope inside of me that everyone would just come to the Orthodox Church... but 1) that's unrealistic and 2) I know that some of that comes from my intellectual pride.  I expect people to see things the way I do.  So, in my realist mentality, I just hope for something more attainable: That Catholics and Orthodox would become better Cahtolics and Orthodox; that protestants would come home to be Catholic or Orthodox; and that non Christians would just come to know Christ however possible.  And, my hope is that those who never know Christ, at least learn to know God the best they can through what they've been given.

That is my hope, however optimistic/pesimistic that may be. I should reiterate, that I do feel that the Orthodox Church is the full expression of the early Church liturgically, dogmatically and structurally; just as you feel the same about the Catholic Church.  We aren't going to change our minds on that... and that's ok.  If God really wants me to be Catholic, I will be so... if he really wants you to be Orthodox, I trust you will be so. But my guess is that we will both continue to serve God to the fullest in our respective Churches and, in some small way, contribute to mutual understanding that will one day (God willing!) give way to unity (even if not in our lifetime).  Feel free to write back if you want.

Have a blessed Lenten season,


J. Salza: Dear Josh. Your response to me was passionate and charitable.  You are truly a man for the Lord. I feel blessed when I receive those kinds of emails.  When you think about it, not much separates us.  But I also think about Jesus' prayer in John 17, where he prayed that they may be one.  There is only one true Church, one Bride, just as there is only one Lord, one faith and one baptism.  Throughout salvation history, God has appointed earthly shepherds over His flock (Abraham, Moses, David, etc.).  With Christ, He didn't decide to splinter His New Covenant Kingdom into territorial bishoprics.  He appointed an earthly shepherd, a representative, a royal prime minister over the Kingdom, and that was Peter and His successors. That is why He only gave Peter the keys (just as He gave the keys to the kingdom to the prime minister of the OT Davidic kingdom - Isaiah 22:19-22).  The keys not only represent authority, but also dynastic succession.  This ensures the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17.  And Jesus' prayer for unity was answered indeed.  It is only found in the Catholic Church.  I pray that someday we will be united.

Josh: Dear John. Well, it's been a while since I've responded.  This is mostly because I've been busy with classes but partly because I don't know exactly what to say.  Before I go further, I do want to tell you that I was not avoiding anything with the question of the "keys."  I didn't get into it because I forgot (it was a pretty long letter) and I'm sure I forgot because this, from and Orthodox point of view, has little to do with the See of Rome.  The Orthodox Church has no problem as seeing Peter as First among Equals.  I will point out however that these keys were also given, later on, to the other Apostles.  But this is still beside the point.  We simply do not see any Bishop as representing any Apostle.  All Bishops are successors of Peter in that they, like the other apostles, share in his Divine Confession.

J. Salza: Again, Josh, the function of the “keys” is critical to this discussion. I will leave you to study that issue in more depth. You are incorrect when saying that the “keys were also given, later on, to the other Apostles.” There is no such teaching in Scripture. This, sorry to say, is a fabrication. In fact, your statement just shows that the “keys” pose a problem for you. You have to argue that the other apostles were given the keys (even though Scripture doesn’t say this) in order to mitigate Peter’s unique authority. If Jesus gave Peter alone the keys (which is true), then you have a big problem with your view that all the bishops are on equal footing. I hope you dig more deeply into this.

Josh: Now, I will never convince you of my points, and the truth is: this really doesn't bother me.  I have no desire for you to become Orthodox. Obviously if you were to say, Josh, I am becoming Orthodox, I would be giddy beyond all belief… but what I mean is that I don’t see you as a wayward Christian cut off from Apostolicity.  I recognize your sacraments as fully valid, and you recognize mine (or you should) as such.  Honestly John, we will never have a hierarchy that is completely unified. Some of this is due to pride on both sides; a lot of this is due to honest beliefs (about the Papacy, the Filioque, etc) that will just never be reconciled.  But there is still hope, hope that we can at least move closer to intercommunion.  Fr. Robert Taft (a Jesuit priest-monk) alludes to this.  He is a bit crass, but it is only because he doesn't mince words.  You can see he has no agenda.  He's not "out to prove the Papacy" or to disprove it.  He is just blunt about how he sees it (God bless the Jesuits J). Here's the link: I think you will find it interesting.  It doesn’t really prove anything as far as the Papacy goes, but it's still an interesting read.

Well, I should get going.  My intention was not to offend you, but I do admit I was blunt at times.  I don't really want to beat around the bush and I think this is necessary for us to get to the point.  Again, my purpose is not to persuade you to be Orthodox, only to show you that the issue is not that clear cut, and that conceding that point makes you no less a Catholic.  I am Orthodox and become so more every day by the Grace of God... this is who I am, this is where I have been called to be.  So I will tell you right now that I honestly am not going to give in on this.  It’s important that you understand this so that I don’t mislead you in anyway.  I just don't want to give you false pretenses as if I were “seeking”.  I am around very faithful Catholics on a weekly if not daily basis and next year I will be living with the leader of the Catholic Bible Study I attend.  If I were to be compelled to become Catholic, it would certainly not be through any e-mails.  I'm not trying to be pretentious, it's just the truth.  God has ample opportunity to call me Westward if He wishes and if that is so, I will make that difficult move.  But these experiences (including this one) have only further confirmed my Orthodoxy.  I entered this discussion that I might learn... and believe me, I've learned a lot.  So, I don't mind continuing this, but if you feel this is a waste of time and is void of any real purpose, that's fine, you won't offend or make me think less of you.  If you decide, however, to continue corresponding, even if it’s just lighter stuff (or not), I look forward to future correspondence with you.

Have a Blessed and Powerful Holy Week.

J. Salza: Dear Joshua. Thank you for your message.  I enjoy the dialogue and respect your traditions.  Yes, you have valid orders and valid sacraments.  The only issue I would have if I were you is the inconsistency of the Orthodox position on questions of morality, specifically, sexual morality.  The Orthodox church has abandoned some of the Catholic Church's teachings on sexual morality. The Orthodox, just like the Anglican, Lutheran, and other "protestant" branches of Christianity, have not stood with the Catholic Church on these very important issues that bear upon our salvation.  Only the Catholic Church has maintained her teachings. That tells me that the Orthodox church, while invested with valid orders, has not been given the special charism of teaching faith and morals without err. 

We can read all the books about doctrinal disputes between the Orthodox and the Catholic Church, but this ultimately comes down to faith.  I believe that God is bound by His justice to provide a mechanism that will help us discern between truth and error.  There is only one Church that has demonstrated this miraculous truth throughout her history - the Catholic Church.  Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom and the power to bind and loose.  Jesus chose ONE shepherd for his earthly Church.  This should be no surprise to you. God always had one representative over His people throughout the Old Testament.  Why would He do so for 5,000 years, only to establish His New and Everlasting Covenant kingdom among many different bishops, with no longer a visible head?  This simply makes no sense.  I would ask you to appeal to reason and history here, and not the academic or doctrinal questions our dialogue raises.  The Orthodox church is simply not unified in teaching matters on faith and morals. This cannot be God's plan for His people.  God desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

Have a blessed Easter, and God bless.

John Salza



10. The seat of Moses

Gene: Long time no see John. I have one question that will answer one thousand: Was the Seat of Moses an infallible authority?

-- Gene

J. Salza: Gene, the Jews had access to God’s infallible judgments through the leaders that God appointed over them (Moses, Solomon, etc). This was also true in the case of the Sanhedrin. This is why Caiaphas could prophesy infallibly about Jesus’ pending death for the sins of His people. This is also why Jesus recognizes their authority to “bind and loose,” and tells his disciples to “obey what they teach, but not what they do” Matt. 23:2-3 (of course, this was limited to the Old Testament side of the cross). However, the Jews’ access to God’s divine judgments was obviously limited; otherwise, the Sanhedrin would not have rejected their Messiah.

After Jesus established His Church and gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, Peter's chair became the new seat of authority under the New Covenant.  This is why, when the Pope officially speaks on a matter of faith and morals with the intention of proclaiming a universal doctrine for the Church (which is rare), we say He is speaking "ex cathedra" (from the "chair"). Jesus’ use of the “chair of Moses” certainly shows a continuum of authority as the New Covenant replaced the Old.

John Salza



11. Petros versus petra

Rey: Dear John. Peace be unto you and all your loved ones. I'm an avid fan of your great website It's the most helpful website on Biblical apologetics because it summarizes everything what a catholic should believe and defend. I'm glad to tell you that I used your notes (of course, I acknowledge your authorship) in my Religious Studies classes here in University of St. La Salle, Bacolod City, Philippines Thank you very much for your great help to us Catholics who are in dire need for Biblical support for our faith.

I have observed, by the way, that we Catholics have poor response to Eschatological discussions such as rapture, millennium, tribulation, 70 weeks of Daniel, Revelation and even Dispensationalism. How about working out those topics? I would be very pleased if you can do that. It might be the first Catholic website that is very comprehensive to answer all the interest Catholics and non-Catholics alike.


God bless.


Asst. Prof. Religious Studies Dept.

J. Salza: Dear Rey. Thank you very much for your kind words and use of the website for teaching and apologetics. I currently have a page in the Eschatology section called “The Second Coming / Rapture” that deals with this topic on a basic level. I soon will have a page called “Zionism” that will provide much more depth to the topic, and give a thorough refutation of the Rapture from a biblical perspective. Stay tuned.

Rey: Dear John, Good day! Were you a former Protestant before, what denomination, and were you a pastor? Your analysis of the biblical verses are clear, direct and powerful. You also gave comments on Masonry ... were you a Mason before? I hope you can give a bit of your personal info in your website because that would inspire more your readers.

By the way, in your analysis of the term Peter, my students pointed out that you wrote "Petros means rock" and "Petra means stone". I think it's the opposite: Petrus, masculine gender in Gk, is small stone and Petra, feminine in Gk, is rock or boulder. Perhaps, a typographical error from you. Your analysis of petrine supremacy is really great and helpful. Same with your textaul analysis about second coming and rapture. Keep up your great work. I'm waiting for your next articles.

In Christ,


J. Salza: Dear Rey, thanks for the email.  I am a cradle Catholic, but I became ensnared in Freemasonry, and became lukewarm in my faith.  The Holy Spirit set me on fire, and I left Masonry, and am now devoting myself to Catholic apologetics, especially all the issues that I had to address and resolve during my reversion.

Regarding Petros, I think your students got mixed up a bit.  I will try to explain here:

1.  The Greek word for rock is "petra" (there is no word "petros").

2.  Jesus called Simon "Kepha" which, in Aramaic, means a large rock, or massive rock formation.

3.  When the Gospel was translated into Greek, the writers translated Kepha into Petros (not petra).  This was done to masculinize the name of Peter as Petros.

4. Because petra in Greek can mean a small rock and the translation reads Petros, Protestants attempt to say that Jesus was calling Peter a small rock, in order to diminish Peter's significance.

5.  But if Jesus wanted to call Peter a small rock, the translation would have read "lithos" (meaning small pebble in Greek), not "Petros."

6. Nevertheless, Jesus said Kepha (not "evna" meaning small pebble), so the
Petra v. Petros comparison (which really doesn't exist in Greek anyway) is
irrelevant. I hope this helps.

Grace be with you.

John Salza



12. Is the Church only a symbol?

Mr. Salza, a Methodist told me that when Christ said He will destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, the rebuilding of the temple was symbolic for His Church, which is none other than Christ Himself. Therefore, the Catholic Church cannot possibly be the true Church because the Church is just a symbol. I am sure you have a response to this, don't you?

J. Salza: The Temple Christ was referring to was His body (the Church was not destroyed and then raised up in three days, right?) So your Protestant friend’s argument really makes no sense.  Saint Paul also talks about Christ's body as the Temple, and, as those baptized in Christ, are bodies are also temples of the Holy Spirit. 

The Church is not a symbol. It is the visible body of Christ, the living and breathing reality of Christ’s presence among us. Remember also that Christ gave Peter and the apostles the authority to "bind and loose in heaven what they bound and loosed on earth” (Matt. 16:19; 18:18).  Binding and loosing are visible acts, not symbolic ones.  Jesus said a city set on a hill cannot be hidden, and this is the Church on earth.

Grace be with you.

John Salza



13. A sensitive dialogue with someone considering the Catholic Church

J: Salza: Lisa, I will go through your questions.

Lisa:  I still have concerns about some of the things brought up about Catholicism on another website:

J. Salza: This website craziness. It is really too bad.  There is not one scintilla of truth in any of it.

Lisa: The author brings up the case of the thief on the cross to whom Jesus said, "Today you will be with me in paradise" and how that 'proves' that there is no such thing as purgatory.

J. Salza: The author is mistaken. First, even if the good thief went straight to heaven, this does not prove that there is no purgatory (especially when such verses as 1 Cor. 3:15 prove that there is a purgatory). When someone dies a bloody, painful and repentant death (like the good thief did), he may be ready for heaven with no need of purgatory.  Also, remember that punctuation was not part of the Scriptures until they were translated and put into books around 1400 A.D.  So Jesus could have actually said, "I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise."  Notice where the comma is.  In this case, Jesus' reference to paradise would have had nothing to do with whether the good thief would be in paradise on that day or later.  It would just mean that Jesus was telling him something today, right now, right here, sort of like putting an exclamation on His statement.

Lisa: Also, tonight I spoke on the phone with my ex-boyfriend's mom (who is a Catholic - she was raised in the church) who said that because their was fear of individual interpretation of the Bible, she remembers when it was not encouraged and sometimes forbidden to read one's Bible.  She couldn't answer some of my other questions, though, so maybe this is misinformation on her part?

J. Salza: Yes.  During the Enlightenment period, the intellectual movement known as Rationalism swept throughout Europe. This led many to interpret the Scriptures outside the teaching authority of the Church. Martin Luther furthered this with his novel theology of Sola scriptura (scripture alone).This led to private judgment theology and has given rise to the 30,000 different Protestant denominations. The Church emphasized that the Scriptures must be read in light of the apostolic Tradition that was handed down through the ages.  As Saint Peter writes in his epistle, Scripture is not a matter of personal interpretation.  It therefore must mean that it is a matter of public interpretation, and that is the interpretation of the Church.  The Church has always encouraged reading the Scriptures.  In fact, the Catholic Church is the one who first translated the Scriptures into the vernacular. Why? Because she wanted the Scriptures to be available to as many people as possible. Protestants don’t often talk about this history, do they?!

Note also that Catholics get more Scripture than any other Christian faith.  We literally read the entire Bible every 3 years during the Mass.  But many Catholics have not been properly educated with the Scriptures in the past 30 years. But we need to become Scripture Catholics! That is why I started this website. We need to reclaim the patrimony that is truly ours. The Bible is a Catholic book; it is THE Catholic book because it was given by God to the Church.

Lisa: I am sorry if I am bothering you with my questions - I am just so afraid of falling into another of Satan's traps without knowing it - I have done that many times in my life.

J. Salza: I believe the Lord is leading you home to the Catholic Church.  This is the Church Christ built upon Peter and the apostles.

Lisa: According to Protestants, I would go to hell if I were Catholic because I would be 'deceived' even though I had the best of intentions.  Somehow that doesn't make sense to me - that God Almighty would know how confused I am yet punish me for all eternity because I 'guessed wrong.'

J. Salza: You are absolutely correct.  That Protestant theology is nonsense.  One cannot commit mortal sin unless she knows what she is doing is wrong and does it anyway.  But your investigation of the Church is not wrong.  God wants all people to seek the truth and come to the knowledge of Christ His Son.  If you continue your journey, I believe you will find the fullness of the truth of Jesus in the Catholic Church.

Lisa: What do you think about that website?  Is it completely false?  Again, the link is:

J. Salza: I know it is false. Whatever else I can address in it for you, just let me know.

Lisa: Thank you so much for your help and your website.  May God bless you richly.

J. Salza: Thank you.  May God bless you.

Lisa: Hi John, I have been reading many links on your website and am still confused as to why Protestants say Catholics 'pray to the dead'.  Any suggestions to help me clear this up? Thanks for your help! By the way, I agreed that the Jesus-Is-Lord website is run by a fanatic.

J. Salza:  Hi Lisa, The Jesus-is-Lord website sounds like it is run by a fanatic.  I wouldn't waste my time with that site.

Regarding intercessory prayer, Catholics don't pray to the dead. They pray to the living! Those living with Christ are more alive than we are, because they are enjoying the beatific vision for all eternity.  As Jesus said, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Therefore, we invoke their assistance by asking them to pray for us.  It is as simple as that.  Yes, we pray directly to God.  But we also ask our brothers and sisters who have gone before us to pray to God for us as well.  Just like if I asked you to pray for me. The Catholic Church is the family of God, both on earth and in heaven. We are not cut off from our loved ones in heaven, but through Christ, are joined to them through the Church. Since the prayers of the righteous are powerful, and those in heaven are righteous, we seek their prayers which are more powerful than ours can be.

Look at my link on intercessory prayer.  Scripture is replete with verses that talk about intercessory prayer.  We see in the Apocalypse how the prayers of the saints rise up as incense before the throne of God. God allows us to participate in Christ's mediation by praying for others. I will try to contact you in the near future. Take care and God bless.

Lisa: Dear John. Thank you for your response.  I would appreciate knowing some good links and/or books to check out.  There are several things I am concerned about with the Catholic Church.  For example, (I believe it is on the 'slideshow' part of that link I sent you) I have seen pictures of the Pope with an upside-down cross on his throne-looking chair.

J. Salza: Thank you for the reply.  I will try to address some of your concerns in a quick email (which is never sufficient).  I will also try to call you and talk viva voce. As far as books, I would start by reading Gospels, and then the Catechism of the Catholic Church (this will tell you everything the Church teaches "from the horse's mouth" - instead of relying on misleading Protestant assertions.) You can pick up a Catechism for $12 from any Catholic bookstore. You can also read my book The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith which can be purchased from Our Sunday Visitor at

I have seen pictures of the Pope with an upside-down cross on his throne-looking chair; Saint Peter, the first pope, was crucified upside down (because he said he was unworthy of dying the way Christ died).  The cross on Pope John Paul II's chair was reflecting the death of Peter as he was sitting "on the seat of Peter.”

Lisa: In the Bible there is a scripture in the New Testament that warns of people who ‘forbid to marry' and who teach 'abstaining from meats' - so I have a problem with the celibacy of nuns and monks, etc. 

J.Salza:  Go to, the priesthood link, and look for the link on celibacy. Saint Paul was teaching against those early cults that forbid marriage outside the teachings of Christ.  The Catholic Church, on the other hand, exalts marriage to a sacrament (it does not even do this for consecrate celibacy).  Celibacy is just a church discipline in the Western church; in the east, priests can marry in certain circumstances. But if you see my link, you see that Christ praises celibacy and recommends that all who can receive the gift, should receive it.  Saint Paul also recommends celibacy.  You also see in the Apocalypse that those consecrated to celibacy are praised in the heavenly kingdom.  As far as abstaining from meats, that has nothing to do with celibacy. Paul was referring to Judaizers in the church who kept preaching that Christians were still required to obey the edicts of the Mosaic law regarding food. As we know, the Mosaic law, with all its edicts regarding food, has been made null and void by the New Covenant.

Lisa: I have a real issue with praying 'through' Mary so she could make some intercession on my behalf, since I believe I am an adopted daughter of God Almighty, and those who prayed throughout the Bible prayed directly to God.

J. Salza: Mary is always a big hurdle for many non-Catholics.  Yes, you are an adopted daughter of God through the mediation of Jesus Christ.  However, Christ allows us to participate in his mediation on a subordinate level. Hence, we can ask others to pray for us to God.  Well, those in heaven are more alive than we are on earth.  Thus, we can ask them to pray for us as well, as they behold the face of God.  There is no one closer to Jesus in heaven than His Mother Mary.  We can therefore ask her to intercede for us before her Son. She helps make our prayers acceptable to God. Recall in the Old Testament that the Davidic king always had his mother at Hiss right hand, who would intercede for him.  Christ is the true Davidic king, and Mary is the true Queen Mother, at Her Son's right hand. Jesus never refuses the requests of His mother Mary. Also, the New Testament is replete with verses where the writers ask for prayers. Also, in the book of Revelation, we see the prayers of the saints, include Mary, rising up as incense before God.

Lisa: Never once did Jesus ask Mary to intercede for Him, and neither did Paul or any others I have read speak of doing so.

J. Salza: This is not so. Please read the Gospel of John, chapter 2, about Christ's first miracle at Cana.  Mary intercedes for those at the wedding feast because they were out of wine.  Jesus invites Mary’s intercession by responding to her, “what does that have to do with me and you?”  Mary then furthers her intercession by telling the stewards to do whatever Jesus told them.  Mary brings about Jesus' ministry through her motherly intercession at a wedding feast which prefigures the wedding feast of the lamb at the end of time.  Mary's reply would not make any sense unless Jesus was welcoming her intercession, and she knew this.

Lisa: I have a problem with the crucifix, as Christ rose and is at the Father's right hand – I view the crucifix as a way for Satan to 'keep Him on the cross' so-to-speak.

J. Salza:  Actually, it was Satan who kept telling Jesus to come down from the cross.  Not the cross! Anything but the cross!  Satan wanted Christ down from the cross because Christ on the cross is the greatest act of love God has ever showed human kind.  We exalt the cross because it is the pure sacrifice that has made peace with God, and the greatest paradox of salvation history. Saint Paul said that "we preach a Christ crucified."  We do not just preach a Christ risen.  Protestants take Jesus down from the cross because they do not like the question of suffering.  But it was through Jesus' propitiatory suffering and death that we are healed.

Lisa: I have a problem with the repetition of prayers and many, many other issues.

J. Salza:  The issue is with the "vain," and not the "repetition." Please see this link: God, in fact, inspired the sacred writers to offer Him repetitious prayers (see, for example, Psalm 136 and Daniel 3:52-66).

Lisa:  My phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX if you would like to call me. Thank you John for your help and response, and I thank God that you are freed from Masonry!

J. Salza: Thank you!  I thank God for this grace as well.  God bless you.



14. A dialogue with a former (now, anti) Catholic

Jacqueline: Dear John, Thanks for your email.  I am surprised you are still writing to me.

J. Salza:  I have no problem dialoging with someone who loves Jesus.  It is not principally about who is “right or wrong,” it is about who believes in the fullness of truth that Christ gave to us through His apostles and their successors.  Yes, non-Catholic Christians are loved by Christ and members of His body.  But non-Catholics have not yet accepted the totality of Christian truth which has been given by Christ to His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.  I agree with you that Jesus is everything, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and this is why I have given my life to Him.  But as a follower of Christ, I listen to what He teaches in Sacred Scripture. 

Jacqueline:  Finally we agree on something!  We must OBEY Christ to the letter, and worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, NOT the way we want to.

J. Salza: But to obey Christ, we must obey the teachings of His Church.  Christ intended to leave us a unified, hierarchical and authoritative Church whom He guides into all truth.  It is not "Jesus, the Bible and me."  If it were, tell me why there are 33,000 different Protestant denominations?  Christ loves us so much, He left us a Church to teach us the entirety of His truth, and protect us from error.  God is in fact bound by His justice to provide us a mechanism that keeps us from error.  That mechanism is not the Bible, which is subject to many different interpretations.  That mechanism is the Church, the Bride!  This is proven by 2,000 years of consistent teaching on faith and morals, and further underscored by the continued splintering of non-Catholic Christian churches who all claim to go by the Bible alone.

In John 6:35-66, Jesus says over and over again that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, or we have no life in Him. But, I know, you Protestants don't think he really meant that.

Jacqueline: My dear John, I am NOT a Protestant.  I was born a Roman Catholic.  And yes I agree in the Doctrine of Transubstantiation.  I would not bother going to Mass if I did not believe that.

J. Salza: Jacqueline, if you believe in transubstantiation, then you believe that the Catholic Church has a valid priesthood.  This makes you Catholic.  No other Church teaches transubstantiation (that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, and the bread and wine no longer remain). If you believe in the Church's teaching on transubstantiation, then why don't you believe in the Church's other teachings? If you are Catholic, then why are we debating? 

Jacqueline: I also point out that the word "transubstantiation" is not in the Bible, and this was not defined by the Church until late in the Church's history.  This shows that you believe in a Tradition that is found outside of Scripture.

J. Salza: Now you don’t sound Catholic. Where in the Bible does it say that it has to be in the Bible for it to be true? No where. Further, while the term “transubstantiation” was not formally defined until Lateran IV, the Church always taught that the elements of bread and wine miraculously become the body and blood of Christ. If you read the Church fathers, they used different terminology (transform, transmute, convert), but they were all attempting to explain the miracle that the substance of the bread and wine changes into the substance of Christ’s body and blood. Lateran IV settled the terminology, but the doctrine was always there.

Jacqueline: You believe that Jesus gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins, but he really gave this gift to all Christians. We too can forgive and retain sin.

J. Salza: No, that is not so.  That is not what the Scriptures say.  In John 20:23, Christ only breathed upon the apostles and gave them this authority.  He did not grant it to Mary or anyone else.  Yes, we can forgive each other, but, unless we are ordained (which gets back to the valid priesthood issue that you have already acknowledged), we cannot sacramentally absolve someone's sins.  You should also consider why your position was never taught by any Christian for at least 1,500 years (in fact, I am not aware of any Protestant church that teaches that all Christians can absolve sin). Also, you will not be able to find any early Church father teaching your position.

In fact, let’s pursue your statement a bit further. You say we all can retain sin.  If I confess my sins to God with a contrite heart, do you mean that you have the authority to judge my contrition, and retain my sins against me?  That is what you are saying in your comment.  This is not true.

Also, if you have the power to bind and loose, does this mean that you can perform the priestly act of consecrating the bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ?  If so, why go to Mass?  I don't mean to be glib, but I hope you can see how problematic it is to accepting some of the teachings of the Church but not others. 

Jacqueline: You also always point to Matthew 16:18 to show that only Peter is the rock of the Church. But that verse can be read both ways -- Jesus as the Rock, and Peter as the rock also.

J. Salza: No, it can't.  When you read Matt. 16:18-19, you can see there is an exchange of titles - Peter says, "You are the Christos!" and Jesus says, "You are the Petros!"  Also, the Greek demonstrative adjective "tautee" is used to describe "Petros" which means "this very rock," or "this same rock," in reference to Peter.  Peter is the only referent for “this,” which means Peter is the rock of Matthew 16:18.

Are you saying you believe in the Eucharist, but not that the Church was built upon Peter? 

Jacqueline: Further, ALL the Apostles were equal in authority.  Peter did not have precedence over the others.  They were all one.  Matter of fact, the leader of the first Christian Church in Jerusalem was James, and not Peter.

J. Salza: This is also not true, and certainly not biblical.  Go to my site and see the link PRIMACY of PETER.  Peter was the chief shepherd of the apostles.  Jesus only prays for Peter, that Peter may strengthen the rest of the apostles (Luke 22:31-32), and charges Peter in John 21:15-17 to "feed my sheep," "tend my lambs," "tend my sheep."

Most importantly, while all the apostles were granted the authority to bind and loose, only Peter was given the keys.  Read Isaiah 22:19-22.  The keys symbolized authority over the household of God.  The keeper of the keys served as the chief steward, or prime minister of the house.  When Christ gave Peter the keys, he was appointing him chief steward over the Church, which is the kingdom of heaven.  Also, Peter's keys symbolize the use of dynastic succession, just as in Isaiah 22:19-22 (keys pass from Shebna to Eliakim). Peter was the chief steward of the new Davidic kingdom, and these keys have passed to 263 successors over the last 20 centuries.

Also, where in the Bible does it say James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem?  Where does it say that Jesus gave James the keys, charged James to strengthen the rest of the apostles, and commanded James to tend the sheep?  If James was the leader of the Church at Jerusalem, then why does Peter (not James) do the first order of business at the church in Jerusalem right after Pentecost by initiating a successor to Judas? (Acts 1:15).  Why is Peter (not James) the first person in the Church at Jerusalem to preach the Gospel after Pentecost (Acts 2:14)? Why does Peter (not James) declare the Church's first anathema of Anaias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3)? 

Why is Peter (not James) the first one in the church at Jerusalem to teach about salvation for both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10:34-48; 11:1-18)?  Why is Peter (not James) the one to resolve the Church's first doctrinal debate at the council of Jerusalem, and the whole assembly kept silent (Acts 15:7-12)? If James is the leader, why does he only speak after Peter's definitive teaching on circumcision, only to acknowledge Peter's definitive teaching (Simeon Peter has related...) Acts 15:13-14?  Why does Paul spend 15 days with Peter in Jerusalem (not James, who was the bishop of Jerusalem) prior to beginning his ministry, even though he was directly converted by Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:18)?

I believe that you are a sincere Christian, but I sense that you are not getting your information from a thorough study of Scripture, but from anti-Catholic sources.

Jacqueline: Yes all Christians have the power to bind or loosen.  It's a Spiritual power that was given to ALL Christians.  The problem is that most Christians don't know how to utilise this power.

J. Salza: Where does it say all Christians have the power to bind and loose in the Bible?  It doesn't.  Moreover, if this were the case, you would have to be able to show me from the Bible how to properly utilize this power.  But, of course, this is not in the Bible either.  Binding and loosing are rabbinical terms that are reserved for the leaders of the Church.  See for example Matt. 23:2-4 - Jesus acknowledges the Pharisees authority to bind and loose under the Old Covenant.  Not all Jews had this authority, only the successors to the seat of Moses.  Similarly, only the apostles, and not all Christians, have the binding and loosing authority of the New Covenant.

In Matthew 18:18, Jesus gives His other apostles the authority to bind and loose in heaven what he binds and looses on earth, but he only gives the apostles this authority collectively. He gives Peter alone the power to bind and loose individually. The apostles can only bind and loose when united to Peter. Ordinary non-ordained Christians have no power to bind and loose.

Jacqueline: Yes we have that power too!

J. Salza: Again, were does it say that in the Bible?  Also, point me to an early father or doctor of the Church that agrees with you. See my comments above. 

Jacqueline: We are also not born again by baptism, but by accepting Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.

J. Salza: Where does it say that in the Bible? When Jesus talks about being “born again,” He is referring to baptism. In John 3:5, Jesus says that we must be born of water and the Holy Spirit in reference to baptism, or we cannot enter the kingdom of God. 

Jacqueline: I agree!  There are 2 baptisms.  One with water, and one with Fire --which only the Holy Spirit can give.

J. Salza: This is not what I said, and your statement is also incorrect. There are not two baptisms.  There is only one baptism, just as one Lord and one faith.  (Ephesians 4:5).  Again, your position is not biblical.  But hopefully we agree that baptism is salvific, not just symbolic.

In 1 Tim. 3:15, Paul calls the Church (not the Bible) the pinnacle and foundation of the truth.  But, I know, you Protestants don't believe he really meant that.

Jacqueline: And WHAT is the Church?  The Church is NOT a building of mortar and stone.  The Church is the Mystical Living Body of Christ lead by His Spirit.  WE are the Church!

J. Salza: No. The Greek word for Church here is "ecclesia," which refers to the visible, hierarchical and authoritative Church, not an invisible, ethereal body of believers loosely connected by faith in the Bible alone.  Again, if you acknowledge a valid priesthood, then you must acknowledge that Christ divinely instituted a Church as well.  What Church?   Only the Catholic Church claims and proves to be Christ's Church.

In 2 Thess. 2:15, Paul commands the faithful to obey Tradition, whether it is oral or written (He never says written alone, and he never repeals this command anywhere else in Scripture).  But, I know, you Protestants don't believe he really meant that.

Jacqueline: Tradition must be faithful to Holy Scripture.  No religious denomination can make-up their own Traditions as it pleases them!

J. Salza: Where does it say in the Bible that Tradition must be faithful to Holy Scripture?  It doesn't.  This is because Scripture IS a tradition.  As we see in 2 Thess. 2:15, Tradition is not limited to what is written.  It also includes the oral teachings of the apostles.  Because you claim to be faithful to the Scriptures, which oral Traditions do you follow?

Jacqueline: What Signs and Gifts of the Holy Spirit do YOU have? 

J. Salza: Wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.  Isaiah 11:2 (from the Latin Vulgate which Protestants rejected 1200 years after it was given to us by the Catholic Church).

Jacqueline: Do you believe the Gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to ALL Christians or only given to a select few?

J. Salza: God desires all people to be saved, and gives all people gifts of the Spirit.  But those in full communion with Christ through the Church He founded have a better chance at growing in holiness and achieving the salvation Christ won for them, than those who do not have the fullness of truth. 

Jacqueline: If you don't have any of the Gifts of the Spirit, you have nothing but text-book Theology, and your "christianity" is DEAD.

J. Salza: I like your usage of the phrase "text-book theology."  That is exactly what non-Catholic Christians have - a religion of the book, and not a religion of the Incarnate Word of God as given to us by the living Tradition of the living Bride of Christ, the Church.

Jacqueline: When I listen to American evangelists on T.V. I hear many of them say "God told me this ...." and "the Holy Spirit said to me this and this ...."   The question is how come you never hear any Catholic say God/the Holy Spirit told me so and so?  How come you never see any Catholic displaying the Gifts of the Spirit?

J. Salza: First, you should not use the word "never" here because Catholics have claimed to be displaying the gifts of the Spirit for 2,000 years. Second, you just got done telling me to avoid the traditions of men, and yet you are deferring to television preachers? God has chosen to speak to us principally through His Church.  This is because, in God's infinite wisdom, He knew that some would be claiming to speak in God's name, but were not.  How come one evangelist says that God told him baptism is only symbolic, but another evangelist says God told him that baptism is actually what saves us?  Who is right?  Explain what means you have to discern truth from error, if not for the Church? 

You only know of transubstantiation because the Church has definitively taught this to us.  Even on the most basic question of baptism, these "God-inspired" preachers cannot agree.  Christ speaks to us through His Church.  This does not mean the Church leadership always behaves properly.  To the contrary, I am outraged by some of the scandal in the Church right now.  But the issue is the teaching of the Church, and not the conduct of her members.  The Church has a deposit of Faith that has not changed for 2,000 years.

As far as what Catholic has displayed the gifts of the Spirit, what about Pope John Paul II?  What about Saint Padre Pio (and his gifts of bilocation, stigmata, tongues, and quite probably an empty grave)? What about Mother Theresa and her works of mercy and charity?  I could go on and on and on.  Jacqueline, come home to the Church of your baptism.



15. More challenges from a "Bible Christian"

Marika: Dear John. The fact that you look to human beings proves that you do not look to the word of God first and that you do not trust the word of God above any human statement or so called "proof" that humans give.  The proof that you ask for is in the word of God.  Have you read the book of Acts yet?  Please show me where in this book the Catholic church resembles in the least, the church that Jesus founded.  The "proof" you gave me is written by a man and his letter is not the inspired word of God so it is not infallible.  The word "catholic" does not even appear in the bible.

J. Salza: Who told you that the book of Acts was inspired? It wasn't the book of Acts. It wasn't even the Bible, since the Bible does not tell us what books belong in it.  This poses quite a dilemma for you, because if you would spend two minutes studying history, you would discover that the Catholic Church told us what books were inspired, and what books were not. 

Who gave it that authority? Jesus Christ, who built the Church upon Peter the rock (Mt 16:18-19).  The fact that you believe in the Bible means that you accept an infallible decision made by the Catholic Church at her regional councils in A.D. 382, 393, and 397.  Why do you accept the Church's teaching on the authority and inspiration of the Scriptures, but not her other teachings?

Regarding what is “in” the Bible: the word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. But you believe in the Trinity, don’t you? The canon of Scripture is not in the Bible, but you believe in the canon, don’t you? The word “Bible” is not in the Bible, but you believe in the Bible, don’t you? Please tell me where the Bible says that it has to be “in the Bible” in order for it to be true. The fact is, the Bible doesn’t say that, and you don’t believe that anyway, based on the foregoing truths that are not in the Bible, but that you believe.

You are operating under the false presupposition that everything must be in the Scriptures to be true. Yet Scripture never teaches such a thing. I normally would have you prove your presupposition from the Scriptures before entertaining this dialogue, but I will go along with you in this case.

Marika: The Catholic church does not teach what God teaches in most cases.  The most important is in the teaching of salvation:  The Catholic church teaches that salvation is attained by cooperating with grace through faith, good works, and participation in the sacraments (Catechism 183, 1129, 1815, 2002).  The bible teaches that salvation is attained by grace through faith apart from works (Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5).  Good works are the result, not the cause, of salvation (Ephesians 2:10). 

J. Salza: Wrong. Scripture teaches that we achieve salvific justification by faith and works, and not faith alone (James 2:24).  The works of Eph 2:8-9 refer to works of the Mosaic law or any works where we view God in a contractual way (He owes us), not a covenantal way (He does not owe us but will reward us as our Father). Eph. 2:8-9 do not refer to good works done in the grace of Christ. This is the whole paradigm of Paul's teaching on justification - grace versus law.  Works done in a system of law, where we view God as a debtor to us, do not justify us.  Works done in a system of grace, when we view God as Father who owes us nothing, do justify us.

Marika: The Catholic church teaches that faith is belief in God and the firm acceptance of all that the Catholic church proposes for belief (181-182, 1814).  The bible teaches that saving faith is the entrusting of oneself to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:8-17). 

J. Salza: The Bible never uses the phrase "saving faith," so it can’t be teaching what you just proposed.  Since the Bible does not distinguish between saving faith and false faith, your exegesis is erroneous. Moreover, the Bible says that we must eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood, or we have no life in us (John 6:54). The Bible says he who believes and is baptized will be saved (Mk 16:16). The Bible says that the prayers of priests will save the sick man (James 5:15). The Bible says that women can be saved through child bearing (1 Tim. 2:15). It looks like the Bible says a lot more about how to be saved than what you are proposing.

Marika: The Catholic church teaches that no one can know if he will attain to eternal life and that the Catholic church is necessary for salvation (1036, 2005, 846).  The bible teaches that the believer can know that he has eternal life by the Word of God (1 John 5:13) and that there is no one but the Lord Jesus Christ that can save us (Acts 4:12). 

J. Salza: When John uses the phrase “eternal life” in this text, he is referring to the current state of the believer on earth, not the final state of the believer in eternity. Scripture uses “eternal life” both ways. John also says that the person knows he has eternal life by believing in the Son, not because he reads Scripture. The Scripture serves as a witness for that belief. The word for “believe” (from the Greek, “pisteo”) includes obeying the Son. Thus, when Jesus tells us that we must endure to the end to be saved (Mt 10:22; 24:13; Mk 13:13), our “belief” in Him necessarily includes persevering in that belief to the end of our lives. Jesus obviously believes that we could fall away from our genuine belief in Him, otherwise His warning would make no sense. This is why John, from whom you choose to quote, tells us to “abide” in the Son and the Father (1 Jn 2:24). The Bible teaches us that we must “obey,” and “persevere,” and “abide” in order to have eternal life.

Marika: The Catholic church teaches that eternal life is a merited reward (1821, 2010).  The bible teaches that eternal life is the free gift of God (Romans 6:23). 

J. Salza: The Bible also teaches that eternal life has been merited, by the Passion of Jesus Christ.  This means that it is a free gift, but has been merited for us, since there is nothing that we could have done to merit it ourselves. Nevertheless, Paul tells us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). This means that salvation is a free gift, but we need to participate with God’s grace in receiving the gift by “working it out with fear and trembling.”

Marika: The Catholic church teaches that Scripture and tradition together are the Word of God (81, 85, 97, 182).  The bible teaches that Scripture is the Word of God (John 10:35, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1: 20-21).  Tradition is the words of men (Mark 7: 1-13).  The bible warns that we should "not be taken captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men (Colossians 2:8).  We are to judge all doctrinal teaching by the Word of God (Matthew 7:15-20, 1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 John 4:1).

J. Salza: The Bible teaches that Scripture is the Word of God, but it also teaches that the apostolic tradition is God’s Word as well. 2 Thess 2:15 teaches us that we are to obey the Tradition, whether by word of mouth or letter.  This tradition is different than the traditions of men that Jesus condemned.  We must obey apostolic tradition, and reject human traditions that void God’s word.  The apostolic tradition is the oral teaching of Jesus Christ that He handed on to His apostles, and the teaching of the apostles that was dictated to them by the Holy Ghost.  If you disagree, then show me in the Bible where St. Paul's command to obey oral tradition is repudiated?

Marika: The Catholic church teaches that Mary is the co-mediator to whom we can entrust all our cares and petitions (968-970, 2677).  The bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the only mediator (1 Timothy 2:5, John 14: 13-14, 1 Peter 5:7).

J. Salza: Jesus is the only mediator, but He can decide how He wants His mediation to be made manifest.  He has chosen us, his royal priests, to be subordinate mediators with him.  Thus, St. Paul says that he completes what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His body, the Church (Col. 1:24).  Was there anything lacking in the sufferings of Christ?  Of course not.  THis shows that God invites us to participate with Christ in His mediation for the salvation of the world.  Can I ask Marika to pray for me? OF course I can.  Even though Christ is the one mediator, Marika by virtue of her baptism, can be a subordinate mediator.  Look at that Scripture again. Right before Paul says Christ is the one mediator, he invites mediation from others because "it is good and acceptable to the Lord."

Marika: The Catholic church teaches that we should entrust ourselves to Mary, surrendering "the hour of our death" wholly to her care (2677).  The bible teaches we should entrust ourselves to the Lord Jesus, surrendering the hour of our death wholly to His care (Romans 10:13, Acts 4:12). 

J. Salza: If Mary was good enough for Jesus, then she is good enough for me. If Jesus entrusted His sacred humanity to Mary, then so will I. I want to imitate Jesus.  If Jesus gave John over to His Mother, than He would want me to do the same thing. When we entrusted ourselves to the Blessed Mother, we ARE entrusting ourselves to Jesus!  Jesus is the reason why Mary, the other saints, and the angels can help us at the hour of death. No Mary, no Jesus.

Marika: John, these are the most important biblical truths pertaining to where you will spend eternity.  What the Catholic church teaches is completely contrary to what God Himself states in His Word.  I don't have an "anti-Catholic mentality" as you stated.  The only difference between us is that I have placed all of my faith and trust in the Creator for my salvation.  You have put yours in the Catholic church.  The church has no power to save anyone according to what God says.  I'm trusting Him.  I hope that you will also--before it's too late for you. If you ever start to read the bible for yourself and have any questions, I'm willing to help.  But until you seek the truth for yourself by actually going to the Word of God for answers, I don't want you to waste your time by sharing with me what mere men have to say about eternity.  I will never trust man over God nor will I ever trust that man knows more or better than God.  I promise to pray for you that you choose Jesus Christ and His Word over the Catholic church and it's teachings.  Jesus said:  "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:31-32).

Sincerely, Marika

J. Salza: Marika, I appreciate your sincerity and quest for truth. But you certainly haven’t proven that what the Catholic Church teaches is “completely contrary to what God Himself states in His word.” In fact, you haven’t even proven that God’s Word is exclusively found in Scripture, and base your whole argumentation on this premise, all the while contradicting the 2,000 years of teaching behind you. This is the fallacy of your entire approach to the Word. Scripture says quite the opposite: that we are to know the gospel by holding fast to the traditions handed down to us from the apostles, by word of mouth or letter (2 Thess. 2:15). I suggest you read how the early Christians interpreted the Word, and not your 21st century preachers. If you do, you are in for a holy shock.

John Salza



16. A dialogue with an Orthodox Christian

Abayea: Feast of St. John of Kronstadt

Christ is in our midst!

Regaring your claims about Peter, historically we would agree that Peter was "first" of the apostles. But he was recognized as "first among equals." The Eastern Patriarchs called on him to settle disputes on occasion but they were not bound by his decrees. Therefore I believe that the rise of the papacy was a departure from the Orthodox faith.

And there is the issue of the primacy of the Roman See. Peter was not only bishop of Rome but of Antioch first. There seems to be no real reason for the Roman See to be the center of Christendom.

In addition the addition of the filioque violates the 1st and 2nd ecumenical councils. For over 800 years both East and West affirmed that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. In fact as late as 808 Pope Leo III of Rome had the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed sans filioque enshrined in golden tablets on the doors of St. Peter's in reaction to the foreign addition by Charlemagne.

These and other doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church point me toward the Eastern Church. But that isn't really the reason that I am Orthodox. I have been in and out of Catholic churches with friends and family since I was a small child. In fact I live and grew up blocks away from Catholic U and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Though I was intrigued at times nothing that I saw or heard there made me desire Christianity or Roman Catholicism specifically. When I became a Christian years later it was through the ministry of Protestants.

The first time I entered an Orthodox church however I was immediately impacted. I felt like I was encountering worship that time forgot! Not only did it feel ancient (which it is: our liturgy is from the 4th century with echoes from the 2nd and 3rd) but timeless. There is no way to fully communicate in an e-mail this concept but our whole life as the Body flows from the Liturgy. In  it we become what man was always meant to be giving glory and thanksgiving to the Holy Trinity surrounded by the Saints in heaven and on earth.

To oversimplify, we don't change. Or to paraphrase what one writer said "we change so that we may remain the same." While Rome adds to the Orthodox faith and Protestantism seeks to reduce it, we are content with the Faith once delivered to the saints.

This e-mail turned out way longer than I intended! I don't want to offend you or challenge your faith. If you want to know more about Orthodoxy go to Orthodoxy and the "Branch Theory" and anything on the website. The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos is a good book too.

Again, you have my sincere thanks for your informative website. I intend to use it often!

God bless,

J. Salza: Dear Abayea. Thanks a lot for your email.  I hope you don't mind me mentioning a few things.

Peter always had a supremacy among the apostles.  Jesus only gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18-19) which was a clear appointment based in Isaiah 22:19-22 (the kindgom always had one prime minister who served as the king's representative).  In fact, throughout all of salvation history, God has always had one person in charge.  This was the case in the Old Testament, and it is the case in the New Covenant Church.  The notion of a scattering of bishops across the world, loosely connected but with no visible head, was not Christ's plan, and He gave Peter the keys to ensure their would be one leader, as well as dynastic succession to His office. Jesus based the integrity of His whole gospel message on the unity of the Church.  But in order effect the unity He desired, He appointed one person - Peter - as the chief shepherd of the flock. If you study the early Church Fathers, they all call Peter the head of the Church. Peter was not also the bishop of Antioch.  Peter ordained Ignatius, and Ignatius was the bishop of Antioch.

Also, the first two ecumenical councils did not teach that the Holy Spirit only proceeds from the Father. The Nicene Creed of 325 A.D. says the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.  The Church Fathers also taught this very clearly during the first eight centuries. 

The other issue I believe you should pray about is the fact that the Orthodox Church has abandoned many of the traditional teachings on morality, especially sexual morality.  She no longer stands with the Catholic Church, who is the only Church to have a consistent and unchanging teaching on sexual morality for 2,000 years.  This tells me that Jesus Christ has never left the Catholic Church.  That is because it is truly His Church.

I appreciate your comments on the liturgy.  I could not agree with you more.  I will keep you in my prayers.

God bless.


Abayea: Feast of St. Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria

Dear John:

Christ is in our midst!

I don't mind you responding to my email. As much as I am loathe to debate these issues I do think I should answer your charges against the Holy Orthodox Church. I am going to try to use you should find credible.

1) Regarding the status of Peter as the first among equals. This goes way beyond the scope of an email. I would only suggest that you look into some Eastern sources to add to the Western perspective you have. As I said Bishop Kallistos' The Orthodox Church is a good start.

2) You stated that "God has always had one person in charge"  but it is interesting to note that God wanted to be the only King of Israel. He says that in choosing to have an earthly king they are rejecting Him as their Sovreign. See 1 Samuel 8. It seems that having Christ as our Head though "invisible" is more in line with what God intended in the first place.

3) Re: the papacy as a safeguard to unity. This seems ironic in the face of the reality of the Western Church. The West has spawned over 30,000 Protestant denominations. That doesn't even include the traditionalist splinter groups that were created after Vatican 2. There is no parallel for this in the East.

4) Re: the first two ecumenical councils. The Creed produced from these councils did not include the filioque.  The text clearly stated the the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. You may find this statement from  the U.S. (Roman) Catholic Bishops interesting. It confirms that the West "add[ed] to its confession that the Holy Spirit 'proceeds from the Father' the word Filioque." In it they also recommend that the original Greek text with out the filioque be used for catechal and liturgical purposes. I have also read that the current Roman Pope often recites the Creed without the filioque. And it is a fact that Pope Leo III rejected the filioque along with previous Roman Popes. You may want to look up that piece of documented history.

5) I don't know what you are referring to in regard to sexual morality. The Orthodox Church doesn't condone premarital sex, adultery or homosexual relations. It promotes one sacramental marriage for the laity and priests, before ordination. The Roman Catholic church maintains these same standards for Eastern rite (Byzantine Catholic) priests outside of the US in allowing marriage. I really don't know what you could be talking about. You may be interested in the following Statement on the current moral crisis.

You are in my unworthy prayers as well.

Abayea, a sinner

J. Salza: Hi Abayea. I, like you, am not in this for debate.  I am in it for charitable exchange between a brother and a sister.

1.  Peter as supreme pastor - I can provide you 30 or 40 quotes from the early Church Fathers recognizing Peter as the rock of the Church and the chief shepherd of the flock. In fact, I have researched this issue to such an extent that I have a 150 page manuscript on my desk called The Biblical Basis for the Papacy (as a follow up to my first book).  I can't find any Father who believed the apostolic college had no visible head.  It is simply not there.  The burden is on those who don't follow Peter to prove that there was at least one Church Father who said that Peter was not the chief shepherd, and that there was no dynastic succession to his chair. 

2.  One person in charge - you have confused King with representative.  God is our king, but remember, God always had an earthly representative, or prime minister, over the kingdom.  Read Isaiah 22:19-22.  This unlocks the meaning of Jesus' words in Matt. 16:18-19.  Jesus appointed Peter as His earthly representative of the New Covenant Church.  Again, this is supported by the Church Fathers.

3.  The West has spawned 30,000 denominations?  Wow.  Actually, Martin Luther and private judgment theology spawned the 30,000 different denominations by breaking away with the Catholic Church.  Indicting the Church for these defections is quite a charge.  When Luther introduced sola Scriptura, the floodgates opened.  That is precisely why Jesus Christ endowed His Church with the charism of infallibility which would be secured in his earthly representative when he officially taught the Church on matters of faith and morals.  Only the Catholic Church has remained in tact, as one Church, and in matters of faith and morals.  Even the Orthodox church has splintered.  And we both know from whom the Orthodox church came.

4. Filioque - but no council ever said the Spirit only proceeds from the Father.  This was clarified later by the Church as you indicate.  I researched this issue today, and can send you quotes from the early Church fathers if you like.  They all said that "from the Father through the Son" was the same thing as "from the Father and the Son." I am putting these quotes on my website. Jesus says He will send the Spirit, so the Spirit proceeds from Jesus as well.  The Spirit proceeds from the Son because He is the Spirit of love between the Father and the Son.  As a result, He must proceed from both Father and Son.  The Father isn't just showing love to the Son; the Son loves the Father in return, in the same Spirit of love.  So the Spirit of love proceeds from both.

The other problem with your position is that you cannot find one Church Father who says that the Spirit doesn't proceed from the Son.  Yet I can find many Church Fathers who say that the Spirit does proceed from the Son.  That is the problem with your position. The Orthodox view is simply not part of the apostolic Tradition.  If you want me to send you these quotes, I will do so.

5.  The Orthodox Church, along with every other non-Catholic Christian church, has relaxed its views on contraception.  There may be other compromises in moral teachings as well, but the contraception issue is most troubling.

Grace be with you.

John Salza



17. Another dialogue with an anti-Catholic

Tom: I know I am not going to convince you of anything because you have been blinded by the god of this world (2Corinthians 4:3-5), but I pray that you will seek God through His infalible (sic) Word, repent, and give your heart to the Lord Jesus the Christ.

Your church is an abomination to God (Revelation 17-18).

in Christ,


J. Salza: Tom, I choose to follow the Church that Jesus built upon the rock of St. Peter, to whom Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven and the authority to bind and loose (just like all the early Church fathers believed). This is the same Church who gave you the Bible.

Tom, Christianity is a religion of the Word of God, not the book. The Word of God has been given to us by both the written and unwritten traditions that Christ committed to the Church. Come home. Time is short.

John Salza

Tom: To say Roman Catholicism gave us the Bible is ludicrous. First of all, the Old Testament was in existence well before Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and it in and of itself proves the New Testament to be God's Word and Jesus to be God Almighty incarnate, the Messiah. Second, it is an undeniable fact that the Roman Catholic Institution murdered millions of Christians for following the God's Word over their teachings. If Rome gave us the Bible, why would they murder people for believing it?

I have had a personal relationship with Jesus since being Born Again in June of 1989. Do you know Jesus personally? I do, I have no doubt that I will spend eternity with Him in heaven, because of who He is and what He has done for you and me. You must be Born-Again by the Word of God, just as Peter was and just as Peter said you MUST be." Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." (1Peter 1:23-25)

My friend, God said through the prophet Jeremiah, "Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD." (Jeremiah 17:5)

Your faith is in an institution created by man and for man, to glorify man.

Jesus said, "And then will I profess unto them, I NEVER KNEW YOU: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:23)

Again I ask you, do you know Jesus personally?

in Christ,


J. Salza: Tom, I know Jesus personally. He is my Lord and Savior and I walk with Him every minute of the day. In fact, I have a most intimate, covenant relationship with Him because I eat His flesh and drink His blood as He commands all New Testament Christians to do. This is the teaching of Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church, for 2,000 years.

Jesus is indeed the rock, but He shares His rock status with Peter. That is why Jesus renamed Simon to Peter and said "upon this rock I will build my Church." Jesus builds His Church upon the rock of Peter and the foundation of the other apostles. He shares His authority with those He puts in charge. Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven and the authority to infallibly bind and loose. Jesus put Peter in charge to rule and guide over His flock until He returns in glory. Once again, this is the 2,000 year-old faith of the Church.

If you say it is ludicrous that the Church gave us the Bible, you obviously don't know history. The Catholic Church determined the canon of Scripture at regional councils in Rome, Hippo and Carthage at the end of the fourth century. Before the Church's determination, there was no consensus.

The Old Testament Scriptures existed before Christ, of course, but even the Jews debated about which ones were inspired and which ones were not. The Catholic Church determined which ones were inspired for the faithful. Even your Protestant King James Version had the deuterocanonical books in its first edition, but removed them later. If your Bible doesn't have all 73 books, you don't have a complete Bible.

You say that the OT prophecies of Christ "prove" that the NT is God's Word. That is simply not true. There were many Scriptures that also spoke of Christ's divinity in fulfillment of Jewish prophecies. In fact, there were 50 "gospels" floating around Judea during the first centuries. The Catholic Church made an infallible decision that only four of the gospels were divinely inspired. If you accept the NT canon, you accept an infallible decision of the Catholic Church.

The emotional and irrational claims that the Church murdered "millions of people" for believing in the Bible demonstrate a profound ignorance of history and a blatant bias against the Church. It was the Catholic Church who translated the Scriptures into common language, preserved the Scriptures against the attacks of infidels, transmitted the Scriptures throughout the ages, and made the Scriptures available to the public. Do you think the Bible just came down from heaven four centuries after Christ ascended into heaven to be our sole authority? You have a lot of studying to do.

Moreover, while the Catholic Church is full of sinners, so is the rest of the world. If you judge truth by whether someone sins or not, then you should throw out your Bible. After all, all its authors were sinners. Moses was a murderer. David was an adulterer and murderer. Yet you accept their writings as God's Word. That shows just how duplicitous Protestants are in their thinking.

I was born again in the waters of baptism (Jn 3:5), which saved my soul (1 Peter 3:21; Titus 3:5) through the power of Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord. I know and love Jesus because I have accepted His Church and the fullness of His truth. I will pray that you get beyond your prejudice and begin studying what the early Church believed, not what your Protestant pastors 20 centuries removed believe.

Grace be with you.

Tom: Okay, I guess this conversation will go nowhere. You believe in another gospel (see Galations 1:8&9) and you are willingly ignorant, but that is to be expected, because the god of this world has blinded your eyes. I had hoped that we could reason together, but you worship the Roman Catholic Institution so deeply that you can see nothing else. To deny the Inquisitions is so naive that this can go no further.

You need to believe God at His Word, Jesus said, "Thy Word is Truth" John 17:17. Pray to the Lord Jesus alone to give you understanding of the Scriptures then Read Psalm 119. God will open your eyes if you ask Him and humble yourself before Him.

J. Salza: Tom, let's step back for a minute and evaluate the premise of your whole position. You believe that the Bible is the only authority for the Christian. If you want to convince me of your position, then please tell me where in the Bible it says that the Bible is the only authority for the Christian.

And don't provide me with verses that say "Scripture is inspired" or "Scripture says this or that." I know that Scripture is inspired and that Scripture says this or that. You have to show me where the Bible says that the Bible is the ONLY authority for the Christian.

Tom: John, I can not convince you of anything, only God can open your eyes to the Truth. Jesus said, "Thy Word is Truth". Truth is unchangeable.

You say you believe the Bible is inspired by God, but you do not believe that it is His infallible Word. That is an oxymoron. If the Bible really is God's Word, as it claims to be and as Jesus said it was, then it is the Ultimate Authority, the Authority to which ALL other authority must submit. God has not changed, nor has His Word. To believe otherwise is to have faith in a changeable institution and makes you no different than all other religions.

Consider prayerfully these verses, "For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return?" (Malachi 3:6-7)

They had not kept God's ordinances, those clearly written in Scripture, just as the institution you worship fails to keep God's ordinances.

J. Salza: Tom, you are putting words in my mouth. I never said that "I don't believe that the Bible is God's infallible word." Where did you get that? It appears that you have an agenda.

I asked you a simple question. Where does the Bible (God's infallible Word) teach that the Bible is our only authority? This is your conclusion, but you have not provided any Scriptures to back it up.

In your words, where does the Bible say that it is the "Ultimate Authority, the Authority to which ALL other authority must submit"? I believe the Bible is God's word, but where does it say that God chose to transmit His infallible word ONLY through the Bible?

Tom: John, I only desire that you come to the knowledge of the Truth. If you believe God's Word is True then you are in direct opposition to hundreds of Scripture. I will only focus on one: The second commandemnt says, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (Exodus 20:4-5)

God clearly teaches that those who make idols and worship them hate Him. Please explain this to me, because I grew up in the Roman Catholic Institution and I know they worship idols, as do the popes, including pope John II and the current.

Regarding your question to me about the Bible being the Ultimate Authority, if it is in fact God's Word as you say you believe, how could it be anything but the Ultimate Authority? You only question the Authority of God's Word, because you reject what it says. Psalm 138:2 says, "I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."

J. Salza: Tom, you obviously cannot answer my question. I asked you to provide me with the Scripture that says the Bible is our only authority. Instead, you give me quotes about not worshiping graven images. What is that about?

First, Catholics do not worship images. We worship God alone. We use images to raise our minds and hearts to God. Do you have a family? Do you have pictures of them? You may look at them and even kiss them, but I would never accuse you of worshiping the pictures. It is the same with images. They remind us of God and holy people. It is extremely poor of you to accuse Catholics of idolatry. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Now, I will ask you one more time: Please provide me with the Scripture that says the Bible is our only authority. Thank you.

Tom: John, why did I bring up the second commandment? Because, I want to stick to Scripture as my Lord Jesus did.

Photos can be idols too, if they are prayed to or candles are lit to them or they are trusted for safety. That is what I have seen in Catholicism, that is what I have seen the popes do, and it is absolute blasphemy. In Catholicism, idols are enshrined, paraded, worn as talismans, bowed to, buried for "luck", prayed to, adored, venerated, exalted, and sought after for miracles. All are forms of worship.

As for "not answering your question", maybe you missed that. Here is the answer: in Psalm 138:2, God puts His Word above His Name. Does that make it the Ultimate Authority? How about what the Lord Jesus said, "And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:38-39) He does not say go ask the priest, your mom, your dad, the neighbors, or the book of the traditions of the elders, which Jesus often reproved them for doing. He, the Lord Jesus, the Christ, and the Creator of the Universe says, SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES. All of Psalm 119 speaks of the Authority of God's Word as well.

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3) Please read Paul's conversion, that is what it is to be born again or from above as Scripture clearly states.

John, prior to being born again, I was completely blind to God and the Scriptures, oh I believed in God, but it was not the God of the Bible and I was destined for hell. Now I know Him personally, ALL of my sins are forgiven and I know with absolute assurance that I will spend eternity with Him, because of what the Lord Jesus has done.

J. Salza: Tom, you do not understand the Catholic faith, nor do you understand the Scriptures.

First, Catholics do not worship these images. They are used only to facilitate our worship. You sound like the Manicheans of old, who viewed all matter as evil. We really have to laugh at such claims. Would you accuse the early Christians of idolatry for seeking to touch Paul's handkerchiefs, or Peter's shadow, for physical and spiritual cures? (see Acts 19:11-12; 5:15).

Second, none of the Scriptures you provided say that Scripture is the "ultimate authority." They only prove the authority of Scripture. Unfortunately for you, Scripture actually says that it is NOT the only authority. Saint Paul, under the divine inspiration of God, commanded us to obey BOTH the written and unwritten tradition (2 Thess 2:15) that comes to us from the apostles. Tell me, Tom, what is the unwritten tradition?

Tom: John, I felt several letters ago that I should do as the Apostle Paul commanded; A man that is a heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. (Tit 3:10-11)

You say one thing that is true, Roman Catholicism is a faith, but not Christianity; for it is a faith based on man. Jeremiah 17:5 declares Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. (Jeremiah 17:5)

I will not respond any further, because you are subverted (Overthrown; overturned; entirely destroyed.)

J. Salza: Tom, if you are going to listen to the apostle Paul, then you should obey his command to follow the oral traditions of the Church as well (2 Thess 2:15). But you won't do that, nor will you even investigate what they are, because you live in a world of private-judgment Christianity where your personal opinions are the final authority.

Tom, you know that the Bible doesn't teach that it is the only authority, but your pride will not allow you to admit it. Pride is a dangerous vice. It convinces some people that they are really serving Jesus, when all the while they are denying Him, since you can't have Jesus without the Church He established (the one the Bible says He built upon the rock of Peter, to whom He gave the keys to the kingdom and the authority to infallibly bind and loose; the one with bishops, priests and deacons; the same one that you ridicule in your ignorance).

Come back home. The time is short.

John Salza



18. The Church: "Truth" versus "conduct"

JW: The Church which you teach has the keys to the kingdom and the only one with authority from Christ, the Pope which you teach is infallible on matters of faith and morals has many times persecuted, killed, and even burned people because they would not follow your teachings. It seems to me that if we are to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and since he had ample opportunity to kill people who would not follow him, but he chose rather to love and even pray for those who did not believe in him. It seems to me the Church that you love so much has been and is in error today.

Can you please explain to me how you can justify a group who has killed between 50 and 150 million people as being Christ like?

May the Lord open your eyes to the glory and light of Christ,

Brother John W

J. Salza:

Dear John:

You are using the "your church has sinners" argument, and it is fallacious.

First, no one is denying that the Catholic Church has sinners. It is precisely why Christ established His Church - to save sinners. Just because its members sometimes stray, that doesn't mean that it was not founded by Jesus Christ to teach His infallible truth.

Second, Protestants have unfortunately also killed Catholics. I don't judge Protestantism (or Catholicism) based upon the conduct of their members. I judge them based upon whether they teach the truth in accordance with Sacred Scripture and Tradition. There is a big difference. If you judge truth by conduct, then you should throw out your Bible, because all its authors were sinners.

Third, why don't you point out all of the great Catholic saints throughout history as well? If you want to focus on conduct as your litmus test, then the Catholic Church has produced holy men and women par excellence. St. Francis, St. Therese, Mother Theresa, and thousands and thousands like them.

Fourth, if you want to talk about conduct and the preservation of life, the Catholic Church has done more than any other institution to preserve and defend life. It has led the world in this regard, through its teachings about abortion, contraception, homosexuality and other life issues, while many of the Protestant sects have buckled in compromise.

So, John, the issue isn't conduct. It is truth. You claim to be a Bible-believing Christian. If that is true, then believe what Jesus says in the Bible. Jesus said He would build the Church upon the rock of Peter, and give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Jesus conferred these distinctions upon Peter alone, not the other apostles. Paul says that the Church, not the Bible, is the pinnacle and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). Jesus says when there is a dispute, take it to the Church, not the Bible (Mt 18:18). This is the Church that Christ built upon Peter and his 264 successors. So, if you are not a member if this Church (which is the Catholic Church), then you are a Protestant. May God give you His grace as you seek the truth.

JW: I am one who trust that Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth, he was born of the virgin Mary, he preached repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. I am one who believes in the Jesus who raised the dead, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and stated: He that believes in my hath everlasting life. I believe in the Jesus who said: Before Abraham was I am. I am one who believes in the Jesus who died upon a bloody cross for all of my sins, he washed my sins away by his blood and his blood alone, then he was buried and rose again. He is now seated at the right had of the Father and ever lives to make intercession for me.

J. Salza: I agree with you on these points. But let me ask you something. If you have been born again and are already saved, then why does Scripture say Jesus continues to make intercession for you? Why wasn't your one-time acceptance of Christ as your personal Lord and Savior enough?

JW: I have been born again and made into a new creature in the image of Christ and old things have passed away and all things are now new. Jesus Christ lives in me because I have been crucified with Christ. I have been saved by faith alone in Jesus alone.

J. Salza: Unfortunately for you, no where does the Bible say we are saved by faith "alone." This is a novel idea that was unknown to the Church until Martin Luther introduced it in the 16th century. In fact, the Bible negates that false proposition by declaring that we obtain salvific justification by works and NOT by faith alone. Again, you claim to believe in the Bible, but you are not following what the Bible says.

JW: I am a believer in Jesus, I am one who would have been called a Christian by those who hated Christ in the book of Acts, and I am one who would have been killed by the Catholic Church for refusing to denounce that faith alone in Jesus alone is all that is required for my salvation, and I would have been killed by the protestants for my belief in Baptism by immersion! I will neither follow a Pope, nor Calvin for my salvation, rather I will follow the Lord Jesus Christ!

J. Salza: Once again, you advance the novel, theological invention of faith "alone" as the sine qua non of salvation. Please tell me where the Bible says we are saved by faith "alone" - book, chapter and verse. Also, if you claim that you are following Christ, then you must follow what Christ taught, namely, that He would build an infallible Church upon Peter, to whom He would give the keys of authority and the charism of speaking for heaven.

JW: I am not asking whether or not the Church history of the Protestants or Catholics is correct. I simply ask how a Church that is drunk with the blood of saints can be correct in theology. Let me ask: you plainly stated the Catholic church has sinners, is the Pope a sinner, does he make mistakes or is he "as the Holy Father" above sin?

J. Salza: The Catholic Church was built with the blood of the martyrs. All the popes of the first centuries of the Church were murdered for Christ. They took the seat of Peter even though they knew it meant certain death. That is why you have the Christian faith to begin with. The Catholic Church gave us the Bible - it wrote, translated, preserved, protected, and transmitted the Scriptures to us. It was the Catholic Church who also determined the canon of Scripture. If you believe in the Bible, then you believe in an infallible decision of the Catholic Church. All this poses quite a problem for you. And yes, the popes are all sinners and can make mistakes in matters of conduct or opinion.

JW: Do you deny that in Vatican 2 Mary is termed as Co-Mediator?

J. Salza: Vatican II did not say that, but if the Church ever does, it would not be problematic. Jesus Christ is the one and only mediator between God and man, but Jesus can decide how he wants to employ his mediation. That is why when Paul says that Christ is the only mediator, he also appeals for mediation from others besides Christ! We are all subordinate mediators in the one Mediator.

That is why you can pray for me and I can pray for you. The Father accepts our prayers when united to those of His Son. This is also why Paul says that he makes up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His body, the Church (Col 1:24). Were Christ's sufferings lacking? Of course not. Then why did Paul write this? Because God accepts Paul's subordinate sufferings and mediation when united to those of His Son. This is part of the mystery of the Church and the communion of saints.

JW: Let me take it one step further, you said that conduct was not as important as truth. The fact is truth changes how we conduct ourselves. Jesus said you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. How can people who know the truth of Christ conduct themselves any other way than in a Christ like manner? How can they kill people?

J. Salza: Let me ask you a question. Do you sin? How can you continue sinning if you have been saved by Christ? The answer is that we have free will and can chose sin instead of Christ. Jesus did not take away our free will. We can still sin, even though Christ has redeemed us. We can know the truth, and the truth can set us free, but then we can turn around and reject the truth and go back to our sinful ways. That is called free will, and Scripture is replete with warnings about not abandoning the truth we have come to know.

JW: That is my question, How can a holy infallible man kill others who will not follow the Church? My argument is valid, my question is valid.

J. Salza: The popes are not infallible in their conduct or private opinions. If they were, they would be "impeccable." Christ promised infallibility to His Church, not impeccability. Infallibility deals with the truth that the Church teaches, not how her members conduct themselves. This is why Jesus said to Peter, "Whatever you bind or loose on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:18). This deals with Peter's teaching authority, not his private conduct. You must understand this very important distinction.

JW: The one I follow is the Lord Jesus who came into the world to save sinners not kill them, he came to save them from their sin and make them into new creatures. He came to change sinners from what they were into what God wants them to be.

J. Salza: I believe the same thing. The only difference is that I believe what Jesus has taught us in Sacred Scripture about His Church and the authority He granted to His apostles and their successors. The Bible is the Word of God, but it is not the only authority for Christians. It can't be, because it cannot interpret itself. The Bible directs us to an authority outside of itself to understand what it actually means. This is why Catholics have the greatest love for Scripture. We want to ensure that it is properly interpreted, and not abused with false and heretical interpretations that continue to divide the body of Christ.

JW: How can a true Church use the rack, the iron lady and so many other instruments of Cruelty and still be considered the true Church?? How can you say they teach truth when their actions say different, Jesus said by their fruits you shall know them!

J. Salza: I can also ask how Protestants could have killed Catholics if they really had the truth. You have proven only that Christians are sinners. This should be no surprise to any of us. All the apostles were sinners as well. Did that mean they had no authority? Of course not. I know of no better "fruit" of the Catholic Church in recent times than what we witnessed with Mother Theresa. And there are thousands of other Catholic saints who did likewise. Further, how could a loving God command His leaders in the Old Testament to slay women and children? Will you accuse God of "cruelty"? Let God be the judge of sinners, not me or you.

JW: I want you to understand I do not hate Catholics, Protestants, Muslims or anyone else. I simply want people to know the truth of Christ. You are correct in stating that Christ came to save sinners. I hope you personally know the Christ of the Bible. The Christ who changed me from a Drunkard, A fornicator, a vile wretch into a new man. Have you been born again??? Do you know that when you die you will be received into heaven not because of your good works but because Christ died for you???

J. Salza: God bless you for changing your life. Persevere in your faith. But Jesus wants you to have the fullness of His truth which He has entrusted to His Holy Catholic Church. Continue to study the Scriptures and read the writings of the early Church Fathers. They all claimed membership in the Catholic Church.

JW: I am a Bible-believing Christian, and I believe the word of God in its entirety. You are making a mistake that almost everyone makes with regards to scripture interpretation "That is taking a scripture from here and there" and patching a doctrine together to fit what you believe or what some other man has taught you. The fact is Jesus did build a Church, and that Church has himself as the chief cornerstone and there are very specific offices that were established within the Church.

1Co 12:28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

You can read the scriptures from beginning to end and you will find no mention of a Pope, Cardinal, and so on. But according to your belief since Jesus made Peter the Pope and the 200 and some odd men after him Popes, they can bind what they desire on earth, that is make new offices for the Church and even make Nuns and so forth and that is right even if there are no supporting scriptures. In other words the scriptures must be interpreted by the Church, and if there are no supporting scriptures for a teaching, then what the Church has to say is as good as scripture, Is that a fair assumption? And if the Church (Made up of a Pope, Cardinals, Priest and so forth) tells me that praying to Mary is OK (Even though there is no scripture to support it)it is right because God gave that authority to the Church/Pope?

Why with that view it must be OK to teach indulgences, praying to the saints, Purgatory, or any other doctrine.... As a matter of fact it must be that Gods spirit is not the final authority on bible interpretation, but the Church. And since that is the case, the Church can say its OK to persecute people who do not believe the same as we do and it must be right?

You see, you keep avoiding the question at hand, and that question is how can a true Church teach something contrary to Gods word (Namely killing people in the name of the Church) You have avoided the question. You say you are the true Church, if that is the case why would you kill people? Has a Pope ever called for the killing of innocent people, study this out? It was not simply sinners within the Church that killed People, it was the Catholic Church that persecuted and burned people alive.

My faith is based upon nothing less and nothing more than Jesus. Please answer the question as presented, did the Catholic Church (as an official act of the Church) kill people in the name of Christ? If the answer is yes then it must be that it was right due to the fact that the Catholic Church is the true Church and gives us the true meaning of Gods word!

John, you must listen to God, if it is wrong to kill people who are not Catholics, and if it is wrong to persecute people at the hands of the Catholic Church, then you must admit that the Catholic Church has had error in it, you must admit that the pope himself can be in error even in matters of what is right and wrong, You have already said the Catholic church has sinners in it, you have already stated the pope is not infallible, and if that is the case how do I know what is right and wrong? By what a man who is a sinner that is killing people tells me? Or rather by what the word of God teaches?

I ask again, as an official act of the Church was anyone ever burned, killed or persecuted? Did any pope ever commission the killing of innocent people? I can't ask it any more plain than that.

As far as responding to faith alone goes I will leave that for later, I want to know if the Catholic Church officially killed people in the name of Christ "Did they bind killing people on earth" and what changed that binding?

J. Salza: John, in the Old Testament God gave his chosen leaders the authority to execute people for their sins and heresies. Killings have also occurred in the New Testament, by both Catholics and Protestants. I am not condoning this type of conduct (although I bet if the Church executed heretics and sinners today we wouldnt have a Church poisoned with liberal theology, Modernism and sexual deviants). As I have stated over and over again, the issue is not whether Catholics killed Protestants or vice versa. Let me concede for the moment that Catholics did kill. This only proves that the Church is full of sinners. There is a distinction between the truth the Church teaches and the conduct of her members. What in that statement is not clear to you? There is a distinction because the Church is both human and divine.

Let me put it another way. The Church teaches that it is wrong to kill. This does not guarantee that a Catholic will never kill someone, does it? Just because a Catholic kills someone, that doesn't negate the truth of the Church's teaching that we are not supposed to kill. The issue is doctrine versus conduct. I hope you can understand this simple distinction.

You want to keep harping on the conduct of certain members of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages instead of exegeting Scripture. This does not get us anywhere. I can provide you with a laundry list of Catholic saints who shed their blood for Christ. If the latter does not convince you that the Catholic Church is Christ's Church, then you cannot use the former to convince me that it isn't. You see? If you really want to engage in a tug-of-war of good versus bad people in the Church to determine truth, then that is your prerogative. But that is not how the Bible instructs us to determine the truth. The Bible tells us to listen to "the Church" (Mt 18:18). So let's stick with Scripture in this discussion, John, because that is evidently your only authority.

JW: OK, lets stick to scripture... Praise the Lord... You say we are to listen to the Church (Matt 18) Which passage by the way clearly deals with Church discipline, not matters of Bible interpretation!

J. Salza: Matthew 18 does not say the issue is about "church discipline." It could be about discipline, but it could also be about doctrine. The passage doesn't say. In either case, the bishops of the Church have the authority to make definitive decisions by virtue of the keys given to Peter. That is why Peter is given the singular authority to bind and loose in Matt 16, and the apostles are given the collegial authority in Matt 18. The power to bind and loose flow from the keys, and the keys were given to Peter alone.

JW: You see, not only do we need to stick to the scriptures but we need to stick to the context that is clearly revealed in the passage.

J. Salza: Where does Scripture say that "we need to stick to the scriptures"? Actually, Scripture doesn't say that. Scripture says that we are to obey both Scripture AND tradition (2 Thess 2:15). You are operating under this premise throughout the dialogue, but it is a premise you have not proven.

JW: In this passage if the Church, which by the way is made up of people "where 2 or 3 are gathered in the name of Christ" agree as touching anything "again the context is discipline of a wayward member" then it will be binding.

J. Salza: First, Jesus is speaking to His apostles only, not to the Church at large. Second, it begs the question what Jesus means by "Church." Jesus is telling us that the Church is the final arbiter on matters of the Christian faith, not the Scriptures. Since Jesus said this Church is built upon the rock of Peter, it can point only to the Catholic Church (the only Church that claims and proves to be built upon Peter).

JW: So here is my question, How can I listen to a Church "Who you say teaches the truth", when they teach things that are clearly contrary to the written scripture such as: Indulgences, purgatory, praying to Mary and the saints, Rosary prayers, hail Mary's, or that a Pope is just as infallible as the word of God!

J. Salza: You listen to the Church because that is what Jesus commands you to do. This is what He tells you to do in Matt 16 and 18. This is why Paul calls the Church, not the Bible, the pinnacle and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15). You are again operating under the following fallacy: that "they teach things that are clearly contrary to the written scripture." In saying this, I in no way intend to downplay Scripture. It is the revealed written word of God. But in obedience to Scripture, we must also listen to the Tradition that the apostles handed down to us.

That having been said, there is solid Scriptural support for every single item you listed. I go in great detail in my book explaining the biblical basis for all these doctrines. But second, I must point out again that your premise that it must be "clearly in Scripture" is false. Scripture doesn't say that all Christian teaching is to be found in Scripture. Scripture tells us to obey Tradition as well. These teachings were handed down from the apostles to the early fathers of the Church, who wrote about these things in great detail.

JW: Well, here we go again, your answer is this: The Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus Christ started, they teach the truth, and even if its not clear in Gods word the Church is the one who tells us what scripture means, they have the final say so because Jesus handed the keys to Peter... So if they teach that babies need to be baptized to have their sins washed away then it must be right even though we have no supporting scripture!

J. Salza: There you "go again," presuming that it must be in Scripture. This is not so. Nevertheless, the Bible does teach that babies must be baptized. When Peter in Acts 2:38-38 says that the promise of baptism is to you and your "children," the word for children (from the Greek teknon) means infant. It is the same word used in Acts 21:21 to describe eight-day old infants. So Peter says that baptism is for infants. This is why you see entire households being baptized in the book of Acts. The word for household (Greek, oikos) would include infants and children. Paul also says that baptism is the new circumcision. If babies had to be circumcised and baptism is the new circumcision, then babies have to be baptized. Your other problem is that you cannot find one passage in Scripture that says babies should not be baptized. The burden is on you to prove your case, but you cannot.

JW: Basically you say the Passages in Matt 16 and Matt 18 clearly teach that whatever the Catholic Church interprets the word of God to be is right because they are the true Church!

J. Salza: What Matt 16 says is that Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom and the authority to bind and loose. That Peter was able to receive a divine revelation from God and communicate it without error is the basis for papal infallibility. Whenever Peter officially speaks on a matter of faith or morals (like a statement on Christology, for example), it is without error. God protects His Church from going off the rails, so to speak. The popes exercise this divine authority only sparingly, and usually only when they need to clarify a doctrine or expel heresy.

JW: But here is the problem with that Logic, you have already admitted the Catholic Church has sinners, thus that means they are not perfect, and if you study it out you will find that the Pope had even commissioned the Jesuit's to kill who I would term Christians. It is a verified fact that Catholic Priest "The ones who you say are in the true Church" have even Molested little Children. this being the case that must mean the Pope and for that matter the Cardinals are not without error. And that being the case it must mean they are not perfect with regards to scripture interpretation. So what you are telling me is to listen to a Church that is imperfect with regards to Bible interpretation!

J. Salza: You still don't understand the difference between Christian doctrine and personal conduct. How come you don't understand this difference? I can say that adultery is wrong and then go and cheat on my wife. Would my conduct mean that my teaching was wrong? No. It would only mean that I am a hypocrite and a sinner. But my teaching would be true. God did not promise that His leaders would be sinless.

Your position is also inconsistent because every author of Scripture was a sinner, and you still believe in Scripture! Moses was a murderer, but you still believe in the Pentateuch, right? David was an adulterer and murder, but you believe his Psalms were inspired, don't you? Peter and Paul were both sinners, but you still believe in their epistles, correct? So tell me, if these sinful men can teach without error, why can't others do so as well?

JW: First of all you have failed to do proper Exegesis on Matt 16. Peter, look the word up in the Greek means- Small Rock, Rock= Large, massive rock. Thou art Peter (A small stone) and upon this Rock (Large Stone) Will I build my Church!

J. Salza: This argument has been addressed countless times. Greek nouns have grammatical gender requirements. Thus, Greek requires a masculine noun to describe Peter, a man. That is why the Holy Spirit translated petra into Petros, because the rules of Greek required Him to do so. Your other problems are that Scripture never defines Petros as a small rock, and doesn't limit petra to large rocks (see 1 Pet 2:8, for example, which is what you quote below. Petra is used to describe a small rock that causes stumbling, not a large rock formation).

JW: Maybe we ought to listen to the one whom you claim is the first Pope with regards to what this scripture means.....

1Pt 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:

Peter understood clearly what Jesus Christ said in Matt 16: Peter I am building a spiritual kingdom, instead of an old testament temple I am building a Church that will be made up of all classes of people, from every tribe and nation. I am the Rock Peter, I am the chief corner stone and each member of my Church will be a living stone placed into my spiritual kingdom or temple. You will be a living stone that rest upon the cornerstone. Peter you are a small Rock, But I am the chief Rock...

J. Salza: Nothing in Scripture supports your contention that Peter is just a "small" rock. Further, such argumentation does not stand to reason. Jesus blesses Peter for receiving a divine revelation from the Father. You are arguing that Jesus was renaming Peter a small pebble to somehow diminish or even punish him right after blessing him for his infallible declaration? This argument is ludicrous. Moreover, if Jesus wanted to call Peter a small rock, he would have used the word "lithos," not "Petros."

JW: Look at these passages:

1Co 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (Note the same Greek word "Petra" meaning large rock is used in Matt 16, 1Pt 2:8 and 1Co 10:4) The rock is clearly Christ and not Peter.

The wise man built is house upon what???? Peter or Petra?????? The ROCK, who is Christ the Lord....

J. Salza: Your exegesis is faulty for two obvious reasons. First, Jesus called Simon the "Rock" in John 1:42, so we don't even need Matt 16:18 to prove Peter is the rock!

Second, your exegesis assumes attributions used in Scripture can only be applied to one person. This, of course, is not true. For example:

  • in Ephesians 2:20, the apostles are called the foundation of the Church;
  • in 1 Corinthians 3:11, Jesus is called the foundation of the Church.
  • In 1 Corinthians 3:12, the faithful build upon the foundation;
  • in Matthew 16:18, Jesus builds upon the foundation.
  • In 1 Peter 2:5, the faithful are called the stones of Gods spiritual house;
  • in Acts 4:11, Jesus is called the stone of Gods house.
  • In 1 Corinthians 3:16, the faithful are the temple of God;
  • in Apocalypse 21:22, Jesus is the temple of God.
  • In Acts 20:28, the apostles are called the bishops of the flock;
  • in 1 Peter 2:25, Jesus is called the Bishop of the flock.

If Scripture applies the words "foundation," "builders," "stones," "temple," and "bishop" to both Jesus and His faithful, nothing prevents Scripture from applying the word "rock" to both Jesus and Peter.

JW: No man is the head of the Church, Christ is the Rock, the head.... No where in scripture will you find a man as the head of the Church, the Bible clearly states that Christ is the head... Peter knew he was not the ROCK, Christ is the rock..

J. Salza: Jesus is the head and rock of the Church, but as Scripture teaches, Jesus shares these attributes with Peter. END.

JW: I can't make you see the truth, this is left up to the spirit of God. CHRIST IS THE ROCK, NOT PETER. PETER WAS A MAN CALLED BY GOD TO BE AN APOSTLE.... But he was no Pope....

J. Salza: I have already demonstrated the error of your position.

JW: We will agree about one thing: The scriptures plainly teach of the Catholic Church

1Tim 4: 1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

I must get back to work.... I work for a phone company as an Engineer, and I also Pastor a Baptist Church... I guess I have sounded as though I am attacking you and for this I apologize...

J. Salza: John, I know you are not attacking me. We are both in this for the love of Jesus and the truth. You probably don't come across Catholics very often who know the Scriptures. I do, and I hope I have provided you some insights. I would rather we focus on specific issues than take a shot-gun approach. If you wish to continue the dialogue, please write back.



19. Matthew 18:17-18: "Tell it to the Church"

Paul: Dear John, first, let me tell you how wonderful I think your site is. It is nice to see so much scripture support the Catholic faith or Catholic faith support Scripture.

Anyway, I have a question that I wondered if you might answer. In Mt. 18 we read:

15: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16: But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17: If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

My question is this. Why is this not taught or really used much in Catholicism as opposed to Protestantism, specifically Fundy Christian denominations who live by it? How does a Catholic use this to help another Catholic who has wondered off?

I would like to hear what you have to say.

God bless,


J. Salza: Paul, thanks for your kind words.

Matt 18:17-18 is, or should be used, when defending the Church. I use this verse all the time. Jesus used the word "Church" only two times in the New Testament: once in Matt 16:18 (where Jesus builds the Church upon the rock of Peter), and once in Matt 18:18.

In Matt 18:17-18, Jesus is clearly telling us that the Church is the final authority on questions of faith or discipline. Jesus says to take the wayward brother to the Church for reproval. Now, God would not command us to do the impossible. This means that God would have provided us with the information necessary to understand what "Church" He was talking about. Since Jesus uses "Church" only one other time (in Matt 16:18), it is obvious that this Church must mean the one He built upon St. Peter.

The Scriptural, patristic and historical records demonstrate that this Church could only be the Catholic Church. There was no other Church around at the time these words were penned. Moreover, only the Catholic Church can demonstrate a continuity and consistency in doctrine and morals which would be necessary if we are to make any sense out of Jesus' words in Matt 18:17-18.

Where does the Baptist take his Pentecostal brother? Where does the Lutheran take his Methodist sister? Jesus' words demand that there be one, authoritative institution to resolve the doctrinal or disciplinary issue. If not, then Jesus' words would mean little. We would never have any consistency on doctrine and morals, the very ingredients that are necessary to our salvation. God is one and His Church is one. A kingdom divided against itself will not stand. That is why the Catholic Church has been around for 2,000 years, and the Protestant sects continue to splinter by the thousands each year.

This verse is a tough pill for Protestants to swallow. They want to argue that the Bible is the only and final authority. However, not only does the Bible never say that, the Bible tells us the Church is the final authority. So, if they want to be faithful to the Bible, then they have to follow the Church. Of course, this forces them to determine what "Church" this is. And if they are truly honest with themselves, they know there is no other recourse than joining the Catholic Church.

God bless.

John Salza



20. Papal Declarations on "No Salvation Outside the Church"

JF: I lead our Parish's RCIA class. I am reading your "The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith" book. I use what I learn from your book in our class.

On Page 217 under the subtitle "No salvation outside the Catholic Church" you write "The Church teaches that no one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Jesus Christ, refuses to enter it or remain in it..........". I ask that you furnish me with support for this statement. I certainly am not questioning such statement, but I always give our class "citations" to teachings such as this one.


John F

J. Salza: John, this infallible doctrine has been reiterated by popes and fathers throughout history. I have written a chapter on Nulla salus in my book

The Biblical Basis for the Papacy. Here are some examples:

Ordinary Magisterium

Pope Pelagius II (A.D. 578 - 590): "Consider the fact that whoever has not been in the peace and unity of the Church cannot have the Lord. ...Although given over to flames and fires, they burn, or, thrown to wild beasts, they lay down their lives, there will not be (for them) that crown of faith but the punishment of faithlessness. ...Such a one can be slain, he cannot be crowned. ...[If] slain outside the Church, he cannot attain the rewards of the Church." (Denzinger 246-247)

Pope Saint Gregory the Great (A.D. 590 - 604): "Now the holy Church universal proclaims that God cannot be truly worshipped saving within herself, asserting that all they that are without her shall never be saved." (Moralia)

Pope Innocent III (A.D. 1198 - 1216): "With our hearts we believe and with our lips we confess but one Church, not that of the heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside which we believe that no one is saved." (Denzinger 423)

Pope Leo XII (A.D. 1823 - 1829): "We profess that there is no salvation outside the Church. ...For the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. With reference to those words Augustine says: `If any man be outside the Church he will be excluded from the number of sons, and will not have God for Father since he has not the Church for mother.'" (Encyclical, Ubi Primum)

Pope Gregory XVI (A.D. 1831 - 1846): "It is not possible to worship God truly except in Her; all who are outside Her will not be saved." (Encyclical, Summo Jugiter)

Pope Pius IX (A.D. 1846 - 1878): "It must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood." (Denzinger 1647)

Pope Leo XIII (A.D. 1878 - 1903): "This is our last lesson to you; receive it, engrave it in your minds, all of you: by God's commandment salvation is to be found nowhere but in the Church." (Encyclical, Annum Ingressi Sumus)

"He scatters and gathers not who gathers not with the Church and with Jesus Christ, and all who fight not jointly with Him and with the Church are in very truth contending against God." (Encyclical, Sapientiae Christianae)

Pope Saint Pius X (A.D. 1903 - 1914): "It is our duty to recall to everyone great and small, as the Holy Pontiff Gregory did in ages past, the absolute necessity which is ours, to have recourse to this Church to effect our eternal salvation." (Encyclical, Jucunda Sane)

Pope Benedict XV (A.D. 1914 - 1922): "Such is the nature of the Catholic faith that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole, or as a whole rejected: This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved." (Encyclical, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum)

Pope Pius XI (A.D. 1922 - 1939): "The Catholic Church alone is keeping the true worship. This is the font of truth, this is the house of faith, this is the temple of God; if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation....Furthermore, in this one Church of Christ, no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors." (Encyclical, Mortalium Animos)

Pope Pius XII (A.D. 1939 - 1958): "By divine mandate the interpreter and guardian of the Scriptures, and the depository of Sacred Tradition living within her, the Church alone is the entrance to salvation: She alone, by herself, and under the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit, is the source of truth." (Allocution to the Gregorian, October 17, 1953)

Extraordinary Magisterium

Pope Innocent III and Lateran Council IV (A.D. 1215): "One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful outside which no one at all is saved..."

Pope Boniface VIII in his Papal Bull Unam Sanctam (A.D. 1302): "We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff."

Pope Eugene IV and the Council of Florence (A.D. 1438 - 1445): "[The most Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart `into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels' (Matt. 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."

In the current age of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, the Churchs infallible dogma nulla salus has been all but ignored. We now often hear that the Catholic Church has only the "fullness" of truth as opposed to being the one and only ark of salvation. We even hear Catholics claim that the Protestant sects are eminently serviceable religions in their own right, instead of calling them what they really are: man-made institutions that are rife with heresy and immorality and which were created in opposition to the one true Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, the Roman Catholic Church, the kingdom of God.

Pius IX condemned the notion that those outside the Catholic Church have a good hope of eternal life. Entertaining such an idea undermines the Churchs infallible teaching that outside of her there is no salvation. Such a false view results in a wellspring of indifferentism which has already infected the Church and the world today. Pius XI clarified that those who are invincibly ignorant of the Church may still be saved, but this is a narrow exception to the divine rule. How many are truly ignorant of the claims of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church? Only God knows, and God alone is the Judge. Pius IX has told us that it is unlawful to proceed to further inquiry about the salvation of those outside the Church. Instead, we continue to labor in the harvest by planting the seed, and leave the growing to God.



21. Debate on the Exegesis of Matthew 16:18-19: John Salza v. Evan May

E. May: Matthew 16 is among the list of famous isolated prooftexts that Roman Catholic scholarship has continually presented to the field of apologetics. It has been refuted for centuries, and yet Romanists cite it as quickly today as they ever have.

J. Salza: Mr. May wants to give his readers the impression that the Catholic position "has been refuted for centuries" to predispose his readers to the "truth" of his position. This type of introductory commentary is a common debate tactic, and it doesnt impress me. As we will see, even though Mr. May says the Catholic position "has been refuted for centuries," he offers no support from either Scripture or tradition to make his case. In fact, both Scripture and the Fathers highlight the errors in Mr. Mays positions, which you will see shortly.

If you have read any of Mr. Mays posts about me or other Catholic apologists, you also see that he accuses us of using illogical arguments and anachronisms. This is nothing more than a smoke screen for the inadequacy of his own positions. Please have patience with this dialogue, and you will see how Mr. May is really the one guilty of these charges. You will see how Mr. May twists the Scriptures to his own destruction (2 Pet 3:16).

E. May: The amount of assumptions, however, that the Romanist must force into this passage is innumerable. Equally innumerable are the assumptions and anachronistic readings that are forcibly read into the early Fathers that comment on this text. Romanism simply cannot be defended exegetically. For this reason, the defender of the gospel of Rome starts with the assumption that the modern Roman church, with its doctrine and practices of today, is indeed the one true church. This is not something that is ever demonstrated. The mistake of this assumption is shown when the modern papacy is read back into the New Testament text, where such a concept never existed in the first place. The error is undeniable.

J. Salza: Mr. May kicks things off by blowing a lot of smoke at his readers, but we will soon discover how shallow his approach to Scripture and the Fathers really is. We will see whose position is more defensible exegetically. We will also see how the Fathers not only fail to help Mr. May, but actually refute his contentions.

It is also a typical ploy to accuse Catholics of "reading back" into the text. Mr. May confuses reading the plain meaning of the text with "reading back" into the text. As we proceed with this dialogue, the readers should pay close attention to who is actually reading the plain meaning of the text, and who is reading into the text that which he wishes to see. It will soon be obvious.

Matthew 16 13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

E. May: From the beginning the focus is on the person of Christ. Jesus asks the question, "Who do men say that I am? The Son of man?" He asks his disciples if men own him as the Messiah. They give differing, false opinions from the people. These opinions were good and honorable, but they were not true. They are high opinions, but not high enough. These opinions might honor Christ as prophet, but they do not rightly honor him as Messiah and Savior.

J. Salza: Agreed. And because the first part of Matthew 16 is about the person of Jesus, the second part of Matthew 16 (vv.18-19) is about the person of Peter. Mr. May properly sets the stage for the pending discussion. This set-up will ultimately support the Catholic position: Jesus builds the Church upon the person of Peter, not specifically upon Peters faith, which is what Mr. May will contend later on in the discussion.

15He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

E. May: Jesus then questions the opinions of the disciples. Surely the disciples, who were taught better than all others and shared more intimacy with Christ should render a correct answer. Before the disciples can be sent out for the work of ministry, they must display that they grasp the most important thing. If to them Christ was merely John the Baptist or Elijah, their mission for the church would surely fail. The success of the mission is based upon what truth it is built, and Jesus makes sure that the disciples are grasping the very essence of his ministry. Therefore, Jesus begins the examination. He questions to explore whether or not his closest followers have their mission built upon the firm foundation of who he is.

J. Salza: I have little problem with any of this, but it is a bit long winded and off line. Yes, Christ is establishing the Church which is part of His Messianic mission. The question Matthew 16 answers is upon whom Christ builds the Church and with whom Christ invests His authority to carry on His mission. As the text demonstrates (but which Mr. May denies), the answer is Peter.

E. May: Peter speaks for the other disciples and answers the question. Peter did indeed have the boldness to be forward on such matters, as we see in other New Testament texts. But this does not communicate any primacy or superiority of Peter above the rest of the Apostles, for we see others speaking as the mouth for the rest elsewhere (Mark 9:38; John 14:5, 8, 22).

J. Salza: Here is where Mr. May runs into trouble. He says that Peters declaration did not give Peter "any primacy or superiority" above the rest of the apostles. A plain reading of the subsequent text, however, demonstrates this is not at all the case. After Peter communicated the Fathers revelation, Jesus renamed Simon to Peter, declared that He would build the Church upon the rock of Peter, gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and invested Peter with the singular authority to infallibly bind and loose (since what Peter binds or looses on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven). Jesus gave none of these privileges to the other apostles. So it is not only exegetically untenable but also dishonest for Mr. May to tell us Peter was not given "any primacy or superiority" over the other apostles. Mr. May accuses Catholics of "reading back" into the text what we want to see, and yet his own exegesis reveals himself guilty of the error, not me. The text is clear that Jesus was giving Simon Peter a unique role in the early Church, and the Fathers were unanimous about this fact.

E. May: Peter answers the question correctly; the disciples knew Christ to be the Son of the living God. While others thought him to be the ghost of Elijah or Jeremiah, they knew Christ to be the Son of the living God

J. Salza: No, Mr. May, only Peter "answers the question correctly." Only Peter knew Christ to be the Son of God. The other "disciples" got it wrong (this is another example of Mr. May reading into the text what he wishes to see). That is why Jesus conferred upon Peter alone the special privileges of the keys and the singular authority to bind and loose. The readers will notice that Mr. May repeats this error in various ways throughout this dialogue. He does this in an attempt to minimize Peters importance. He wants you to believe that Jesus did not give any special privileges to Peter, but the text does not allow for such a conclusion.

E. May: But it is not as if anything within the disciple set them apart to know this correct answer. The fact that Peter answered correctly does not set Peter apart from the rest of the disciples, or even from those who answered incorrectly. This is because Peters knowledge depended upon divine revelation. It was God who was to receive the glory, not flesh and bone.

J. Salza: Amen, Mr. May. A Catholic could not have said it better. It was precisely because God gave Peter a divine revelation and Peter was able to infallibly communicate that revelation that Jesus chooses to build His Church upon Peter. God intruded into the mind of Peter and gave Him this infallible truth, and Peter was able to orally communicate that truth infallibly to Jesus and the other apostles. As Jesus indicates, it was not because of Peters own abilities or worthiness. It was also not because of Peters faith. Peters articulation of this Christological truth has nothing to do with Peters faith or worthiness. Jesus conferral of the divine privileges upon Peter has to do only with Peters ability to receive and communicate Gods divine revelation.

The implication of your statement in this section (that Peters knowledge was based on divine revelation) contradicts your subsequent arguments that Jesus builds the Church only on Peters "faith," but not his "person." There is nothing about "faith" in Matt. 16:18-19. The passage is about God giving Peter a divine revelation, and Peter communicating that revelation.

E. May: Peter received an undeserving blessing from above so that he was enabled to know the very truth on which all others were to be builtthe very foundation on which the mission of the Apostles was to be fulfilled. Christs declaration of blessing upon Peter removed the opportunity for Peter to claim any glory for himselfsomething very habitual of the disciples. The grace of God mortifies pride, and Christs declaration of the grace of God upon the life of Peter in revealing truth to him removed any possibility for Gods glory to be robbed by a creature.

J. Salza: No problem. Peter would be nothing without Jesus. Catholics agree. But this isnt relevant to the discussion. Mr. May is creating a straw man to knock down. Further, Mr. May must understand that even though Jesus is the rock of the Church and the keeper of the keys, He can and does share these distinctions with Peter. God is not intimidated by the glory He confers upon His children, so Mr. May shouldnt be either.

E. May: Christ also reminds Peter of his roots: he was Bar-Jonah. Peter was not born to this dignity, but it was granted to him by divine gracegrace that does not allow the glory of God to stolen by the creature of God.

J. Salza: No problem here either. Catholics agree. It is precisely the fact that Peter is so human that underscores the divine gifts Jesus is now conferring upon him. This is why there is a major distinction between Peters authoritative teaching and his (or any popes) personal conduct.

18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

E. May: Jesus, using the emphatic pronoun (alluding back to Peters confession), states, "But I, the Messiah, for my part, tell you." Peter had just received a revelation of truth from the father. Now he is about to receive truth from the Son. It is Christ who makes this statement. He is the churchs head. He is the ultimate authority.

J. Salza: Catholics agree. None of this is at issue. But again, even though Jesus is the ultimate authority, He has delegated to Peter the authority to rule the Church in His place as His Vicar, through the power of the keys. Jesus delegates His authority to Peter, but does not relinquish it. Jesus is still in charge, and Peter is directly accountable to Jesus for his actions. Jesus gave us many parables about how the Master would leave his land to his subjects, and then come back and render an account (see Mt 21:33-44; 25:14-30; Mk 12:1-11; Lk 16:1-10; 19:11-27; 20:9-18). This is precisely what Jesus will do with the leaders He has placed over the Church, beginning with Peter and his successors. Peter himself knew this all too well when he wrote "For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Pet 4:17).

E. May: Jesus singles out Peter, once again alluding back to the statement, "You, you who just made that statement." Just as Peter singled out Jesus and revealed his identity, Jesus is about to single out Peter and reveal his identity. He states, "You are ?????? (Petros)," and follows that up with, "and on this ????? (petra) I will build my church."

J. Salza: This is good exegesis. Mr. May identifies the parallel between Jesus person and Peters person. Just as Peters confession was about the person of Jesus, Jesus declarations will now be about the person (or "identity" as Mr. May says) of Peter. The problem with Mr. Mays position is that he later argues that Jesus doesnt build His Church upon the person of Peter, but upon Peters faith. This is a glaring inconsistency in Mr. Mays argumentation.

E. May: To what petra refers has been debated among exegetes. It can basically be broken down into three categories:

1. Christological (Christ is the Rock) -Augustine

2. Petrine (Peter is the Rock) -Tertullian, Cyprian, and Basil the Great

3. Faith (the confession is the Rock) -Chrysostom and Cyril of Jerusalem

From a theological perspective, any of the three could be accepted.

J. Salza: Catholics have no problem in calling all three categories true. Jesus is the rock, and He shares His rock status with Peter. Peters faith may also be called "rock," but this is a less acceptable conclusion for a couple of reasons. First, Matthew 16:18-19 never uses the word "faith." The passage is not about Peters faith, but his communication of Gods divine revelation. Second, Scripture never equates "rock" with "faith." Scripture associates "rock" with "persons," such as Christ (1 Cor 10:4), Peter (John 1:42) and Abraham (Isaiah 51:1-2). Third, we cant divorce Peters faith from Peters person. Faith is an attribute of who Peter is as a person. Fourth, because Peter was speaking about Jesus as a person, Jesus was in turn speaking about Peter as a person, not his faith, as Mr. May pointed out a few paragraphs ago.

E. May: Christ is the Rock on which the church is built (Isaiah 28:16). The stone is laid by Christ ("I will build it"), and the stone is Christ. Christ is the only solid foundation. He is the firm rock that will not sink under the weight of the building.

J. Salza: While it is true that Jesus is the real rock of the Church, that is not what Jesus says in Matthew 16:18. Jesus says Peter is the rock on which He will build the Church. Mr. May feels the need to switch to Isaiah 28:16, but we are exegeting Matthew 16:18-19, not Isaiah 28:16.

Mr. Mays exegesis reveals further problems because He says "Christ is the rock on which the Church is built," and then says "I will build it" in reference to Christ. Notice how Mr. May puts words into the mouth of Scripture. Matthew 16:18-19 does not say "Christ is the rock on which the Church is built." It says Peter (Petros) is the rock on which the Church is built. Moreover, since Jesus says He is the one who will build the Church (v.18), Jesus cannot be both the rock and the builder. As the text plainly says, Peter is the rock, and Jesus is the builder. So, brothers, you judge who is "reading into the text" what he wants to see.

E. May: But we also see an emphasis from the text on the confession of who Christ is. From the beginning, Jesus examined his disciples, asking "But who do you say that I am." He made certain that they passed the examination of affirming that which is most important. This confession was given to the disciples by divine revelation.

J. Salza: I warned the readers about this recurring error in Mr. Mays exegesis, and here it is again. Mr. May keeps saying that the "confession was giving to the disciples by divine revelation." First, the confession is not what is given; the revelation is what is given. Second, the Father gave the revelation to Peter alone, not the disciples. The disciples got the question wrong. Mr. May wants to "read into the text" that the other disciples also received the revelation in order to minimize Peters uniqueness, but the text is clear that Peter alone received and communicated the revelation.

E. May: But there is also a possibility of the Rock, while primarily and most importantly representing Christ himself, being allegorical of the apostles (represented by Peter) who were to be the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). For Romanists, this verse not only affirms the preeminence of Peter as the Prince of the apostles, but it also lays the groundwork for the establishment of a permanent Roman see with full Petrine authority.

J. Salza: As he did with Isaiah 28:16, Mr. May now shifts to another verse (this time, Ephesians 2:20) to help him interpret Matthew 16:18-19. But no problem. Ephesians 2:20 says that the apostles are the foundation of the Church. Matthew 16:18-19 says that Peter is the rock of the Church, and the keeper of the keys. This demonstrates the Catholic position that the Church is built upon persons, not the "Bible," or "faith" as Mr. May contends. This also demonstrates that, even though Jesus is the rock, foundation, cornerstone and source of all power and truth, He confers these distinctions upon certain members of the Church, most especially Peter. Peter is the rock upon which the foundation is laid. This also means the Church is hierarchical and authoritative, not merely mystical and invisible which is how Protestants understand "church."

E. May: But this is simply not something that is presented in this passage. Is the man who lays the first stone to be the sole foundation? Does Peters being called "Rock" necessitate an infallible pontiff of the entire church, from whom there is an apostolic succession? I think we can fairly answer "Absolutely not."

J. Salza: Notice how Mr. May wants to shift your attention away from Matt 16:18-19 and to Ephesians 2:20 to disprove the "preeminence of Peter as the Prince of the Apostles." But we are not using Ephesians 2:20; we are using Matthew 16:18-19. In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus changes Simons name to Peter, says He will build the Church upon Peter, gives Peter the keys to the kingdom, and gives Peter the authority to bind and loose. THAT, Mr. May, is what demonstrates the "preeminence of Peter as the Prince of the Apostles." It is interesting that you used the title "Prince of the Apostles." This title, which distinguishes Peter from the rest of the apostles, was used by many of the early Church Fathers in describing Peter and his authority over the apostles. I am assuming you agree that Peter is indeed the Prince of the Apostles. But you say that Peter had no authority over them? Help us with that, Mr. May (using Scripture and the Fathers).

You imply that calling Peter "rock" does not "necessitate an infallible Pontiff," and then make a statement about "apostolic succession." Lets deal with these one at a time. First, you admitted that Peter made an infallible declaration in calling Jesus the Christ, which He received from the Father. So you are not going to deny that God gives Peter the ability to communicate infallibly, are you? And as a result of Peters infallible declaration, Jesus says He will build His Church upon Peter, and gives Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven and the authority to bind and loose. Jesus affirms Peter as the infallible leader of the Church, as evidenced by his revelatory declaration, new name, keys, and infallible binding and loosing authority. As you may know, "binding" and "loosing" are rabbinical terms that deal with making doctrinal pronouncements and disciplinary decrees for the faithful.

In this regard, Jesus promises that whatever Peter binds or looses on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven. Because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2), Jesus could only make such a sweeping promise to Peter if He guaranteed that Peters teaching would be infallible. Otherwise, the gates of hell would indeed prevail. Thus, just as God intruded into the mind of Peter and gave him the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, God continues to penetrate Peters mind so that what he binds or looses on earth can be ratified by heaven. God prevents Peter from teaching error (which is the definition of infallibility). You cant get much more explicit in demonstrating infallible teaching authority than Matthew 16:18-19.

Which brings us to your comment about "apostolic succession." The Fathers also understood the keys to be a symbol of dynastic succession to Peters seat of authority. This seat of authority would replace Moses seat of authority then occupied by the Sanhedrin. The keys were symbols of authority and succession. We see reference to the keys in Isaiah 22 where Davids vicar had the keys to the kingdom and the authority to open and shut. Jesus, the Son of David, also appoints a Vicar over His kingdom, and gives him the keys of the kingdom and the authority to bind (shut) and loose (open). The Fathers were unanimous in their understanding of the keys. Your exegesis fails to address the critical significance that the "keys" have on this discussion.

E. May: Christ promises to preserve his church. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. This is because it is built upon the firm foundation of Christ himself, upon the very confession that Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, upon Christs laying of the foundation of the Apostles (represented by Peter the Rock). It is all about Christ!

J. Salza: We have been over this before. Yes, it is all about Christ. But this does not mean that Christ cannot delegate His authority to Peter, which is what the Scriptures say He does. Notice also Mr. Mays equivocation. First he says the Church "is built upon the firm foundation of Christ himself." But then he says it is built "upon the very confession that Christ is the Messiah." Which one is it, Mr. May? Is the Church built upon the foundation of Christ or the confession of Peter? Mr. May certainly has a way of twisting Scripture. Matthew 16:18-19 says that the Church is built upon the rock of Peter, and that is a tough pill for Mr. May to swallow.

19-I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

E. May: Christ the king will (future tense) give the keys of the kingdom to his Apostles.

J. Salza: Dear readers, here is yet another example of the bias in Mr. Mays exegesis. Remember, I warned you that Mr. May would continue to attribute Peters divine privileges to the other apostles. He does it again here. He "reads into" the text what he wants to see. Jesus does not give the keys of the kingdom "to his Apostles." Jesus gives the keys to Peter alone. Mr. May, if you disagree, then please give us book, chapter and verse where Jesus gives the keys to the other apostles. Mr. May must argue this in order to downplay Peters significance. If Jesus really gives Peter alone the keys, then it looks like Peter has special authority that the other apostles do not have. And then it begins to look like the Catholic position has merit. How does Mr. May deal with this? He says Jesus gave the keys to all the apostles, not just Peter.

E. May: They will unlock the door to the Gentiles, an act that specifically Peter performs (Acts 10:28). As Christ ascended on high, he gave gifts to the Church (Eph 4:11). From Christ, the ministers (not just Peter but the rest as well [John 20:21]) receive the authority and power.

J. Salza: Peter unlocks the door to the Gentiles because he is the one with the keys. This supports the Catholic position. Unlocking the door to the Gentiles is a divine act that only Jesus can do, and yet Peter performs the act. Why? Because Jesus delegated divine authority to Peter, and Peter acts in Jesus name. Also, note that the authority to "bind and loose" is not limited to "unlocking the door to the Gentiles." It also refers to declaring dogmatic and disciplinary decrees as well as forgiving and retaining sin (which is set forth in the passage Mr. May cites, John 20:21-23).

E. May: With the keys of doctrine and discipline, the Apostles will bind and loose, unlock and lock, doing so with the authority of heaven.

J. Salza: Yes, Mr. May, the keys do the locking and unlocking, and they are Jesus keys. But what does Jesus do with the keys? He gives them to Peter, to act on His behalf while He is in heaven. That means, in your own words, Peter "will bind and loose, unlock and lock, doing so with the authority of heaven." In other words, Peter will teach infallibly.

It is true that Jesus confers binding and loosing authority on the rest of the apostles in Matthew 18:17-18, but Jesus gives Peter alone the keys. Since the binding (shutting) and loosing (opening) authority are derived from the keys which Peter alone holds, the other apostles can only bind and loose when in union with Peter. Thus, Jesus gives Peter the singular authority to bind and loose, and the apostles the collective authority to bind and loose (Jesus doesnt single any apostle out when he confers upon them binding and loosing authority in Mt 18:18 because he has already identified Peter as the one with the keys in Mt 16:19). In order for there to be unity in the Church, the apostles will have to be united to Peter when they bind and loose. Otherwise, there would be inconsistency in doctrine. Heaven cannot lie, and heaven is the one confirming the binding and loosing authority of Peter.

E. May: Matthew Henry states, "It shall be bound in heaven, and loosed in heaven: not that Christ hath hereby obliged himself to confirm all church-censures, right or wrong; but such as are duly passed according to the word, clave non errante - the key turning the right way, such are sealed in heaven; that is, the word of the gospel, in the mouth of faithful ministers, is to be locked upon, not as the word of man, but as the word of God, and to be received accordingly (1 Thess. 2:13, John 12:20)."

J. Salza: The Greek uses the passive voice which indicates that heaven is receiving the binding and loosing from Peter. This is an incredible statement that Jesus makes. Heaven will ratify Peters binding and loosing decisions. But in order for this to be true, Peter must be prevented from teaching error, for God cannot lie. Thus, God must penetrate the mind of Peter (just as He did when Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah) and prevent him from teaching error. Otherwise, Jesus could not make such a sweeping promise. All this supports the Catholic understanding of the papacy.

Also, Mr. May cites 1 Thess. 2:13 in which Paul says that the oral teaching of the apostles is the word of God. If Mr. May believes in sola Scriptura, then how does he reconcile the doctrine with Pauls teaching in 1 Thess. 2:13? Sola Scriptura holds that the word of God comes only through the Scriptures, and that this is what was taught to the first century Church. If that is true, Mr. May, then how come Paul teaches the Thessalonians that the word of God comes to us orally as well?

E. May: This is what the text states. It is neither less nor more than what the text states. It is as far as the text allows, and exactly that far. This is consistent Biblical exegesis that does not attempt to impose theological agendas upon unsuspecting passages.

J. Salza: Yes, the text states that Simon spoke infallibly, that Jesus changed Simons name to Peter, that Jesus promised to build His Church upon Peter, that the gates of hell would not prevail against this Church built upon the rock of Peter, that Jesus would give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and that Peter would having the authority to bind and loose in heaven what he bound and loosed on earth.

So, yes, Mr. May, "this is what the text states. It is neither less nor more than what the text states." And it provides the basis for papal infallibility Jesus puts one man in charge; his authority and successive office is symbolized by the keys of the kingdom; and his infallibility is guaranteed by the promise of Jesus Christ Himself:

"Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matt 16:19).

E. May: Yet there are other questions we must ask. Do Romanists really believe that Peter understood these words in the sense that they interpret them? Did Peter view this as Jesus giving him ultimate and infallible authority over the church? Did the rest of the disciples view it in this manner (the disciples who later argued over who was the greatest)?

J. Salza: Mr. May wants us to read Peters mind to determine what Jesus meant. Mr. May, why dont you simply read what the text says? If you read what the text says, you see that Jesus conferred a special charism of authority and infallibility upon Peter. Jesus renamed Simon to Peter, said He would build the Church upon him, gave him the keys to the kingdom, and promised him that what he bound or loosed would be bound or loosed in heaven. If what Peter binds or looses is ratified by heaven, then Peter acts with infallible authority. As you have said yourself, "this is what the text says."

The early Fathers all viewed Peter as the head of the Church. I have scores of patristic quotations that are too voluminous to post on the site, but I will email them to you separately if you wish. Peters declarations and actions in the book of Acts and elsewhere further support the Catholic understanding of papal authority. And Linus (who followed Peter), Anacletus, Clement, etc. all understood Jesus words the same way. That is why we see men succeeding to the chair of Peter in the early Church, even though it meant certain martyrdom. Mr. May, we can all be thankful for the witness these men gave to Christ by the very shedding of their own blood.

E. May: Peter himself gives us an answer:

1 Peter 2 4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." 7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," 8and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

E. May: The precious stone and cornerstone, the rock upon which the Church will be built, according to Peter, is not himself, but the Lord Jesus Christ.

J. Salza: I am surprised by such shoddy exegesis. Just because Peter says Jesus is the cornerstone in 1 Peter 2:4, Mr. May concludes that Peter is not the rock of the Church in Matthew 16:18. Mr. Mays faulty exegesis assumes that attributions used in Scripture can be applied to only one person. This is not so. For example:

  • in Ephesians 2:20, the apostles are called the foundation of the Church;
  • in 1 Corinthians 3:11, Jesus is called the foundation of the Church.
  • In 1 Corinthians 3:12, the faithful build upon the foundation;
  • in Matthew 16:18, Jesus builds upon the foundation.
  • In 1 Peter 2:5, the faithful are called the stones of Gods spiritual house;
  • in Acts 4:11, Jesus is called the stone of Gods house.
  • In 1 Corinthians 3:16, the faithful are the temple of God;
  • in Apocalypse 21:22, Jesus is the temple of God.
  • In Acts 20:28, the apostles are called the bishops of the flock;
  • in 1 Peter 2:25, Jesus is called the Bishop of the flock.

If Scripture applies the words "foundation," "builders," "stones," "temple," and "bishop" to both Jesus and His faithful, nothing prevents Scripture from applying the word "rock" to both Jesus and Peter. Moreover, we dont need Matthew 16:18 to prove Peter is the rock because Jesus called Peter the rock in John 1:42! That is the fatal blow to Mr. Mays thesis about who is the rock.

E. May: Furthermore, he does not view himself as being vested with authority over the other apostles:

1 Peter 5 1So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

E. May: Peter refers to himself merely as a fellow elder with the other elders of the Church. All of these elders are under the ultimate authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter does not think of himself as the vicar of Christ or the visible head of the Church. Rather, he views himself as an apostle among other apostles, as a fellow elder with other elders. The only head and ruler of the Church is Jesus Christ.

J. Salza: This is another silly argument. Peter, under divine inspiration, is giving an order to the clergy to tend the flock of God. Peter issues the order by saying "I exhort the presbyters" (v.1). This would certainly be presumptuous if Peter had no authority over them. We might also ask Mr. May why Peters humility undermines his authority? Jesus describes Himself as "meek and humble of heart" (Mt 11:29). Does that lessen Jesus authority, Mr. May? Of course not.

By calling himself a fellow presbyter, Peter is imitating the humility of His Lord, which he also commands his readers to practice elsewhere in Scripture. Peter imitated the Lords humility all the way to his own crucifixion. Presumably, Mr. May would not argue that the President of the United States undermines his authority when he says "My fellow Americans." Nor should he argue the same regarding Peter.

Matthew 16: Examining Vatican I

E. May: Before examining Matthew 16 from a historical perspective, we must be reminded of the qualifications which Vatican I has set for us. What is the interpretation that Vatican I demands? The First Vatican Council (1869-70) convened by Pope Pius IX, affirmed that it could validate its claims and its interpretation of Matthew 16:18-19 by the practice of the Church throughout the ages, as well as through the "unanimous consent" of the Fathers. We must remember this as we look from the historical perspective. Vatican I necessitates that its interpretation of Matthew 16 be the unanimous consent of the early Fathers. Vatican I necessitates that we see Peter as the undisputed head and ruler of the Church, acknowledged as such by the apostles and the Church in general. It necessitates that the early church recognize the bishop of Rome as the infallible successor of Peter, with all authority concerning doctrine and practice.

From the council of Trent:

Furthermore, to check unbridled spirits, itt (sic) decrees that no one relying on his own judgment shall, in matters of faith and morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, distorting the Holy Scriptures in accordance with his own conceptions, presume to interpret them contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge of their true sense and interpretation, has held and holds, or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers, even though such interpretations should never at any time be published.The Council of Trent, 4th Session, the Canonical Scriptures, Rockford:Tan (1978), pp. 18-19

Later affirmed by Vatican I:

And as the things which the holy Synod of Trent decreed for the good of souls concerning the interpretation of Divine Scripture, in order to curb rebellious spirits, have been wrongly explained by some, we, renewing the said decree, declare this to be their sense, that, in matters of faith and morals, appertaining to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be held as the true sense of Holy Scripture which our holy Mother Church hath held and holds, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scripture; and therefore that it is permitted to no one to interpret the Sacred Scripture contrary to this sense, nor, likewise, contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.Philip Schaff, Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, as found in The Creeds of Christendom, Vol II, New York:Harper (1877), p. 242

From these quotes we learn two things:

1. Only the Roman Catholic church has the authority to accurately interpret Scripture.

2. No one, not even the RCC herself, is to hold an interpretation contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.

Matthew 16: Historical Perspectives

How did the early Fathers view Matthew 16? Did they view it as an establishment of Peter as infallible pope, with authority over all of the church, with a line of successors coming from him?

J. Salza: This warrants additional commentary. First, notice that the Church says we are bound to the Fathers interpretation of Scripture when they are unanimous in their interpretation. While there were about a hundred Fathers worthy of note who wrote about the papacy, Mr. May mentions only about a dozen of them, and quotes from less than ten (and I will deal with each quotation). Needless to say, this does not represent a majority of them. Mr. May wishes to give the impression that we are dealing with the unanimity the Church requires, but this is not so. I point this out only to highlight the errors in Mr. Mays approach. He habitually overstates his case and then fails to deliver. I am pleased to dig into the Fathers and demonstrate how they are harmful to Mr. Mays position, and fully support Catholic teaching.

Second, as we will see, Mr. May quotes from the early Fathers primarily to prove that Peter is not really the rock of the Church. He ignores the other relevant issues concerning Peter and the keys, his binding and loosing authority, and his position as chief shepherd over the whole Church. Anyway, Mr. Mays attempt to prove from the Fathers that Peter is not the rock of the Church causes him two insurmountable problems: (1) John 1:42 already demonstrates that Peter is the "rock"; and, (2) For every quote Mr. May provides, I provide at least another quote from the same father indicating that Peter is the rock foundation of the Church.

So what will Mr. May do? Well, he might be honest with us and change his position about Peter not being the rock of the Church. Or, he might accuse me of misreading the Fathers or say the quotes are irrelevant or not binding. We shall see. I will let you be the judge of the quotes from the Fathers.


But whom say ye that I am? Peter answered, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. One for many gave the answer, Unity in many. Then said the Lord to him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven. Then He added, and I say unto thee. As if He had said, Because thou hast said unto Me, Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God," I also say unto thee, Thou art Peter." For before he was called Simon. Now this name of Peter was given him by the Lord, and in a figure, that he should signify the Church. For seeing that Christ is the rock (petra), Peter is the Christian people. For the rock (petra) is the original name. Therefore Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter; as Christ is not called Christ from the Christian, but the Christian from Christ. Therefore, he saith, Thou art Peter; and upon this Rock which thou hast confessed, upon this rock which thou hast acknowledged, saying, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, will I build My Church; that is upon Myself, the Son of the Living God, will I build My Church. I will build thee upon Myself, not Myself upon Thee.

E. May: Augustine considered Christ to be the petra in this passage, and Peter, being the Petros, represented all Christians who are built upon the firm foundation of Christ himself.

J. Salza: Augustine is not saying that Peter is not the rock of the Church, as Mr. May contends. Augustine is saying that Jesus is the rock and Peter is grafted into Jesus because he is Jesus Vicar. Jesus is the source, not Peter. That is why Augustine says "Peter is so called from the rock; not the rock from Peter." This is what I have said all along. Jesus is the rock, but He shares this status with Peter. Augustines comments underscore that Peter has truly received a divine appointment from Christ. He rules and governs the Church as the Vicar of Jesus Christ Himself.

Augustines comments also highlight the unifying principle that Peters seat of authority brings about in Christs true Church. Augustine says "Peter is the Christian people" because Peter is the source of unity for the entire, universal, Catholic Church. This is why the thousands of Protestant denominations (all who reject papal authority and even disagree with each other on basic Christian doctrines) cannot be Christs true Church.

Augustine also says:

"Number the priests even from that seat of Peter. And in that order of fathers see to whom succeeded: that is the rock which the proud gates of hades do not conquer." Augustine, Psalmus contro Partem Donati (A.D. 393).

J. Salza: Augustine recognizes not only Peters seat of authority, but also that Peters chair has successors. Mr. May, who are Peters successors? Can you provide us a list? I can. Here it is.. We also see that Augustine equates "rock" with the papacy as a whole (not just Christ or Peter) when he speaks of the succession to the chair. Augustine does not help Mr. Mays case.


Certainly the other Apostles also were what Peter was, endued with an equal fellowship both of honour and power; but a commencement is made from unity, that the Church may be set before us as one; which one Church, in the Song of Songs, doth the Holy Spirit design and name in the Person of our Lord.

E. May: Cyprian, though recognizing the rock as Peter, recognized the true Rock to be Christ, and Peter representing all of the church in unity.

J. Salza: That is exactly what I have said all along. Jesus is the rock, and yet He calls Peter the rock as well. He shares with Peter His "rock" status. And I am glad that Mr. May correctly points out that Peter represents "all of the church in unity." A Catholic could not have said it better. One must ask where such unity exists in Mr. Mays church.

E. May: Roman Catholic historian Michael Winter acknowledges that Cyprian refers to Peter in a non-Roman sense:

Cyprian used the Petrine text of Matthew to defend episcopal authority, but many later theologians, influenced by the papal connections of the text, have interpreted Cyprian in a pro-papal sense which was alien to his thought. . . Cyprian would have used Matthew 16 to defend the authority of any bishop, but since he happened to employ it for the sake of the Bishop of Rome, it created the impression that he understood it as referring to papal authority. . . Catholics as well as Protestants are now generally agreed that Cyprian did not attribute a superior authority to Peter. Michael Winter, St. Peter and the Popes (Westport: Greenwood, 1960), pp. 47-48.

J. Salza: Perhaps uncomfortable with the Scriptures, Mr. May feels the need to quote from some obscure historian to advance his case. I too can quote from historians and apologists to advance my case. I suggest, however, that we stick to the Scriptures and the Fathers. And, by the way, speaking of Cyprian, the following quotes show just how little the historian Michael Winter knows about him. Look what Cyprian says about Peter:

"For first to Peter, upon whom He built the Church, and from whom He appointed and showed that unity should spring, the Lord gave this power that that should be in heaven which he should have loosed on earth." Cyprian, c.A.D. 246, Ep. lxxiii ad Fubaian. p. 131, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 23.

"Peter, also to whom the Lord commends His sheep to be fed and guarded, on whom He laid the foundation of the Church." Cyprian, c.A.D. 246, De Habitu Virg., p. 176, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 23.

"On him He builds the Church, and to him He gives the command to feed the sheep; and although He assigns a like power to all the Apostles, yet He founded a single chair, and He established by His own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was; but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair." Cyprian, c.A.D. 246, De ecclesiae catholicae unitate 4, in Jurgens The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1 (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1970), p. 220.

J. Salza: Mr. May, did you catch that? Cyprian says "but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is made clear that there is but one Church and one chair." Will you now recant your irresponsible reliance upon Michael Winter and your own position that Peter does not have primacy?

Anyone with a basic knowledge of the early Church Fathers would never make the claims that Mr. May advances. It just shows that Mr. May doesnt really know the Fathers or Scripture like he thinks he does. Here is yet another quote from Cyprian:

"If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" Cyprian, c.A.D. 246.

J. Salza: Mr. May, I will ask you the same question that Cyprian asks (the same Cyprian you attempted to quote from to prove your case): If you dont hold fast to the unity of Peter, do you imagine that you still hold the faith? If you desert the chair of Peter (Mr. May doesnt even believe there is a chair of Peter), do you still think you are in the Church?

John Chrysostom:

E. May: Chrysostom viewed the rock to be Peters confession of faith:

The Lord favours Peter, giving him a great reward, because he built the church upon him. For since Peter had confessed Jesus son of God, Jesus said that this confession which Peter uttered would be the foundation of future believers, just as every man should be about to raise up the house of faith and should be about to lay this foundation. For even if we put together innumerable virtues, we, however, may not have the foundation a proper confession, and we build in vain. Moreover since Jesus said my church, he showed himself to be the lord of creation: for all realities serve God. . . .Therefore if we shall have been confirmed in the confession of Christ, the gates of hell, that is, sins, will not prevail against us. Cited by John Bigane, Faith, Christ or Peter: Matthew 16:18 in Sixteenth-Century Roman Catholic Exegesis (Washington D.C.: University Press, 1981), pp. 31-32.

J. Salza: Chrysostoms first statement is that Jesus "built the church upon him [Peter]." This flatly contradicts Mr. Mays position. Chrysostom says nothing about faith in this statement. He then says Jesus also builds upon Peters faith as well, but as I have said before, this is no problem for the Catholic position. Jesus can build upon both. The problem is divorcing Peters faith from his person. Faith is just one attribute of Peters person. Nothing in Scripture ever limits Jesus building to the faith of Peter. Further, Scripture never equates "rock" with "faith" and never says that the Church is built upon "faith," but upon persons. That is why Jesus calls the person of Peter the "rock" in John 1:42. Surely Mr. May is not going to argue that John 1:42 is about Peters faith but not his person, is he?

E. May: Furthermore, while Chrysostom refers to Peter as the first of the apostles, the leader of the apostles, etc, he also refers to other apostles having primacy in other passages:

"James was invested with the chief rule [in Acts 15], and think it no hardship. So clean was their soul from love of glory. And after that they had held their peace, James answered, etc. (v. 13.) Peter indeed spoke more strongly, but James here more mildly: for thus it behooves one in high authority, to leave what is unpleasant for others to say, while he himself appears in the milder part." (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 33)

J. Salza: This quote proves that Peter had authority over James, which doesnt help Mr. Mays case at all. Peter is the one who spoke what was "unpleasant." James spoke "more mildly" because he was under Peters authority. That is why Peter issued the doctrinal decision in Acts 15, and James followed the decision, only adding his pastoral opinion regarding the application of the Noachide laws. This is also why Paul spent 15 days with Peter, not James, when he went to Jerusalem (even though James was the bishop of Jerusalem; see Gal. 1:18-19). Mr. Mays quote of Chrysostom proves too much for him. Look at what else Chrysostom says which denies Mr. Mays thesis:

"Peter, that Leader of the choir, that Mouth of the rest of the Apostles, that Head of the brotherhood, that One set over the entire universe, that Foundation of the Church." John Chrysostom, c.A.D. 387, T. iii. Hom. de Dec. Mill. Talent. n. 3, p. 4, 5, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 41.

"This very Peter and when I name Peter I name that unbroken Rock, that firm Foundation, the Great Apostle, the First of the disciples, the First called, and the First who obeyed." John Chrysostom, c.A.D. 387, T. ii. Hom. iii. de Paenit. n. 4, p. 300, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 41.

"In those days Peter rose up in the midst of the disciples" (Acts i.15): "Both as being ardent, and as intrusted by Christ with the flock,he first acts with authority in this matter, as having all put into his hands; for to him Christ had said, And thou, being converted, confirm thy brethren." John Chrysostom, A.D. 387, Hom. iii. in Act. Apost. Tom. ix. p. 26, in Charles F. B. Allnatt, ed., Cathedra Petri The Titles and Prerogatives of St. Peter, (London: Burns & Oates, 1879), 37.

"And should any one say, Why then did James receive the throne of Jerusalem?: this is my answer: that He appointed this man (Peter) not teacher of that throne, but of the habitable globe." John Chrysostom, A.D. 387, Ib. Hom. lxxxviii. n. 6, p. 600, in Joseph Berrington, John Kirk, eds., and James Waterworth, rev. The Faith of Catholics, vol. 2 (New York: Pustet & Co., 1884), 34.

E. May: In regards to apostolic succession, Chrysostom refers to Ignatius, a bishop of Antioch, as the successor of Peter:

"At all events the master of the whole world, Peter, to whose hands He committed the keys of heaven, whom He commanded to do and to bear all, He bade tarry here [Antioch] for a long period. Thus in His sight our city was equivalent to the whole world. But since I have mentioned Peter, I have perceived a fifth crown woven from him, and this is that this man [Ignatius of Antioch] succeeded to the office after him. For just as any one taking a great stone from a foundation hastens by all means to introduce an equivalent to it, lest he should shake the whole building, and make it more unsound, so, accordingly, when Peter was about to depart from here, the grace of the Spirit introduced another teacher equivalent to Peter, so that the building already completed should not be made more unsound by the insignificance of the successor." (Homily on St. Ignatius, 4)

E. May: Does this mean that Chrysostom considered James to be Pope? Does this mean that Chrysostom considered Ignatius to be Pope? No, and neither was Chrysostom referring to Peter as Pope when he referred to him as Rock. Rather, it is the message of the gospel that leads to true apostolic succession.

J. Salza: Mr. May is confusing Peters ordination of bishops with successors to the chair of Peter. Here, Chrysostom is telling us that Ignatius succeeded Peter as the bishop of Antioch. The historical record indicates that Peter ordained Ignatius as bishop of Antioch. Before Peters ordination of Ignatius, Peter was in charge of Antioch. This homily has nothing to do with the succession to Peters office. So Mr. Mays usage of this quotation is entirely misplaced.

This is also the same Ignatius who held to the primacy of the Church in Rome. I guess that makes Ignatius a "Romanist," according to Mr. Mays terminology. He says:

"Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the Church that has found mercy in the transcendent Majesty of the Most High Father and of Jesus Christ, His only Son; the church by the will of Him who willed all things that exist, beloved and illuminated through the faith and love of Jesus Christ our God; which also presides in the chief place of the Roman territory; a church worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of felicitation, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and presiding in love, maintaining the law of ChristYou have never grudged any man. You have taught others." Ignatius, A.D. 106, Epistle to the Romans, Preface, The Epistles of St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ancient Christian Writers, (New York: Newman Press, 1946), trans. James A. Kleist.

J. Salza: By the way, this is also the same Ignatius of Antioch who claimed membership in the Catholic Church, believed in baptismal regeneration, and said that we eat the flesh of Christ in the Eucharist. I doubt that Mr. May wants to deal with Ignatius views on baptism or the Eucharist, which fully support Catholic doctrine. We can save these topics for another time.

Basil the Great:

And the house of God, located on the peaks of the mountains, is the Chruch (sic) according to the opinion of the Apostle. For he says that one must know "how to behave in the household of God." Now the foundation of this Church are the holy mountains, since it is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. One of these mountains was indeed Peter, upon which rock the Lord promised to build his Church. Truly indeed and by highest right are sublime and elevated souls, souls which raise themselves above earthly things, called "mountains." The soul of the blessed Peter was called a lofty rock because he had a strong mooring in the faith and bore constantly and bravely the blows inflicted by temptations. All, therefore, who have acquired an understanding of the Godheadon account of the breadth of mind and of those actions which proceed from itare the peaks of the mountains, and upon the house of God is built. (Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah, Cap. II.66, PG 30:233)

E. May: In this passage, Basil states that Peter is one part of the foundation, that the mountains are the apostles and prophets, and Peter is but one of them. He is a rock, not because he is the foundation of the church, but "because he had a strong mooring in the faith and bore constantly and bravely the blows inflicted by temptations."

J. Salza: If it were only that simple for Mr. May. We see that Basil calls Peter the rock on which Jesus builds the Church. In fact, Peter is the only apostle singled out in Basils analysis. Further, no one is saying that the Church is not built upon the other apostles. Basil, like Scripture, makes a distinction between the "rock" of Peter and the "foundation" of the other apostles. None of this proves anything for Mr. May. In fact, as with the rest of the Fathers Mr. May quotes, Basil denies Mr. Mays thesis:

"And when he, the instrument of such and so great a judgment; he the minister of the so great wrath of God upon a sinner; that blessed Peter, who was preferred before all the disciples; who alone received a greater testimony and blessing than the rest; he to whom were entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven, &c." Basil the Great, A.D. 371, T. ii. p. 1. Procem. de Judic. Dei, n. 7, p. 221, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 35.

J. Salza: Unlike what Mr. May wants his readers to believe, Basil says that Peter "was preferred before all the disciples" and "received a greater testimony and blessing than the rest." Why? Because Peter was "entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven." This demonstrates that Peters unique authority is derived from the keys. The keys give Peter the authority to make infallible binding and loosing pronouncements, and effect succession to Peters chair, just like they were used in the Davidic kingdom. Mr. May overlooks all of this when advancing his Protestant arguments.

Cyril of Alexandria:

E. May: Cyril viewed the rock to be the confession of faith:

But what why do we say that they are foundations of the earth? For Christ is the foundation and unshakeable base of all thingsBut the next foundations, these nearer to us, can be understood to be the apostles and the evangelists, those eyewitnesses and ministers of the word who have arisen for the strengthening of the faith. For when we recognize that their own traditions must be followed, we serve a faith which is true and does not deviate from Christ. For when he wisely and blamelessly confessed his faith to Jesus saying, You are the Christ, Son of the living God," Jesus said to divine Peter: You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church." Now, by the work rock Jesus indicated, I think, the immoveable faith of the discipleAnd I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Chruch (sic), and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The surname, I believe, calls nothing other than the unshakeable and very firm faith of the disciple a rock upon which the Church was founded and made firm and remains continually impregnable even with respect to the very gates of Hell. (Commentary on Isaiah IV.2 PG 760:940; Dialogue on the Trinity IV, PG 75:866)

J. Salza: We have already addressed this above. We can include Peters faith into the equation, but not at the exclusion of his person. Jesus calls Peter "rock" independently of his faith in John 1:42, as well as in Matthew 16:18 (since Peters divine communication, not his faith, is at issue). The following quote from Cyril proves my point:

"He suffers him no longer to be called Simon, exercising authority and rule over him already as having become His own. But by a title suitable to the thing, He changed his name into Peter, from the word petra (rock); for on him He was afterwards to found His Church." Cyril of Alexandria, A.D. 424, T. iv. Comm. in Joan., p. 131, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 50.

J. Salza: Here, Cyril says that Jesus founded His Church "on him," in reference to Peter, the person. So Cyril says that Jesus builds the Church both on Peter as well as his faith, even though Mr. May wants us to believe that Cyril says Jesus builds His Church only upon Peters faith. Cyril also says that Peter is the shepherd over the whole Church:

"He [Christ] promises to found the church, assigning immoveableness to it, as he is the Lord of strength, and over this he sets Peter as shepherd." Cyril of Alexandria, A.D. 429, Comm. on. Matt., ad. loc., Migne, Patr. Graec., vol. 72, col. 424, in Michael M. Winter, Saint Peter and the Popes, (Baltimore: Helicon, 1960), 74.

Gregory of Nyssa:

E. May: Gregory as well viewed the rock to be the confession of faith: The warmth of our praises does not extend to Simon insofar as he was a catcher of fish: rather it extends to his firm faith, which is at the same time the foundation of the whole Church (Panegyric on St. Stephen, PG 46:733)

J. Salza: Already addressed above. Gregory, like the rest of the Fathers, also says that Jesus builds His Church upon the person of Peter:

"The memory of Peter, the Head of the Apostles, is celebrated; and magnified indeed with him are the other members of the Church; but upon him is the Church of God firmly established. For he is, agreeably to the gift conferred upon him by the Lord, that unbroken and most firm Rock upon which the Lord built His Church." Gregory of Nyssa, A.D. 371, Alt. Or. De S. Steph. Galland p. 600, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 32.

J. Salza: Gregory also says that Peter is the leader of the apostles:

"The leader and coryphaeus of the Apostolic choirThe head of the Apostles." Gregory of Nyssa, A.D. 371, Alt. Orat. De S. Steph. tom. iii. p. 730, 4, in Charles F. B. Allnatt, ed., Cathedra Petri The Titles and Prerogatives of St. Peter, (London: Burns & Oates, 1879), 51.


E. May: For Jerome, the Rock was Christ:

The one foundation which the apostolic architect laid is our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon this stable and firm foundation, which has itself bee laid on solid ground, the Church of Christ is builtFor the Church was founded upon the rock, Christ, the Catholic Church, is the one dove; she stands the perfect one, and near to His right hand, and has nothing sinister in herThe rock is Christ, Who gave to His apostels, that they also should be called rocks, "Thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church (Commentary on Mt 7.25 M.P.L., Vol. 26, Col. 51; Epistle 65:15, Ad Principiam, Cited by J. Waterworth S J., A Commentary)

J. Salza: Once again, Catholics believe that the Rock is Christ. But as we have said, Jesus confers this distinction upon Peter as well. Listen to what else Jerome says about Peter:

"What has Paul to do with Aristotle? Or Peter with Plato? For as the latter [Plato] was the prince of philosophers, so was the former [Peter] chief of the Apostles; on him the Lords Church was firmly founded, and neither rushing flood nor storm can shake it." Jerome, A.D. 417, Against the Pelagians 1:14a, in Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Jerome: Letters and Select Works, 2nd series, vol. 6, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 455.

"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church. As He bestowed light on His Apostles, so that they were to be called light of the world, and as they obtained other titles from the Lord, so also to Simon, who believed on the Rock Christ, was given the name Peter (Rock). And in accordance with the metaphor of a rock, it is justly said to him, I will build my Church on thee." Jerome, c.A.D. 385-398, Ib. 1. iii. Comm. In Matt., Patr. Lat. i. col. 74, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 40.

J. Salza: These and many other quotations are devastating to Mr. Mays position.

Paul of Emesa:

E. May: Paul of Emesa affirms that the rock was the confession of faith:

Upon this faith the Church of God has been founded. With this expectation, upon this rock the Lord God placed the foundations of the Church. When then the Lord Christ was going to Jerusalem, He asked the disciples, saying, "Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?" The apostles say, "Some Elias, other Jeremias, or one of the prophets," And he says, but you that is, My elect, you who have followed Me for three years, and have seen My power, and miracles, and beheld Me walking on the sea, who have shared My table. "Whom do you say that I am" Instantly, the Coryphaeus of the apostles, the mouth of the disciples, Peter, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." (Homily of the Nativity)

J. Salza: I found no other quotes from Paul of Emesa. But this Father demonstrates that Peter is the spokesman for the apostles. That is because Peter has authority over them. Jesus designates Peter alone as the chief shepherd over the other apostles and the Church at large (John 21:15-17), and prays for Peter alone that he might be the source of strength for the other apostles (Luke 22:31-32).


E. May: Tertullian was the first to recognize the rock as Peter, but he does not identify him as being the rock in the sense that the Church was built upon him, but in the sense that the church is built through him as he preaches the gospel.

J. Salza: Mr. May doesnt provide any quotes from Tertullian, so I will:

"Was anything hidden from Peter, who was called the Rock whereon the Church was to be built; who obtained the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and the power of loosing and of binding in heaven and on earth?" Tertullian, c.A.D. 200-220, De Praescript Haeret, n.22, p. 209, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 19.

J. Salza: There is nothing about the Church being built "through" Peter, if Mr. May thinks that is an important distinction. Tertullian says that "whereon [in reference to Peter] the Church was to be built." Tertullian is yet another Father who says the Church is built upon the person of Peter.

E. May: The list could go on and on.

J. Salza: It sure could, Mr. May. And each time the list would grow more and more devastating to your position.

E. May: Eusebius viewed the rock as Christ.

J. Salza: Already addressed. Further, Eusebius viewed Peter as the leader of the apostles:

"That powerful and great one of the Apostles, who, on account of his excellence, was the leader of all the rest." Eusebius, A.D. 325, Com. in Ps. lxviii 9, tom. v. p. 737, in Charles F. B. Allnatt, ed., Cathedra Petri The Titles and Prerogatives of St. Peter, (London: Burns & Oates, 1879), 49.

E. May: Ambrose viewed the rock as the confession of faith.

J. Salza: Again, Mr. May makes another misleading and irrelevant statement. Here are some more quotes from Ambrose which are fatal to Mr. Mays position:

"Peter is called rock because, like an immovable rock, he sustains the joints and mass of the entire Christian edifice." Ambrose, c.A.D. 385-389, Sermon 4, in The Great Commentary of Cornelius Lapide, II, Catholic Standard Library, trans. Mossman (John Hodges & Co, 1887), 220, in Michael Mallone, ed., The Apostolic Digest, (Irving ,TX: Sacred Heart, 1987), 248.

"Therefore where Peter is, there is the Church; where the Church is, there death is not, but life eternal; and therefore it was added, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and, I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Blessed Peter, against whom the gates of hell prevailed not, nor were the gates of heaven closed against him; but who, on the contrary, destroyed the porches of hell and opened the heavenly places." Ambrose, c.A.D. 385-389, T. i. In Ps. xl. n. 30, p. 879, 880, in Colin Lindsay, The Evidence for the Papacy, (London: Longmans, 1870), 37.

"Peter, after having been tempted by the devil, is set over the Church. The Lord, therefore, signified beforehand what that is, that He afterwards chose him the pastor of the Lords flock. For to him He said, But thou, when thou art converted, confirm thy brethren." Ambrose, c.A.D. 385-389, De Fide, lib. Iv. c. 5, n. 56, in Charles F. B. Allnatt, ed., Cathedra Petri The Titles and Prerogatives of St. Peter, (London: Burns & Oates, 1879), 36-37.

J. Salza: Ambrose even refers to the "Roman See" in union with the "Catholic Church." Would Mr. May also call Ambrose a "Romanist"?

"St. Ambrosedeclares union with the Roman See to be union with the Catholic Church. Speaking of his brother Satyrus, who had arrived, after shipwreck, in a place of doubtful orthodoxy, he says: "He called the Bishop to him, and not accounting any grace true which was not of the true faith, he inquired of him whether he agreed with the Catholic Bishops, that is, with the Roman Church." Ambrose, A.D. 385, De Excessa Frat. n. 46, tom. ii. p. 1126, in Charles F. B. Allnatt, ed., Cathedra Petri The Titles and Prerogatives of St. Peter, (London: Burns & Oates, 1879), 94.

E. May: Bede viewed the rock as Christ.

J. Salza: No quotes provided, but already addressed.

E. May: Pallaudius of Helenopolis viewed the rock as the confession of faith.

J. Salza: Same thing here, and same response.

E. May: Here is the point: we hardly have the "unanimous consent" that is demanded by Trent and Vatican I.

J. Salza: Again, Mr. May assumes that citing a dozen or so Fathers is a unanimity of the Fathers. He is wrong. Second, we have just demonstrated that the Fathers from whom Mr. May quotes actually contradict his views. What a quandary for Mr. May.

E. May: Why does Rome demand an outrageous interpretation of the passage, with no exegetical warrant, that scores of church fathers simply missed? The answer is Sola Ecclesia.

J. Salza: Mr. May, thank you for helping me explain and vindicate the Catholic Churchs teaching on the papacy using Scripture and the early Church Fathers. This dialogue has demonstrated that you "read into" the Scriptures what you want to see (e.g., Peter is not the rock; all the apostles knew Jesus was the Son of God in Mt 16:18-19; all the apostles were given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, etc.). You initially come off like you are in the know and your opponent is an idiot, so I was expecting a lot more from you. But when you gave us your exegesis of Matthew 16:18-19 and analysis of the Fathers, you revealed your true colors. You demonstrated your bias against the Catholic faith and not your proficiency in apologetics.

Catholics do not believe in Sola Ecclesia. We believe in Sola Verbum Dei (the Word of God alone). This word comes to us from Christ and the apostles through both the written and oral tradition (2 Thess 2:15), which has been entrusted to the Church that Jesus builds upon the rock of Peter (Matt. 16:18:19; 1 Tim 3:15). The ineffable wisdom of God is made know through this Church (Eph. 3:9-10).

I hope this short dialogue is helpful to those who read it, Catholic and Protestant alike. I will take my leave and let the readers be the judge of who is more faithful to the plain meaning of Scripture, me or Mr. May. If Mr. May comes back and continues to accuse me of "reading into" the text, we will know why this debate is over.



22. A question about Pope Honorius

Lupe: Mr Salza, Thank you 1st off for your great website and many of God's blessing to you. I am debating a protestant minister that is a 7th day Adventist who recently told me that Honorius I taught the monothelite heresy so I was hoping that you could help me with his claim. I know that he never taught such a thing but kept silent on the matter and the succeeding Popes settled the matter. So is there any historical proof that I can use that will help me show him that this Pope did not do such a thing. God Bless You!

J. Salza: Lupe, I would recommend Patrick Madrid's book called "Pope Fiction" where he goes into detail on the alleged papal "errors."

The Adventist must first understand that the pope is infallible only when he seeks to bind the entire Church to His teaching. Jesus promised Peter that "whatever you bind or loose on earth is bound or loosed in heaven" Mt.16:19.

When Pope Honorius allegedly professed the Monothelite heresy (which he did not), he was only writing a private letter to the Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople. He was not seeking to bind the Church to a dogmatic decree. The pope's private letters are not protected by Christ's promise of infallibility, because such letters are not seeking to "bind" the Church.

Further, Pope Honorius' letter is not a profession of the heresy (and is ambiguous at best). Even though it states that Christ has one will (and Christ has two wills, not one), the pope was actually writing in the context of Christ's humanity only. In other words, the pope was emphasizing to Sergius that Christ has only one human will, not two wills of mind and body. Honorius' second successor, John IV, confirmed Honorius' intention and confirmed his orthodoxy.

Honorius' letter was in response to Sergius who also suggested one human will of Christ, which Honorious confirmed, but under the pretext that he would use the pope's confession of this one human will as evidence that the pope supported the Monothelite heresy - an underhanded move by Sergius. His intention has been exposed, and all subsequent popes confirmed Honorius' orthodoxy, in a letter that had no binding authority on the Church at all.



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