Hislop (1928) states that it should not be difficult for any enlightened Protestant to identify the ‘Woman on the Beast’ of with the title ‘Mystery Babylon the Great ’ written on her Revelation 17
forehead with Papal Roman apostasy. Popery has also been described as ‘baptised Paganism.’ The
Pope himself can be seen as a lineal representative of Belshazzar of Daniel 5 in his presumptuous
boasts and harlotry; ‘a golden cup intoxicating the nations as in the Babylon of old, full of lust and
licentiousness’. The Roman Catholic Church is a gigantic system of moral corruption, deception and idolatry, the ‘mystery of iniquity’ or ‘secret power of lawlessness, a described by Paul in 2
Its objects of worship, festivals, ceremonies and priesthood are all based on Thessalonians 7.
Chaldean/Babylonian mysteries and sorcery.
The Roman Church embraced the ancient pagan religion of Babylonia in the form of Zoroastrianism, fire-god worship and magic arts and mother goddess worship from Egypt, in the form of Isis or Semiramis, queen of Babylon (Rhea/Nin) and her son Tammuz (Adonis or Mithras). It is believed that this pagan worship system stemmed from Nimrod, who rebelled against God in building the Tower of Babel. Mithras was worshipped as a false mediator between God and man. In Greece, Bacchus or Dionysus, who was said to have given up his life voluntarily,is described as the sin-bearer and in India, Vishnu is seen as the victim–man or saviour! All of these claim to be ‘the branch’ of Isaiah 11.
The Roman Catholic Church rose to power on the basis of a misinterpretation of Matthew 16:18.
When Jesus asked the disciples who they thought he was, he applauded Peter’s reply that he was the Messiah by saying: ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you
by man, but my father in heaven. I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will
What Jesus meant was it that it was on this revelation that Jesus would build build my church...’
his church. The Roman Church, however, claimed that this meant it was through St. Peter that God
was going to build his church. i.e. that Peter was God’s representative on earth and this was used to justify the authority of the papacy. The Roman Catholic Church abused this scripture to dominate the Christian world and gain enormous power, authority and wealth, especially during the Middle Ages.
There is archaeological evidence that Peter’s remains were buried in a First Century Nazarene Christian cemetery at the site of Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem and not Rome as claimed by the Catholic Church! Interestingly two Franciscan priests, P.B. Baggatti and J.T. Milik found an ossuary (bone box) with the name ‘Simon bar Jonah’, written in Aramaic on the side!
Their work was published in Italian in 1946 and translated into English in 1958. Father Bagatti went to the Pope (Pius XII) in Rome and showed him the evidence and the Pope said to him, ‘Well, we will
In 1959 the Vatican have to make some changes, but for the time being, keep this thing quiet’."
published a ‘ miraculous discovery’ of St Peter’s tomb under St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome!
The Political Power of Rome
Until the fourth century, the church and state had remained separate. The power of Rome was exerted by military might and the church was heavily persecuted from its birth under Tiberius and Nero to Valerian. In 303 Diocletian tried to stamp out Christianity completely by ruthlessly pillaging places of worship, burning sacred books and torturing and killing believers. The cult of emperor worship posed a major threat to the church. Not only were Christians persecuted for refusing to bow down to paganism and to worship the emperor, but the Roman church itself became idolatrous. The pope claimed divine authority and himself demanded to be recognised as God’s executive.
In 312 AD, the Emperor Constantine had a remarkable experience before the battle of Milvian Bridge, when he defeated Maxentius. The story goes that he saw a flaming cross in the sky (actually an ‘X’ not a ?) with an inscription in Greek, ‘by this sign I conquer.’This revelation showed him a way of bringing the whole empire together, in effect, conquering the whole world and this was to completely change the course of history for the church.
Constantine also deemed it politically expedient to bring the two monotheistic religions of Sol Invictus and Christianity closer together in doctrine and organisation.’(Hogue, 1998 p.22-23.) Hence this new
form of Christianity embraced paganism, which was to haunt it for generations. Constantine never truly became a Christian and he was not baptised until he was on his death bed, probably to hedge his bets.
In 313 a decree was made giving full toleration to the church and unconditional religious liberty to all in the West. Churches were rebuilt and other losses made good. Eleven years later, Constantine became ruler of the whole Roman Empire, East and West, so that Christianity gained complete freedom throughout the Roman world. This change in the position of the church was not, however, all good.
When Julius Caesar became head of the Roman Empire, he took the name Pontifex Maximus, a
title given to the chief priest of the Babylonian Sol Invictus cult! Successive emperors held this title.Just how pagan ideas have infiltrated the church is illustrated by an article in ‘The Catholic World’ March 1994.p.809 which states: ‘The sun was the foremost god within heathendom. There is
truth, something royal, kingly about the sun making it a fit emblem of Jesus, the Sun of
We have still kept the old pagan names for our weekdays and recently diaries and Justice.’
calendars have changed to show Monday rather than Sunday as the first day of the week! Although Sunday worship was claimed to be a celebration of the resurrection, it really took over the pagan day of worshipping the sun god.
The Catholic Church even removed the fourth commandment to honour the Sabbath day from the bible. Constantine proclaimed Sunday as a fun day for the family and recreation in the Council of Laodicea in 325. The church stated that Christians should not Judaise and be idle on Saturday, but should work on that day. Today Sunday is kept more as a holiday, a day for the family, rest and recreation, shopping and sport rather than a holy day to honour God just as it was then.
Although the practice of worshipping on Sunday entered Protestantism at least they did not alter the scriptures! Jesus graciously stated that ‘The Sabbath was made for man not man for the
(Mark 2:27) and that He is ‘Lord of the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:8). We need not be Sabbath’
legalistic about what we may or may not do on the Sabbath like the Jews. What is important is that
we honour God by keeping one day for Him. Maybe Christians should refer to Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Ezekiel 20:12 states: ‘The Sabbath is to be a sign between them and me.’ It is a
covenant with God and one intended to bless us and to honour Him. It is a day of double portions and not one in which to put human decrees above God’s.
Pagan festivals were incorporated into Christian ones. The forty day fast of Lent was taken from Babylonian worship and Easter replaced Passover. The festival of ‘Easter’ comes from the worship of Astarte (Ishtar), the Phoenician goddess of love and fertility, symbolised by an egg. The pagan version of the story of the Garden of Eden says that the serpent, representing the devil, stopped Adam and Eve eating the fruit, sacred Easter orange, in the garden of delight, and that Hercules, the pagan messiah, subdued or killed the serpent!
The worship of Zoroaster, the fire god or festival of Tammuz, which was celebrated by the Druids by lighting fires at the summer equinox or midsummer day, became the feast celebrating the nativity of John the Baptist. The winter equinox was amalgamated with the birthday of Mithras, Persian god of light, to become Christmas.
The Council of Nicea blurred the distinction between Christian and pagan rites and festivities, adopting the pagan Yuletide feast, about the time of the winter soltice, for the celebration of Christ’
birthday. In fact the two festivals merged into ‘a celebration of the annual rebirth and resurrection of ththe Sun!’ (Hogue, 1998). The Arabian moon god or ‘man of the moon’ was worshipped on 24 thDecember followed by sun worship on the 25! Wassailing was a counterpart of the drunken festival
of Babylon. The Christmas tree, a fir or palm in Rome and Egypt, represents the pagan messiah and kissing under the mistletoe (used by the Druids), represents reconciliation through ‘the Branch’. The thkilling of a boar or goose (losing its head), was a sacrifice to the gods. Lady Day, 25 March, was set
to be nine months earlier, as the time of the annunciation or immaculate conception. The feast of the Assumption was supposedly when the body and soul of Mary was carried to heaven!
The practice of depicting Jesus and recognised saints with a halo or aura of light around their heads was really the nimbus of the god, Sol Invictus! Mithraism also involves a communion of eating his body and drinking of his blood as well as forecasting a final battle like Armageddon.
Constantine was vain and continued in many superstitious practices from his pagan background. He encouraged the use of elaborate vestments and rituals in the church, similar to those of pagan high priests: bishops wore mitres, in the shape of a fish’s head, symbol of the Philistine fish god, Dagon and carried a crosier or hooked rod, an Etruscan divining rod!
These maintained the mystery and power of the priesthood and this position has been largely retained in the Catholic Church and Anglo-Catholic Churches until today. Bishops were a placed in a position of power and prestige, set apart from the layity. It became the custom to hold Catholic priests in awe and to call them ‘Father’ when Jesus expressly forbad the priests to use this name. ‘Do
not call anyone on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father and he is in heaven.’(Matthew
Although the people now have access to the scriptures, they are still largely dependent on the 23:9)
priest and do not take spiritual responsibility for themselves.
The Catholic Church represents Jesus not as the risen Lord, but as still hanging on the cross in the form of the crucifix. This is because of the false doctrine of perpetual sacrifice, i.e. that Jesus is
continually dying on the cross through the celebration of the Mass. This is clearly, not the case, either from the evidence of the empty tomb and over five hundred witnesses to His resurrection or from the scriptures: ‘He sets aside the first (covenant) to establish the second. And by that will, we
have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus once for all. (Hebrews
. ‘But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he 10:9b-10)
sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:12.) ‘Unlike other priests, he (Jesus) does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins
Jesus’ of the people. He sacrificed once for all when he offered himself.’ (Hebrews7:27.)
last words from the cross were ‘It is finished.’ (John19:30) confirming his triumph over sin and
There is still much superstition attached to the sign of the cross and wearing a crucifix as protection from evil, like a magical charm. This practice comes from the Chaldean or mystic ‘tau,’ which is really
the letter ‘T’ or Egyptian ‘ankh,’ worn on a necklace and marked on the head at baptism, an initiation ceremony into the mysteries and magic arts! The cross is sometimes found in a circle, representing the sun and was also worn on the head band of Bacchus and round the neck of Vestal virgins! The cross with leaves is a symbol of the tree of life and is worn by Buddhists. Pope John Paul II actually carried a bent or Satanic cross!
The sacred heart was the symbol of the child of the mother goddess, the ‘flaming’ boy-god, Cupid,
who was supposed to be born again as a child. (Similarly represented is the Chaldean ‘Bel,’ the heart of Bacchus, Osiris in Egypt and Buddha in China.) Roman youths wore heart-shaped ‘bulla’
around their necks.
Many Orthodox, Lutheran and High Anglican Churches as well as Catholic Churches continue in these practices and remain in bondage to religion and the law of sin and death, instead of accepting salvation by faith and the liberty of the Holy Spirit and the fullness of life. Jesus said: ‘I have come
that they may have life and have it to the full!’(John 10:10b.)
The practice of ministering round wafers on a silver plate, which represent a sun disc and kneeling at the altar is really bowing to the sun god! The monstrance, a stand which holds the wafer or host is in the form of a sun burst. In the Catholic Church, communion was not just regarded as a memorial of Christ’s death, but itself a sacrifice. The doctrine of the Real Presence was a widely accepted mystery. The wine and bread in the Eucharist were believed to be changed, as if by magic, into the very blood and body of Christ by the priest. This doctrine took four hundred years to be fully promulgated at the Lateran Council in 1215. Much mystery still surrounds the mass and it is only since Vatican II, that reforms such as the people being able to partake of the wine as well as the bread have been accepted as normal practice.
This is the practice of anointing the body with oil as part of the last rites before a person dies. It is a corruption of James 5:14-15, where we are exhorted to call the elders to pray and anoint the sick person with oil for healing not death! Unction is an ancient Babylonian ceremony of preparing the body for its last journey.
Purgatory and praying for the dead
Purgatory was thought of as a place under the earth, where the souls of people were purged through suffering: as a place between heaven and hell. This idea was common in pagan religions, but is nowhere mentioned in the bible. Augustine expressed his belief in purgatory as a place of purging souls by fire and this doctrine was favoured by Gregory the Great. It became an article of faith in the Council of Florence in 1439. The practice of praying for the dead developed from this doctrine and is still common practice.
Confession to a priest was also a Chaldean custom. Instead of daily personal confession of sin before God, it became customary, indeed obligatory, for a Christian to make confession before a priest in church. This gave priests power, separating them from the laity. They were accepted as having divine grace and authority handle divine mysteries and thus they became indispensable in the Christian’s
approach to God. The aura of mystery was reinforced by the wearing of vestments, burning of incense (a pagan custom) and services and rituals being conducted in Latin. The altar became a sacred place and was railed off from the main body of the church. The gulf between the priests and ordinary people was increased by the lack of education of the masses or access to the scriptures in their own language.
Arguments for the veneration of Mary
Mary was seen as a Jewish girl and mother of the Messiah and a way of binding together the old and new people of God, Israel and Christianity, synagogue and church. Instead of being represented as a dark haired Jewish girl, however, the Catholic Mary became the ‘Alma Mater’ Virgin Mother, or Queen of Heaven, with pale skin and fair hair, more like the Greek Ariadne or Europa, with a golden complexion and a crown! The so called ‘feminine principle’, the Madonna, was promulgated by Cardinal Ratzinger, as an idealised image of feminine eternal that ‘leads humanity ever beyond.’ This
view is paradoxical, when one considers that women were excluded from the priesthood. Women were de-valued and even denigrated by the Catholic Church. This shows its intransigent attitude towards women. The hard line treatment of women, especially in denying them contraception, is paralleled in Islam.
The Marian Cult and the Virgin and Child
The ‘Virgin Mary’ is exalted as ‘Mother of God’ through a Catholic distortion of the true status of Jesus’ mother Mary. In emphasising Mary’s role the Catholic Church was fulfilling a deep longing to worship the earth mother of pagan religions. The goddess Artemis or Diana was worshipped at Ephesus and it is probable that she was re-established as the Queen of Heaven in place of Jesus’
mother Mary, who went to live there with the disciple John. In the mother and child cult the father Nimrod is absent and the son Tammuz remains child like doing what his mother tells him. The cult of the ‘Virgin Mary’ could have come from Mithras, who like Jesus was supposed to have been born from a sanctified virgin. Paul described Jesus as the ‘second Adam’, so to Catholics, Mary became the ‘second Eve!’ The Church took over many pagan sacred sites renaming them in the honour of the
Worship of Images
Only those who had performed miracles or been martyred were recognised by canonisation as saints on recommendation of the Pope. This led to ‘higher orders’ of saints and the tendency to worship man rather than God. Saints and martyrs were greatly venerated and people made pilgrimages to holy sites, such as the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem or Compostela, collected relics and worshipped images. This practice is also common in Buddhism. The use of rosaries and beads in saying mechanical prayers is also found in ancient Mexico, Hinduism and Buddhism. Praying to Mary and other saints became normal practice in spite of the first and second commandments to have no other gods or to worship images. (Exodus 20:1-3)
Ten Commandments have been altered to remove the second concerning the worship of images and the tenth concerning covetousness expanded to make two: 9. Do not covet your neighbour’s wife and 10. Do not covet your neighbour’s house!
Jesus set the pattern for us to follow by being baptised by John in the river Jordan . (Luke 3:21-22).
In the Early Church, it had been the practice to fully immerse converts to Christianity on confession of their faith, as Jesus had commanded ‘in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy
Baptism thus replaced the Jewish circumcision as a sign of commitment to Spirit’(Matthew 28:19.)
the faith. During the third century, it became the custom to sprinkle infants with water, more as a superstition to protect the child from evil than as a sign of repentance. Baptism thus lost its true meaning as an outward sign of repentance, of dying to self and making Jesus Lord. The powerful symbol of being fully immersed or buried and then rising out of the water in new resurrection life was entirely lost. (Romans 6:4-10)
Celibacy and Sexual Control
Celibacy was a requirement for priests in Cybele worship and shaving the head into a circular tonsure was a visible sign of submission. Similarly priests of Osiris had shaven heads as do Buddhist monks of Tibet and Japan of today. This practice was forbidden under Jewish law. (Leviticus 2:5). The Early
Church Fathers were biased against women and hostile towards human sexuality. Origen took a strong stand against any pleasure in marital sex. He taught that sexual intercourse was for the purpose of procreation alone. He had such a personal fear of falling into sexual sin that he even castrated himself! Augustine wrongly taught that sexual intercourse resulted from the Fall of Adam and Eve. Eve got blamed for being tempted by Satan in the Garden of Eden and for leading Adam astray. It was not sex that was the cause of the Fall, but disobedience in eating from the tree of knowledge! It was Adam’s failure to take responsibility and to protect Eve, which led her to be
deceived by Satan. Eve confessed she was tricked by Satan, but Adam blamed Eve instead of admitting his sin.
Jerome regarded sex, even within marriage as a ‘beastly’ or ‘animal act’ and considered anyone who
ardently loved his wife as an ‘adulterer’! Thus virginity was elevated above wedlock. By the fourth century much of the church was celibate. In 305 AD, the Council of Elvira in Spain stated that all those ministering at the altar must practise abstinence from their wives or forfeit their positions. This disciplined life style was supposed to exhibit holiness and theoretically exalted marriage to a spiritual level. Celibacy was elevated above marriage, based on a wrong interpretation of St Paul’s teaching on
the virtues of singleness. (1 Corinthians 7.) The loss of sensual pleasure was compensated for by
the sense of being set apart through celibacy, which led to spiritual pride. Marriage was merely tolerated, while divorce was condemned, leaving many outside the community of the church.
The Council of Nicea was also responsible for establishing the vow of celibacy amongst the priesthood, even though it was evident that St, Peter, the first bishop of Rome, was married! The bishops at Nicea established a double standard which was to lead to centuries of hypocrisy and cupidity. Bachelor priests were ordered never to marry, but priests who were already married could keep their wives. Celibate priests and nuns were given special privileges and tax relief, which led to greed and taking vows in name only.
Under Augustine (354-430) Bishop of Hippo, there had been repression of women, closure of temples and other sacred sites. Over time, the institution of celibacy was used by male church leaders to suggest that they were more holy than women and to prevent them from exercising their gifting. Mysticism became a threat to the Church. Hildegarde of Bingen was excommunicated at 81! Julian of Norwich was largely ignored. Women were sometimes even accused of witchcraft and many were burnt at the stake by the inquisition. The Church was guilty of misogyny: authoritarian and controlling in its attitude towards women. Women were seen as weaker, ‘fallen’ and deceivers. Later in the sixth century, Pope Gregory’s literal interpretation of St. Paul’s and St. Augustine’s original sin that led to the idea that the body and nature was shameful, leading to practices such as mortifying the flesh- wearing hair shirts, walking with peas in your shoes and whipping yourself!
With the break from Rome and the establishment of the Church of England under Henry V111, ministers were allowed to marry, but shortly after, when Catholic ‘Bloody Mary’ became queen, married ministers who refused to become celibate, were burned at the stake. In the sixteenth century sex was forbidden on Holy days and the Victorians considered sex dirty and distasteful. A double standard developed: women were expected to be chaste and to endure sex, but men were free to take mistresses.
This attitude has pervaded the church for centuries and denied women the intimacy and fulfilment for which they were created. God made men and women in His likeness to be fruitful in every way, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Not only has the Church’s warped view of sexuality
deprived women of their full physical fulfilment in marriage, but the attitude of male superiority has limited women’s opportunities for education, work and scope in ministry. Instead of men and women being seen as equals, with complementary roles, women have been treated as subordinates or even slaves.
Control of Knowledge
Pope Gregory sent Augustine as a missionary to Britain in 597 AD. Augustine established churches in the south, but there was already a strong Celtic church, especially in the north, which was a potential threat to Rome. Sadly, in 664 AD the Synod of Whitby, decided that the Roman Church should take over from the Celtic Church. The purity, simplicity and more spiritual Celtic Church was replaced by a more powerful Roman Church with absolute control. In Scotland, however, the Celtic Church survived until the eleventh century.
The Roman Church took a firm hold of the levers of power, religious and temporal, not allowing room for dissent. Access to education was restricted to the priests and dogma superseded the quest for secret knowledge. The Church ruled by fear. It was the self-appointed law maker, judge, jury and executioner. The canon of scripture was decided. All that was Gnostic was suppressed and by the fifth century all signs of Gnosticism had disappeared, but other heresies had crept in.
The edict of Milan gave Christianity secular and political power. Accumulation of wealth in the Church led to corruption. Bishops were appointed on the grounds of high birth, wealth, prestige and administrative skills rather than piety. The Vatican became fabulously wealthy, which it still is today.
The Church and State effectively became one in Europe, as ‘the establishment’, maintaining a form of feudalism and political control. In the eighth century an alliance took place between the Papacy and Frankish rulers, Pepin and Charlemagne in their fight against the Lombards. The Pope received lands and crowned Charlmagne as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. This was the beginning of ‘temporal
sovereignty.’ This meant one Church and one state with the Emperor and Pope working hand in hand ‘for the glory of God and the welfare of men.’ Sadly, this system became a hotbed for manipulation, corruption and intrigue, such as the selling of indulgences.
As we have seen, the Emperor Constantine had brought paganism into the church and established priesthood with privileges and power. Christianity had become the state religion and bore little resemblance to that of the Early Church. The Roman Church was indeed corrupt and self indulgent. The clergy revelled in gluttony and luxury. They demanded payment for marriage services and communion, even for last rites. Priests were often engaged in the business world and too busy to care about church work. Many owned large estates and practised fornication and homosexuality. In the south of France there had been no mass for thirty years! No wonder true believers saw Roman Catholicism as an embodiment of evil, the whore of Babylon of Revelation.
By the seventh century, the Catholic Church had become so powerful and corrupt that it bore little resemblance to the early Church. The Pope claimed to be infallible, as God’s representative on earth. The power he wielded was even greater than that of kings. The claim to universal supremacy in the Church was first made by Pope Leo I and was renewed by Gregory the Great, who assumed the title of ‘Servant of servants’, while claiming to be the successor of Peter and the ‘Vicar of Christ on earth!’ Like St. Augustine he taught that there was no salvation outside the one Catholic Church, to which he claimed headship.
The Challenge from the East
In the East, there was contention over papal authority going back to Peter’s leadership of the Roman
Church and James as head of the Jerusalem Church. The Eastern Church in Constantinople retained its mystic element. By the fifth century there had been a growing Arab Christian culture and the Eastern Byzantine church was essentially monastic. A patriarchal see was set up at Constantinople. In the sixth century, whilst the Church in the West was gaining more and more power, dominated by the papacy in Rome, the Byzantine church based in Constantinople, was steadily contracting under pressure from the attacks of Goths, Slavs, Iranians, Muslims and Turks. Bactrians, Persians, Medes, Elamites and others who had spread through the Near East accepted Islam and rejected Rome.
Islam was gaining a hold and spreading through Asia Minor to Persia, India and North Africa. The Nestorians in Constantinople were ready to accept the Muslim conquest in the seventh century and some even accepted Mohammed. The Nestorians, like the Jews, kept the Sabbath and did not eat pork. They taught the Muslims their building style. Hence the church of St. Sophia looks like a mosque! [It is probable that the Syriac translations of scripture that Muslims became acquainted with Greek thought and through the black Moors that Arabic culture entered Spain.]
The churches in the West and East had been drifting apart for centuries. Political, cultural, racial and language differences had exacerbated the theological disputes. In 1054 the Pope’s envoy placed a papal bull on the altar of the Cathedral of Santa Sophia ex-communicating the Greek Patriarch. This was not rescinded until 1965!
The Catholic Church took on the role of ‘liberator’ through what were considered ‘holy wars’ against the threat of Islam, but also to extend its power and influence. In 1095 Pope Urban II preached a war on behalf of the cross, a crusade or holy war on Islamic infidels who occupied Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the supposed site of Christ’s burial. The first crusade took place in 1099, followed by six more over the next hundred years. The city of Jerusalem was however recaptured by the Saracens in 1187. The church laid claims to land, goods, women and titles of the territories conquered, amassing booty and plunder. There was great bloodshed and corruption. People were induced to go on the Crusades by the granting of absolution of their sins and cancellation of debts. Any dissension was immediately crushed by the Inquisition. Those who refused to recant where tortured or burned at the stake.
The Templars had become a very rich and powerful empire, second only to the Papacy itself. They were soldiers, merchants and bureaucrats. They owned ships to transport pilgrims and became widely respected as diplomats. They were tolerated by Muslims and Jews, but their power aroused the jealousy of the Papacy and they were accused of heresy. Some were even tortured and killed. Some escaped to Scotland, where they were safe under Robert the Bruce, who had been excommunicated.
Similar crusades were made against witchcraft. Paganism was practised in much of Europe and the Catholic Church tried to stamp out the worship of Pan and Diana, especially rituals associated with sexuality and fertility. The practice of witchcraft and sorcery was seen as of the devil and, therefore, the greatest of all sins. Elderly women and village crones, who were often midwives, were held with suspicion because they were custodians of female mysteries and the use of herbs, charms and spells. Witches were accused of copulating with incubi and succubi, evil spirits. A witch was seen as a Satan worshipper exercising real power and different from a heretic. Witches were thought to cause hailstorms, madness and still birth. Thousands were burnt at the stake.
Between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries over a one and a half thousand Papal Bulls were issued against witchcraft. Paradoxically, the Catholic Church was full of superstition and magical rituals. These were however considered superior and blessed by holy angels.
Stirrings of dissent
As a reaction to the evils of Catholic heresy, indulgence and domination, two Puritanical groups arose in the South of France in about 1170. The Waldensians, founded by Peter Waldo of Lyons, were simple bible preachers who travelled in Southern France and Northern Italy. They were severely persecuted by the Catholic Church, with much bloodshed.
The Cathari were an ascetic group. Their beliefs were essentially dualist, believing that all material creation was intrinsically evil. They lived a simple lifestyle, similar to that of the Early Church. Cathars emphasised direct contact with the divine and sacred, pre-empting the priesthood and rejecting dogma and ecclesiastical hierarchy. They gained a strong following by their gentle persuasion, honesty and generosity in contrast to the tyranny, bribes and threats of the Roman Church, to which they were strongly opposed. They circulated the New Testament, which opposed Roman Catholic practices.
By the thirteenth century, Cathars threatened to supplant Catholicism. Hence, Pope Innocent III launched a savage attack on them. All heretics were to be ruthlessly exterminated. They were hunted down by the Inquisition. In another crusade in France, fifteen thousand were killed, men, women and children. Heretics were burned at the stake, without the right to appeal. Torture was used ‘to save
the soul’ and the death penalty used as the last resort.
As we have seen, the Church exerted a stranglehold on intellectual life. While in Moorish Spain, between 755 and 1492, learning was prized and respected. Art and architecture flourished and Christians, Jews and Muslims lived in harmony. Wider freedom of expression, democracy,
philosophical, political and scientific advance could be said to have sprung largely from the Gnostic tradition, breaking away from the repression of the Church.
The explosion of knowledge, aided by the invention of the printing press, made bible translation and dissemination possible. Protestants in turn were seen by the Catholic Church as rebellious, full of intellectual pride and independent thought. Luther, Calvin and Zwingli openly defied the priesthood, challenging Papal authority and the Church’s monopoly on learning.
Many of the Catholic heresies remained unchallenged, however, because of the general public’s ignorance of scripture. Clement XI, pope from 1700-1721, completely removed direct access to the bible from the laity. As a reaction to the laity’s misinterpretation of the Vulgate Bible during the Counter-Reformation, instead of correcting their errors, he ‘ordained that no lay Christian man
or woman can read the Holy Scriptures at any time, nor can any Catholic religious book be read by rank-and-file Christians on Sunday the Lord’s Day. Only priests can read and
’ [Hogue (1998) p.200.] instruct from the bible according to the dictates of the pontiff.
The Catholic Church also tried to control knowledge by banning books on magic, alchemy and astrology. Amongst the books considered heretical were the Jewish Talmud, histories of Freemasonry, the Church of England Book of Common Prayer and thirty different translations of the bible and eleven of the New Testament. There was an attack on the ‘Renaissance Magi’, men of science, arts and philosophy, such as Bruno, Galileo and Campanella. The philosophical and literary works of Voltaire, Balzac, Descartes, Rousseau and Spinoza were included in the lists of forbidden books. Finally, the task of controlling the secular press became impossible and the Church’s control over the spiritual life was eventually shattered.
During the Reformation many of the heresies and much of the power of the Catholic Church were removed, but there was a resurgence of ritual and dogma in the Anglican Church, under the influence of the Oxford Movement. Members gloried in tradition, extolling the power and prestige of the bishops, claiming that their authority had descended to them by divine appointment from the time of the apostles. They propagated their views through publishing ‘Tracts for the Times’ and so became known as Tractarians. This revival of Catholic ideas and practices was led by John Henry Newman, who eventually broke away from the Church of England and became a cardinal in the Catholic Church!
The Jesuits, led by Ignatius Loyola, became the spearhead of a Counter Reformation. They were soldiers similar to the Templars and Hospitallers. The Catholic Church attempted to gain new spheres of influence in South America and the East by trying to regain ground lost to Protestantism by missionary endeavour.
Many canon laws and forgeries attributed to the Church Fathers remained until they came to light in the fourteenth century and were used by Martin Luther in his case for the Protestant Reformation. It was not until the sixteenth century that this gross system was effectively challenged and forced to lose its hold. The turning point was when in 1517, Martin Luther took his courageous stand against the sale of indulgences by posting thirty-nine articles on the church door at Whittenburg. This, together with the translation of the bible into the English language and a groundswell of dissension and the desire to read the scriptures for themselves amongst the populace, made way for the Reformation.
Henry VIII established himself as the Head of the Church of England when he broke away from Rome, when the Pope refused to recognise his divorce and right to remarry in order to gain a male heir. The head of state had now become the head of the church by the so-called ‘divine right of
kings.’ Henry’s break from Rome led to the Dissolution of the Monasteries: churches were stripped of