Many individuals credit Pope Francis with revolutionizing the Roman Catholic Church; they believe that under Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Church has changed for the better. As their evidences of this change they cite such incidences as the church’s philanthropy towards the less fortunate, its position on such issues as abortion and the death penalty (though in practice they are in favor of both). Another recent support that individuals use to show that Roman Catholicism has changed is her signing of a joint declaration (October 31, 2016 beginning a year of celebration to October 31, 2017) with the Lutheran World Federation and other evangelicals, that they are now united and that there is no longer a protest but rather a reunification. At the heart of the declaration was the doctrine of justification by faith, one of the primary themes that sparked the Protestant Reformation. As a result of this document, people, especially those who signed on, state that the Papacy has officially changed its position regarding indulgences, penance and the general idea of salvation by works. Because of Martin Luther’s divine revelation regarding justification by faith, he was moved to pen and post his 95 theses against indulgences, as they were in stark opposition to justification by faith and is a doctrine dearly cherished by the Roman Catholic Church.
It must never be forgotten that the very symbol that the Bible uses to depict Roman Catholicism is the leopard (Revelation 13:1 and 2). That symbol declares that the Roman Catholic Church cannot change (see Jeremiah 13:23 and also The Great Controversy pages 563 and 565). How can people say that the Roman Catholic Church has changed? Does the Catholic Church really believe in justification by faith according to the scriptures? Pope Francis’ actions show that he is repeating the works of Tetzel, who was notorious for his selling of indulgences in the 16th century (see The Great Controversy pages 127-129). Prior to October 31, 2017, Pope Francis declared 2016 a Year of Mercy, a year of Jubilee in which indulgences were offered throughout that year. He has offered other indulgences throughout his papacy. The head of the very Roman Catholic Church that states it now believes in Bible justification by faith is actively peddling indulgences, and this just prior to Lutherans and other evangelicals signing the joint declaration that unites them.
Consider the following: “The most recent example of the pope’s penchant for indulgences was his announcement of a special holy year, or jubilee, dedicated to the theme of mercy and featuring a variety of ways for pilgrims to receive indulgences...Indeed, his first recourse to indulgences came early in his pontificate, when Francis declared that all those attending World Youth Day in Brazil in July 2013 would merit an indulgence if they also went to confession, took Communion at Mass and prayed for the pope’s prayer intentions. He also said that those who could not make the event in Rio could obtain an indulgence if they followed the events on television or radio or ‘by the new means of social communication’ — such as Twitter.”
Therefore, the Roman Catholic Church claiming to believe in justification by faith, but still selling indulgences is a farce, a deception, a lie. It is an even a greater shame that professed Protestants with such a rich legacy have forgotten their origin and have allowed Popery to dupe them. Imagine how Pope Francis and his cohorts must be laughing and exulting that Protestants are so ignorant or indifferent that they not only honor the Papal Sunday-Sabbath and believe in the natural immortality of the soul (another Papal error), but that they also believe that Rome has changed its position on earning forgiveness or salvation through indulgences.
What are indulgences, one may ask. An indulgence is “an ‘extra-sacramental’ means by which a penitent can perform a duty — a pilgrimage or some similar act — to eliminate all or part of the penance they must complete after confessing a sin. An indulgence can also reduce the time spent in Purgatory after one dies, or reduce it for someone else who is already in Purgatory awaiting final entry into heaven. There are both full (plenary) and partial indulgences, and the means for obtaining them can vary.” Indulgences can even be procured for others thought to be in purgatory. What blasphemy! Who can forgive sins, but God only?
Post October 31, 2017, after the signing of the joint declaration, are there any evidences that the Roman Catholic Church is still carrying forward its blasphemous work of making merchandise of the grace of God by peddling indulgences? Yes indeed; consider the following headline: “Church will offer Catholics plenary [complete, unqualified] indulgence for attending 2018 March for Life.” This is bribery, coercion and a gross abuse of power—in order for individuals to do something to advance the church’s agenda or to increase the church’s wealth, it offers them forgiveness and salvation, something that is not even theirs to grant. It is also false doctrine and spiritualism to the highest degree—part of the wine of Babylon. The article goes on “The Catholic Church teaches that a plenary indulgence – the kind available to Catholics attending the 2018 March for Life – frees a person from all temporal punishment due to sin. In other words, if a Catholic properly received the plenary indulgence at the 2018 March for Life and then immediately died, he would go straight to heaven rather than spend some time in Purgatory.”
The above-quoted article speaks of individuals receiving forgiveness of sin through indulgences, but the Bible is clear that any person claiming to be able to forgive sin commits blasphemy (see Mark 2:5-7); and whenever the Bible brings to view this power, blasphemy is one of the chief characteristics mentioned. Revelation 17 depicts Roman Catholicism as the mother of harlots with the name of blasphemy written on her forehead (verses 4 and 5). Just as a literal harlot exposes herself with no remorse or care, so the Papacy parades her blasphemies and abominations and yet the civil leaders and the various churches are uniting with her.
Though there is a plethora of evidence that unequivocally proves that Roman Catholicism is not a Christian Church, one of the most striking is the fact that the church is selling forgiveness, offering salvation for money. One of the plainest teachings of scripture, which is the foundational tenet of Christianity and Protestantism, is that salvation can be obtained only through Christ, not through the church, not through indulgences or through any other means. Christ is saying to Roman Catholic leaders and people who believe that they can purchase their salvation as He said to Simon Magus who sought to buy the gift of Holy Spirit, in Acts 8:20-23: “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.”
Let us not be deceived as to the real character of this mammoth institution of iniquity, in spite of it apologies, she is still the same despotic and self-serving persecution machine that she was in times past. As literal harlots may put a covering over themselves to hide their nakedness and true identities in the daylight, so does Popery and all those who refuse to see that she has not changed. But should the covering be removed, the harlot would be exposed for who she has always been. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil” Jeremiah 13:23. As Martin Luther and other Protestant Reformers of their day tore the cloak off of this synagogue of Satan, so must the modern-day reformers—we must carry forward the protest until the close of time!
“The Roman Church now presents a fair front to the world, covering with apologies her record of horrible cruelties. She has clothed herself in Christlike garments; but she is unchanged. Every principle of the papacy that existed in past ages exists today. The doctrines devised in the darkest ages are still held. Let none deceive themselves. The papacy that Protestants are now so ready to honor is the same that ruled the world in the days of the Reformation, when men of God stood up, at the peril of their lives, to expose her iniquity. She possesses the same pride and arrogant assumption that lorded it over kings and princes, and claimed the prerogatives of God. Her spirit is no less cruel and despotic now than when she crushed out human liberty and slew the saints of the Most High.”
Since it is apparent that the Roman Catholic Church has found in Pope Francis a modern-day Tetzel, the question is, where is Martin Luther? Where are those to stand and protest and expose the wickedness and deceptions of the man of sin? Who will resurrect the 95 theses and allow them to overthrow the corruptions of Roman Catholicism and thus open the eyes of the deceived masses of both Roman Catholics and professed Protestants? Will you stand and be counted and make the solemn appeal or Revelation 18:4: “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues?”
White, Ellen. The Great Controversy (1911), page 571