On March 13, 2013, Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina took the shorter name of Francis when the Roman Catholic Church made him its new pope. Pope Francis is now the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere and also the first to be a Jesuit. A logical question would be whether such a pope would take the church in a new direction. Francis is reaching out to America by coming to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 26–27, 2015, for a conference on the family in the context of evangelism. Central to his travels, including the USA trip, is his celebration of the Mass. For his private devotions Francis states that he celebrates the Mass and prays the rosary each morning, but in the evening, “between seven and eight o’clock, [he] stay[s] in front of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour in adoration” (America, September 30, 2013). While he is in the States he will celebrate the Mass publically in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Two million Roman Catholics are expected to attend the Mass in Philadelphia. The pope’s emphasis on the Mass reminds us of the continuing errors of the church of Rome. Its Mass is controversial, illogical, and unscriptural.
To be pope, Francis had to submit to the profession of the Tridentine Faith (1564): “I profess, likewise, that in the mass there is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; and that in the most holy sacrament of the eucharist there is truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that there is made a change of the whole essence of the bread into the body, and of the whole essence of the wine into the blood; which change the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation.” The Council of Trent, which met just prior to this profession, pronounced Rome’s anathemas or condemnations on any who reject her teaching on the Mass (Twenty-second Session, September 17, 1562, Chapter IX, Canons I–IX ).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) reaffirms Rome’s teachings on the Mass to be the same as the Council of Trent and Tridentine Faith (paragraphs 1374–1382) and actually quotes from the Council of Trent (1376).
Bible-believing Christians see three errors in the Roman Mass. The first error is the supposed miracle of transubstantiation, the Romish teaching that when the priest repeats the words of Christ at the Mass, the bread and wine are transformed into the actual physical body and blood of Christ. The second error is the idolatrous adoration or worship of the elements. The priest lifts up the wafer and then the cup, at which time those present must worship the elements since they are held to be Christ’s true and physical body. The third error is the belief that the Mass is a continuation of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for sin.
In opposition to Rome’s assertions, the Westminster divines wrote, “The Popish sacrifice of the mass (as they call it) is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one, only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect.” The Mass “is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament, and hath been and is the cause of manifold superstitions; yea, of gross idolatries” (Westminster Confession, 29.2 & 29.6). The controversy between Roman Catholic theology and the truth of God’s Word is brought into sharp focus every time the pope, or even a priest, performs a Mass.
According to Rome, the elements look, smell, feel, and taste like a wafer and juice, but they are actually the body and blood of Christ. In this modern scientific age, many Roman Catholics have trouble accepting this speculative change because it disagrees with their own senses. The more backward a country, the greater Rome’s hold due to their superstition and willingness to believe a lie.
From a theological standpoint, the human body of Christ would cease to be truly human in the Mass because it would have to be present in different parts of the world at the same time. A physical body could not be present at Rome and Philadelphia at the same instant. Only deity is omnipresent, so either Christ’s humanity in the elements becomes divine (and therefore capable of being omnipresent) or there is no real change to the elements. Faith in that which is unseen is not virtuous unless it is scripturally true and real. “The simple believeth every word” (Proverbs 14:15); they are often led astray and destroyed by false doctrine (Proverbs 1:22, 32).
The main passage Romanism uses to teach her doctrine of the Mass is John 6. There Christ speaks of Himself as the “manna” from heaven and says that His people must eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:54, 56). But it is clear that Christ was not referring to his literal body. In John’s gospel, Christ often uses images that are not to be taken literally to speak of Himself. Christ is the “true vine” (John15:1), the “door” (John 10:9), and the “good shepherd” (John 10:11). His people are also called “sheep” (John 10:26–28). That Christ is “manna” is obviously an image, and the eating or drinking would be a part of that imagery.
“Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53). If this verse refers to the Mass, then none of the Old Testament saints or the apostles had life at that point because the ordinance had not yet been instituted.
The Scripture is clear also that after Christ’s resurrection He “dieth no more” (Romans 6:9). On the cross, Christ completed once and for all the atonement for His people’s sins (Hebrews 7:24–27; 9:26–28; 10:11–14). “When he had by himself purged our sins, [he] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). So we see that the Romish Mass is a corruption of what Scripture teaches. Christ is not physically present in the Mass and to worship the elements is to perform an act of idolatry and come under God’s judgment (Exodus 20:4–6; 1 John 5:21).
The prophet Isaiah laid out the test for truth: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). The Mass fails that test profoundly. In promoting the heresy of the Mass, Pope Francis continues to propagate darkness. Let us do all we can to show those lost in that darkness the glorious light of the gospel of the finished work of Christ.
Dr. Mark Allison is the minister of the Free Presbyterian Church of Malvern in Malvern, Pennsylvania.