As world attention focuses on Pope Benedict
XVI, it is important to note that the Vatican officially teaches that the
Pope is the substitute for Christ Jesus. The words of the official
“The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, 'is the
perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the
bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.'
'For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ,
and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power
over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise.”
[Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition
(Washington, DC: US Catholic Conference, 1994, 1997) #882.]
[Definition: “vicar”—in the broadest sense
means someone who is authorized to act as a substitute or agent for a
superior / compare “vicarious”—serving in the place of someone
else; assuming the position, place, or office of another person]
The world again has a man in the position of “Vicar of Christ,” so it is
biblically imperative to examine the true office of the Vicar of Christ. The
Lord Jesus Christ entrusted the universal care of souls into the safekeeping
of the Divine Person of the Holy Spirit. Concerning this Third Person of the
Trinity who was to be His substitute, the Lord promised that, “when he is
come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of
judgment” (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit convicts of sin as He makes the
sinner realize his lost condition and convicts him of his need of Christ's
righteousness. He it is who brings a soul dead in sin to life.
This miracle of grace is spoken of in Scripture as, “the exceeding
greatness of His power to us ward who believe, according to the working of
His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the
dead” (Ephesians 1:19).
The majesty, greatness and indescribable power of the true office of
Vicar of Christ are such that a believer stands in awe of His divine Person.
That any human being should lay claim to the office of Vicar of Christ seems
totally absurd and blasphemous.
The True Vicar of Christ
Because there is a direct connection between the redemption of Christ and
the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it is extremely dangerous
to confuse the work of the Holy
Spirit as Vicar of Christ with the position or work of any man.
As Christ Jesus had been the Master, Counselor and Guide to believers, He
promised to send the Holy Spirit as His substitute so that He might abide
with them for ever (John 14:16). In believers' lives, the Holy Spirit has
full, immediate, and universal influence, as the Scripture so wonderfully
teaches, “now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord
is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the
glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even
as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:17-18).
The work of the Spirit is transforming; we are changed from one degree of
glorious grace unto another, until by that same grace one day we will be
perfected with Him in glory forever. How much therefore should Christians
prize the full and complete ministry of the Holy Spirit!
In the face of these awesome truths concerning the role and ministry of
the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, it is horrendous to learn that the Vatican
“The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, supreme, full, immediate,
and universal power in the care of souls” (Catechism,
Persuading men and women that Christ the Lord left a mortal man to be His
vicar on earth attempts to gainsay the very purpose of Christ Jesus.
The History of the claim to be Vicar of Christ
This outlandish assertion came relatively late in the history of the
Papacy. To begin with, the Bishop of Rome claimed to be the vicar of
Caesar—and his successors the rightful heirs to the Caesars. The city that
had been the seat of power for the Roman Empire became the city for the
Bishop of Rome to exercise his authority.
Gradually, other Bishops and national monarchs accepted him as vicar and
successor to Caesar with the same supreme title of “Pontifex Maximus.”
Next, the Bishops of Rome claimed to be “The vicar of the prince of the
apostles”, that is, the vicar of Peter. Thus, in the early fifth
century, Bishop Innocent I (401-417 A.D.) insisted that Christ had delegated
supreme power to Peter and made him the Bishop of Rome. Following this, he
held that the Bishop of Rome as Peter's successor was entitled to exercise
Peter's power and prerogatives. Boniface III, who became Bishop of Rome in
607, established himself as “Universal Bishop,” thus claiming to be vicar
and master of all other bishops.
It was not until the eighth century, however, that the particular title
“Vicar of the Son of God” was found in the fraudulent document called
“The Donation of Constantine.” Although this notorious document was proven
false in the early sixteenth century, the Bishops of Rome have used the
title “Vicar of Christ” since the eighth century. This title has been the
Pope's supreme claim to spiritual and temporal supremacy. The taste of
divine power, with which the title resonates, has proven to be addictive.
The “Vicar of Christ” is able to recognize no authority other than his own.
He looks upon himself as Master of all, and boldly proclaims, “The First See
is judged by no one.”
It is truly significant that Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the new Pope
as Benedict XVI (April 2005). Before this, he headed up the Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith [formerly known as the Office of the Inquisition]
. Archconservatives in the Church of Rome warmly welcomed him; however, he
will not be acceptable to many American Catholics because of his hard-line
This rigid position was seen clearly in the document that he issued on
September 5, 2000 called, “Dominus Iesus.” In that document,
boldly decreed that the Roman Catholic Church is the only “instrument for
the salvation of all humanity.”
Dogmatically, he also rules out evangelical churches from being
considered as, “Churches in the proper sense,” when he proclaimed, “the
ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid
ruler ship by Roman Catholic bishops] and the genuine and integral substance
of the Eucharistic mystery [that is, partaking of Mass (the Lord's Supper)
in the manner of Roman Catholics, including their teaching that the priest
miraculously transforms the wine and bread into the actual blood and flesh
of Jesus Christ, are not Churches in the proper sense.”
Rome's alleged office of Christ's Vicar on earth is so all embracing and
complicated that Benedict XVI, as one man, cannot exercise “supreme, full,
immediate, and universal power.” Thus Joseph Ratzinger needs a vast
hierarchy to command. The pyramid of power that constitutes his office of
the “Vicar of Christ” consists of cardinals, patriarchs, major archbishops,
metropolitans, coadjutor archbishops, diocesan bishops, coadjutor bishops,
Episcopal vicar, eparches, apostolic vicars, apostolic prefects, apostolic
administrators and vicars general.
Doctrine and Deeds
The counterfeit nature of the Pope's claim to be “the Vicar of Christ” is
shown by his doctrine and deeds. The key role of the True Vicar of Christ is
to glorify Christ, “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine,
and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:14). The sending of the Spirit was
the glorifying of Christ. God the Father glorifies Christ Jesus in heaven,
and the Spirit glorifies Him on earth. All the gifts and graces of the Holy
Spirit are to glorify Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ promised the
Apostles, “when he, the Spirit
of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John
God's truth is an indissoluble, balanced and harmonious whole. In the
Bible we have “all truth,” in this the Holy Spirit truly glorifies Jesus
Christ. In stark contrast, the Pope claims to possess “infallible
teaching authority.” This neither glorifies Christ nor honors the Spirit
of truth. Also the Pope, as “the Vicar of Christ” teaches “rebirth” by
baptism, which demeans the glory of Christ.
By crucifixes, rosaries, and scapulars, the earthly Vicar purports to
fortify men and women against the assaults of
Satan. He also maintains
that indulgences can shorten the sufferings of souls in purgatory. While
presiding over substantially the richest financial institution in the world,
he maintains and advocates vows of poverty. Even as thousands of souls are
corrupted by unbridled filthiness, he defends the vows of celibacy for his
priests. By autonomous proclamations, he releases men and women from their
marriage vows in self-declared annulments.
None of these deeds glorify Christ Jesus the Lord. The major enemy of
Christ and His Gospel, however, is not materialism nor is it lust, but
rather the spiritual pride and the apostasy of the very one who pretends to
be His “Vicar”. The first lie of Satan, “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5)
reaches its full fruition in the Papal claim to be “Vicar of Christ.” By
this, the words of the Apostle Paul are literally fulfilled, “who
opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God showing himself
that he is God” (II Thessalonians 2:4).
“Habemus papam” we have a Papa!
The waiting is finished. The senior cardinal-deacon appeared on a balcony
overlooking St. Peter's Square and announced: “Habemus papam! we have a
Papa!” Catholics and the world are told that they now have a spiritual Papa
to look after them.
Christ Jesus constantly spoke about His Father, the word “Father” was
seventy times on His lips to show true believers that they have a Father, a
Father in Heaven—“my Father, and your Father my God, and your God” (John
20:17). Distinctively true believers have an Abba Father, in the words of
the Apostle, “for ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to
fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba,
Father” (Romans 8:15).
It is precisely because believers have an Abba Father that they are
commanded not to call any man “Father” in the spiritual sense. Thus the
Lord's command, “call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your
Father, which is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). The Lord Christ Jesus prayed to
the only “Holy Father” that exists, “Holy Father, keep through thine own
name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are”
(John 17:11). The Lord used His usual appellation “Father,” but prefixed it
with the word “Holy”. He wanted to emphasize the absolute perfection of the
So intimate and worshipful is this, that in a spiritual sense a true
believer will only use the words “The Holy Father” of God alone! The Roman
Pontiff not only takes to himself the office of “Vicar of Christ” but also
the very title of the Godhead, “The Holy Father.” We must therefore ask the
question that Apostle John asks, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that
Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son”
(I John 2:22). In assuming these titles to himself, the Pope shows that he
truly is “a vicar of Christ” in the biblical sense of the Antichrist!
Conclusion and Personal Response
Today, some compromised and eclectic “Evangelicals” stop their ears and
close their eyes to the true Vicar of Christ and mindlessly agree with the
festivities that accompanied the white smoke that arose from the Vatican.
Ignored once again are the questions: Whom do we honor? Whom do we fear? Is
it God or man? As the world and false Evangelicals bow in admiration to the
new Pontiff, we might well take a moment to pause and consider where we
personally stand as believers in the One Lord Christ Jesus and the One Holy
Those who hold the office of Pope claim to mediate between God and man
and to hold the keys of heaven and hell. Most appallingly the Pope takes to
himself the office of “Vicar of Christ” adding even the attribute of
infallibility to his position, demanding that “a
religious respect of intellect and will be paid to his teaching.”The
Papal arrogance tallies well with the Scripture's prediction for such
claims, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like
the most High” (Isaiah 14:14).
The words inscribed in the Pope's official miter are “Vicarius Filii
Dei,” Latin for “Vicar of the Son of God.” Since there can be but one
Vicar of Christ who is infinite, supreme, omnipotent, and all sufficient,
the earthly pretender can be none other than a self-energized apostate
system which will eventually be judged and utterly condemned by the Lord.
It is the will of God that every true believer “should earnestly contend
for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Those of
us who cling to Christ and His Word alone, and who are saved before the
all-Holy God by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, with all
glory and praise to God alone must give voice to our profession of faith.
More about Richard M. Bennett
The author of this article, Richard Bennett, was formerly a devout
Catholic priest. Read his enlightening
testimony. Like many others, he previously did not truly understood how
to be eternally saved. When he joyfully discovered the truth, he accepted
Christ's gift and gained
assurance of eternal
salvation. He gave up his religion (Roman Catholicism) to truly follow
A native of Ireland, Richard Bennett returned there in 1996 on an
evangelistic tour. He now lives in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. He teaches a
workshop at Multnomah Bible College on “Catholicism in the Light of Biblical
Truth.” His greatest joy is door-to-door witnessing . He has produced three
series of radio broadcasts. A fourth series is about to begin in the
Philippines on D.W.T.I. and D.V.R.O. radio stations. He is co-editor of this
book and founder of the ministry named “Berean
Beacon.” Richard has written a book compiling the testimonies of 50
converted Catholic Priests.