15 million Ukrainian are displaced by Russia's war.
Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!

Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


Additional Links

Comprehends the religious doctrines and practices adopted and maintained by the church of Rome. The following summary, extracted chiefly from the decrees of the council of Trent, continued under Paul III. Julius III. and Pius IV. from the year 1545 to 1563, by successive sessions, and the creed of Pope Pius IV. subjoined to it, and bearing date November 1564, may not be unacceptable to the reader. One of the fundamental tenets strenuously maintained by popish writers, is, the infallibility of the church of Rome; though they are not agreed whether this privilege belongs to the pope or a general council, or to both united; but they pretend that an infallible living judge is absolutely necessary to determine controversies, and to secure peace in the christian church. However, Protestants allege, that the claim of infallibility in any church is not justified by the authority of Scripture, much less does it pertain to the church of Rome; and that it is inconsistent with the nature of religion, and the personal obligations of its professors; and that it has proved ineffectual to the end for which it is supposed to be granted, since popes and councils have disagreed in matters of importance, and they have been incapable, with the advantage of this pretended infallibility, of maintaining union and peace.

Another essential article of the popish creed is the supremacy of the pope, or his sovereign power over the universal church.

See SUPREMACY. Farther; the doctrine of the seven sacraments is a peculiar and distinguishing doctrine of the church of Rome; these are baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony. The council of Trent (sess. 7. Song of Solomon 1:1-17 .) pronounces an anathema on those who say that the sacraments are more or fewer than seven, or that any one of the above number is not truly and properly a sacrament. And yet it does not appear that they amounted to this number before the twelfth century, when Hugo de St. Victore and Peter Lombard, about the year 1144, taught that there were seven sacraments. The council of Florence, held in 1438, was the first council that determined this number. These sacraments confer grace, according to the decree of the council of Trent, (sess.7. Song of Solomon 8:1-14 .) ex opere operato, by the mere administration of them: three of them, viz. baptism, confirmation, and orders, are said (c. 9.) to impress an indelible character, so that they cannot be repeated without sacrilege; and the efficacy of every sacrament depends on the intention of the priest by whom it is administered. (can. 11.)

Pope Pius expressly enjoins that all these sacraments should be administered according to the received and approved rites of the Catholic church. With regard to the eucharist, in particular, we may here observe, that the church of Rome holds the doctrine of trasubstantiation; the necessity of paying divine worship to Christ under the form of the consecrated bread or host; the propitiatory sacrifice of the mass, according to their ideas of which, Christ is truly and properly offered as a sacrifice as often as the priest says mass; it practises, likewise, solitary mass, in which the priest alone, who consecrates, communicates, and allows communion only in one kind, viz. the bread of the laity. Sess. 14. The doctrine of merits is another distinguishing tenet of popery; with regard to which the council of Trent has expressly decreed (sess. 6. can. 32.) that the good works of justified persons are truly meritorious; deserving not only an increase of grace, but eternal life and and increase of glory; and it has anathematized all who deny this doctrine. Of the same kind is the doctrine of satisfactions; which supposes that penitents may truly satisfy, by the afflictions they endure under the dispensations of Providence, or by voluntary penances to which they submit, for the temporal penalties of sin to which they are subject, even after the remission of their eternal punishment. Sess. 6, can. 30. and sess. 14. can. 3 and 9. In this connection we may mention the popish distinction of venial and mortal sins: the greatest evils arising from the former, are the temporary pains of purgatory; but no man, it is said, can obtain the pardon of the latter, without confessing to a priest, and performing the penances which he imposes.

The council of Trent (sess 14. Song of Solomon 1:1-17 .) has expressly decreed, that every one is accursed who shall affirm that penance is not truly and properly a sacrament instituted by Christ in the universal church, for reconciling those Christians tot he Divine Majesty, who have fallen into sin after baptism; and this sacrament, it is declared, consists of two parts, the matter and the form: the matter is the act of the penitent, including contrition, confession, and satisfaction; the form of it is the act of absolution on the part of the priest. Accordingly it is enjoined, that it is the duty of every man who hath fallen after baptism, to confess his sins once a year, at least, to a priest; that this confession is to be secret; for public confession is neither commanded nor expedient: and that it must be exact and particular, including every kind and act of sin, with all the circumstances attending it. When the penitent has so done, the priest pronounces an absolution, which is not conditional or declarative only, but absolute and judicial. this secret or auricular confession was first decreed and established in the fourth council of Lateran, under Innocent III. in 1215. (cap. 21.) And the decree of this council was afterwards confirmed and enlarged in the council of Florence and in that of Trent, which ordains, that confession was instituted by Christ; that by the law of God it is necessary to salvation, and that it has always been practised in the Christian church.

As for the penances imposed on the penitent by way of satisfaction, they have been commonly the repetition of certain forms of devotion, as paternosters, or ave marias, the payment of stipulated sums, pilgrimages, fasts, or various species of corporal discipline. But the most formidable penance, in the estimation of many who have belonged to the Roman communion, has been the temporary pains of purgatory. But under all the penalties which are inflicted or threatened in the Romish church, it has provided relief by its indulgences, and by its prayers or masses for the dead, performed professedly for relieving and rescuing the souls that are detained in purgatory. Another article that has been long authoriatatively enjoined and observed in the church of Rome is the celibacy of her clergy. This was first enjoined at Rome by Gregory VII. about the year 1074, and established in England by Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury, about the year 1175; though his predecessor Lanfranc had imposed it upon the prebendaries and clergy that lived in towns. And though the council of Trent was repeatedly petitioned by several princes and states to abolish this restraint, the obligation of celibacy was rather established than relaxed by this council; for they decreed, that marriage contracted after a vow of continence, is neither lawful nor valid; and thus deprived the church of the possibility of ever restoring marriage to the clergy.

For if marriage, after a vow, be in itself unlawful, the greatest authority upon earth cannot dispense with it, nor permit marriage to the clergy who have already vowed continence.

See CELIBACY. To the doctrines and practices above recited, may be farther added, the worship of images, of which Protestants accuse the Papists. But to this accusation the Papist replies, that he keeps images by him to preserve in his mind the memory of the persons represented by them; as people are wont to preserve the memory of their deceased friends by keeping their pictures. He is taught (he says) to use them so as to cast his eyes upon the pictures or images, and thence to raise his heart to the things represented; and there to employ it in meditation, love, and thanksgiving, desire of imitation, &c. as the object requires. These pictures or images have this advantage, that they inform the mind by one glance of what in reading might require a whole chapter: there being no other difference between them than that reading represents leisurely, and by degrees, and a picture all at once. Hence he finds a convenience in saying his prayers with some devout pictures before him, he being no sooner distracted, but the sight of these recalls his wandering thoughts to the right object; and as certainly brings something good into his mind, as an immodest picture disturbs his heart with filthy thoughts. And because he is sensible that these holy pictures and images represent and bring to his mind such objects as in his heart he loves, honours, and venerates, he cannot but upon that account love, honour, and respect the images themselves. The council of Trent likewise decreed, that all bishops and pastors who have the care of souls, do diligently instruct their flocks that it is good and profitable to desire the intercession of saints reigning with Christ in heaven.

And this decree the Papists endeavour to defend by the following observations: they confess that we have but one mediator of redemption: but affirm that it is acceptable to God that we should have many mediators of intercession. Moses (say they) was such a mediator for the Israelites; Job for his three friends; Stephen for his persecutors. The Romans were thus desired by St. Paul to be his mediators; so were the Corinthians; so the Ephesians (Ep. ad. Rom. Cor. Eph.) so almost every sick man desires the congregation to be his mediators, by remembering him in their prayers. And so the Papist desires the blessed in heaven to be his mediators: that is, that they would pray to God for him. But between these living and dead mediators there is no similarity: the living mediator is present, and certainly hears the request of those who desire him to intercede for them; the dead mediator is as certainly absent, and cannot possibly hear the requests of all those who at the same instant may be begging him to intercede for them, unless he be possessed of the divine attribute of omnipresence; and he who gives that attribute to any creature, is unquestionably guilty of idolatry. And as this decree is contrary to one of the first principles of natural religion, so does it receive no countenance from Scripture, or any Christian writer of the three first centuries. Other practices peculiar to the Papists are, the religious honour and respect that they pay to sacred relics: by which they understand not only the bodies and parts of the bodies of the saints, but any of those things that appertained to them, and which they touched; and the celebration of divine service in an unknown tongue: to which purpose the council of Trent hath denounced an anathema on any one who shall say that mass ought to be celebrated only in the vulgar tongue. (Sess. 25. and sess. 22, can. 9.)

Though the council of Lateran, under Innocent III. in 1215 (can. 9.) had expressly decreed, that, because, in many parts within the same city and diocese, there are many people of different manners and rites mixed together, but of one faith, the bishops of such cities of dioceses should provide fit men for celebrating divine offices, according to the diversity of tongues and rites, and for administering the sacraments. We shall only add, that the church of Rome maintains, that unwritten traditions ought to be added to the Holy Scriptures, in order to supply their defect, and to be regarded as of equal authority; that the books of the Apocrypha are canonical Scripture; that the Vulgate edition of the Bible is to be deemed authentic; and that the Scriptures are to be received and interpreted according to that sense which the holy mother church, to whom it belongs to judge of the true sense, hath held, and doth hold, and according to the unanimous consent of the fathers. Such are the principal and distinguishing doctrines of popery, most of which have received the sanction of the council of Trent, and that of the creed of pope Pius IV. which is received, professed, and sworn to, by every one who enters into holy orders in the church of Rome; and at the close of this creed, we are told, that the faith contained in it is so absolutely and indispensably necessary, that no man can be saved without it.

See ANTICHRIST; Bowers's History of the Popes; Smith's Errors of the Church of Rome detected; Bennet's Confutation of Popery; Sermons at Salter's Hall against Popery; Bishop Burtnet's Travels, &c.; Moore's View of Society and Manners in Italy; Dr. Middleton's Letters from Rome; Stevenson's Historical and Critical View of some of the Doctrines of the Church of Rome.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Popery'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry