LETTER TO A SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST
Following is a letter from James Likoudis, president emeritus of Catholics United for the Faith, to a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Thank you for your recent letter with enclosures. I'm pleased that you take religious matters seriously, though I do think your "indignation" regarding the Catholic Church's claim to infallibility quite misplaced.
If God has indeed founded a Church to "teach all nations" in His name and by His authority (and we Catholics have believed for 20 centuries that He did), what else could that Church be but infallible (that is, not able to err in its official teaching mission)? Obviously, too, its Chief Pastor and Teacher (the Pope) must in particular be infallible in the definition of doctrine. The Pope comes with the Church since he is the visible head of the Church on earth.
He is not God nor does he claim to be the equal of God as Seventh-day Adventists allege; rather, he is the "Servant of the Servants of God" as the Successor of Peter on whom Christ built His Church, gave the Keys of the Kingdom to, ordered to "confirm his brethren" in the faith, and made the Chief Shepherd of the entire flock of the disciples after the Resurrection (read: Matt. 16-18 ff., Luke 22:31; John 21:15-17).
Christ established only one Church and stated quite clearly, "If any man refuse to hear the Church, let him be as the heathen and publican" (Matt. 18:17). The Church Christ established must be able to trace its history back to the Apostles themselves, and as history demonstrates, the Catholic Church with its hierarchy, its Creed, and its distinctive worship and sacraments alone can trace its beginnings to apostolic times.
We Catholics believe the teachings of that Church under pain of not hearing her and being considered "heathens and publicans." What was said to Peter and the Apostles is as true of the Pope and the bishops who succeed to the place of the Apostles in the Church: "He who hears you, hears me" (Luke 10:16-words of our Lord).
I can only ask: What church do you hear and obey that can trace its establishment to Christ Himself?
Since you do not believe that Christ established a real Church with divine authority to teach, rule, and sanctify, it is not surprising that you reject its decision to celebrate Christian worship on Sunday. As your own pamphlet admits, it was indeed the Catholic Church that determined Sunday to be the day for commemorating the Resurrection of Christ because it was the only Church around in apostolic times as "the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Tim. 3:15). You write that "the entire New Testament speaks of obeying His Commandments," but you fail to observe that nowhere in the New Testament is the Saturday-Sabbath declared obligatory on Christians. Instead, one reads that the early Christians guided by the Holy Spirit celebrated the first day of the week as the "Lord's day" (see St. Paul, I Cor. 16:2; and Acts 20:7).
Obviously, the Apostles themselves ordered the substitution of Sunday, the first day of the Christian week, for the Jewish Sabbath seventh day. It is true that the Church cannot change the moral law of God as found in the Commandments, but as the infallible teachers of the new Christian Church (the "teach-ye-all-nations" Church soon to be termed the Catholic Church by the year A.D. 107), they could and did change the time, the motive, and details of the Sunday observance. Attendance by these first Catholics at Sunday Mass is mentioned by St. Paul himself in Acts 20:7.
If the Church has rulers (the Pope and bishops as successors of the Apostles) who are not infallible (by the power of the Holy Spirit) and can be possibly mistaken and can teach error, it is not worthy of any credence at all. A Church that can err is unworthy of Christ and the belief of Christians. The Seventh-day Adventist sect came along 19 centuries too late to have any connection with the Church built upon Peter and the Apostolic College. It came too late to be credible concerning any interpretation of disputed biblical texts.
For example, the pamphlet you sent concerning the Beast and the Pope is really off the wall, to put it mildly. Most biblical commentators agree that 666 probably refers to the Roman Emperor Nero who was responsible for the martyrdom of Peter and Paul who had watered the Church of Rome with their blood. You may not find it amusing, but I recall reading that some writers playing the "numbers game" about 666 concluded that it quite fit the numerology of the visionary Ellen G. White, prophetess (and plagiarist) of the Seventh-day Adventists!
As the booklet The Beast, the Dragon, and the Woman points out, it is indeed on the authority of the Catholic Church that Sunday was substituted for the Sabbath for the worship of the Blessed Trinity. One can try to argue that this was wrong on the basis of certain scriptural allegations, but it is useless to try and use Scripture against the Church whose Scriptures they are.
The Old and New Testaments belong to the Church; they are her Book. You would not even have "the Bible" were it not for the councils of the Catholic Church in the fifth century determining the Bible's exact contents of 76 books! As it is, when you appeal to your Bible, you will find that you do not even have all the Bible at all! You lack seven divinely inspired books of the Old Testament. There is no way a person living in the 20th century can know if God has a divinely inspired Bible unless there is a divine authority that can authenticate it, reveal its exact contents, and interpret it without fail as to what Christians must believe.
Where is your divine authority? We Catholics have it in the Catholic Church Christ Himself established in this world as His visible and Mystical Body and His virginal Spouse, and against which the gates of Hell have not triumphed for 20 centuries.
The only real question to be considered in the religious debates between Catholics and others who profess to be Christians is, "Where is the Church of Christ established and which appears throughout the New Testament writings?" Such a Church must have divine authority and be infallible if the gates of Hell are not to prevail against it. What all Protestants (28,000 sects stemming from private interpretation of "the Bible") really profess is that they do not really believe in a visible Church as established by Christ or else they believe that the Church Christ did establish somehow became corrupt (despite Christ's promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it).
They, in effect, make Christ a liar and mock St. Paul's words about the Church being "the pillar and ground of truth."
As early as the end of the second century, Christians (who offered the Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday as the Christian day of worship) professed the Apostles' Creed in which we read, "I believe ... the holy Catholic Church." We modern Catholics are in continuity with the earliest Christians because we are members of the same Catholic Church professing that same faith "which comes to us from the Apostles." Many laws, ritual ceremonies, and practices have indeed changed across the centuries, but never the doctrines that make up the "Deposit of Faith" given in divine Revelation by Jesus Christ, the Lord of History.
This letter appeared in "Serviam", March, 1995.