In the broad sense, we could argue that all Protestant churches are anti-Catholic to some small degree, simply by virtue of the fact that they are Protestant. Historically, this would be true. However, while most Protestant and Evangelical groups try not to stress this anymore, some organizations have surfaced in recent years that are far more anti-Catholic than others. I believe Calvary Chapel would definitely fall into this category. Though I am not aware of any official documentation of Calvary Chapel's anti-Catholic positions, one can easily find most Sunday sermons latent with them. A good example of this comes from Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel affiliation. The nice thing about Calvary Chapel is that most sermons are taped and archived, so if one has the time to do the fishing, the evidence of blatant anti-Catholicism is not too difficult to find. Now remember, these are sermons of a pastor to his congregation. One would think a pastor would be concerned with preaching the gospel, and applying the teachings of New Testament to the day to day lives of his congregation. Instead, this is the sort of thing one can easily find in Calvary Chapel sermons....
On tape 5176, Pastor Chuck Smith said:
The dogma that was developed in the Catholic church of the perpetual virginity of Mary, is sheer poppycock. It is the invention of men who have thought to elevate Mary to the status of deity. The obvious fact is here, "And knew her not 'till'" It is clear that afterward, they did have normal husband-wife relationships with each other, or else the other sons and daughters that were born of Mary were also virgin-born, and that throws the whole story in disarray. The gospel of Mark names the brothers of Jesus as James, Joses and Simon, and mentions his sisters, so to declare perpetual virginity of Mary is not a scriptural truth. It is a Catholic dogma, without scriptural foundation, as are most dogmas. Paul said, "Beware of dogs"(Phil. 3:2,) I say, "Be wary of dogmas!"On tape 5189, Smith said:
For one is your father, which is in heaven." So the title of father was prohibited by Jesus. In my associations I have become acquainted and friends of many ministers within the Episcopalian Church, and also within the Catholic Church. And I have extreme difficulty in knowing how to address that. Because for the life of me I can not call them father so and so. Because Jesus said not to. And so, to me it creates a difficult thing, as to how to address them, because they are usually introduced,' this is father so and so,' and I just have a hang-up with this, but I just can't address a man, father, in a spiritual sense. I don't know, do what you want, but I just have problems.On tape 5209, Smith said:
The Protestant reformation came as a protest against the evil practices that had arisen within the Catholic Church. Especially the selling of indulgences. For the Pope was desirous to built a great Cathedral in Rome, St. Peters. And the money wasn't coming in, fast enough to build this glorious monument, that he was desiring to put up, as a symbol for Christianity. And so someone in the counsel came up with a bright idea. Everybody likes to sin, why don't we sell them forgiveness for sin's. And they can buy an indulgence, before they ever indulged. So as they indulging, the thing is covered, because they've already buyed (sic) their forgiveness. So you want a little escapade on the side. You want to go out and get drunk? fine, go down and buy your drunk indulgence. You want to have an affair? go down and get an adultery indulgence. And they started selling the indulgences to the people. And this so incensed Martin Luther, that he took his 95 thesis, his objections, to the practices that had developed within the church, and he taged them on the door, and he protested. And thus the name Protestant. Beginning of the Protestant reformation.On the same tape, Smith also said:
It is a sad error of the Catholic church to declare that Peter is the foundation upon which the church was built.On tape 5202, Smith said:
There is sometimes within the Protestant circles perhaps a backlash to that position that the Catholics have sought to place Mary in as the intercessor, and even some today, the coredemptress, and there is that backlash among Protestants often times to sort of put Mary down.On tape 5315, Smith said:
And we see it in the Catholic church where the priest says, "You come and confess your sins to me and I will remiss your sins and I will go to the Father and I will take care of things for you. It is putting a man between you and God. We will see the system develop when we get to the church of Thyatira but at least the church of Ephesus says 'I hate it and the Lord says I hate it too.Later on the same tape, Smith said:
And these are the dominant issues of the Roman Catholic church; their love and their service and their faith and their patience and their work. And this they have a lot of - a lot of good works and there are some marvelous people in the Catholic Church, highly admired. Mother Theresa, such an unusual person. Marvelous. It's not saying things against those individuals because God has his overcomers. It is just talking about the system.Later, Smith said:
And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold I will cast her into a bed, and those that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds" Here is now first of all, the indication that the Catholic Church would exist right up to the coming of Jesus Christ and the rapture of the church, because he talks about them being allowed to go into the great tribulation.These are typical examples of Calvary Chapel sermons, which can easily be found anywhere, by multiple Calvary Chapel pastors throughout the country. In the later quotes above, Smith is comparing the Catholic Church to the worst form of churches written of in the Book of Revelation. While of course, Calvary pastors typically equate their own brand of Christianity to some of the better churches written of in the Book of Revelation. In my own experience, at a Calvary Chapel ran by one of Smith's direct pupils, it seemed that there was at least one small dig at Catholicism every week.
One can also find special books and audio series, made by Calvary Chapel pastors, specifically designed for the purpose of attacking Roman Catholicism. In part, I believe this is due to an unusual number of Calvary Chapel pastors who are themselves former Catholics. The affiliation began in Southern California, a heavily Catholic region of the United States, and as a result the pews are regularly filled with former Catholics who've converted to the "Gospel According to Calvary Chapel." A small percentage of these disaffected converts went on to become pastors for the affiliation.
You may be wondering why I am bothering with this particular Evangelical-Protestant group. There are, after all, hundreds of different anti-Catholic organizations in America. So what's so special about this one? Well, I'll tell you. I used to be a "member" of Calvary Chapel. In fact, I even became a teacher there. All of this was before my conversion to Catholicism of course. I can personally testify that I regularly heard, with my own ears, large volumes of anti-Catholic rhetoric. Yes, as a Calvary Chapel teacher, I even preached it. I've personally witnessed a very popular Calvary Chapel pastor in Southern California actually call the Catholic Church the "Whore of Babylon" and the pope the "Antichrist" on more than one occasion. These happened before a large audience, many of whom were former Catholics. I can personally testify that Catholic doctrines are taken out of context, represented falsely, and then maligned on a regular basis in Calvary Chapels throughout America. Sometimes it seems that it's rare to even get through a single sermon, on any given week, without hearing at least one small jab at Catholicism.
As a former Calvary Chapel teacher, I have mixed feelings about this organization. On the one hand, I must give credit where credit is due. Having been raised in a non-practicing Protestant home, Calvary Chapel helped me a great deal when I was struggling with my faith as a young person. Calvary Chapel helped me better understand basic doctrines of the Christian faith. Calvary Chapel also helped me sort out the sinful habits in my life, and set me on a path of greater obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to that, it was through my pastoral studies at Calvary Chapel that I came to knowledge of Church history, a knowledge that would eventually lead to my Catholic conversion. So on the one hand, I am grateful to Calvary Chapel, because without it, I would probably have never found Christ and later converted to HIS One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. On the other hand, I am frustrated with this organization, because it misleads people about Christ's Catholic Church. Those who do not take the time to do the study, and there are many, are forced to simply trust what Calvary Chapel pastors tell them about the Catholic Church. A good number of those things are wrong, and most of it doesn't even originate within Calvary Chapel. In fact, the majority of anti-Catholic material, used by Calvary Chapel pastors, comes not from the organization itself, but from outside sources that specialize in anti-Catholicism.
If you're a Catholic who attends a Calvary Chapel, or has been approached by somebody from Calvary Chapel, as a former Calvary Chapel teacher, I have some good advice for you. Stop and do your homework! There are lots of things Calvary Chapel pastors say about Catholicism that just aren't true. Many of these pastors are former Catholics themselves, and one would think they should know better. Yet you would be surprised to discover just how little these supposedly "educated" men actually know about Catholic beliefs and the Catholic Church. I would suggest you do a little reading on this topic list HERE, where will find one of the most exhaustive Catholic apologetic resources available on the Internet. If on the other hand, you're a non-Catholic who attends Calvary Chapel, I would encourage you to do the same, so that you might have a better understanding of Catholicism "straight from the horse's mouth," rather than relying on the second-hand information spouted by some disgruntled Catholics, who later became Calvary Chapel pastors. Many of whom got their information from sources not even affiliated with Calvary Chapel. I would also encourage you to take the The Ultimate Protestant Challenge. I think that's good advice, and you owe it to yourself to hear both sides of the story, weigh the evidence, and learn the truth.
********** Update 12/1/2010 **********
THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: So it's been over three years since I wrote this original blog entry on Calvary Chapel's anti-Catholicism, and nothing has changed. (Not that I really expected it to.) In between jumps to my snowbird hideaway down South, I returned home briefly to keep the Knight's armory running well. On the way home from one of my errands in town today I decided to tune into a local Calvary Chapel radio station broadcasted via satellite syndication. (I'm not sure what possessed me to do it.) Anyway, the station manager had just gotten Chuck Smith on the air for some questions from callers. One caller mentioned that his girlfriend is Catholic, and he occasionally attends mass with her. He had a question about the apparition of "Our Lady of Guadalupe." It wasn't five minutes into the show, but Chuck Smith had plenty to say.
First, he proclaimed that "Our Lady of Guadalupe" is nothing more than a demonic spirit, and the apparition itself is a deception of the devil. He advised the caller to avoid anything to do with it. Second, he then went on, as if that weren't enough, to accuse the Catholic Church of idolatry and apostasy. He did this in his usual soft-spoken gentle manner, (you could almost hear the smile on his face), which I used to think was charity. Twelve years after having left Calvary Chapel, it's now starting to sound a little creepy. Anyway, he used the classic strawman fallacy. He blatantly misrepresented Catholic teaching, claiming the Church places Mary above Christ. Then he proceeded to tear down the strawman by saying that anytime someone (i.e. The Catholic Church) puts someone or something above Christ, we know that can't be from God. Of course the caller was gushing with gratitude for Pastor Smith's pontification, and the station manager then proceeded to advise him, and anyone else listening, to stay away from the Catholic mass and go to Calvary Chapel instead.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, especially when it comes to the anti-Catholicism coming out of Calvary Chapel. I'm pleased that this particular rant against the Church came from the top Calvary Chapel pastor himself - Chuck Smith - the man who started the whole chain. It demonstrates what I've been saying all along in this blog entry. The founder of Calvary Chapel is a raving anti-Catholic, and the apples never fall far from the tree. The way the founder goes, so do the followers. This type of anti-Catholicism can be found among Calvary Chapel pastors from coast to coast. Some are more virulent than others, but virtually all of them look to Pastor Chuck Smith as their example and teacher. He is, after all, the closest thing to a "pope" there will ever be in the Calvary Chapel network.
Pastor Chuck Smith's dishonest dealing with Catholic doctrine is inexcusable. He is an educated man who has been in ministry for decades. He's the virtual "head" of an international nondenominational-affiliation. He has missionary outreaches in Latin America and Rome. You cannot tell me this man is ignorant of authentic Catholic Church doctrine. He knows full well the Catholic Church DOES NOT place Mary above Christ in any way. He knows the Church teaches that Mary is subordinate to Christ, and that everything she is comes directly from Christ. His opinions about Marian apparitions are his business, but to tell people they are demonic is to be disingenuous to say the least. No demonic spirit leads people to Christ, and if "Our Lady of Guadalupe" was supposed to be some Satanic deception, than it was a miserable failure on the devil's part, because it resulted in over a million people (Native Americans) accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It has since inspired the Christian faith of tens of millions. If it was supposed to be a lie of the devil, than it sure backfired on him. Of course we know the truth. Mary appeared to Saint Juan Diego to bring his people to her Son - Jesus Christ - and that she did in the most startling and miraculous way.
So why the strawman fallacy? Why would an educated man, who surely knows what the Church teaches in regards to Mary, deliberately twist and distort Church doctrine in such a way so he could easily tear down the strawman he created? Well, I can't get inside Chuck Smith's head, so I really don't know with absolute certainty why he did it. But I do have an opinion, and I think it's a fairly educated one with some inside information. You see, Calvary Chapel started in Southern California which is a heavily Catholic portion of the United States. Most of the people who attend Calvary Chapel are former Catholics. I don't have an exact percentage, but I would say that at least half would be a fair guess. Most of them left the Catholic Church during the turbulent times of the 1970s through 1990s. It was during this time that Chuck Smith, and his ministry disciples began their anti-Catholic propaganda, and WOW did it take off! They brought scores of formerly Catholic "members" into their affiliations with this nonsense, combined with their apocalyptic teachings on current events and typical altar calls for instantaneous salvation. It was (and still is) a formula that works. Every Sunday in Southern California, Calvary Chapels are packed to standing room only. Smith and his ministry disciples have now taken their "Gospel according to Calvary Chapel" into Latin America, and they've even been so bold as to bring it to Rome as well, under the very shadow of the Vatican. The formula works. It draws away Catholics, and turns them against Rome in the most virulent way. It also fills the pews at Calvary Chapels, as well as the collection plates. You see, in my opinion, the reason why Chuck Smith doesn't change is because he can't change. If he ever admits that he was wrong about something the Catholic Church teaches, it would threaten his whole organization. In Southern California alone, at least half of his ministry is to former Catholics. An admission of error, especially after having preached this stuff for so long, would cause the Calvary Chapel faithful to begin questioning the whole Calvary Chapel system, and that is something that neither Chuck Smith nor his ministry disciples can risk.