Why Protestants must never attend Papal Mass.

 

PROTESTANTS AND ATTENDANCE AT THE MASS 

The following article, which appears in the Ulster Bulwark,  was written before the decision by the First Minister and DUP leader, Peter Robinson, to attend Requiem Mass at the funeral of PSNI Constable Ronan Kerr in March 2011.  Contable Kerr was murdered by evil men and our hearts go out to his grieving family.  We are acutely aware of the many sensitivities at such a time, and we are also aware that our views on attendance at Mass are out of step with the views of many in modern society - a society which is largely secular and in spiritual darkness - but we intend to remain faithful to the historic  mainstream Protestant position on the Mass and the other fundamental and blasphemous errors of Romanism. As such, we feel that this artlcle is now more relevant than ever.

"Interviewed in the Belfast Telegraph on 21 February 2011, Northern Ireland's First Minister and DUP leader, Peter Robinson, indicated that he would be prepared to attend funeral masses "as a mark of respect" for dead Catholic friends and dignitaries. He said, "I wouldn't be going as an act of worship, I would be going as an act of respect for the individual".

The Evangelical Protestant Societyholds firmly to the principles of civil and religious liberty, and would not wish to deny anyone the right of conscience. Mr Robinson himself acknowledged that he viewed these as "personal matters" and that some of his colleagues "might have a different view on them." As far as we are aware, he is not a member of any organisation which precludes him from attending Mass, nor does he hold an office in any church where he is required to subscribe to subordinate standards such as, for example, the Westminster Confession of Faith. However,EPS has always taken the very clear and unambiguous view that an evangelical Protestant should not attend the Roman Catholic mass under any circumstances, and it will therefore come as no surprise that the Society does not share Mr Robinson's position on this important matter. 

Mr Robinson's comments give rise to two key issues. First, it is crucial that we have a proper understanding of the nature of the Roman Catholic mass and, in particular, the requiem mass, and, secondly, that we assess the potential pressure which might be applied by some in church, state and the media to those evangelical Protestants who are resolutely opposed to attendance at the Mass.

One of the main reasons why an evangelical Protestant might feel obliged to attend a mass is his desire to pay respects at the funeral of a Roman Catholic friend or family member. We fully acknowledge that no-one in his right mind has any desire to cause tension or friction with, or within, a family at a time of bereavement. As Rev Stafford Carson, former Irish Presbyterian Moderator, has stated,"very often people, on the occasion of a funeral or a bereavement or something, believe that it is important to identify with the people rather than with the theology". However, a proper understanding of the Mass - and, in particular, a Requiem Mass - must surely lead us to conclude that it is more important to be faithful to God and His truth than to act in a way that will make us less unpopular with our fellow men. The issues here are so fundamental, so crucial and so central, that evangelicals must never, under any circumstances, be anywhere near the sacrifice of the Mass. To do so would be to dishonour God and the sacrifice of Christ. This is surely a case when "we ought to obey God rather than men"(Acts 5:29).

Space in this magazine does not permit us to enter into a detailed analysis of the Mass, but we must note that it is a central aspect of Roman Catholic worship. Roman Catholicism is essentially a religion of "grace" and works, and within it, if Roman Catholics are to have anyhope of finding favour with God, they must participate in activities such as the Mass as often as possible. Rome claims that, during the Mass, thebread and wine are changed by the power of the priest at the moment of consecration into the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ. The obnoxious Roman doctrine of the "real presence"(transubstantiation)strikes at the very heart of the Gospel. We must never forget that, in the days of Queen Mary, faithful Protestants such as Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, Thomas Cranmer and hundreds of others chose to die at the stake rather than accept it. One of those martyrs, the godlyJohn Bradford, said, "I deny transubstantiation, which is the darling of the devil, and daughter and heir to Antichrist's religion".His wordstypify the Protestant martyrs' resistance to the doctrine of transubstantiation upon which their condemnation and burning was based. 

Roman Catholics will express various views about the nature of the Mass, and some ecumenists and, sadly, professed evangelicals, will seek to put a spin on it by saying that it differs only in minor ways from the Protestant sacrament of the Lord's Supper. However, the sacrament of Mass is far removed from that of the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion. The latter is a deeply significant but essentially a memorial act where, as the Thirty-Nine Articles put it, "The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith".By contrast, the Mass is not only a sacrament but a sacrifice.The 1994 Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church - an official document which therefore provides us with an authoritative summary of Romanist dogma and teaching - states that "In this divine sacrifice….the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner"…."Every time this mystery is celebrated, the work of our redemption is carried on".It further asserts that the wafer is to be worshipped"with supreme adoration".It's little wonder, then, that the Westminster Confession of Faith asserts that "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 His elect".

When the wafer - regarded as the literal body of Christ - is eaten by communicants, it is then claimed thatgrace is conferred upon them."Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh 'given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit', preserves, increases and renews the life of grace received at baptism" -RC Catechism.

Requiem Mass, celebrated at a funeral, includes prayers for the soul of the deceased person whose potentially painful journey through Purgatory is eased by the offering up of masses for the repose of his soul. Not only can Purgatory be painful it can also be prolonged as is illustrated by masses reportedly offered in 1988 for the repose of the souls of Spanish sailors lost in the Armada four hundred years previously!    

In the Mass, we are reminded of the terrible darkness, idolatry and blasphemy of Romanism. It takes Christ, drags Him down from heaven into the bread and wine, and sacrifices Him again and again. But the Bible makes it clear that Christ's sacrifice is once for all, and final. "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God" -Hebrews 10:12.If we love the Lord Jesus Christ, are trusting by faith alone in His finished work on the cross, and are rejoicing in His resurrection and ascension, then we must reject the Mass and refuse to be present when it is being celebrated. We fully understand the desire to reach out to those who grieve, but Paul tells us that true Christian charity"Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth"(I Cor 13:6). We are to"Abstain from all appearance of evil"- 1 Thess 5:22. Love for, and loyalty to, our blessed Saviour must take priority.

In recent times, there have been those in church, state and the media who have sought to deny to evangelical Protestants their rights of conscience. Nelson McCausland, the Culture, Arts and Leisure Minister, was hounded by SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance, the parties which boast of their commitment to human rights, when he said he would not be prepared to attend the Mass, and there were those who asserted that if he was not prepared to do so, he was unfit to hold public office. When our secretary, Wallace Thompson, asserted on RTE radio in 2008 that he would not be prepared to attend the mass, he was condemned as a bigot for his comments about Rome and faced calls for his dismissal as a political adviser. We therefore hope that, in light of Mr Robinson's statement, no attempts will be made by the usual suspects to further demonise or persecute faithful evangelical Protestants. The ecumenical journalist, Alf McCreary, said that the reaction to Mr Robinson's statement showed that our society is "theologically sick and politically thick". How he regards evangelical Protestants is entirely a matter for him, but we must stand firm on this issue, and there is little doubt that in doing so, we can expect a campaign of abuse, ridicule and persecution in days to come". 

April 2011