Before we begin, I'll acquaint you with the difference between referring to yourself as Catholic and referring to yourself as Christian as I know some -- or even, most -- of you may not be familiar with such. Like most of my articles, I will use diction to my advantage.
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.
8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one's vow.
9. get religion, Informal.
a. to acquire a deep conviction of the validity of religious beliefs and practices.
b. to resolve to mend one's errant ways: The company got religion and stopped making dangerous products.
1. a religious group, usually including many local churches, often larger than a sect: the Lutheran denomination.
2. one of the grades or degrees in a series of designations of quantity, value, measure, weight, etc.: He paid $500 in bills of small denomination.
3. a name or designation, esp. one for a class of things.
4. a class or kind of persons or things distinguished by a specific name.
5. the act of naming or designating a person or thing.
1. of or pertaining to a Catholic church, esp. the Roman Catholic Church.
a. (among Roman Catholics) claiming to possess exclusively the notes or characteristics of the one, only, true, and universal church having unity, visibility, indefectibility, apostolic succession, universality, and sanctity: used in this sense, with these qualifications, only by the Church of Rome, as applicable only to itself and its adherents and to their faith and organization; often qualified, especially by those not acknowledging these claims, by prefixing the word Roman.
b. (among Anglo-Catholics) noting or pertaining to the conception of the church as the body representing the ancient undivided Christian witness, comprising all the orthodox churches that have kept the apostolic succession of bishops, and including the Anglican Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Church of Sweden, the Old Catholic Church (in the Netherlands and elsewhere), etc.
3. pertaining to the Western Church.
4. a member of a Catholic church, esp. of the Roman Catholic Church.
In summary, a denomination is a sect or "branch" of a Religion. You can imagine that a Religion is a tree trunk and each branch -- the denominations -- protrude outward. Sunni and Shi'a are examples of denominations in Islam, while Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, et cetera are examples of Christian denominations.
In Christianity, the denominations are separated into two major categories; Catholic and Protestant. This is the divisive point of the tree's trunk, where it splits in two. A fair representation of the relationship between the two can be found here.
In protest to the sale of indulgences (scrolls one could purchase from the Church which, supposedly, granted them instant access to salvation.), Martin Luther wrote the 95 Thesis (a thesis with 95 criticisms of the Catholic Church) and nailed it to the door the cathedral he serviced.
This sparked the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther was put on trial for heresy. He was to plead his case and renounce the content of his work or face excommunication (being banned from the Church.) However, his refusal marked him as a refugee; his response: "Unless I shall be convinced by the testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear reason ... I neither can nor will make any retraction, since it is neither safe nor honourable to act against conscience."
During this time, many attempts were made to try to reform the Catholic Church, but it ended in a lot of bloodshed; this period is known as the Peasant's War. As this was all going on, Martin Luther translated the Holy Bible of the time into the language of the common man, German and omitted the biblical apocrypha (controversial books -- or chapters -- in the Bible that, for one reason or another, were deuterocanonical; also referred to as the Antilgomena by Protestant faiths.) This sparked great dishevel among the two factions which dragged on in the years following and resulted in the Catholic Counter Reformation.
That's a basic summary of events, anyway. For further reading, you can start off with the Wikipedia article on the Protestant Reformation (and perhaps on Martin Luther, himself, if you're interested), but I'd suggest you garner other sources for your repertoire. That will conclude the history lesson for now as it was only a staple to acquaint those unfamiliar with such matters with the underlying principles of the Catholic/Protestant Debate.
We'll move onto the actual debate now.
"And I say also unto thee,That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
One of the major conflicts between Protestant and Catholic faiths is the established role of the Pope. There is notable controversy revolving around the primacy of such an individual with Catholicism defending it as Protestantism chastises it. So, we're going to review the major qualms and rebuttals between the two denominations.
Protestant denominations criticize the Catholic Church for its establishment of a figurehead with primacy (authority) over the Church and what you could say is a Mandate of Heaven to some degree. The major qualm is that there is no biblical justification for a Pope as the Bible makes no mention of it.
In contrast, Catholicism cites Matthew 16:17 as its chief recognition of a Pope, an individual of supreme authority. It is maintained that after the events recorded in the Bible, Peter became the first Bishop of Rome It is, thereafter, presumed (or attested to for cleaner context) that Peter's apostolic authority was divinely passed down to the subsequent bishops; a process known as apostolic succession. An unbroken roster of Popes leading back to Peter is cited by the Catholic Church to be attestation for the Son's institution of a Pope.
Upon hearing these matters, one may deduce that such would effectively obliterate the argument against a lack in biblical texts attesting to such. However, an astute scholar may be inclined to emphatically disagree.
"There is no official list of popes, but the Annuario Pontificio, published every year by the Vatican, contains a list that is generally considered to be the most authoritative."
If one takes Occam's Razor into regard on this matter, the Annuario Pontificio published by the Vatican is of very little regard, thus nulling the "List of Popes" from this argument as it relies too heavily on the assumption that the Catholic Church did not, simply, fabricate the individuals cited.
So, we're back to square one; the initial verse, itself. And when such a list is ruled out as inconclusive, it brings into question how such a matter can be validated as the Bible, in no way, shape or form, cites that Peter had primacy over the Church and its apostles.
"But while Peter was central in the early spread of the gospel (part of the meaning behind Matthew 16:18-19), the teaching of Scripture, taken in context, nowhere declares that he was in authority over the other apostles, or over the Church (having primacy). See Acts 15:1-23; Galatians 2:1-14; and 1 Peter 5:1-5. Nor is it ever taught in Scripture that the bishop of Rome, or any other bishop, was to have primacy over the Church. Scripture does not even explicitly record Peter even being in Rome. Rather there is only one reference in Scripture of Peter writing from "Babylon," a name sometimes applied to Rome (1 Peter 5:13). Primarily upon this, and the historical rise of the influence of the Bishop of Rome, comes the Roman Catholic Church teaching of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. However, Scripture shows that Peter's authority was shared by the other apostles (Ephesians 2:19-20), and the "loosing and binding" authority attributed to him was likewise shared by the local churches, not just their church leaders (see Matthew 18:15-19; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13; 2 Corinthians 13:10; Titus 2:15; 3:10-11)." -- Full context.
Taking this information into regard, it can, thus, be presumed that when Jesus addressed Peter as His "rock", there was no subliminal indication that he had a Mandate of Heaven and was the King of the Church. When read in its full context, one can, rightfully, ascertain that such a verse implies that Peter was the Church's first Pastor; not its first Pope. A foundation for the Church to grow on, if you will.
One may, then, argue that Sacred Scripture is irrelevant when Sacred Tradition is taken into account. However, it's a moot point. Sacred Tradition is perceptions and interpretations of Scripture as well as asserted messages by figureheads (lets remember that these individuals were selling indulgences and raping the pockets of the people.) It's illogical to presume that a matter as vital as a supreme authority would be neglected by the scriptures. The Lord and the apostles would not be imbecilic enough to leave such important information in the hands of man.
"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."
"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone."
"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below."
"Do not make cast idols."
" 'Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am the LORD your God."
"For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."
The epitome of ex cathedra (Latin for "from the chair") puts the Pope in the position of an idol. Such a concept maintained by the Catholic Church assumes that the Pope is without flaw in his governing of the Church. Barring the fact that such a thing is never attested to in the Bible, ex cathedra can't possibly be true.
There are clear examples of the Pope's governing of the Church going in direct opposition to the gospels, which would imply a form of hypocrisy. An example mentioned earlier on was that of the Catholic Church's sale of indulgences. You could say that the Pope did not know of these sales, but such a statement would acknowledge that these sales are wrong.
If you acknowledge that it is wrong, you acknowledge that ex cathedra is a moot concept. Cardinal Albrecht of Hohenzollern, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, with the consent of Pope Leo X, was using profit from these sales to pay off debts of bribery. Or how about the actual trial of Martin Luther?
If the Pope did not support the sale of indulgences, then why did he attempt to quell Martin Luther's protest against the sales? Why did he demand Martin Luther to make a retraction? Why did he not excommunicate Johann Tetzel instead of Martin Luther?
Or we can go into modern days where Pope John Paul II contradicts the Bible. The Bible teaches us that we are all imperfect and are sinners. To place the Pope under this supreme spotlight is to say he is perfect and without sin.
These are, of course, not the only arguments against Catholicism, but overlays what I feel is one of the major flaws.
"Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding."