A Response to the Notion of ‘Reformed Catholicity’

A Response to the Notion of ‘Reformed Catholicity’

It would be much more accurate to say, as Calvin does in the Institutes, that arising from under the all-seeing eye of the office of Pope, there had been voices who slowly began to catch visions of the arising theology that would blossom into the Reformation. These voices were not arising because of Romanism, but despite it. Rome was burning Protestant thinkers hundreds of years before term came into use.

In a recent article by Derrick Brite in Reformation 21   “William Perkins on Keeping It Catholic,” he calls for the adoption of what some are calling Reformed Catholicity. For hundreds of years this was an oxymoron. But a bold new world is being revived: “Those who adopt the term for themselves wish to retrieve the best of the catholic tradition, or perhaps seek to confess doctrinal truths with the Great Tradition.”

As someone who was brought to faith in Christ from deep within Roman Catholicism, who didn’t even know what a Protestant was at the time, and only heard the term when the priest cautioned me about reading the Bible, for fear that I might become a (dreaded) Protestant, I find the article by Brite deeply concerning.

There is much I would like to say in response. But I am determined to limit my comments to three problems with Brite’s understanding of Romanism.


It is very annoying, and I am suspicious of the motivation, as to why when it comes to the history and theology of the Vatican so many people plead benevolence. This happens within and without those who say they belong to the church. Because even a casual survey of the history of the Vatican reveals a level of corruption and intrigue which is unmatched anywhere in the history of the world. Yet, Brite includes himself among those who “wish to retrieve the best of the catholic tradition.”

So we must assume that the “best” he speaks of within the catholic tradition is not the Crusades. It is not the burning of hundreds of thousands of Christian martyrs. It is not the imprisonment of untold numbers of Bible believing Christians (like the godly Huguenots, Lombards, Hussites, Waldensians, Lutherans, Scots, etc., etc., etc.). this can’t be part of the “best” he wants us to remember. Ignore this.

It can’t be the thousand years of darkness Romanism held Western Europe under, so that most people lived hand to mouth under its heavy taxes to support its Holy Roman Empire. Henry VIII complained that the Vatican received four out of every five dollars in taxes from England. The Scandinavian countries took to Lutheranism very quickly, partly because it freed them from oppressive Vatican taxation.

The Pope, and this was strongly supported by Aquinas, said it was very sinful to die with enough money to leave to your offspring. Inheritance was a sign of someone taking the sin of greed to Purgatory with them. Aquinas called it Turpitudo; ugly, deformed, shameful. The Pope railed against it, urging the wealthy to buy his relics to escape the consequences of their greed in Purgatory.

Let’s see, what is the “best” that Brite wants us to think about? Could it be the doctrinal corruption that chained the minds of Roman Catholic subjects in darkness, a darkness from which they could not escape. How could they? Less than 3% could read at all, education was needless, and possessing a Bible illegal. Even most of their priests could not read. John Huss just wanted to teach the Bible to his Hungarian congregation the Bible, and for this he was tortured and executed. His promise of a safe passage was ignored (everyone warned him that they were lying, but he—foolishly—trusted them).

Maybe it is doctrine Brite has in mind? Or one has to ask if Brite ever read The Canons of Trent? These are the unchangeable doctrines of the Vatican. I urge you to read their lawyer-language piece-by-piece condemnation of Reformed theology. They are anathema. Believing even one Reformed doctrine, sends you to the depths of Hell. Alexander Hislop’s book, The Two Babylons, demonstrates that most of the Vatican teachings are rooted in Egyptian and Babylonian religions. So doctrinally, Brite can’t be referring to this.


Perhaps by “the best of the catholic tradition” Brite urges us to grasp at is the straw of Rome’s apparent embrace of the doctrine of the Trinity? Brite lets his readers know that Perkins alerted his readers to the many theological corruptions within Rome’s Trent document, but he responds, “Yet there are many other issues (e.g., the Trinity, the two natures of Christ) that we can find true agreement on. These are doctrines that have not been wrecked by Trent’s touch.”

Let’s see if Brite is correct. Does Rome believe the doctrine of the Trinity, like they say they do? It is not hard to discover the answer.

Calvin summarizes the doctrine of the Trinity so well:

Say that in the one essence of God there is a trinity of persons; you will say in one word what Scripture states, and cut short empty talkativeness (Inst.I.XIII.5).

There is one divine essence and yet three persons. Clearly, this is not the same as what is termed monotheism. Jews and Moslems fit that category. Christians do not.

I have the RC catechism in front of me. It says, “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together they adore the one merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day (pt.842).

Similar things are said about the Jewish religions.

But Romanism does not stop at saying they are monotheists, too. It goes on to hold that members of any religion also worship the same deity;

“Those who, through not fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation” (pt.847).

Even there the Vatican does not stop. It also includes the Old Testament Canaanite deity Moloch. In October 2019 the Pope dedicated as huge statue of Moloch and placed it at the entrance of the Roman Colosseum.  In the same year he performed the dedication of Pachamama, a South American fertility goddess. One can see a high-ranking Cardinal worshiping it.

In fact, and this is where all this leads, on 6 March 2021, the Pope gathered the leaders of practically all the world’s religions to the ancient ziggurat in Ur, Iraq (they have been rebuilding it since 1999 for the occasion). There he told them that together they were all lights to the world, lights which God referred to when he told Abraham to look up at the stars: saying “so shall your offspring be.”

Therefore, to say that the Vatican holds to the doctrine of the Trinity is slightly true, as long as one realizes that it is but one in its pantheon of deities. Why would Brite not make his readers aware of this?


We are then scolded by Brite for being so blind as not to see that we owe much of Reformed Theology to Thomas and other Dark Ages Roman Catholic theologians:

Despite where your sympathies may lie, ignoring the historical reality that a majority of our reformed heritage has appropriated Thomas and other medieval catholic theologians is not an option.”

Brite claims that our refusal to see our debt to Roman doctrine is mere misplaced sympathies. That is, those who hold an opinion other than his, simply do not know their history, nor their theology. Logically, this is beyond absurd and insulting.

For example, literally no one knew church history better than John Calvin. He had memorized most of the writings of the Church Fathers. And in the Institutes Calvin gave credit where credit was due to the smattering of light that emanated out of the thousand years the Christian faith was almost completely corrupted before his day.

But still, the goal of the Reformation movement was not a revitalization of Popish doctrine they saw. Luther tried to do this, then realized that it was hopeless. Rather, all the Reformers saw that Rome was utterly corrupted, so badly that the True Church had to “Re-formed”—meaning started all over again. Any light which was there, was found much clearer in the Church Fathers.

Then, logically, how can anyone claim to have any thing to do with the Reformed faith, and say that Calvin, et. al., missed Brite’s points due to his misplaced sympathies? It was sympathies, and not the Bible and history? God help us from such twists.

Logically speaking, does it make any sense at all to say that “the majority of our Reformed heritage has appropriated Thomas and other medieval catholic theologians.” None whatsoever. Why? Because if that were the case then the anathemas of Trent against practically every point of Reformation Theology would in fact be a self-condemnation! It is ridiculous to think that Reformed doctrines were heavily dependant on Thomas, and that Trent theology, which was also depended on Thomas, then condemned Reformed doctrine. That would mean that Trent was condemning itself!

Brite either does not know what Trent says, doesn’t know Reformed doctrine, or neither of them. Or he has been speaking with a RC priest, and that is who is whispering in his ear.

Jesus told us to how to think as Christian leaders: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves” (Mt.10:16). Brite needs to be told what the word Vatican means; diving-serpent. (see Rome’s new Vatican Hall The Vatican’s Hell Hall: The Weird Mysteries of the Paul VI Audience Hall – Novus Ordo Watch).

Brite misses his mark when he appeals to pre-Reformation emerging lights (see Theologica Germanica, or the commentaries by—what is his name—which Luther was greatly appreciated). Dark Ages persons who believed what the Reformers later taught are to be thought of, not as representing Roman Catholic belief, but rather as those who tapped into Biblical theology before the Reformation could take hold. Many of these were at least threatened with the stake by the Pope.

It would be much more accurate to say, as Calvin does in the Institutes, that arising from under the all-seeing eye of the office of Pope, there had been voices who slowly began to catch visions of the arising theology that would blossom into the Reformation. These voices were not arising because of Romanism, but despite it. Rome was burning Protestant thinkers hundreds of years before term came into use.

I am now a Reformed pastor, and passionate about the Gospel. To suggest that the deep darkness which Romanism held me and other Roman Catholics I have led to Christ in as being anything remotely like a True Church is deeply disturbing. It must surely be true that Brite has never been used by God to bring someone out of Romanism into True Faith (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 7), and then sat to listen to their experience.

Charles d’Espeville is a Minister in the Reformed Church in America.

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