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The Tradition of Men

Donna Morley, Ph.D.

Consider. Each of the following traditions has been brought into the Catholic church. Not one of these traditions are mentioned in the Old or New Testament.

In the year....


        300   Making the sign of the Cross

        310   Praying for the dead

        320   Use of wax candles in the church

        375   Worship of angels

        375   The veneration of saints and use of images commanded

        385   Prohibition of clerical marriage

        394   The inception of the Mass

        431   The exaltation of Mary (ordered by the Council of Ephesus)

        431   Apostle Peter lives and ministers up to the present day, and forever, in his successors.

        500   Priests began to dress differently from laymen

        526   The conception of the sacrament Extreme Unction

        553   Mary is given the title “perpetual virgin”

        590   Title of pope is originated. The first man-made pope was Gregory I.

        593  The doctrine of Purgatory enters the church

        600   Latin language is ordered to be used in the mass

        607   Prayers begin to be directed to Mary, dead saints, and angels

        607   Title of Universal Bishop

        709   Kissing the pope’s foot (began with Pope Constantine)

        786   Veneration of the cross, images, and relics

        850   Holy water invented (water + salt + priests’ blessing)

        890   Worship of St. Joseph

        995   Canonization of dead saints

        998   Fasting during Lent

      1079    Celibacy of the priesthood (decreed by Pope Gregory VII)

11th cent.  Attendance of the Mass made obligatory

      1090    The Rosary–praying with beads

      1184    The Inquisition (enacted by the Council of Verona)

      1215    Transubstantiation (decreed by Pope Innocent III)  

      1215    Confessing sins to priest, instead of to God

      1215    Yearly confession prescribed (Fourth Lateran Council)

      1220    Adoration of the wafer (Host/Eucharist)

      1229    Bible forbidden to laymen, placed on the church’s Index of Forbidden Books by the Council of Valencia

      1274    The doctrines of Seven Sacraments, as a way to assist in one’s salvation, affirmed.

      1414    Cup forbidden to the people at communion (only to be given wafer)

      1439    Purgatory becomes dogma by the Council of Florence

15th cent.  Pope posses’s the power of jurisdiction over the souls in Purgatory, therefore, can grant them an authoritative absolution.

      1545    Tradition declared to have equal authority with the Bible

      1546    Apocrypha added to the Bible

      1589    Completion of “Hail Mary” (Ave Maria, approved by Sixtus V)

      1854    Immaculate Conception of Mary, proclaimed by Pius IX

      1870    Vatican Council’s proclamation of pope infallibility

      1908    Pope Pius X decreed that all marriages are null and void (between two Catholics, or a Catholic and Protestant) if not performed by a priest.

      1928    Pope Pius XI in “Misrentissiumus Redemptor” proclaims that all Catholics must atone for the sins of others. 

      1950    Assumption of Mary (bodily ascension into heaven)

      1965    Mary becomes “Mother of the Church”

        We can also add to this long list of Catholic tradition (though it’s not exhaustive): priests, monks, monasteries, nuns, convents, the attire for religious orders, the closet confessional, forty days of Lent, holy week, Palm Sunday, Ash Wednesday, All Saints day, honoring individual dead saints at Mass; pleading for a dead saint’s intercession; elimination of certain foods during Lent, the eating of fish on Friday’s during Lent (although the church has eased up on this), incense, praying only the church’s written prayers, holy water put on the forehead as you enter church, wearing metals of saints (as a child I wore my St. Christopher medal with the inscription, “Saint Christopher protect us” By the way, most Catholics have no idea that Saint Christopher is only a legend.

Lastly, let's not forget Limbo. For centuries, Catholics were taught that an infant who dies--without being baptized in the Catholic church---goes not to heaven nor hell, but Limbo. The child is eternally blissful, but would never be with God. This Limbo belief, proclaimed from the Vatican during the Middle Ages, (calming down Augustine's views of an unbaptized infant going to hell) was "officially" condemned by the Vatican in December, 2005

        We must ask: Can we really consider the pope as having final authority when he himself is only a man? Can the church hierarchy and church councils have final authority when they add traditions that aren’t biblical? Scripture tells us not to be captive to the traditions of men (see Colossians, 2:8).

        When the Roman church realized that much of its teachings were not in Scripture, it had to either give them up or make its traditions authoritative. We know which way they chose. The Bible says we are not to add anything to the Word of God (Revelation 22:18; Galatians 1:9).


        Scripture is not just a seed of truth out of which the church grows doctrine but it’s the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3...saints are people who have committed their life to Jesus Christ).

        The Bible was written to average people and God holds average people responsible for understanding it. So God didn’t plan that church leaders would continually reveal new things. In fact, the Bible says that true followers of Jesus Christ are enabled by God to understand Scripture and “have no need for anyone to teach you” (1 John 2:27). It’s obvious that Scripture is entrusted to God’s people. It is not for the church hierarchy alone to read and interpret.

        God desires for us to be discerning, checking the teaching in church, ensuring its biblical. After listening to the Apostle Paul's preaching, the Bereans checked his teaching against Scripture, making sure what he taught was true. The Bereans were commended for this, and were called noble-minded (Acts 17:11). Would a modern-day pope praise lay people for checking the biblical accuracy of his teaching?


Copyright © 2001 by Donna Morley