The Infinite Do-Loop of Catholicism
by Dale Rudiger
When I was in high school (before the advent of home computers), I learned a programming language called “BASIC.” It was a simple language, and very easy to use. But our teacher had a warning for us: “Beware the infinite do-loop.” The purpose of the “DO” command is to repeat a routine until a specific condition is satisfied. An infinite do-loop is a sequence of instructions in a computer program which loops endlessly, either due to the loop having no terminating condition, having one that can never be met, or one that causes the loop to start over. The routine continues ad infinitum. It causes the program to crash.
Roman Catholicism is a religion that suffers from the “infinite do-loop.” In order to (supposedly) qualify for heaven, the Catholic is given instructions by the Church as to what they must do – they are to perform a specific “routine.” The Church teaches that failure to satisfy its conditions will lead to a failure to get to heaven. But these requirements have no terminating condition – there is always more that the Catholic needs to do. And when a Catholic sins, he causes the loop to start over. He or she must confess to a priest and do penance in an effort to restore good standing. The system never permits the Catholic to “finish the program,” since in order to be acceptable to God, the Church says he or she must become inherently righteous. This is a condition that cannot be met, as we will see.
Let’s say that “x” represents the amount of righteousness necessary for us to get to heaven. The Catholic Church teaches that through the sacrament of Baptism we receive exactly “x” into our account –which would be enough to qualify us for heaven. But since we sin after baptism, we lose this pristine righteousness and no longer have enough to qualify for heaven. The rest of the Catholic’s life is spent trying to refill his treasury through the infusions provided by the Church. If the Catholic dies with “x” then they go directly to heaven. If they don’t quite have “x” then they go to purgatory. If they die with zero, (because of an unconfessed “mortal” sin), then they go to hell.
Here is a (fatal) problem for the Catholic system: God requires x = ∞. As imperfect creatures, this is impossible. But the Catholic Church claims to be able to get the Catholic to this level. They even claim that Mary and the Saints exceeded the amount of righteousness necessary for heaven, and can share their excess righteousness with us!
If the Holy God requires perfect righteousness, how can anyone get to heaven? With God all things are possible. Jesus led a perfect life (x = ∞). His offering for sin to God was infinitely perfect and completely sufficient. According to the Bible, the moment we receive Jesus in faith as our Savior we receive His infinite righteousness into our account. Now, it is mathematically impossible to subtract from infinity. Praise God that there is no such thing as ∞ minus one! Through the once-for-all-time sacrifice of Jesus, the sins of the believer have been put as far away as the “east is from the west.” This is an infinite distance, since you never reach the “west pole” by going either east or west!
So, what are the conditions the Catholic Church requires for salvation? Here is the Catholic “Twelve Step” program:
- Be baptized
- Receive First Holy Communion
- Confess all your sins to a priest and do penance
- Obey the “Five Precepts” for the rest of your life
- Provide for the needs of the Church
- Perform acts of charity
- Call on the intercession of Mary and the Saints
- Use sacramentals and perform pious acts
- Obtain indulgences
- Receive Last Rites/Viaticum
- Die…, and then
- Pay for your sins in purgatory
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), published in 1994, is a great resource for evangelicals to get a better understanding of Catholicism. Here are brief explanations of the conditions for salvation from the Catechism, (followed by a brief commentary):
CCC 1213: “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit, and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: ‘Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water and the word.”
Questions: Was Hitler reborn as a son of God at Baptism? If water baptism causes us to be “reborn as sons of God,” then shouldn’t everyone who is baptized go to heaven?
Baptism is not a terminating condition: The Bible says that whoever is regenerated becomes a son of God and has eternal life – but Catholic Baptism only guarantees eternal life until the first sin is committed. The Catholic Church thus teaches that the Sacrament of Baptism does not guarantee heaven. It’s only incorporates you into the Catholic system. In reality, the Sacrament is ineffective because it is the Holy Spirit who regenerates at His pleasure (Jn. 3:8), not a priest pouring water.
Receive First Holy Communion
CCC 1244: “Having become a child of God clothed with the wedding garment, the neophyte is admitted ‘to the marriage supper of the lamb’ and receives the food of new life, the body and blood of Christ…”
Questions: Does being “admitted to the marriage supper of the lamb” guarantee heaven? Do all who receive First Communion go to heaven? The Bible says that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:10). And that He offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down next to God in heaven, and by his one offering perfected us forever (Heb. 10:13-14). Why does the Church sacrifice Jesus thousands of times a day for the forgiveness of sins?
Having no terminating condition: Receiving First Communion does not guarantee heaven. It must be repeated again and again and again. Even after death, Catholic friends and relatives pay for masses to get their loved ones out of purgatory.
Confess all your sins to a priest and do penance
CCC 1446: “Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as ‘the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.'”
Questions: Why is there no mention of confession to a priest in the book of Acts? Doesn’t the Bible tell us to go directly to God, and that Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 4:16)? And that we are all priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9)? Have I ever committed a “grave sin” (such as missing mass) that I didn’t confess to a priest? How do I know? Is there a comprehensive list of the grave sins? What if I die suddenly before being able to confess?
Condition causing the loop to start over: The Catholic Church teaches that even a complete and perfect confession to a priest does not guarantee heaven – it only starts the loop over again. The devout Catholic monk Martin Luther drove his Father Confessor to distraction by his constant confessions – which could never bring peace to his troubled conscience.
Obey the Five Precepts for the rest of your life
CCC 1241: “The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor.” The five precepts are:
1. “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation.”
2. “You shall confess your sins at least once a year.”
3. “You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.”
4. “You shall keep holy the holy days of obligation”
5. ” You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.”
Questions: Don’t these minimum rules contradict Col. 2:16 (So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance is Christ)? Will I always keep these minimum requirements? How can I even remember all the sins that I committed in a whole year!
Having no terminating condition: Even if these man-made traditions were valid, they do not guarantee heaven. Having kept the five precepts last year, I could fail next year.
Provide for the needs of the Church
CCC 2043: “The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities.”
Questions: How many charitable acts are needed to guarantee heaven? How can I know that I am giving enough, according to my abilities?
Having no terminating condition: Giving time and money to the Church does not guarantee heaven. There is no assurance that I have given enough.
Perform acts of charity
CCC 2010: “Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” (emphasis in original)
Questions: Can I be sure I have done enough to merit heaven? Is there anything more I can do? Doesn’t committing a mortal sin (such as missing Mass on Sunday) completely void all that I have done? Doesn’t Paul say that it is impossible to do enough good things to get to heaven (Rom. 10:3)?
Having a condition that can never be met: Performing good deeds, no matter how many, cannot guarantee heaven. God requires perfect obedience – to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and might and to love our neighbor as ourself. Jesus said there is no one good but God.
Call on the intercession of Mary and the Saints
CCC 828: “By canonizing some of the faithful…the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.”
CCC 829: “‘But while in the most Blessed Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle, the faithful still strive to conquer sin and increase in holiness. And so they turn their eyes to Mary’: in her, the Church is already the ‘all-holy.'”
CCC 969: “‘Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation….Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix.'”
Questions: Where in the Bible do we see people praying to Mary for salvation? As a created being, how can she hear and answer the prayers of a billion people? Or how can the saints hear the prayers of thousands? Aren’t we told to “look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2)? Why do we look to Mary “at the hour of our death”?
Having a condition that can never be met: Praying to Mary and the Saints cannot guarantee heaven. This is because there is only one mediator, Jesus. All other mediators are powerless to save. Praying to them instead of trusting Christ is idolatrous. These phony mediators only hide Jesus from the poor Catholic. The real Mary would be the first to say that praying to her is ineffective for salvation.
Use Sacramentals and perform pious acts
CCC 1667: “Holy Mother Church has, moreover, instituted sacramentals. These are sacred signs which bear a resemblance to the sacraments. They signify effects, particularly of a spiritual nature, which are obtained through the intercession of the Church. By them men are disposed to receive the chief effects of the sacraments, and various occasions in life are rendered holy.
CCC 1674: “Besides sacramental liturgy and sacramentals, catechesis must take into account the forms of piety and popular devotions among the faithful. The religous sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc.”
Questions: Can wearing medals and scapulars guarantee heaven? Does anyone in the Bible venerate relics? The Church is supposed to intercede in our salvation by recommending the performance of certain pious traditions. But doesn’t Paul warn us to focus instead on Jesus through whom we have the fullness of salvation and to avoid such empty traditions (Col. 2:8)?
Having a condition that can never be met: Performing religious acts cannot guarantee heaven, because they do not reconcile us to God. It is only through faith in Jesus that we are reconciled. Superstitious religiosity only adds to our sin – it is idolatry.
CCC 1471: “The doctrine and practice of indulgences in the Church are closely linked to the effects of the sacrament of Penance. ‘An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of satisfactions of Christ and the saints.’ ‘An indulgence is partial or plenary according as it removes either part or all of the temporal punishment due to sin.’ Indulgences may be applied to the living or the dead.”
Questions: Is any of this in the Bible? Did Peter grant indulgences? Is there any mention of a Treasury of Merit from which the pope can distribute righteousness for our salvation? Wouldn’t commiting even one mortal sin wipe away all this merit? Can I be certain that I have gained enough indulgences to enter heaven?
Condition that causes the loop to start over: Ignoring the fact that indulgences and the Treasury of Merit are pure fictions, they at best allow the salvation loop to start over. One serious sin drains our account. Obtaining indulgences cannot guarantee heaven.
Receive Last Rites
CCC 1523: “A preparation for the final journey. If the sacrament of anointing of the sick is given to all who suffer from serious illness and infirmity, even more rightly is it given to those at the point of departing this life; so it is also called sacramentum exeuntium (the sacrament of those departing). The Annointing of the Sick completes our conformity to the death and Resurrection of Christ, just as Baptism began it. It completes the holy annointings that mark the whole Christian life: that of Baptism which sealed the new life in us, and that of Confirmation which strengthened us for the combat of this life. This last anointing fortifies the end of our earthly life like a solid rampart for the final struggles before entering the Father’s house.”
Questions: What if I sin after receiving last rites? Does a wicked, comatose Catholic who receives last rites go to heaven? Doesn’t Paul tell us that we are conformed through the righteousness of Christ through faith (Phil. 3:10) – not by the application of oil?
Having a condition that can never be met: Being anointed with oil does not guarantee heaven. We must have faith in Christ, not in oil.
CCC 1013-1014: “Death is the end of man’s earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide this ultimate destiny. … The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of our death. In the litany of the saints, for instance, she has us pray: ‘From a sudden and unforeseen death, deliver us, O Lord’; to ask the Mother of God to intercede for us ‘at the hour of our death’ in the Hail Mary; and to entrust ourselves to St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death.”
CCC 2092: “There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).”
Questions: So even when dying, we are to look to the saints and to Mary? Didn’t the apostle John write his epistle to assure us that we can know that we have eternal life (1 Jn. 5:13)? Doesn’t Paul tell the Ephesians that they have been saved through faith? That we have obtained our inheritance? That God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, adopted us, accepted us, predestined us – all prior to death?
No terminating condition, having a condition that can never be met, one that causes the loop to start over: Incredibly, even death is not a terminating condition that guarantees heaven in the Catholic system. There is still more to do – purification in purgatory. Sadly, dying does not guarantee heaven for the Catholic. Rather, it seals the doom of those who do not trust in Jesus for salvation (Heb. 9:27). It is here that the Catholic program “crashes.” And there is no “rebooting.”
Pay for your sins in Purgatory
CCC 1030: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”
Questions: Must I die to be assured that I am a friend of God? Isn’t faith defined in the Bible as “the assurance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1)? Wouldn’t such an important place as Purgatory be mentioned somewhere in the New Testament by Jesus or one of his disciples?
Having a condition that can never be met: Entering Purgatory does not guarantee heaven, because it doesn’t exist! No, it is a heinous doctrine that deceives Catholics into believing that they have a safety net even if they fail to live up to the decrees of their Church.
Program has been Executed: Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ Saved Me
All of these sacraments, prayers, sacramentals, holy days, masses, medals, scapulars, penances, alms, rituals, and good works that Catholics must receive, say, attend, wear, and perform are conditions for entering heaven. All these acts are based on one false assumption: something other than Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation.
The poor Catholic is told that salvation is accomplished THROUGH THE CHURCH. He or she needs to be told that everything is THROUGH JESUS. If you search the Bible for occurrences of “through Christ” and “through Him,” this is what you will find that we receive from Jesus:
- Grace and truth (Jn. 1:17)
- the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:21, Phil. 1:11, Phil. 3:9)
- Justification (Rom. 3:24, Gal. 2:15)
- Peace with God (Rom. 5:1)
- Reconciliation (Rom. 5:11, 2 Co. 5:18)
- Abundance of grace (Rom. 5:17)
- Eternal life (Rom. 5:21)
- Belonging to God (Rom. 5:21)
- Faith (Rom. 10:17)
- Our existence (1 Co. 8:6)
- Victory in life (Rom. 8:37, 1 Co. 15:35)
- Victory over death (2 Tim. 1:10)
- Abundant consolation (2 Co. 1:5)
- Confidence (2 Co. 3:4)
- Adoption into God’s family (Gal. 3:26, Eph. 1:5)
- Salvation (1 Th. 5:9, 2 Tim. 3:15)
- The gift of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:6)
- Sanctification (Heb. 13:21)
- Completion (Heb. 13:21)
- New birth and living hope (1 Pet. 1:3)
- Acceptance (1 Pet. 2:1)
- A clear conscience (1 Pet. 3:15)
- Escape from defilements (2 Pet. 2:20)
- Perseverence (Jude 25)
- Bold and confident access to the Father (Jn. 14:6, Eph. 2:18;3:12)
- Forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43)
- Escape from judgment (Rom. 5:9)
- All God’s promises (2 Cor. 1:20)
- Success (Phil. 4:13)
- Eternal security (Heb. 7:25)
- Life (1 Jn. 4:9)
- Everything!!!!! (2 Pet. 1:3)
In evangelizing Catholics, we must remember that they are the victims of their false Church. Jesus has been downplayed, and the Church is front and center in their salvation. My father, a convert to Catholicism when he married my mother, is an example of the despair that results from the Catholic system. For much of his life, my dad struggled with alcohol abuse. And no matter how many masses he attended, there was no change in his life. He eventually concluded that he was not good enough to attend mass, so he stopped going. After you have spent decades on the Catholic treadmill, even those with the best of intentions can lose heart. He eventually died from alcohol’s effect on his body, apart from the saving knowledge of Christ.
We must share with our Catholic friends and loved ones (from the Scriptures) the finished work of Jesus so that they can escape the infinite do-loop of Catholicism. It is my prayer that our hearts will be burdened for these poor souls, and that by God’s grace many will receive the infinite righteousness of our Lord and Savior. To God be the Glory for His salvation!