To be honest in apologetics [which means a defense of a faith], must be defending the Truth. In other words, when the evidence points against you, you have to be able to admit it.
Since, for the most part, both Catholic and Protestant apologists are given their beliefs from a third party, whether it be the Pope or a Protestant denomination, they have to defend beliefs even if the evidence is against those beliefs.
To make this page simple, I am going to cover just one important issue on which a Roman Catholic apologist cannot be honest.
On this issue, he has no "wiggle room." Admitting the truth would dissect his faith. He can never bend, and he can never admit what is obviously true. If he did, he would no longer be a Roman Catholic apologist.
I am not going to argue this whole issue here. It's covered thoroughly elsewhere on this site.
I am going to give an example where every Roman Catholic apologist and book has been dishonest.
Every Roman Catholic that has ever tried to tell me that there was a pope in the Pre-Nicene Church has quoted Cyprian, bishop of Carthage from A.D. 249-258. He's the earliest writer to claim that Peter was able to pass the keys of the kingdom, mentioned in Matthew 16:19, on to the Church.
Obviously, Roman Catholic apologists love this. The Roman Catholic Church believes that Peter was the first bishop of Rome and thus the first pope. They believe he received the keys of the kingdom from Peter, and that he passed them on to the next bishop of Rome (Linus), who passed it on to the next, etc.
Thus, the Catholic Encyclopedia, in its article "The Pope," refers to St. Cyprian in these words:
A Catholic apologist who wrote me personally quotes St. Cyprian as saying:
Another favorite quote is found in St. Cyprian's tract, On the Unity of the Church. After quoting Matthew 16:19, St. Cyprian says:
Powerful arguments, aren't these? Surely Cyprian thought the Roman bishop was pope!
Then why did he call a council specifically to overthrow the "pope's" authority?
Cyprian did believe that Jesus gave "keys" to Peter, and he did believe Peter passed those keys on …
… to the Church.
St. Cyprian's quote in On the Unity of the Church continues in the following chapter, just two sentences after the last quote ended:
Cyprian believed the keys of the kingdom to be passed by Peter to all the bishops together, who constituted one "episcopate."
How do I know this? Why does he mention Rome and Pope Cornelius in the quotes above?
The most certain proof that Cyprian did not believe in papal primacy is to observe his actions. St. Cyprian was locked in a battle with Stephen, the bishop of Rome, during his entire tenure as bishop.
Cyprian once called a council of 87 bishops in Carthage. The purpose of that council, according to The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. V, was:
If St. Cyprian believed that the bishop of Rome was pope and had primacy over all other bishops, he sure had a strange way of showing it!
That council declared, in the very first paragraph of its report of proceedings:
Can there be any more certain proclamation against the papal authority than this? The Seventh Council of Carthage, called by St. Cyprian himself and with 87 bishops unanimously assenting, came together specifically to reject a decree by Stephen, bishop of Rome. In doing so, they declared that no bishop can set himself up as "bishop of bishops," or "compel his colleague to the necessity of obedience."
Have you ever seen this quoted by a Roman Catholic apologist? Do you think it's because they don't know about it?
One of Cyprian's colleagues wrote him, adding this:
Could Firmilianus, the writer of this letter, have written such a statement to someone who didn't agree with it? Since St. Cyprian openly disagreed with Stephen on just this matter—that heretics should be readmitted to the church without baptism—there is no doubt that he agreed with Firmilianus' statement. At the end of the letter, Firmilianus adds:
"St." Cyprian did agree with Firmilianus, and obviously Stephen knew it!
Actually, St. Cyprian doesn't mention any popes. He mentions two bishops of Rome, Fabian and Cornelius. He does not call either of them pope. The Catholic apologist who wrote me added "[Pope]" in brackets to St. Cyprian's quote.
The reason Cyprian mentioned those two bishops is because the heretics at question were the Novatianists. The Novatianists were followers of Novatian, a Roman elder who split from the congregation of Rome when Cornelius was appointed and began his own congregation.
Thus, Cyprian mentions them as departing from the leadership of Cornelius because they were in Rome and were leaving Cornelius' leadership.
Thus, Cornelius did have a succession from Peter.
But does this imply that Cornelius was a pope, possessing alone the keys of the kingdom of heaven and having authority over all other bishops?
St. Cyprian didn't think so.
Honesty demands that if a Roman Catholic apologist is going to quote St. Cyprian as supporting the idea of a papacy, then he should mention that Cyprian called a council of 87 bishops that unanimously declared—after specifically disagreeing with the bishop of Rome—that no bishop has authority over another bishop.
Honesty demands that he mention that St. Cyprian referred to all the bishops as one episcopate to whom Peter passed on the keys.
However, such honesty would disintegrate all claims to there having been a pope in the early Church, and that Roman Catholic apologists simply cannot allow. If they did allow it, they would cease, by definition, to be Catholic apologists!
In A.D. 325, the Council of Nicea declared that the bishop of Rome had authority over an area similar to the bishop of Alexandria, who had authority over all Egypt plus a couple regions (Canon 6). Since this is a certain declaration that the bishop of Rome did not have universal authority even 300 years after Christ, Catholic apologists have to pull anything they can from those first three centuries.
There's really nothing to pull from except St. Cyprian and Irenaeus, so it's important to them not to introduce the context of the quotes of Cyprian and Irenaeus.
If they did their arguments would evaporate. Thus, they have to choose to let their honesty evaporate instead.