Like many Protestant and independent American Christians, I came from a religious background that was rabidly anti-Catholic. One of the groups which I was formerly affiliated with taught that the Roman Catholic Church was the epitome of false Christianity. They taught that the doctrines and beliefs of that church were diametrically opposed to the TRUTH of God. They taught that the Roman Church was the tool that Satan had used to deceive people into accepting a false Christianity. They taught that the Roman Church was the Great Whore of the book of Revelation, and that a pope was the most likely candidate for the Anti-Christ. All of this was based on that church's teachings and history.
What about the fruits produced in the lives of individual members of that church? That was ignored. Frankly, it didn't matter. Doctrinal correctness is what mattered - it was the only legitimate measure of who was and was not a Christian! After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Never mind that Jesus Christ said that it was the fruit that a person bears during his/her lifetime that identifies them as good or bad (Matthew 7:16, 20). Never mind that Jesus Christ said that LOVE would be the single most important trait in identifying his followers (John 13:35). Never mind that the Apostle Paul said that the evidence that one had God's Holy Spirit rested in the character traits of the individual (Galatians 5:22).
A few days ago, a friend sent me a biographical clip about one Franz Jagerstatter. Franz was a Roman Catholic Christian in Austria in the 1930's. Franz was a simple man who became a sexton in his local church and refused any compensation for the services he performed for the brethren in his community. In 1938, he was the only person in his local community with enough courage to vote against the Anschluss with Nazi Germany. He also had the moral courage to refuse to fight in the German Army. In short, Franz was devoted to God, and what he believed that God expected of him. He was willing to face execution at the hands of the Nazis instead of participating in their murderous regime. He wrote from prison: "Neither prison nor chains nor sentence of death can rob a man of the Faith and his free will." Franz remained faithful to God and was eventually beheaded by the Nazis. (You can read more of his story here: http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_20071026_jagerstatter_en.html)
Was Franz Jagerstatter a Christian Martyr? I think that the story of his life provides more than enough evidence that he was. And, if this Roman Catholic man was indeed a Christian, what does that say about the teachings of all of those anti-Catholic groups about what constitutes a Christian? What do you think?