Rev. Prof. Dr. John Calvin (1509-64) was the greatest of all Protestant Reformers. He lived and testified and died — during the time of cruel papal tyranny over the Church of Christ.
There was no Papacy in the Early Church. As predicted in Holy Scripture, it would arise only later — and to test and strengthen True Christians. Daniel chapters 7 to 12; Second Thessalonians chapter 2; First John chapters 2 to 4; Revelation chapters 11 to 18.
This occurred especially from about A.D. 600 onward. It climaxed around A.D. 1215, when the Romish doctrine of transubstantiation was enunciated officially.
Yet the Papacy was still the most powerful agency in deforming Christ’s Church — also in Calvin’s day. Indeed, even today, the Popes and the Papists who support them most carefully need to be distinguished not only from the true Protestant Christians they oppose — but also from the (often pious) Roman Catholics who are their dupes.
Rev. Prof. Dr. John Calvin on the characteristics of Papists and the Papacy
The genius of Geneva, in his Institutes of the Christian Religion,1 wrote also about the time of the early Christian centuries prior to the papacy of A.D. 600f. Explains Calvin: “As in ancient times, there remained among the Jews certain special privileges of a Church — so in the present day [A.D. 1536f] we deny not to the Papists those vestiges of a Church which the Lord has allowed to remain among them…. Thus, He had deposited His [Christian Church] Covenant in Gaul, Italy, Germany, Spain and England.” Even after the 7th century, “when these countries were oppressed by the tyranny of Antichrist, He [God] — in order that His Covenant might remain inviolable — first preserved baptism there," even in the mediaeval Roman Catholic Church.
This was "an evidence of the Covenant — baptism which, consecrated by His lips, retains its power in spite of human depravity. He provided by His Providence that there should be other remains too, to prevent the Church from utterly perishing…. He did not permit Antichrist either to subvert His Church from its foundation, or to level it with the ground. Though, to punish the ingratitude of men who had despised His Word, He allowed a fearful shaking and dismembering to take place — He was pleased that amid the devastation, the edifice should remain, even though half in ruins. Therefore, while we are unwilling simply to concede the name of ‘Church’ to the Papists, we do not deny that there are churches among them….
“Daniel and Paul foretold that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God. Daniel [7:7-25 &] 9:27 [& 12:712] and Second Thessalonians 2:4. We regard the Roman Pontiff as the leader and the standard-bearer of that wicked and abominable kingdom [of Antichrist]. By placing his seat [or throne] in the temple of God, it is intimated that his kingdom would not be such as to destroy the name either of Christ or of His Church.
“Hence, then, it is obvious that we do not at all deny that churches remain under his tyranny; churches, however, which by sacrilegious impiety he has profaned…. I call them ‘churches’ inasmuch as the Lord there wondrously preserves some remains of His people, though miserably torn…, and inasmuch as some symbols of the Church still remain…. On the other hand, those marks to which we ought especially to have respect in this discussion — are effaced. I say that the whole body [of Papists], as well as every single assembly, lacks the form of a legitimate Church.”