The list

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is No. 30 in the series. Please read my introduction and explanation here.

This is the last installment of my series on why I left the Roman Catholic Church. What am I going to do with myself now? I’m sure I’ll have some other things to say about life and truth and faith, and that I’ll occasionally come back to this subject. But for now, I’m happy to leave it for awhile.

If you’ve found my posts enlightening or maddening…please let me know by leaving a comment below. If you want to review a post or read one for the first time, here’s the list:mary

  1. The Church’s undue and unscriptural attention to and magnification of Mary
  2. The sacrificial nature of the Mass
  3. Transubstantiation – the Eucharist
  4. Her claim to be the one, true church
  5. Salvation by faith plus works
  6. The Church distinguished by apostolic succession
  7. Tradition – equally authoritative with Scripture
  8. Purgatory
  9. Indulgences – drawing down debt
  10. Required abstinences
  11. The confessional
  12. Directions for naming childrenpapacy
  13. Addressing clergy as Father
  14. Inordinate power and control
  15. Historical immorality of popes
  16. Elevation and exaltation of the papacy
  17. Saints, statues, and superstition
  18. Cult of saints
  19. Withholding and mishandling of Scripturescapularmain
  20. Sex scandal and cover-up
  21. Divorced? No problem. Never married!
  22. Forbidding marriage to clergy
  23. Mortal and venial sins
  24. Doublespeak
  25. Infant baptism that washes away sin
  26. Marian apparitions
  27. Sacred talismans and holy water
  28. Relics of saints
  29. Oppressive oversight of the offering
  30. Laws, laws, and more laws

Someday, and today

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is No. 29 in the series. Please read my introduction and explanation here.

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like now, as well as the lives of my siblings, if we had not been raised Catholic but instead as evangelical Christians with Scripture and the indwelling Holy Spirit guiding and empowering our parents and us. I don’t spend much time on it because there are too many variables and it doesn’t matter anyway; we can’t change the past. One thing is probable though…I’d have fewer siblings. And more of the inheritance. But I digress.

Surely no one’s spiritual upbringing is completely without error. And as I’ve said before, I’m very grateful for the core truths about God’s existence and majesty, Christ’s death for sin, his activity in creation and so forth that I learned in the Catholic Church. And for the genuine love given to my siblings and me by our parents, and which I continue to be blessed with on a larger than average scale because I do have a larger than average-sized family. And that’s a better inheritance indeed.

But though none of us is perfect in knowledge and wisdom and every Christian denomination has its quirks and deficiencies, the Catholic Church is uniquely and rightly targeted for criticism because she has set herself up as more than just a denomination, but instead the spiritual, visible ruler of all Christendom. If her claims are true then it would behoove each and every one of us to be Catholic if we know what’s good for us. So it’s kind of important to determine that. If her claims are false, then she should be held accountable for her deception.

In light of the crucial nature of the truth or falsehood of the claims of the Catholic Church, I’ve taken this whole month to lay out my case. Not very well, and not very thoroughly, but I pray clearly and extensively enough to demonstrate that the Church needs to be objectively examined just like any other “pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

At times I’ve felt a bit like Martin Luther. He had his 95 Theses; I have my 30 reasons. He had his faults and failures; so do I. He was championing truth and God’s glory in opposition to an institution that claimed to be upholding them but was entrenched in worldliness, traditions of men, and a cult of saints. Me too.

Like Luther, I’m a heretic in the eyes of the Catholic Church, and she has decreed on me curse upon curse because I repudiate so much of her dogma. Back during the Middle Ages I would likely have been burned at the stake, if I had any kind of real influence. Which I don’t. Perhaps I should be grateful for that.he reigns

There will come a day, hallelujah, when all truth will come to light1…including the secrets that men in high places as well as low have hidden from the watching world and presumably thought they could hide from God. Jesus will return “with power and great glory”2 and will reveal once and for all who belongs to him, who speaks for him, and who doesn’t.

His first coming was as Redeemer; his second will be as Judge. And he will “separate people one from another.”3 Those who have exalted themselves will be humbled4 and the first shall be last.5 To the shepherds of his people who have robbed him of glory he says, “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”6 “And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them.”7

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice,’”8 “Come out of her, my people.”9

1 Mark 4:22
2 Matthew 24:30
3 Matthew 25:32
4 Luke 14:11
5 Matthew 19:30
6 Isaiah 42:8
7 Ezekiel 39:21
8 Hebrews 3:7
9 Revelation 18:4

My final reasons

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is No. 28 in the series. Please read my introduction and explanation here.

As I’ve crossed addressed objections off my list of reasons, I’ve also crossed off a few that I haven’t addressed. Once I sat down to write about them I realized that either they weren’t really an issue for me or were simply too trivial to include. But if you’re willing to stay with me for a few more posts, I do have just a bit more to add.

We’ve had a number of baptisms in our church lately, and they are often powerful testimonies to the activity of God in a person’s life as he convicts them of their sin and they repent and believe. But whether or not we hear their stories, going public with their faith by going under is a testimony in itself. The Catholic Church sees baptism not as a confession of faith but as a washing away of sin and an incorporation into Christ’s Body. So infants are baptized very early.

Many Protestant denominations practice infant baptism as well, but every record of baptism in the New Testament follows faith. Babies can’t believe, and no one can believe for them. It’s another reason why I am not Catholic.

Marian apparitions. I began this series talking about the Church’s extreme and unbiblical devotion to Jesus’ mother, and there’s so much objectionable there I probably could have done the whole series on it. One of the elements that helps keep the faithful looking to her instead of God is the Church’s stamp of approval on a number of supposed miraculous appearances of Mary over the centuries. Mary Fatima

One of the best known was at Fatima in Portugal where Mary urged frequent use of the Rosary and “works of mortification,” as well as “devotion to herself under the title of her Immaculate Heart.” “In October, 1942, Pius XII consecrated the world to Mary under the title of her Immaculate Heart.” Another was at Lourdes, France in the mid-nineteenth century where she also called for works of penance and that a chapel be built there.1 Millions of pilgrims still flock to the site, and help support the Church in the process.

Also in nineteenth century France Mary is said to have appeared to a young nun-in-training whom she commissioned to have a medal made in her honor. Mary even provided the design, front and back, and told the now Saint Catherine, “Those who wear it will receive great graces.” It is commonly known as the Miraculous Medal and you can purchase one at your local jeweler or Catholic supply store.

scapularmainThe Church condones the wearing of the Miraculous Medal, as well as the brown scapular which was also commissioned by the Blessed Virgin herself when she appeared to a 13th century monk. And who wouldn’t want to if her guarantee to the monk is true, that if you’re wearing it when you die you will not “suffer eternal fire.”

According man-made items with supernatural powers treats them as talismans and is more superstition than devotion. As is the Church’s use of holy water to bless the faithful, their homes, their Easter baskets, and their pets.

Relics of saints. The Catholic Church decrees that her members must venerate these supposed pieces of their bodies, articles of clothing they wore, or items they had touched. They have been credited with miraculous healings and every Catholic church is required to have one or more relics hidden in its altar.

It would be interesting to determine, if possible, how much money has come in to the Church’s coffers as a direct result of shrines built to Mary and the saints and the promotion of sacred talismans and relics. Of course every church needs a source of income, but the way the Catholic Church has solicited it over the years and continues to is troublesome to me. She keeps close tabs on the giving practices of her members with supplied personalized offering envelopes. If an individual or family is tracked as not giving what the local parish thinks they should be, they are likely to be notified of their deficiency, as experienced by several of my personal acquaintances.

And finally…reason number 30 why I left Rome. Legalism. Like the Jewish scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, the Roman Catholic Church has multiple rules and traditions that the faithful are expected to obey, and go far beyond what is decreed in Scripture. Required attendance at Mass on Sundays and all Holy Days of Obligation, assent to all official Church doctrine, assent to the Church’s singular right to correctly interpret Scripture, participation in the Church’s sacraments, denial of participation if divorced and remarried, required days of abstinence. Through their many laws upon laws, obedience to which can affect one’s eternal destiny, the faithful are kept in bondage through fear of death.2

I’ve only summarized these objectionable teachings and practices. Much more could be said and has been by others familiar with Scripture, church history, and Catholic Church doctrine. Tomorrow I intend to summarize and evaluate my series. I hope you’ll check back then.

1 Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Almanac 1999
2 Hebrews 2:15

 

Four more reasons

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is No. 27 in the series. Please read my introduction and explanation here.

Before I started this series, I made a list. I asked myself, what are the reasons why I left the Catholic Church and why am I firmly convinced that was the right decision? I came up with more than 30, some more consequential than others, and if anyone’s been keeping track, you’ll know I’ve touched on 20 of them. Today I want to briefly mention a few more before I wrap up my series in a few days.

This first teaching and practice benefited me greatly yet I find it objectionable. As I mentioned previously, in order to be wed to my married and divorced husband in the Catholic Church, we needed to obtain an annulment of his first marriage, because the Church will not marry a divorced person without it. An annulment in the Church is a determination by a diocesan marriage tribunal that a marriage was never valid. So under certain conditions, they can declare that an individual isn’t really divorced because he was never actually married. True.

Canon law on marriage1 sets down requirements for validity such that, if either party is determined not to have been properly committed to the marriage, it can be declared invalid, or null. My husband and his first wife were both of age, freely consented to the marriage, and consummated it. The fact that she then, a few years down the road, wanted a divorce was apparently evidence of a lack of true commitment. And so they were granted an annulment, as most applicants are.

The Church defends the process as demonstrating their belief in the indissolubility of marriage, but in practice it weakens the bonds. If an individual is of age and sound mind and freely consents to the marriage, that’s the commitment. Failing to live up to it, except in special circumstances like adultery or abuse, is simply that. In claiming that it shows a lack of commitment in the first place, the Catholic Church, in my opinion, renders the marriage vows a sham.

But as exalted a view of marriage as the Church has, it refuses to allow it for its priests. The freedom to devote oneself fully to God because of a lack of family ties is certainly valuable, and the Church will quote from 1 Corinthians 7 verses like these: “The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife.”2 But their requirement that priests be celibate apparently overlooks verse 9 of that chapter: “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

We are all sexual beings with the desires that go along with that. How many men would have avoided succumbing to the temptation to sin if they were simply allowed to participate in God’s holy design for sexual expression in marriage? And how much greater would be the number of priests if men knew they wouldn’t be required to forego fulfillment of this natural, God-given desire?

Speaking of sin…the Catholic Church is against it, yes. But I believe much of what they teach about it is flawed. They assert the right to categorize sin as either mortal or venial according to its gravity, with differing consequences. “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man…Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.”3 Dying in a state of mortal sin “causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell.” Venial sin “merits temporal punishment,”4 meaning time in purgatory.

But the notion of sin destroying or weakening “charity” in the heart and that sins can be distinguished according to their eternal results is one that cannot be found in Scripture. The Greek word translated sin in the New Testament is hamartia and literally means “missing the mark.” Anything we do that is not up to God’s standard or according to his will is sin, and merits condemnation. So even not doing something can be sin: “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”5

Such a standard renders us completely helpless to merit Heaven, which is why Jesus came and died, and took our condemnation on himself. And God raised him from the dead to display his satisfaction with that and through faith in Christ removes our transgressions from us “as far as the east is from the west.”6

But though the Catholic Church affirms and believes in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, their teachings about it are vague and conflicting enough to leave much of the faithful uncertain about their relationship with and standing before God. Yes, he paid the price for your sins but there’s still a balance due in purgatory. Yes, he has saved you but don’t get too comfortable. Listen carefully at practically any Catholic funeral Mass and you’ll hear both thanksgiving to God that the departed has been granted eternal life and prayers for mercy to bestow it upon him.

The voluminous compilation of Church laws and doctrine and the vague and mystical language with which it is often conveyed leave many of the faithful so confused that they willingly forego attempting to understand and just let the Church tell them what to do. I distinctly remember my father communicating this very thing to me. We don’t need to try and read and understand it ourselves. That’s for the clergy to do. We just need to obey what they say.

Yikes. You know what that resembles, don’t you? We need to have that kind of submission for one Person only. And when he sees our submitted heart he gives us his very Spirit to guide us in knowledge and understanding. Then “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”7 When the Father looks at us he sees Jesus. We are his children, and though “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.”8

1Peter 1:3-4  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,

1 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P3Z.HTM
2 1 Corinthians 7:32-33
3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1855
4 Catechism, 1861 & 1863
5 James 4:17
6 Psalm 103:12
7 Galatians 2:20
8 John 8:35

Scandal and cover-up

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is No. 26 in the series. Please read my introduction and explanation here.

The contrast between the piety and integrity of lay Catholics like my parents, which I highlighted yesterday, and the dishonesty and deception which has been found in the highest ranks of the Church clergy is quite startling. Whereas examples of humble lives lived in accordance with their faith can easily be found among the flock, it is nearly as easy to find examples of public and private behavior in opposition to the faith in the lives of her shepherds. The evidence is and should be disturbing.

So just as the moral incongruities seen in the history of the papacy left me disillusioned, I was and am equally disturbed by the stories of hypocrisy at all levels of the hierarchy, in centuries past as well as today.

Pick up just about any secular history book on the Christian church and you will find multiple examples throughout the pages and years of cardinals, bishops, priests, as well as popes, acting in ways totally incongruous with what they profess to believe and teach their flocks to obey. Greed, ostentation, lust, murder, torture, lies, fornication. Enough grave sin in high places to cast serious doubt on the Church’s claim to be Christ’s singular “holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity…a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men.”1

As important as the lessons of history are, what counts even more is the current state of affairs. How well do those in authority in the Catholic Church lead by example in the Body of Christ today? How authentic is her witness as the one true church when considered in light of story after story of bishops behaving badly?

The horrible tales of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests have rocked the Church for the last decade or more, with accounts of rape and molestation coming from all parts of the globe. As disgusting as even one case is, the sheer scope of the scandal testifies to the immensity of the blot that it is on the Church. Because not only have thousands of clergy and other religious been accused, and probably ten times as many children and teens been abused, but bishops with the power and moral authority of having “the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest, and act as his representative”2 have failed miserably to protect their flock from the wolves.

Instead of immediately quarantining the sexual predator from any contact with young people, making the charges known so that other victims could more easily come forward and get help, and cooperating with legal authorities in prosecuting the rapist they had on their hands, too many times the priests were shielded, protected, and transferred to other parishes where they continued their criminal behavior. Along with the revelations of gross sexual misconduct on the part of priests have come revelations of unforgivable cover-up on the part of their higher-ups.Time cover

The Christian Science Monitor reported in July of this year on charges of a cover-up made by a high-level official in the Catholic Church. This canon lawyer worked closely with the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and claims that the cover-up is currently being perpetrated there. The article goes on to say that, “Since the clergy abuse scandal began in 1984, then erupted into a national crisis in 2002, the American church has been flooded with revelations — from civil lawsuits, grand jury inquiries and the bishops’ own research — about how dioceses consistently put the interests of the church above victims.”

A report out of Los Angeles in the Huffington Post last year detailed a cover-up in that city. Stories out of the UK chronicle lies and cover-up in the Church hierarchy there, where the Catholic Church is described as, “an institution that chooses cover-up as its default position to conceal moral, sexual and financial scandal.“

This is a familiar refrain to anyone reading the news for the last decade. The Church is now seen as taking proper action and coming clean only at the point where they can’t do otherwise. As being consistently more concerned with protecting their image and reputation than for healing the damage done to the innocent and preventing further. As hiding behind the cloak of spiritual and moral authority while engaging in deception and distortion.

It’s certainly true that the Catholic Church is not the only religious institution with pedophiles in its ranks, and poor handling of it by its leadership. But she deserves the brighter spotlight by virtue of the magnitude of the scandal and her exclusive claims to authority and guidance by the Holy Spirit.

It should go without being said, but I’ll say it again anyway…there are many humble, godly priests and other religious in the Catholic Church, who must certainly grieve over the revelations of sexual abuse and cover-up. And the Church doesn’t claim that her leaders are without sin. So as a body of ordinary human beings struggling to “walk by the Spirit, and…not gratify the desires of the flesh,”3 she could be forgiven for her failures, because we’re all in that body.

But as she claims to be a unique, privileged body led by men who are said to “act in the person of Christ” himself4, and his very instrument of salvation in the world5, we could be forgiven for not believing that.

1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 771
2 Catechism, 1558
3 Galatians 5:16
4 Catechism, 1563
5 Catechism, 776

 

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2014/0715/Catholic-church-lawyer-details-cover-up-claims-on-sex-abuse

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/apr/07/catholic-priests-unmasked-god-boys

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/09/rev-carlos-rodriguez-molestation_n_3895765.html

 

 

The integrated faith

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is No. 25 in the series. Please read my introduction and explanation here.

As I enter the home-stretch of my month-long series on why I left the Catholic Church, I want to reiterate and highlight, without qualification, the many praiseworthy deeds of countless Catholics living out their faith. In hospitals, homeless shelters, food banks, schools, crisis pregnancy centers…wherever the hungry and hurting are, you’ll find Catholic men and women sacrificing to help meet their needs.

I also want to affirm the purity and sincerity of their faith. I hope I haven’t inadvertently communicated that I think Catholics do good works for the sole purpose of having an impressive resume when they stand before God. Or to have something to boast about. I do not believe that. Well…some probably do, but that’s true of non-Catholic Christians as well. I believe many if not most of them have a genuine love for and faith in Christ that animates their prayers, their worship, their deeds, and their very lives as they seek to obey him.IMG_0075

My parents were wonderful examples of this. When my mother passed away almost nine years ago, my siblings and I divided up her earthly possessions – our father had been gone three years by then. One of the items I wanted was her Bible, which I claimed along with a few prayer books they had. Though I don’t recall actually seeing either of them reading these books (when we were with them they were with us, you know?), I’m sure they did, as the multiple bookmarks indicate. Looking at them today, I can well picture them turning the pages and now and then closing their eyes as they contemplated the prayers they were sharing in.

My parents’ faith was real and it “spurred them on to love and good deeds.”1 They loved God and they loved others, doing their best to obey the first and second greatest commandments.2 They had integrity of faith. One of the definitions of integrity is, “completeness; the state of being complete or undivided.” This is the meaning of the word translated “perfect” in Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It describes having a fully-integrated faith that incorporates every facet of your life. For Mom and Dad, faith wasn’t something you practiced on Sunday mornings; it was how you lived your life.

Divine Counselor, by Harry Anderson

Divine Counselor, by Harry Anderson

That’s why this print I gave them one Christmas seemed so appropriate. I don’t know if you can see it here, but the businessman seems to be looking just to the left of Jesus, which I’m sure was intentional because it conveys an image of a man looking at Jesus in his mind’s eye, instead of with the eyes in his head. And thinking about what the Word of God himself has said, and how to apply it to his work, his home, his relationships, his entertainment.

Dad hung the painting in his home office. I hope he saw himself at the desk there, and was encouraged by that and by the words of Psalm 1:1 that were printed below it: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”

I discovered today as I was researching the artist, that the painting was even more appropriate than I had thought. Harry Anderson enjoyed considerable commercial success until shortly after he became a Christian when he decided he could no longer in good conscience illustrate for some of the advertisements and stories to which he had previously been commissioned. This decision resulted in financial hardship for him and his young family, but it was the only decision a man with integrity of faith could make.

I still have more issues with certain Catholic practices and teachings which I will address this week as I round out my 30 reasons. But today I want to honor and affirm the genuine faith of the true believing Christians who identify as Catholics. May God richly bless you with the knowledge of his all-sufficient salvation.

John 6:47Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

1 Hebrews 10:24
2 Mark 12:28-31

The truth about truth

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is No. 24 in the series. Please read my introduction and explanation here.

What’s the big deal? Why spend a whole month picking on the Catholic Church? Aren’t there more important issues of interest to more people that you should be focusing on? What did the Church ever do to you?

Well, I do feel that the Church did something to me, and I talked about that the other day. But this series is not about payback, it’s about promoting truth. Because truth matters and no truth matters more than truth about God.

It may seem like I’m just picking on the Catholic Church when other denominations have flaws and false teachings and Muslim ideology is spawning terrorists and atheism is on the rise. Am I doing more harm than good for the cause of truth by putting so much negative attention on a religious system that has a substantially greater deposit of truth than Islam or atheism?truthU

I don’t believe so, and here’s why. If truth is held up as the standard and its supreme value is recognized and affirmed, then no matter what is being evaluated against it, truth is reinforced and even the unaddressed untruths are diminished. So that all truth claims are increasingly seen as requiring evaluation against the standard. If I was a former Muslim or atheist I would probably be spending a month’s worth of posts on Islam or atheism. As it is, Catholicism is where I came from and what I am most familiar with. So though I have written on the deficiencies and falsehoods in Islam and atheism as well, the Catholic Church is not above being examined by the light of truth, particularly since she makes such exclusive claims about it and has incredible influence in the world.

But also, because the Church has such influence and claims to be the one true church yet has compromised truth, in ways that are apparent even to the unbelieving watching world, a repudiation of her errors from within the Body of Christ can serve to elevate Christendom in the eyes of those who are yet outside it.

So who appointed me truth czar? (As you can see…I’m thinking the same things many of you are.) I don’t claim to have all the truth nor be free of error myself. But that’s okay ‘cause I’m not telling anyone they have to believe it. I’m simply stating my case for what I believe to be true…and false…and hoping the reader will evaluate it just like they evaluate any other truth claims. And if the most I’ve accomplished through this series is to motivate just one reader to care more about truth than tradition, to value God’s word over man’s word…it will have been well worth doing.

Truth IS a big deal. We expect and value it in every other area of our lives…our finances, healthcare, relationships, product advertising, politics, education. How could we even think of being unconcerned about it when it comes to our knowledge of the God of the universe and all the ways that impacts us? How can we refuse to care about truth in matters that affect our eternal destiny?

That just doesn’t make sense.