For decades, Catholic leaders in Africa and Latin America have been worried over many Catholics leaving Rome in droves for evangelical churches. Pope Benedict XVI once made a special trip to Brazil to denounce Christian “sects” using “aggressive” tactics to win souls for Christ to the detriment of Rome. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that nearly 1 in 4 Hispanic adults in the US are former Catholics.
To solve this problem and keep Catholics in Rome’s bosom, ecumenism – embracing all religions – and adding another layer to Catholic apologetics are Rome’s fortes. Catholicism is now being portrayed as “evangelical” with “only a different worship tradition.” But to many who have left the dead liturgy of Rome for the life-changing power in Christ, such tactics ring hollow.
“If you want to know what something really is then look at how it behaves when it is in a position of power” says Mary Ann, an ex-Catholic nun. “To see the true spirit behind Catholicism, watch what the Catholic Church does in countries where it is in power.” Another ex-Catholic noted, “Catholics can and will defend their doctrines. They make it sound so perfect and biblical until you explore it and search it for truths.” Indeed, false religions generally discourage a critical examination of their beliefs. “When I first began hearing what exactly protestants were… [pointing out in] Catholicism, I really had to do some searching and find the best defensive argument in support of my long held Catholic belief,” reflects Cannatella. But she ran into a snag, “The deeper I dug, the more I hurt my defense … I struggled with why and how such practices and beliefs could make sense in a Christian-based denomination. I thought I had it correct…I could not find ground for my beliefs even in my Catholic Bible.”
The worship of “Mary” was one doctrine Rebecca couldn’t reconcile with the Bible. “I can remember kneeling and praying before her image, singing songs that praised Mary as ‘Queen of Heaven’, and watching movies like ‘The Song of Bernadette’ and ‘The Lady of Fatima”. Contrary to the well-worn cliche that Catholics are honouring Mary and never worshipping, Rebecca says “I practiced Catholicism for 30 years and I can from experience tell you that we prayed to her, through her and for her as taught by the Roman hierarchy.”
The Catholic church says “A person sins by superstition when he attributes to a creature a power that belongs to God alone” (My Catholic Faith p 204). Yet they turn 360 degrees to invest “Mary” with salvation, omnipotence and omnipresence! “I came to terms with the truth that I had been living in a false system, possibly a demonic system of beliefs and practices,” Cannatella admitted.
“The Church teaches that no one can enter the kingdom of heaven unless he or she is baptized” says Mary Ann Palaz, another ex-nun. “The source of the Catholic faith is the Church. Its object is loyalty to the Church. Therefore the Catholic faith is in itself.” But the Christian faith is based on the Bible and its object of faith is Jesus Christ – not a human institution. “I was told as long as I was a member of the Roman Catholic Church I was going to heaven,” Sean recalls. “If I sinned I could meet with the priest whom I was to call Father and confess my sins and he could forgive them and I could go back out and commit the same sins.”
Tom’s experience was all too typical. “I had to figure out the sins, separate the venial from the mortal, get to Confession before the mortal sins actually did send me to hell.” He adds, “Grace through the Sacraments was supposed to make it easier; it did not for me, nor for anyone else I knew.”
“We studied the Rule of Saint Benedict, canon law, church history, a bit of Jesuit causistory” says Mary Ann Palaz, “the emphasis was on self-denial and submission of one’s will”. But all these were fruitless. Now she knows why: “we were offering our self-made sacrifices to God because we did not know that we could get to God because of the offering Jesus Christ made of Himself at Calvary. Jesus said ‘I have finished the work which You have given Me to do’ (John 17:4). He meant the work He did on behalf of sinners was complete and could not be added to.”
Tom explains: “The penalty of sin is death, separation from God forever. There is no sufficient penance, no purification process (either temporary or in Purgatory), no reparation of ours that will satisfy Divine Justice. Either we ourselves pay the full penalty – separation from God forever-or we must receive by faith Christ’s free gift of salvation.” The many precious Catholics trapped in this religious bondage need to be rescued with the truth. “I pray for them because inside the bubble, its difficult to see the other side” says Cannatella “its all blurry. But once the bubble is popped, the Truth sets in and you realize you are in a system of abominations.”