Throwback Thursday: “The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on February 29, 2016 and has been revised.

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The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional
By Charles Chiniquy
Chick Publications, 1979, 144 pages

5 Stars

I don’t normally waste my time with material from Chick Publications because I don’t believe every calamity is attributable to a Jesuit global conspiracy, but I received this book as a gift. This Chick reprint of “The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional” by ex-priest, Charles Chiniquy, preserves a valuable, nineteenth-century Protestant critique of Roman Catholicism’s sacrament of auricular confession. Chiniquy’s book was first published in 1875, followed by many subsequent re-prints.

With overwrought prose typical of his times, Chiniquy warns his readers of the dangers inherent in “auricular” (spoken into the ear of the confessor) confession. Catholics are obligated to confess their “mortal” sins to a priest at least once a year under penalty of incurring yet another “mortal” sin. Since most penitents are extremely reluctant to divulge any embarrassing sexual sins, whether they be thoughts or actions, priests are instructed to thoroughly question the person about such matters to ensure a candid “good” confession. Chiniquy gives many examples of the dangers of celibate confessors (priests) interrogating their female supplicants about such personal matters. The Catholic church acknowledges the pitfalls inherent in its process by defining the use of the confessional for immoral purposes by priests as “solicitation.”

Catholicism teaches that salvation comes by receiving its sacraments, all tightly controlled by the clergy, and by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules. The sacrament of reconciliation, auricular confession, is just another opportunity for the Catholic clergy to exercise control over its members. Chiniquy demonstrates that confession of sins to a priest has no basis in New Testament Scripture and he urges the reader to turn from man-made Catholic legalism and traditions and accept Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. Once a person accepts Christ as Savior, they should confess all sin directly to God, not to a human mediator (Mark 2:7).

“The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional” has been lumped together with similar evangelical Protestant books of the period as anti-Catholic “hate literature” of a bygone era. One could argue the title is a bit salacious and meant to appeal to prurient interests. Likewise, the illustrated cover provided by Chick Publications is mildly sensationalistic. Ex-priest Chiniquy definitely exaggerates his point by claiming the confessional was directly responsible for bringing many Catholic countries down to ruin. These minor objections aside, even the most sectarian Catholic apologist can’t deny the Roman confessional has led to abuse of scandalous proportions.

While Chiniquy was concerned with relationships between confessor priests and their adult, female penitents, news reports over the last thirty years have revealed shocking clerical sexual abuse of children, mainly boys, validating the ex-priest’s warnings regarding the confessional, but going far beyond the improprieties alluded to in this book. In many cases, the abusive relationships between priests and children began in the confessional box. The sacraments of the “eucharist” and confession had been reserved for adults prior to 1910, but that year pope “saint” Pius X issued his Quam Singulari decree, which mandated that Catholic children begin receiving communion and going to confession at age seven. In 2012, bishopaccountability.org reported the number of American priests credibly accused of molesting children since 1950 to be more than 6,100. Over 16,000 victims have been documented although many others surely never came forward. The Catholic church’s cover up of its pedophile priests scandal involved the highest offices of the hierarchy.

In contrast to Chiniquy’s time, Catholics now stay away from the confessional box in droves despite the threat of “mortal” sin. Who can blame them? Catholic sources state that only 26% of the membership participate in confession at least once a year. Evidently the other 74% would rather take their chances with eternity than share a “dark box” with a priest. Additionally, asking penitents to recall all of the times they disobeyed the Ten Commandments in the past year is beyond ludicrous. I couldn’t possibly recall all of my sins against God in either thought, word, deed, and omission for even a single day. Christ reveals in Matthew 5 the utter hopelessness of attempting to obey the law as a means to salvation. The entire business is a religious sham designed to keeps its members totally dependent on the Catholic clergy.

“Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” – Galatians 2:16

Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to direct you to an evangelical church in your area that’s preaches God’s Word without compromise.

Afterthought: An “invalid” priest and the dizzying consequences

A couple of weeks ago, I published a post about a Roman Catholic priest, Matthew Hood (photo above), who recently discovered that his infant baptism was “invalid,” which, as a consequence, rendered his ordination invalid. That led to all kinds of ramifications and diocesan “remediations,” which I examined in the first post (see here).

Afterwards, another thought came to mind regarding priest Hood and the specific sacrament of the eucharist that I will focus on further below. But first, let’s lay some groundwork.

The Catholic church teaches that during the mass, the priest mystically changes bread wafers and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ, which are then offered up to God the Father as a sacrifice for the sins of those assembled, and also for the pope, the local bishop, and anyone else who is specially mentioned. The congregants then line up to receive a consecrated Jesus wafer from the priest. They are taught that consuming the Jesus wafer provides graces to help them resist sin and do good in order to merit their salvation at the time of their death. Some Catholics testify that consuming the Jesus wafer is, for them, a very powerful, mystical experience. Some even report feeling an emotional closeness to Jesus that borders on the rapturous.

Let’s now return to the case of priest Matthew Hood. Hood was ordained as a priest on June 3, 2017, but discovered this past summer that he was invalidly baptized as an infant, which meant his ordination was also invalid. So, over the course of three years, Hood celebrated mass at two different parishes as an invalid priest. If Hood celebrated mass at least once per day over that span, that’s at least 1000 times he went through the motions of transubstantiation – the supposed changing of the bread wafers and wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ – without having done so because he had not actually been ordained and invested with priestly powers (I write these things strictly for hypothetical purposes).

So for three long years, not one congregant noticed that the bread wafers dispensed by Hood were not transubstantiated. Don’t miss it, my friends. This is very revealing! Not one parishioner spoke up and said, “Hey, there’s something wrong here! I’m not experiencing any wonderful feelings or behavior-changing results from these communion wafers like I normally do.” NOT ONE PERSON raised a concern about the faux Jesus wafers distributed by Hood during the three years he was an invalid priest.

All of the above is not surprising to me. As a Roman Catholic, I consumed the transubstantiated Jesus wafer at least weekly, beginning with my first communion at age seven up until my early-teen years (fourteen?), after which I began attending mass irregularly. I estimate that I received communion over 500 times in my 27 years as a Catholic, which included a four-year stint as an altar boy. Not once in those 500+ times did I ever undergo some type of mystical, empowering experience. I was exactly the same after consuming the Jesus wafer as I was before. I also observed there were no radical or even subtle changes in my parents, my sisters, or my Catholic grammar school and high school classmates after they had received the Jesus wafer.

The bottom line: those Catholics who claim a mystical and/or behavior-altering experience after consuming the allegedly transubstantiated Jesus wafer are self-delusional as this invalid priest saga proves. Religious sacraments, rituals, and ceremonies don’t save. The Good News is that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone this day and then ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches the Gospel without compromise.

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it.” – Matthew 24:23

An “invalid” priest and the dizzying consequences

Although the Roman Catholic church claims it is a Christian institution (it actually declares that it is the “one, true church”), its salvation system of sacramental grace and merit is antithetical to the genuine Good News Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Roman Catholicism appeals to the religious lost with its precise liturgical rituals and formal pomposity, but beneath the ornate facade is an impossible legalism that dooms the soul.

While searching for news items for a recent weekend roundup, I came across the article far below, which required a post all by itself. It’s an excellent example of a Roman Catholic legalistic religious rabbit hole that just gets deeper and deeper and deeper. Fasten your seat belt and let’s delve into this bizarre and sad circumstance.

Roman Catholic priest, Matthew Hood (photo above), was enjoying a family video of his 1990 infant baptism, but became very distraught when he observed the presiding deacon, Mark Springer, using an incorrect version of the baptismal formula. Instead of saying, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” as the church mandates, the deacon had incorrectly said, “We baptize you…” Hood immediately contacted his superior, the archbishop of Detroit, who in turn contacted the Vatican in Rome. The Vatican quickly ruled that Hood’s infant baptism was invalid because of the incorrect wording, which meant that his ordination as a priest in 2017 was likewise invalid. The bishop immediately had Hood rebaptized using the correct formula, and then reconfirmed, and reordained, but the problem doesn’t end there. Only validly ordained priests are supposedly empowered to administer the sacraments. As an invalidly ordained priest, Hood had illegitimately administered the sacraments of 1) the eucharist, 2) confession, 3) last rites, 4) marriage, and 5) confirmation (note: the RCC allows that anyone may administer the sacrament of baptism, even an atheist, as long as they follow the precise rubrics).

The archdiocese is now instructing all of the members of the two parishes where Hood was assigned to inquire if any remedial follow-up is needed as well as all those who were baptized by Springer from 1986 to 1999 when he was active.

Everyone who was married or confirmed by Hood will need to have those sacraments re-performed by a validly ordained priest. But what about the thousands of times Hood invalidly administered the sacraments of the eucharist, absolution, and last rites? What happens to those souls who relied on Hood for those sacraments during the three years he was an invalid priest? According to Catholic theology, the sacraments are essential to salvation, yet Hood’s parishioners were receiving bogus sacraments for three years. What about the members who had received illegitimate eucharist, absolution, and last rites during that time span and died? The archbishop of Detroit, Allen H. Vigneron, attempted to quell any panic by stating, “We can be assured that all those who approached Father Hood, in good faith, to receive the sacraments did not walk away empty-handed.” Hmm. That message presumes upon a laxness on the part of Catholicism’s god that is contradicted by all of the current, highly-prioritized, diocesan-dictated remediation.

My friends, this sad saga is an excellent illustration of how Catholicism’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit is a legalistic rabbit hole that just gets deeper and deeper. One irregular contingency leads to another and another and another. At the same time that it deals in all of the legalistic scrupulosity detailed above, the Roman Catholic church dichotomously teaches that people of all religions (e.g., Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.) and even atheists can merit Heaven if they are sincere and “follow the light they are given.” Turn from false (c)hristianity, repent of your sin, and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.

Detroit priest’s invalid baptism had ripple effect, archdiocese says
https://www.catholicnews.com/detroit-priests-invalid-baptism-had-ripple-effect-archdiocese-says/

A priest leaves Roman Catholicism for Jesus Christ

The Soul of a Priest: My Conversion to the Pauline Succession
By L.H. Lehmann
Agora Publishing Company, 1933, 145 pp.

5 Stars

Many decades ago, Protestant literature included testimonies from ex-Catholic priests who had accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and came out of the Roman Catholic church, but in our current era of ecumenical compromise, publishers like Zondervan, Baker, and Thomas Nelson are certainly not interested in that kind of story.

In this autobiography from several generations ago that went through numerous reprints, ex-priest, Leo Herbert Lehmann, recounts his experiences in seminary and as a Catholic priest in Rome, South Africa, and the United States and his eventual conversion to Jesus Christ and Biblical Christianity.

Lehmann was born in 1895 on the outskirts of Dublin, Ireland. His parents both died when he was very young and he was subsequently raised by other family members. He endured a strict education at the hands of the cruel Irish Christian Brothers (the same religious order that taught at my high school) and resolved to become a priest, an extremely prestigious position in those days. He entered Catholic seminary at the age of seventeen at Mungret College near Limerick and then went on to Rome in 1918 to complete his training at the University de Propaganda Fideto to be a missionary priest. Lehmann excelled in his studies and was given some oversight responsibilities in connection with his fellow seminarians.

Lehmann was ordained a priest in 1921 and shortly thereafter was assigned to South Africa as a missionary priest. He recounts his challenging experiences in Rome and Capetown as a priest dealing with the superstitious laity and his corrupt fellow priests. Because of his ties to Mungret Seminary, he was called upon by that institution’s administrators to return to Rome and lend his support in their struggle with the Jesuit order, which sought to bring the seminary portion of Mungret College under its direct control. The squabble eventually reached up to the pope, Benedict XV, who ruled in favor of the seminary’s administrators, but the Jesuits were able to circumvent the papal decree through back door diplomacy and were ultimately able to wrest control of the seminary from the administrators. Lehmann’s eyes were opened for the first time to the corruptness of the Roman church through this internal power struggle. However, he also realized his role in the conflict made him a persona non grata in the eyes of the Jesuits. In 1928, he accepted an assignment to farflung, Gainesville, Florida, in the hopes that he might escape the Jesuits’ attention.

The 1928 U.S. presidential campaign of Catholic candidate, Al Smith, left a bitter taste in Lehmann’s mouth because he was often forced to equivocate publicly regarding the church’s view that American Catholic political office holders, just like Catholics in any country, were expected to place their allegiance to Rome over their obligation to any national constitution.* The suppression of that truth, along with the church’s sacramental system’s inability to actually change Catholics’ moral behavior, as well as the abject failure and hypocrisy of the celibacy rule, which was common knowledge among priests, led Lehmann into despair. His experience at the execution of a Catholic criminal was the final straw. Lehmann realized deep in his soul that he could not offer the condemned man any real spiritual solace.

Lehmann left the priesthood in 1929 and eventually repented of his sin and trusted in the Jesus Christ of the Bible as his Savior by faith alone. He subsequently became associated with Christ’s Mission in New York City, which began in 1883 as a Gospel outreach to Catholic priests and ex-priests. Lehmann was director of Christ’s Mission from 1948 until 1950.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Lehmann’s revelations about the corruption of the priesthood back in 1933 were amazingly prescient in light of the current priest abuse and cover-up scandal tsunami. I especially appreciated Lehmann’s remarks about several quasi-Protestants who famously converted to the Roman church, such as John Henry Newman and G.K. Chesterton. Today’s ecumenically-minded evangelicals are bewitched by Chesterton’s “verbal wizardry,” which Lehmann dismisses as tiresome “mental shuttlecock.”

A condensed version of “The Soul of a Priest” can be found here.

For a more recently published collection of testimonies from 50 priests who left Roman Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone, see my review of “Far From Rome, Near To God” here.

*Today’s reader will view Lehmann’s warnings of the dangers of Catholic political hegemony as quaintly paranoid, but, prior to Vatican II, the Vatican negotiated diplomatic treaties (aka concordats) with countries where it held a numerical majority that severely limited the freedoms of Protestants.

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Above: A photo of young Leo Herbert Lehmann as a Catholic priest.

 

Shining a light on the dark secrets of the Catholic priesthood

“Gay Priests and the Self-Loathing of the Catholic Church”
By Andrew Sullivan
New York Magazine, January 21-February 3, 2019, pp. 18-25, 82-83

I was an altar boy from 5th through 8th grade and served at masses at our parish church on Saturdays, Sundays, and weekdays. In my capacity as an altar boy, I regularly interacted with the pastor priest and his revolving cadre of assistant priests. I was certainly not an expert on human behavior at that young age, but I observed that the priests conducted themselves strangely, quite unlike the other adult men in my life like my father, my uncles and the adult men in my neighborhood. Those priests seemed uncomfortable in their own skins. Looking back at the situation now, I believe I was interacting with some very troubled men and was in a dangerous situation.

I don’t have much use for secular magazines at this stage of my life, but as I was walking through the aisles of Wegman’s supermarket last week, I noticed this current issue of “New York” magazine in the magazine rack with its provocative article title and cover photo and bought it.

“Gay Priests and the Self-Loathing of the Catholic Church” turned out to be a very interesting and informative article on the topic of the very large percentage of gay men in the Catholic priesthood. The author puts the percentage of gay priests at around 30 to 40 percent for parish priests and as many as 60 percent for priests of religious orders.

The current pedophile priests and cover-up scandal tsunami has opened up a can of worms for the American Catholic church and is prodding the laity and outsiders to ask questions that have rarely been asked before, such as:

  • Why is there such a high percentage of homosexual men in the ranks of the Catholic priesthood? (see next question)
  • Is there a correlation between Catholicism’s rule of clerical celibacy and the high percentage of homosexuals in the ranks of priests? (obviously)
  • What correlations can be drawn between the high percentage of homosexual priests and sexually abusive priests whose victims have mostly been boys? (definitely not a PC question)

Catholic sociologist, Richard Sipe, asked these very questions twenty-years ago, but his research was ignored.

The author of this article has done a good deal of research as well. The unofficial history of the Catholic priesthood is thick with accounts of relationships between fellow clerics (the author cites famous Catholics, John Henry Newman, Henri Nouwen, Francis Spellman, and pope Benedict XVI) and also with accounts of prelates and priests who preyed upon underlings and trusting members of the laity. Cover-ups were not only a matter of “protecting” the church’s reputation, but also, in recent times, an I-won’t-tell-on you-if-you don’t-tell-on-me grand conspiracy.

Given the magnitude of the abusive priests and cover-up scandal, we can anticipate many more fact-finding examinations of the connection between Roman Catholicism’s mandatory rule of clerical celibacy and homosexuality. Magazine articles such as this one are only the vanguard of what’s to come.

The piece isn’t without its biases. Author Sullivan is a gay Catholic layman, journalist, and LGBTQ activist and his goals with this article are to unmask the reality of the large percentage of homosexual men in the priesthood and to add his voice to those of other activists who are prodding the RCC to accept homosexuality as a natural orientation. It’s more than ironic that a religious institution that teaches merited salvation is run to a great degree by homosexual men.

Catholic friend, God’s Word proclaims there is no longer any need for priests or perpetual sacrifice for sin. Jesus is not on Catholic altars in the hands of sinful men. God the Son, Jesus Christ, came down and paid the penalty for sin on the cross and offers forgiveness of sin and eternal life to all those who repent of their sin and accept Him as their Savior by faith alone. Will you accept Jesus as your Savior? Pray to Him today! Then, come out of Roman Catholicism and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” – Hebrews 10:11-14

Digging deep into the corruption that inspired Kazan’s “On the Waterfront”

On the Irish Waterfront: The Crusader, the Movie, and the Soul of the Port of New York
By James T. Fisher
Cornell University Press, 2009, 370 pages

Director Elia Kazan’s “On the Waterfront,” is widely recognized as one of the top twenty American films ever made. It’s probably my favorite of Kazan’s nineteen films (see my review here). In this book, historian James Fisher documents the corruption on the docks of New York City and New Jersey that inspired the film. I’d been aware of this book for quite a long time and finally borrowed a copy from the library. I’ll always remember it as the book that kept me company during my wife’s recent 24-hour hospital Emergency Department visit.

In nineteenth-century New York City, Irish immigrants were consigned the very dangerous and strenuous work of physically loading and unloading ships. Over time, the Irish eventually usurped control of the docks. In the mid-twentieth-century, Joe Ryan and his corrupt union, the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA), ran the piers with an iron fist. Ryan ultimately reported to “Mr. Big,” Bill McCormack, who controlled a variety of industries in the New York City metropolitan area including all of the stevedore companies. McCormack, Ryan, and their lieutenants were in cahoots with local politicians and the Catholic prelates. Everyone benefited from the symbiosis except for the rank-and-file longshoreman, who were beholden to the union bosses each day for a chance to work a ship. Ryan and McCormack, devout Catholics, attended daily mass in the early morning and authorized intimidation, violence, and murder the rest of the day.

Jesuit priest, John “Pete” Corridan, was frustrated by the corruption on the docks and launched a one-man crusade against Ryan, the ILA, and McCormack. Investigative journalist, Mike Johnson, became aware of Corridan’s fight with the syndicate and wrote a series of exposés for one of the New York dailies. The articles came to the attention of novelist and screenwriter, Budd Schulberg, who acquainted himself with Corridan and the fight against corruption on the docks and eventually fashioned the script that became “On the Waterfront.”

Serious students of “Waterfront” and Kazan will definitely enjoy this book, but it’s not for the casual fan. Fisher’s history is extremely detailed and gets into quite a bit of minutiae. Jesuit priest Corridan’s work on the piers of New York was a precursor of the Jesuits’ propagation of “Liberation Theology” in Latin America and elsewhere. Corridan was the inspiration for priest, Pete Barry, in the film, played by Karl Malden, while the corrupt union boss character, Johnny Friendly, was somewhat based on Joe Ryan. For more on “Mr. Big,” Bill McCormack, see my previous post here. It’s interesting to note that shortly after “On the Waterfront” was released, the need for longshoreman would rapidly decline with the introduction of mammoth container ships.

Catholicism: Abuse by priests is horrible, but its false gospel is eternally fatal

Over the last five months, the Catholic church has been overwhelmed by this latest wave of its ongoing pedophile priest abuse and cover-up scandal. With all due empathy and compassion for the victims of pedophile priest abuse, we must keep in mind that the gravest danger presented by the Catholic church is the propagation of its false gospel of salvation via sacramental grace and merit. The very relevant passage below recently caught my eye:

“The focus on the child abuse scandals (within the Catholic church) has meant that the fundamental and deep doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Biblical Protestantism have been pushed into the background. Perhaps they are regarded by many as of no great significance in this modern age, but, for us, they remain the key reasons for our continued opposition to the Pope and his church. As we seek to highlight these, it is vital that we do so in a spirit of humility and compassion. We have nothing to boast of in ourselves, for we are sinners saved by grace, and we must reach out to our Roman Catholic neighbors in love and proclaim to them the true Gospel message of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone.” – from “Reflections on the Papal Visit to Ireland,” The Ulster Bulwark, October-December 2018, p. 13.

 

Catholic priest slaps infant

 

Warning: Many will find this video very upsetting.

I’m not going to add a lot of words to this post. News sources report that the Catholic bishop of Meaux (France) suspended “father” Jacques Lacroix after the priest angrily slapped an infant at a baptism ceremony as caught on this video.

As a student at both Catholic grammar school and high school, I can vividly recall priests, sisters, and brothers treating children with cruelty.

The Lord Jesus Christ loves this priest and desires that he put aside his works religion and trusts in Him as Savior by faith alone, but if that priest had slapped that infant in front of the Lord Jesus Christ…

French priest filmed slapping baby during baptism retires amid condemnation

A priest and nun trust in Christ by faith alone and come out of Catholicism

From Darkness to Light
By Frank and Joan Testa
Xulon Press, 2012, 173 pages

This book is the testimony of Frank and Joan Testa, a former Roman Catholic priest and nun.

Frank grew up in Newark, New Jersey as part of a Catholic family and states that he “came to know the Lord Jesus as (his) personal Savior” in his early teen years, but that he remained in Catholicism out of ignorance. He determined to become a priest and attended seminary in the U.S. and Europe and was ordained in 1964. He quickly became involved with Catholic social agencies and was drawn to urban activism in several New Jersey cities, often earning the disapproval of his more traditionally-minded superiors. But by reading the Bible and through contact with Christians in the communities he was serving, Frank came to understand that many of the doctrines and practices of Roman Catholicism are opposed to Scripture. He resigned from the priesthood and left Catholicism in 1977.

Joan grew up with her Catholic family in Newburgh, New York (sixty miles north of NYC) and entered a convent of the Dominican order in 1955, immediately following her high school graduation. She earned college degrees and subsequently taught in Catholic schools in the States and Puerto Rico. She was drawn to studying God’s word and also became involved in community activism in New Jersey, where she became acquainted with Frank on a strictly professional basis. Through the study of God’s Word and the witness of Christian friends, Joan accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior by faith alone in 1978 and left her religious order and the Catholic church.

Although they were both out of Catholicism, Frank and Joan were still involved in urban activism and their paths crossed regularly. A special friendship developed and the two were married in 1980. Together, the couple founded an urban mission church, ministered to addicts through the Teen Challenge program, and became involved in foreign missions. In 1999, they began their “Repent America” ministry, which involved guest-speaking at churches and street preaching all across the U.S.

While I enjoyed this book, I do have a few qualifications. Firstly, Frank says he entered into a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ as a young teen while reading the book, “God Goes to Murderer’s Row” by “father” M. Raymond, a Trappist monk. I am curious how a person could trust in Jesus Christ by faith alone, and then go through eight years of Catholic seminary and thirteen years as a priest without ever comprehending that Catholicism’s legalistic calculus and ritualism have no connection with the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Perhaps Frank had had a preliminary insight into salvation in Christ as I had as a child in 1967 (see here), although I would not actually accept Jesus as Savior until 1983. Despite the confusion, it appears from his writing that Frank eventually acquired a full understanding of the Gospel and genuinely accepted Christ as his Savior by faith alone.

Secondly, both Frank and Joan are outspoken Pentecostals. I’m a cessationist in regards to the apostolic gifts of the Spirit, so there are several passages in the book that I read with a good amount of skepticism. I generally avoid discussing the apostolic gifts in a general forum such as this because there’s nothing to be gained by debating this topic involving secondary beliefs with my Pentecostal and charismatic brethren, but I do need to point out that in this book, Frank refers to believers who are cessationists in a negative manner.

Despite the above qualifications, I enjoyed this book overall.

The glorification of altar rails and such like*

I grew up during a very tumultuous time for Roman Catholics, during the implementation of the dramatic window dressing changes of Vatican II, and I’d like to share a few memories from that time.

Prior to Vatican II, all Catholic altars had a wooden or carved stone rail around them. The rail signified that the altar, where the priests allegedly changed bread wafers and wine into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ and where surplus consecrated Jesus wafers were stored in the “tabernacle,” was an especially holy area. Just as the “common” Israelites were forbidden from stepping foot on Mt. Sinai or entering into the restricted areas of the Tabernacle and Temple, Catholics were generally not allowed to enter the altar area.

I was an altar boy from fifth through eighth grades and my first couple of years serving were prior to the Vatican II changes. The priests conducted the mass in Latin and the altar boys’ responses were in Latin even though we did not understand one word we were saying. The priests had their backs to the congregation and wooden rails were around the altar. I felt very privileged to be able assist the priests inside the restricted altar area.

Several men officiated as priests at the parish while I was an altar server and all of them struck me as a bit strange compared to my father, uncles, and other adult men I knew, but none more so than “father” Lynch.

The other priests at least made awkward attempts at civility towards us altar boys, but not Lynch. When we entered the church sacristy to prepare for mass, Lynch could barely be bothered to say hello. He never offered a smile. I sensed he had a keen dislike for us (or was he struggling with some other issue?). During the mass liturgy, the priests were required to read passages from the huge altar “missal” (i.e., a liturgical book containing all instructions and texts necessary for the celebration of Mass throughout the year). Lynch was a short, squat fellow and very near-sighted. He would have us boys stand on one of the lower steps leading up to the altar and he would place the huge, heavy book on our heads, not always gently, which he would then read from. It was very humiliating (and physically uncomfortable) to have to stand in front of the congregation with the heavy book on our heads. Lynch enjoyed demeaning us.

When it came time to distribute the Jesus wafers, the supplicants would kneel down along the altar rail and the priests would place the wafer on each person’s tongue while we altar boys walked backward, next to the priest, placing a round “patten” under the chins of the supplicant in order to catch a possible falling Jesus wafer. Lynch would always distribute communion twice as fast as the other priests and we altar boys had a difficult time keeping our balance as we walked backward and tried to properly position the patten under people’s chins in synch with the pace of the frenetic priest.

Vatican II dramatically changed the rubrics of the mass. The mass liturgy was changed to English and priests turned around and faced the congregation. The altar rails were removed so that the congregants could feel like they were more like participants in the ritual rather than just observers. But despite all the window dressing changes, the core doctrines of Catholicism remained. Catholics continue to be taught the false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

Catholic traditionalists deeply resented the changes wrought by Vatican II and still clamor for the mass to be said in Latin, for the priest to face “ad orientem,” toward the altar, and for the reinstallation of altar rails. In Catholicism, the ritual and ceremony, the shell, has always been the focus rather than the Pearl of Great Price, which is salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Priests are not needed. Altars are not needed. Sacrifice for sin was finished for all time by Jesus Christ at Calvary. Place your trust in Jesus as your Savior by faith alone. Jesus Christ removes all rails and barriers between sinners and God, but you must accept Him as your Savior. Won’t you repent of your sin and place your trust in Him?

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” – Matthew 27:50-51

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” – Ephesians 2:13-14

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

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Priest Lynch, above, died in 2011. I never witnessed the smile displayed in this photo.

* “and such like” – for you non-Baptists out there, this phrase means “and similar things.”