A Credulous Convert to Romanism

The Convert’s Guide to Roman Catholicism: Your First Year in the Church
By Keith Nester
Independently published, 2019, 229 pp.

1 Star

Religious proselytes are generally wildly enthusiastic about their newfound “faith.” That includes Muslim converts, Hindu converts, Mormon converts, Watchtower converts, and, yes, Catholic converts. In this book, Catholic convert and YouTuber, Keith Nester, offers words of zealous enthusiasm and encouragement to fellow nominal “Protestant” converts to Roman Catholicism. Nester was a youth minister at a United Methodist Church in Iowa and through a series of circumstances, especially through the efforts of a Catholic business associate, he developed a growing interest in Catholicism and eventually joined the RCC in 2017.

Nester doesn’t go deep into theology in this book, but he does expound upon some of the alleged advantages of Catholicism such as:

  • The RCC’s claim to authority as the “one true church.”
  • Sacred tradition and the magisterium trumping “Sola Scriptura.”
  • Receiving the “actual” Body of Christ (aka eating the faux Jesus wafer), the pinnacle of Catholic “spirituality.”

Nester knows there are many facets of Roman Catholicism that nominal “Protestant” converts will struggle with and he attempts to head off any objections at the pass with an array of positive comments. Addressed are the problematic issues of:

  • Baptismal regeneration
  • Compulsory Sunday mass attendance
  • Constant change of postures at mass – kneeling, standing, and sitting
  • General ineptitude of priests’ homiletics skills compared to those of Protestant ministers
  • Rote liturgical prayers and rituals
  • The sacrifice of the mass cunningly heralded as a “re-presentation” of Jesus’ once-for-all-time sacrifice rather than a repeat of the sacrifice
  • Confession of sins to a priest
  • Annulments and con-validations of marriages
  • Praying the rosary
  • Praying to saints
  • Eucharistic adoration
  • Veneration (aka worship) of Mary

Nester repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly attempts to allay misgivings about Catholicism’s anti-Biblical doctrines by exhorting converts to check their brains at the door. Here are just a few examples, there are many, many more: That’s OK. You will get over that. (p. 49). But that’s OK. (p. 52). That’s OK. (p. 71). It’s OK. (p. 80). The fact is, it’s going to be OK. It’s going to be better than OK. (p. 136). That’s OK. (p.203). It’s OK…just roll with it. (p.209). It will all be fine. (p. 214).

Nester presents a commonly heard analogy of the Catholic church as a “full tool box” to be used in the work of building a life worthy of salvation, while Protestantism is presented as a deficient tool box with many tools missing. However, salvation is not a matter of being a skilled religionist with a full toolbox. According to God’s Word, salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The old mainline Protestant denominations, like Nester’s United Methodist Church, stopped teaching the genuine Gospel decades ago. Nester never was genuinely saved or he wouldn’t be exhorting souls to put on the chains of Catholic legalism.

Nester barely mentions the preeminent difference between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity: the issue of justification. Catholics believe they are justified by their church’s sacraments and by obedience to the Ten Commandments (impossible!) aka meritorious works. Gospel Christians believe they are justified ONLY by the imputed perfect righteous of Jesus Christ received at the moment of salvation. This is an irreconcilable difference that even the most determined evangelical ecumenical Judas cannot bridge.

Nester bids all “Protestants” considering conversion to Catholicism to joyously follow him aboard the Catholic works-righteousness salvation system. That is akin to lowering a canoe into the Niagara River immediately above the famous falls and exhorting all those on board to joyously paddle against the deadly current with all of their might. As a former Catholic for twenty-seven years, I can testify from first-hand experience that there is no joy in the impossible task of trying to merit salvation.

Reading this book was a sad undertaking. Reject works religion. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone.


Addendum

Nester is a Catholic neophyte and, as might be expected, he get’s several Catholic facts wrong. Here’s just a few with my comments added:

“All I needed to find was one (Catholic) doctrine that could be proven false; one time the Church changed an official decree of dogma; or one instance of a pope officially teaching heresy” (p. 59).

From this statement, one might conclude that Nester is not aware of the voluminous critical commentary from conservative Catholics directed at progressive pope Francis, which accuse him of the very things Nester mentions: changing dogma and teaching heresy. In fact, Nester specifically commends to his readers Dr. Taylor Marshall (p. 147), a passionate conservative critic of the Second Vatican Council and of pope Francis (see here). Nester’s claim that the RCC never changed an official doctrine is patently false. As just one example, the Roman church once officially taught that only Catholics could be saved (Papal Bull Unam Sanctum), but changed that doctrine at the Second Vatican Council in 1964 after Catholic leaders succumbed to theological liberalism.

“Pope St. John Paul II…went to confession weekly.” (p. 124).

JPII went to confession daily.

“Marian devotion dates back to the earliest writings of the Church Fathers.” (p. 186).

There is actually no evidence/documentation of Marian veneration/worship until the assimilation of the pagan mother goddess-worshiping Collyridians into the church in the late-4th century.


Postscripts

MANY books have been recently published from conservative Catholic authors, such as this one, exhorting nominal Protestants to convert to Catholicism. In contrast, there are relatively few books published in recent years from evangelical authors encouraging Roman Catholics to leave their works religion and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. Evangelicals have been brainwashed by Rome-friendly accommodators (i.e., Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, J.I. Packer, etc.) into believing such efforts are distasteful and impede the cause of “Christian unity.”

Since the Roman Catholic church officially teaches that adherents of all religions and even atheists may also merit their salvation, a type of semi-Universalism, the sectarian zealousness of Nester and other conservative/traditionalist, militant-Catholics is an incongruity.

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 4/3/21

White evangelicals are the largest socio-religious group declining to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. A whopping forty-five percent of White evangelicals who were polled say they won’t be getting the vaccination. Why? Some of the resistance stems from a number of pastors and influencers who, over the last twelve months, labeled the pandemic a “hoax” and a “diabolical scheme” to limit religious freedom. Conspiracy theories abounded. The use of PPE and public safety protocols were denounced as slavish acquiescence to the “Satanic deception,” even though hospitals (and morgues) were overwhelmed by the number of virus cases. When vaccines were first introduced in December, many warned that they were the mark of the beast mentioned in Revelation 13. These past twelve months surely weren’t the church’s “finest hour.” Such thinking is still widespread within conservative evangelical circles as the Pew Research survey indicates. Both Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress incurred the wrath of fellow Christian nationalists recently by encouraging people to get vaccinated.

Vatican City is officially an independent “nation” within the nation of Italy. It’s easily the smallest “country” in the world, comprising only 0.2 square miles (the size of Central Park in New York City) and with only 400 official citizens (3000 people work there). The obvious reality is that the Vatican is not really a “country” in the normal sense, but rather it’s the administrative center of the Roman Catholic church with its 1.3 billion members worldwide. The Vatican’s nation status undergirds its historical claims to sovereignty in temporal, worldly matters as well as spiritual. Because of the Vatican’s purely religious nature, the United States resisted appointing an official ambassador to the “Holy See” until 1984 when Ronald Reagan appointed William A. Wilson to the post as a concession to American Catholic voters. I wrote a letter to Reagan at the time, objecting to the appointment, and received a form letter reply on White House stationary. Historical opposition by American Protestants to a United States ambassador to the “Holy See” is now viewed as a quaint and dusty anachronism.

Pope Francis has walked a tightrope ever since being elected to the papacy in 2013 by craftily introducing progressive reforms while simultaneously managing threats of schism by conservatives. The German prelates’ hasty and unyielding push to adopt progressive reforms (intercommunion, full acceptance of practicing LGBT-ers, women as deacons and eventually priests) threatens to fracture the already very uneasy status quo.

Catholic prelates, priests, and laity strongly believe that Mary shares in Jesus Christ’s redemptive work, but the RCC has resisted officially defining that belief as an unnecessary provocation in its mission to recover the Protestant “separated brethren.”

A few weeks ago, pope Francis officially designated the Marian shrine at Knock, Ireland as an “International Sanctuary of Special Eucharistic and Marian Devotion.” In 1879, fifteen people claimed to have seen an apparition of Mary on a wall of the local parish church in Knock. Thousands upon thousands of Catholics around the world have claimed to have seen an apparition of Mary, but the Vatican fully sanctions only six such claims. See here. I believe most of these apparitions are due to individual or group religious hysteria, but we can’t rule out demonic activity.

For decades, news watchers have been barraged by the “cute” story of elderly Catholic nun, Sister Jean (aka Jean Schmidt), and her prayerful support of the Loyola University (Jesuit) men’s basketball team. Cuteness aside, Sister Jean propagates her church’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit. Sorry Sister Jean, but Loyola was eliminated from the “March Madness” NCAA Tournament by Oregon State.

Pragmatic Pope Francis understands the RCC must become less doctrinaire and more pastoral (freewheeling) in order to retain its increasingly disaffected membership. Numbers were already in sharp decline as a result of the priest sex abuse scandals and then the pandemic hit.

Play ball! The San Diego Padres open the 2021 season today

Snow and a high of only 36F are predicted for today here Western New York, but 2670 miles away, in San Diego, California, they’re expecting mostly sunny skies and a high of 84F. Great weather for a ballgame.

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The San Diego Padres finished the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season with a remarkable 37-23 record. After defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Series, the Padres hit a brick wall when they faced the dastardly Dodger$ in the NLDS. The Padres’ pitching staff was already outmatched by the Blue Bums even before starters Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger went on the disabled list. The Padres’ #1 goal in the offseason was to pick up quality pitching and they did exactly that by signing not one, but two legitimate aces in Blake Snell and Yu Darvish.

The Padres open their 2021 season today at 1PM PT at Petco Park with the first game of a three-game homestand against NL Western Division rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Let’s take a look at the Padres’ projected starters:

Catcher: Austin Nola fractured a finger in Spring Training so newcomer Victor Caratini will get the nod on Opening Day. Promising young blue chipper, Luis Campusano, will also see action during the season.

Infield: The infield is set, to put it mildly, with Eric Hosmer (1B), Jake Cronenworth (2B), Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS), and Manny Machado (3B). Tatis and Machado are easily the best SS/3B tandem in MLB and Tatis is still developing. Cronenworth came close to earning NL Rookie of the Year last season and Hos is a solid vet. Jurickson Profar and newly-acquired Ha-Seong Kim from South Korea will battle for infield playing time and both could start for many ballclubs.

Outfield: Tommy Pham (LF), Trent Grisham (CF), and Wil Myers (RF) will start, but Profar will get significant time at the corners. It was great to see Myers relaunch his once-promising career in 2020 under new skipper, Jayce Tingler. Update: Grisham is on the IL so I expect Profar to man the CF spot in the interim.

Pitching: Aces Snell and Darvish are excellent additions. Dinelson Lamet pitched in one the Padres’ last Spring Training games after rehabilitating his elbow for six months, however, Mike Clevinger won’t be available in 2021 after having offseason Tommy John surgery. Newcomer Joe Musgrove is a very solid #4. As for the #5 spot, young Chris Paddack’s regression remains a mystery after being projected as the franchise’s future ace two years ago. The bullpen has some question marks especially with the vacancy left by closer Kirby Yates. Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagán, and Mark Melancon will all vie for the closer spot.

The Padres are VERY sold from top to bottom, although the closer position is a question mark. Most baseball prognosticators are taking the easy route and picking the Dodger$ to take the NL West again, however, they acknowledge that the Padres could easily upset.

Above photo, from left to right: Myers, Machado, Darvish, Snell, Tatis Jr., and Hosmer.

Throwback Wednesday: See Jesus via web cam, 24/7?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Huh? But it’s only Wednesday? Yup, I realize I’m a day early, but I had to do a little rearranging to accommodate tomorrow’s timely post. Today, we’re going to revisit an article that was originally published back on April 17, 2016 and has been revised.

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Did you know Roman Catholics believe they can see Jesus Christ 24/7 via web cam? First, a little background.

I’ve mentioned many times that evangelicals and Catholics view the Lord’s Supper VERY differently. Evangelicals partake of the symbolic elements of the Lord’s Supper with great humility and thanksgiving as we remember that our Lord gave His body and blood as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could have eternal life in Him.

Catholicism, on the other hand, teaches its priests change bread wafers and wine into the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ at every mass. The priest then offers up Jesus the “host” (victim) to God the Father as a sacrifice for the “venial” (small, pardonable) sins* of those present, along with those of the pope, the local bishop, and anyone else mentioned (including souls suffering in purgatory). Many of the attendees then line up to receive a Jesus wafer (Jesus wine from a shared cup is optional). Communion recipients are taught that Jesus is physically present inside of them for 15 minutes as their body digests the wafer. The RC church teaches the venial sins of the participants can be forgiven at any point during the mass, but especially during the penitential rite portion and at Holy Communion. Catholics believe the consecrated Jesus wafer imparts graces to the recipients to help them obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) in order to possibly merit Heaven at the moment of their death.

The sacrament of the “eucharist” (thanksgiving) is the central tenet of the Catholic belief system. Rather than receiving Jesus as Savior by faith spiritually, Catholicism sadly misinterprets John 6 and the Last Supper discourses in the gospels and insists that Jesus must be physically eaten in order to attain salvation. Catholics give lip service to “grace” and “faith,” but believe they must ultimately merit their salvation by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and man-made church rules with help from the alleged Jesus wafer.

After every mass, any leftover Jesus wafers are stored in a locked box called the “tabernacle,” to be distributed later to the sick and housebound. On occasion, priests will set a large Jesus wafer in an ornate viewing container called a “monstrance.” Catholics are invited to come to church separately from the mass to worship and adore the Jesus wafer as “he” rests in the transparent container. In some churches, volunteers sign up for time slots so that the Jesus wafer will be worshiped around the clock in “perpetual adoration.”

I’m currently reading “Another Jesus: The Eucaristic Christ and the New Evangelization” by Roger Oakland and I wanted to pass along a bit of information that’s presented. There are a few Catholic religious orders that do nothing else but worship the Jesus wafer. The members of the order eat, sleep, and worship the wafer. In his book, Oakland mentions a web site (see link below)  maintained by the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters, which includes a live web cam of a Jesus wafer in a monstrance. That’s right! Catholics can view and worship the wafer Jesus any time they want within the privacy and comfort of their own homes.

http://www.savior.org/

Several such “Jesus cams” are available on the internet so that Catholics can worship and adore the virtual Jesus wafer 24/7.

Catholic friend, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone. Jesus is not locked away in a gold box or in a monstrance as a bread wafer. He’s sitting at the right hand of the Father and He’s waiting for you to forsake your dependence on your church membership and your religious laundry list and to accept Him as your Savior by faith alone.

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” – Matthew 24:23-28

“Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” – Hebrews 10:11-14

*Catholicism teaches that “mortal” (major) sins can only be forgiven by a priest in the confessional booth or while administering last rites.

Postscript: On occasions when Catholic churches have caught on fire, pious Catholics have been known to enter the burning building to “rescue” the Jesus wafers stored in the altar tabernacle. See my relevant post here.

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday Sermon Series, #77

It’s Two-fer-Tuesday, my friends, which means two new sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas.

First, we have Pastor Roger Copeland of Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana, preaching from Luke 6:27-38 on “Love Your Enemies.”

Next, we have Pastor Cody Andrews of Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City, preaching from Colossians 3:23-25 on “What’s Your Inheritance?”

Both of these sermons were delivered on Sunday, March 14th.

Pastor Roger Copeland – Love Your Enemies

Pastor Cody Andrews – What’s Your Inheritance?

Kazan Redux: Elia Kazan’s Fourteenth Film: “Wild River”

Today, as part of our “Kazan Redux” series, we’re going to re-review director Elia Kazan’s fourteenth film, “Wild River.” The review below was first posted on June 27, 2017 and has been slightly revised.

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Wild River
Directed by Elia Kazan and featuring Montgomery Clift, Lee Remick, and Jo Van Fleet
20th Century Fox, 1960, 110 minutes

5 Stars

Director Elia Kazan had visited the Cumberland area of Tennessee in the early 1930s as an idealistic, young communist. He admired the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, which tamed the flood-prone Tennessee River while providing much-needed hydro-electric power. For many years, Kazan desired to make a film about the tensions involved in the push for the greatest common good as represented by the TVA versus the disruption of individuals’ lives caused by the project.

Plot

M&L

It’s the 1930s and the TVA is on the verge of damming the Tennessee River and flooding several river valleys. Chuck Glover (Monty Clift), a TVA bureaucrat based in Washington, is sent down to Garthville, Tennessee with the mission of removing the last remaining holdout, eighty-year-old Ella Garth (Jo Van Fleet), who has no intention of selling her soon-to-be-flooded river island. Her widowed granddaughter, Carol (Lee Remick), is attracted to the urbane Glover and the two quickly form a relationship. Glover persuades Ella’s Black tenant farmers to leave the island along with their families, but the matriarch remains adamant. At the same time, resentment mounts among the local White citizenry towards Glover’s policy of paying Blacks the same wages as Whites to help clear trees in preparation for the controlled flooding. Carol aggressively pursues the ambivalent Glover, asking him to marry her at the very moment the rednecks arrive at her house in order to send Glover packing. He can only admire Carol’s spunky defiance of the gang of good ol’ boys and asks her to elope. A federal marshal is finally brought in to evict Ella from the island. She is provided a small house on higher ground, but dies of heartbreak shortly after. On their way to Washington D.C. via airplane, Glover, Carol, and her two children look down and view the river and the only portion of Garth Island still above water; the family cemetery plot containing Ella’s fresh grave. Glover admired Ella for her foolhardy stubbornness, but she stood in the way of “progress” and had to be sacrificed.

Comments

Kazan filmed “Wild River” on location in the towns of Charleston and Cleveland, Tennessee. Close to one-hundred locals were used as extras. Emotionally-crippled Monty Clift barely held it together throughout the filming. Kazan’s accounts of the actor’s performance are quite interesting. While Kazan bragged that he bullied Clift into remaining sober throughout the shoot, town lore has it that the McClary sisters regularly snuck liquor up to his room at the Cherokee Hotel. Twenty-five-year-old Lee Remick is superb as the young, love-starved widow. When she confidently and aggressively courts Clift, it’s all he can do just to sit gape-mouthed on the couch, leaving every viewer scratching their head. Jo Van Fleet is fantastic as Ella, skillfully portraying the eighty-year-old matriarch at the age of forty-five. Albert Salmi is entertaining as the alpha good ol’ boy. Overall, it’s a wonderful cast which includes several Kazan regulars.

“Wild River” was one of Kazan’s favorite films although its limited art house release guaranteed unprofitability. Fox was convinced 1960 movie audiences would not be interested in a film about the TVA. The movie was rarely shown on television and was only recently (2013) released on Blu-ray DVD.

Kazan had attempted to write the film script himself, but eventually hired seasoned screenwriter, Paul Osborne. Kazan especially admired the conflict between Glover and Ella in which both held to positions that were simultaneously right and wrong. Relations between Blacks and Whites in the 1930’s segregated Deep South are portrayed quite candidly for a movie made in 1960.

I’ve seen “Wild River” many times but I appreciated watching it for the first time in HD on Blu-ray. Commentary is provided by Time magazine film critic, Richard Schickel, who doesn’t hide his deep admiration for “Wild River” or for Kazan and Remick. This is a pretty good film, but Remick’s performance as someone attempting to straddle both “tradition” and “progress” was Oscar-worthy outstanding.

Additional thoughts from a believer

The Black workers on Garth island and Carol and her children regularly sing old Gospel hymns, with “In the Garden” featured most prominently. Kazan contrasts Christianity and “traditional” values (which includes negative attitudes such as racism) with utopian Liberal Progressivism. I’m all for improving people’s physical circumstances, but true redemption can’t be found in either progressive or conservative politics. Jesus Christ transcends politics and physical circumstances. But in all fairness to Kazan, one of the main messages of this film is that even the most “successful” progressive social engineering project will have its share of victims.

Next up: Kazan’s fifteenth film, “Splendor in the Grass” (1961).

Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 3/27/21

Gay Catholics were overjoyed last October when a documentary was released, which included a statement from pope Francis endorsing same-sex civil unions. However, the LGBT-ers were stunned on March 15th when the Vatican released a statement approved by Francis barring priests, for now, from blessing same-sex unions. What’s the deal? My take is that liberal/progressive priests interpreted Francis’ October remarks as a license to “bless” gay “weddings” and the situation was snowballing into a “too much, too soon” controversy for the embattled pope, who has already been dealing with charges of heresy from conservative prelates for the last five years. As the dust settles over this latest statement, Francis’ point man, Jesuit James Martin, continues to chip away at resistance to full acceptance of practicing LGBT-ers within the RCC.

There are so many charlatans masquerading as “prophets” within the big tent of “evangelicalism.”

Few know that the Jesuits were the largest slaveholders in antebellum Maryland.

Traditionalists cling to the Latin mass as a beloved symbol of pre-conciliar, militant Catholicism. Pope Francis is definitely not a fan.

Roman Catholics are strictly forbidden from eating meat on the six Lenten Fridays prior to Easter under threat of eternal damnation. However, the compulsory abstention was NOT in effect on Friday, March 19th because the day was also the feast day of St. Joseph, a “solemnity.” On the Catholic liturgical calendar, a solemnity trumps Lenten Friday meat abstentions every time. Canon Law 1251 states, “Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday.” Roman Catholicism is a dizzying calculus of religious legalities. I imagine the VAST majority of Catholics were not aware of the lifting of the meat ban on Friday, March 19th.

German Catholic prelates continue to “push the envelope” in regards to multiple liberal “reforms.” Even progressive Francis must slow the Germans down to forestall schism.

Twenty-one-year-old, Robert Aaron Long, fatally shot eight employees working at three “massage spas” in the Atlanta area on March 17th. Long had professed to have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior when he became a member of Crabapple First Baptist Church (Southern Baptist). However, Long had been receiving counseling for porn addiction at a Christian counseling center and told arresting authorities that he had carried out the slayings to eliminate the temptation posed by the massage businesses. Not that Long’s church is to blame for the murders, but the evangelical church generally does a poor job of addressing sex and porn addiction issues. It’s commonly known that many/most of these “massage spas” are covers for prostitution.

Growing up in a cult within the Catholic cult

Little Sister: A Memoir
By Patricia Walsh Chadwick
Post Hill Press, 2019, 326 pp.

3 Stars

Few people today are aware of “The Boston Heresy Case” of the 1940’s and 50s. For centuries, Roman Catholic prelates and theologians taught that only Catholics could possibly merit Heaven, the doctrine of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (“outside the Church there is no salvation”). In the early-20th century, modernist/semi-Universalist views were making inroads into Catholic seminaries and episcopates, which posited that non-Catholic religionists could also possibly merit Heaven under a liberal interpretation of the exception principle of Baptismus flaminis (“baptism of desire”), i.e. non-Catholics would certainly welcome baptism into the “one true church” if they understood it’s importance. Popular Jesuit priest and writer, Leonard Feeney, publicly opposed this liberal shift in theology and was thereby censured and finally excommunicated in 1953. The Roman Catholic church would later officially promulgate the doctrine of the possibility of the salvation of all religionists in the document, Nostra aetate, issued by the Second Vatican Council in 1965.

During this controversy, Feeney served as director of the St. Benedict Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a resource for Catholic undergrads and teachers at Harvard University.* In defiance of the RC hierarchy, Feeney and the center’s benefactress, Catherine Goddard Clarke, created a religious community, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which consisted of about one-hundred dedicated “Feeneyites,” including singles and married couple with their children. Due to rising tensions with Boston-area Catholic clergy and laity, the community moved from Cambridge to the rural environs of Still River/Harvard, MA, thirty miles away (see map far below).

In this memoir, Patricia Walsh Chadwick, describes growing up as a child in the Slaves commune. While Feeney was the symbolic figurehead, Catherine Clarke ruled the day-to-day operations with an iron fist. Members were required to take new names, wear mandatory religious uniform garb, sever all connections with family and friends outside of the commune, refrain from discussions of life prior to the order, and practice celibacy. All thirty-nine children were removed from the direct care of their parents. In addition to having very little personal contact with their parents, the children were sometimes treated cruelly and abusively in other regards. Members were forbidden from leaving the compound except for excursions to Boston to peddle the cult’s “outside the Catholic church there is no salvation” literature. In contrast to the severe restrictions the co-leaders imposed upon the membership, Clarke reserved the privilege of driving to her private home in Waltham three nights per week to be with her husband and daughter while Feeney traveled whenever and wherever he wished.

After a series of minor insubordinations, “Sister” Clarke expelled Patricia Walsh from the community in 1966 immediately following her high school graduation. The 17-year-old left behind her parents and four siblings. The other six members of her family eventually left the Slaves as well. Catherine Clarke died of cancer in 1968. After having been reconciled to the Roman Catholic church in 1972 through the efforts of the Boston bishop, Feeney died in 1978. Following their founder’s death, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary fragmented into several small factions.

It was painful to read this memoir and the descriptions of the abuse inflicted upon the members of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Patricia Walsh Chadwick’s contempt for Clarke is palpable. This is as CULTISH as it gets, folks. Some of the authoritarianism and mind-control methods match what was practiced at Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple and David Koresh’s Branch Davidians. However, the cultish disciplines at Still River were not all that far removed from the regular practices at every Catholic convent in the 1950s and early-1960s.

It’s interesting to read how Feeney attempted to resist the RCC’s theological drift into semi-Universalism. Some traditional/conservative/militant Catholics still revere Feeney as a defender of the “true” Catholic interpretation of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus (“outside the Church there is no salvation”).

From start to finish of this memoir, there was absolutely no trace of the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Chadwick devotes the last 140 pages of the book to her post-Slaves existence, wherein she describes eventually becoming a wife and a mother after thoroughly indulging herself in the sinful pleasures of the world that were denied her in the commune – like the proverbial bird let out of the cage. She remains a nominal Catholic, holding to the bottom-line philosophy popular both inside and outside of the church that spirituality boils down to “being a good person.”

I have another book on order dealing with Feeney and “The Boston Heresy Case.”

*As a Harvard undergraduate, “devout” Roman Catholic, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, played a key role in Feeney’s censure and eventual excommunication with the help of his powerful father, Joseph Kennedy. See here.

Above: Leonard Feeney and Catherine Clarke
Above: The main building of the former Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary commune/cult in Still River, Massachusetts

Throwback Thursday: IFB Memories #1: Picking through egg rolls?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 28, 2016 and has been revised.

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I’ve mentioned several times that shortly after my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior back in 1983, we joined an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB) church in our area. I can best describe it as a church that emulated Jerry Falwell and his Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia; VERY heavy into politics and patriotism and also VERY heavy into waging culture battles. We grew in the Lord “somewhat” while we were there, but there were also A LOT of legalistic attitudes at that church, which eventually wore us down to the point that we stopped attending in 1991. I even walked away from the Lord for the next twenty-three years because I had become so exasperated with “churchianity.”

We have a lot of memories of that church, both good and bad, but some of the members did some outlandish things. I was driving home from work yesterday and recalled the following illustrative episode:

One day my wife and I went out to dinner with another couple from the church, Greg and Gail. We chose to eat at The Shanghai, a nearby Chinese restaurant, and just like at many Chinese restaurants, we were all served egg rolls as an appetizer. Both Greg and Gail immediately proceeded to cut open their egg rolls and pick out the tiny strands of pork that were embedded in the shredded cabbage with their forks. I asked them what they were doing and they answered the Bible forbids believers to eat pork. Hoo boy! I told them the Old Testament dietary laws were done away with by the New Testament covenant (see Mark 7:17-23 and Acts 10:9-15), but they were having none of it and continued to pick out the pork, but said for us to go ahead if we were fine with eating it. Yes, I know we’re told in Scripture not to offend those who still struggle with OT dietary laws (Romans 14:1-23), but those two were not Jewish and it was not 57 AD!!! Time to read the entire Bible, folks! Well, as you might suspect, I ate the entire contents of my egg rolls and savored every pork shred. I would not be a party to such un-Scriptural persnicketiness by also picking through my egg rolls. There were other, similar legalities that the people in that church engaged in. The general attitude fostered that kind of nitpicky scrupulosity and judgmentalism. These were my brothers and sisters in the Lord and I probably shouldn’t point out their foibles, but I use the experience as an example of how we should be on guard against scrupulous legalism.

Thank you, Jesus, for fulfilling the entire law and saving me by grace through faith in You alone. Help me to know Your entire Word. And thank you for pork chops and barbecue ribs – in moderation of course!

Backwoods, hillbilly, anti-Catholic fundamentalist?

My old blogging routine was to post articles Monday thru Saturday, but when I returned back to work in early-January I cut back to only four days per week. A recent cold meant A LOT of couch duty and time to ruminate and write some extra posts. So, in order to relieve the “glut,” I’ve decided to publish today and Friday.

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I was a Roman Catholic for my first twenty-seven years, until 1983 when I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. The Lord then put it in my heart to earnestly study my former religion and the many incompatible, irreconcilable doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity. Over the past five-and-a-half years of blogging, I’ve published many posts examining those differences. The prime difference between Catholicism and Gospel Christianity is in regards to how a person is saved. The Catholic church teaches that salvation is obtained by participating in its sacraments, whereby graces are allegedly received, supposedly enabling the Catholic to better obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!), in order to hopefully merit eternal life at the moment of death. Gospel Christians believe in salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The theologies are diametrically opposed and cannot be reconciled. One is right and one is wrong. They cannot both be right.

One of the most disturbing things I’ve seen over the past thirty-eight years is how Gospel Christians have increasingly embraced my former religion, the false Roman Catholic church, as a Christian entity. Sixty-years ago, evangelicals rightly knew that the Roman church taught a false gospel. Since then, accommodators and compromisers within have chipped away at theological discernment. A consensus emerged and grew that proclaimed that, although the RCC had some quirky, un-Biblical beliefs, they got the basic Gospel right because they also talk about Jesus, “grace,” and “faith.” The rising tide of secularism motivated many undiscerning believers to dismiss doctrinal distinctives and to embrace Roman Catholics as “brothers in Christ” in an effort to present a semi-united “Christian” front in the culture/morality wars. Some evangelicals were also attracted to Catholic “intellectualism” and the false church’s ornate ritualism and ceremony.

These days, it appears* that the majority of those who identify as “evangelical” embrace “practicing” Roman Catholics as fellow-Christians. The consensus is that those who do not support ecumenism with Rome are akin to embarrassing, repugnant, anti-intellectual, backwoods, bigoted, unsophisticated, hillbilly fundamentalists of a bygone era. But Rome has not changed any of its major doctrines since 1960 and Catholics unabashedly admit that their church teaches salvation by (sacramental) grace and works. So what is the problem? Why did evangelicals cave when it came to Roman Catholicism, but still resolutely (at least for now) reject the Latter Day Saints and the Watchtower Society as false churches? Accommodating evangelical apologists (e.g., Norman Geisler, William Lane Craig, Frank Turek, Josh McDowell, etc.) readily admit that Roman Catholicism teaches a heterodox view of justification, but still dichotomously embrace it as a Christian entity. For ecumenical evangelicals, it is easier on their psyche to hold to a totally incongruous view (i.e., works-righteousness Catholicism is Christian) rather than swim against the tide and be thought of as an anti-Catholic fundamentalist.

In summary, a general consensus developed within evangelicalism over the past sixty years that says that Roman Catholicism teaches the genuine Gospel or something “close enough” EVEN DESPITE the RCC’s own unapologetic testimony to the contrary and despite evangelical theologians’ and apologists’ acknowledgement that Rome’s version of justification (baptismal regeneration, works righteousness) is heterodox and does not lead to salvation.

Because I point out that Rome teaches a false gospel, many evangelicals who visit my blog are embarrassed by my content, which doesn’t agree with the popular consensus/paradigm. In their eyes, I am a bigoted, anti-Catholic fundamentalist. They have been conditioned to be repulsed by those who say anything critical of Roman Catholicism. Warning Catholics and Christians of Rome’s false gospel is now viewed as distasteful and something akin to forcing people to sit at the back of the bus.

“If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema.” – Council of Trent, Canon 14

“None of us can say…I am already saved.” – pope Francis, December 11, 2015

What Does the Roman Catholic Church Believe About Justification? by R.C. Sproul

*A 2015 Lifeway Research survey revealed only 23 percent of evangelical Christian pastors disagreed with the statement that the pope is a fellow Christian and a “brother in Christ” (see here).