What Every Catholic Should Know By A.J. Gary WestBow Press, 2015, 136 pp.
In the introduction to “What Every Catholic Should Know,” author A.J. Gary explains that she was raised as a Roman Catholic, but accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior by faith alone through the outreach ministry of a nearby evangelical church. She then witnessed to her family and some also professed to have trusted in Christ, including her mother. However, Gary’s mother was determined to remain in the Roman Catholic church. But how can a reborn child of God remain in a religious institution that unabashedly teaches works-righteousness and many other anti-Biblical doctrines? Gary states that she wrote this self-published book with her mother in mind and therein examines the irreconcilable doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Gospel Christianity.
Gary hits upon the main doctrinal differences (see chapter headings below), including the prime doctrine of justification; how a sinner is justified/made righteous in their standing before Holy God. Catholics believe justification is a lifelong process whereby a person must avail themselves of their church’s sacraments in order to receive graces, which are alleged to enable them to become intrinsically, subjectively sanctified/holier in their thoughts and actions in order to hopefully merit salvation at the moment of their death. In contrast, Gospel Christians believe they are justified at the moment they accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and received His imputed perfect righteousness. Christians then follow the Lord in obedience as the fruit/evidence of their spiritual re-birth, albeit imperfectly.
It’s apparent that Ms. Gary does not have any formal theological training. Her arguments are quite basic. However, by comparing official Catholic teaching with Scripture, she more than adequately makes her points and draws her valid conclusions. Gary’s basic approach would actually be an asset for anyone looking for an easy-to-understand primer on the doctrinal differences between the RCC and Gospel Christianity while avoiding heavy theological jargon. One criticism I have is the brevity of her chapter on justification. It’s the shortest chapter in the book at only three pages, whereas the all-important topic deserves the lengthiest exposition. That aside, I do recommend “What Every Catholic Should Know.” Well done, sister A.J.!
You can order “What Every Catholic Should Know” at Amazon here. The price of the Kindle version is very reasonable at $3.99.
It’s nauseating to see influential Southern Baptist, Richard Land, weighing in on whether abortion supporter, President Joe Biden, is a “devout” Catholic or not and whether he should be allowed to receive the faux Jesus wafer. Land, one of the three Judas evangelical signatories (along with Chuck Colson and J.I. Packer) of the 1994 Evangelicals and Catholics Together ecumenical accord, views Roman Catholicism as one of many valid Christian “traditions.”
As a young theologian, Hans Kueng, had an inordinately influential role at the Second Vatican Council in moving the Roman Catholic church toward modernism. Kueng would later incur the wrath of popes and prelates by challenging the RCC’s claim of papal infallibility. One of these days I need to read Kueng’s “Infallible?: An inquiry.”
The issue of mandatory Sunday mass attendance for Catholics keeps popping up in the media. Will Catholics return to mass after the COVID-19 virus subsides? After foregoing the allegedly essential Jesus wafer for thirteen months and noticing no change in their “spiritual condition,” will Catholics put two and two together and just stay home?
Yes, another reoccurring headline in the Catholic media is the German Catholic church’s current Synodaler Weg (Synodal Path) effort to steer the national church towards radical reform. This is a boiling pot that conservative Catholic prelates and theologians are viewing with trepidation.
Last weekend, Pope Francis celebrated “Divine Mercy Sunday” with a mass in Rome. A Polish nun, Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938), claimed Jesus visited her several times and instructed her on the rubrics of the increasingly popular “Divine Mercy” devotion. In his homily, Franics urged all Catholics to be missionaries, but they have little incentive to be ambassadors of their religion when their church officially propagates that all religionists and even atheists may also merit Heaven.
Evangelical Protestants followed the lead of Jerry Falwell in the 70s and 80s and became enmeshed in temporal politics. The misguided conflation of faith and nationalism continues. But Falwell’s Moral Majority wasn’t the first time Christians in America got their priorities mixed up. The radical conservatism of the reconstituted Ku Klux Klan appealed to many Christians back in the 1920s. A large field about a half-mile from our home was used as the site for multiple Klan rallies here in Rochester, New York in the 1920s. Some might be surprised that the KKK wasn’t restricted to the South. I placed a library hold on “Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930″ by Kelly J. Baker that’s mentioned in this article.
There were few things more strikingly cultish in the largely-Protestant American landscape of yesteryear than groups of virginal Catholic women living communally together as nuns in convents and practicing severe forms of asceticism including wearing 12th Century garb. Early American Protestants were appalled by the convents, but eventually became inured to the cultish extremism.
Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 11, 2016 and has been revised.
Catholics often boast that theirs is the UNCHANGING, “one true church,” but even a casual student of church history knows that is not the case. And now we have another example.
In the past, any Catholic who divorced and remarried without obtaining an annulment was said to be living in a state of mortal sin and was officially barred from receiving the eucharist Jesus wafer. But in his new “apostolic exhortation,” Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), released last week, pope Francis tacitly suggests via an obscure footnote that it’s now up to the local parish priest to evaluate the circumstances of each remarried divorcee parishioner and decide if they are able to receive the sacraments (see article below). With so many Catholics divorcing these days, Francis was compelled to change the policy in an effort to keep the church viable.
But this ex-Catholic saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone has a couple of important questions regarding this new policy. First, what about all the divorced Catholics who remarried and died in a state of mortal sin prior to this change? Do they all now receive a “Get Out of Hell, Free” card or is the declaration not retroactive? Also, how could such an important doctrine affecting faith and morals that was upheld by all previous infallible popes now be so conveniently discarded? Catholics would rather not confront such questions.
I’m so grateful to the Lord for leading me out of Catholic legalism, ritualism, and man-made traditions. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and then ask the Lord to direct you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.
Note from April 2021: I couldn’t have possibly known when I wrote the above post in April 2016, that pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia encyclical would have MAJOR repercussions within the Roman Catholic church. Conservative Catholic prelates, priests, and laity did in fact note the doctrinal incongruity of Francis’ lifting of the ban on communion for remarried divorcees and reacted with zealous indignation. Formal protests were submitted and ignored by the pope. Cautious conservative prelates and priests advised their followers to ignore Francis’ doctrinal novelty while a few went so far as to openly call Francis a heretic. Amoris Laetita was the start and Francis has continued to roil conservatives with his progressive reforms.
It’s a bit disconcerting to me that a local church would spend $23 million dollars on renovations to their fire-damaged building (see photo above). Churches lose their focus by trying to outdo the world in extravagance. Jesus Christ had nowhere to lay His head. I imagine the coercive arm-twisting that was done to procure the funds from the membership for this renovation project was painful.
The Catholic “wafer wars” continue over pro-abortion and pro-LGBT Catholic president, Joe Biden. Catholics believe consuming the transubstantiated Jesus wafer is essential to their salvation. While 55% of Catholic Republicans believe Biden’s views on abortion should disqualify him from receiving Communion, only 11% of Catholic Democrats say he should not be allowed to receive the alleged sacrament. Overall, 67% of U.S. Catholics believe Biden should be able to receive communion in contrast to their conservative prelates and priests.
This past “Good Friday,” some Filipino Catholics continued the tradition of flagellating themselves as an act of penitential self-mortification. Self-flagellation was popular in Medieval Europe and continues in monasteries and convents to the present day. Catholic sources report that pope John Paul II whipped himself daily with a belt as an act of penitential self-mortification. That’s not the Gospel, my friends.
LGBTers and their supporters continue to fume over the Vatican’s recent declaration banning the blessing of same-sex “marriages.” This article draws a comparison to pope Paul VI’s infamous “Humanae vitae” encyclical of 1968, which banned all forms of contraception under threat of mortal sin. The membership ignored the encyclical en masse and thus began the steep decline in the credibility of church authority in the minds of most Catholics.
Catholics are normally obligated to attend Sunday mass under threat of mortal sin, but COVID-19 has played havoc with that mandate. Bishops were forced to grant Catholics “dispensations” from compulsory mass attendance in light of the pandemic. But with coffers nearly empty, Catholic prelates are eager to rescind the dispensations and force members back to mass.
It’s ironic that Catholics make such a HUGE deal about Easter, marking the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Savior, but insist they must essentially save themselves by obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules in order to hopefully merit salvation at the moment of their death.
Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on April 10, 2016 during a trip to Germany and Switzerland and has been revised.
There’s only a few days left on our 12-day trip to Martinshöhe, Germany to visit with family. It’s been very enjoyable, especially the time we’ve been able to spend with our grandson. We’re so grateful to the Lord to be able to be with him.
This was our third visit to Germany and each time my wife and I have taken a side-trip somewhere by ourselves to break things up. This time we visited Konstanz, Germany and Zürich, Switzerland. My wife’s grandfather was originally from Zürich and she had always wanted to visit there. I knew that the Swiss Reformer, Huldrych Zwingli, had been based in Zürich and that also sparked my personal interest. While researching our 5-hour trip to Zürich, I discovered the Bohemian/Czech pre-Reformer, Jan Hus, had been martyred in Konstanz, a city on our route. The house Hus had briefly lived in is now a museum, so we decided to visit there also.
We rented a car Tuesday morning and started off to Konstanz, a trip of 4 hours. When we arrived there we discovered parking was impossible, just like all European cities. We drove around looking for a hotel, but found nothing suitable; no big hotel chains in this small city. But we drove by the famous Konzil (Council) building where the Catholic church’s infamous Council of Constance (1414-1418) had convened. The Council found Jan Hus guilty of heresy and delivered him to the magistrates to be burned at the stake. The Council also elected a new pope because no one could figure out which of the three rival popes claiming the office at the time was the “legitimate” pontiff. The house where Hus lived prior to his trial was located in the pedestrians-only, old town section of the city and could not be seen from the road. With all the hassles of trying to find a hotel, we decided to push on to Zürich and stop again at Konstanz on our return.
We arrived in Zürich an hour later and relaxed for the rest of the evening. On Wednesday morning we were up bright and early and took a commuter train to the old town section. Our seven-hour walk took us through the winding, very narrow streets of the old town. The highlight for me was visiting the Grossmünster (“Great cathedral”) where Zwingli preached. While reading Erasmus’ New Testament translation, the Holy Spirit led Zwingli, like his more well-known contemporary, Martin Luther, to trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and to pursue several reforms to return the church to the simple yet sublime Gospel of grace. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Grossmünster with its stark interior (Zwingli had removed and destroyed all of the idolatrous Catholic statuary). Not far from the church we saw Zwingli’s parsonage. After several more hours of strolling through Zürich’s old city section, we returned to the hotel happily exhausted.
Thursday morning, we began our trip back to Martinshöhe. We stopped at Konstanz once again, but decided the hassle of trying to find a parking spot and the long walk to the old town was not worth it for just a quick photo of the Hus house. I would have happily made the sacrifice had I been traveling alone, but, unfortunately, my wife does not share my enthusiasm for history.
I am so grateful to the Lord for raising up Reformers like Hus and Zwingli. Defying the Roman Catholic church usually meant certain death in those days. If you haven’t read about Hus and Zwingli, I would encourage you to do so. Succeeding Reformers would move the church even farther away from vestiges of Roman legalism and ritualism, but these brave men took the first very dangerous steps. Although Rome has not changed any of its major doctrines, some contemporary evangelical leaders are lining up to betray the Gospel and embrace Catholicism, as if the Reformation had never occurred. Many evangelicals would rather indulge in spiritual cotton candy rather than bother with any of the nitty gritty history of the Reformation.
Postscript: In a speech delivered in Prague, Czech Republic on December 18, 1999, pope John Paul II expressed “deep sorrow” for the death of Jan Hus. How can a modern pope apologize for the ruling of a RC church council? What does that say about the RCC’s vaunted Magisterium?
The Convert’s Guide to Roman Catholicism: Your First Year in the Church By Keith Nester Independently published, 2019, 229 pp.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Little Sister: A Memoir By Patricia Walsh Chadwick Post Hill Press, 2019, 326 pp.
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.