Posts Tagged ‘catholic church’
I had always been confused as to the real nature of this advance in the Catholic church. Was this just the work of a few mavericks and renegades, or did the church hierarchy sanction this practice? My concerns were affirmed when I read in an interview that the mystical prayer movement not only had the approval of the highest echelons of Catholicism but also was, in fact, the source of its expansion. – Ray Yungen
“Contemplative Spirituality – the Source of the Catholic Church’s Expansion”
by Ray Yungen
While many Christians are still not even aware that a practical Christian mystical movement exists, momentum is picking up, and an obvious surge towards this contemplative spirituality has surfaced. Evidence regarding the magnitude of this mystical prayer movement is now within reach of the average person. In 1992, Newsweek magazine did a cover story called “Talking to God,” which made a clear reference to it. The article disclosed:
[S]ilence, appropriate body posture and, above all, emptying the mind through repetition of prayerâ€”have been the practices of mystics in all the great world religions. And they form the basis on which most modern spiritual directors guide those who want to draw closer to God.1
It is amazing to me how Newsweek clearly observed this shift in the spiritual paradigm over fifteen years ago, while many Christians (including most prominent leaders) still live in abject ignorance of this change. Are the teachings of the practical Christian mystic actually being assimilated so well that even our pastors are not discerning this shift?
In September 2005, Newsweek carried a special report called “Spirituality in America.” The feature story, titled “In Search of the Spiritual,” is seventeen pages long, and for anyone who thought that a Christian mystical movement did not exist, this article is all the proof needed to show it not only exists but is alive, well, and growing like you wouldn’t believe.
The article begins by describing the origin of the contemporary contemplative prayer movement, which began largely with a Catholic monk named Thomas Keating:
To him [Keating], as a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature. He invited the great Zen master Roshi Sasaki to lead retreats at the abbey. And surely, he thought, there must be a precedent within the church for making such simple but powerful spiritual techniques available to laypeople. His Trappist brother Father William Meninger found it in one day in 1974, in a dusty copy of a 14th-century guide to contemplative meditation, “The Cloud of Unknowing.”2
The most obvious integration of this movement can be found in Roman Catholicism. Michael Leach, former president of the Catholic Book Publishers Association, made this incredibly candid assertion:
But many people also believe that the spiritual principles underlying the New Age movement will soon be incorporated–or rather reincorporated–into the mainstream of Catholic belief. In fact, it’s happening in the United States right now.3
Incorporating it is! And it is assimilating primarily through the contemplative prayer movement.
Contemplative leader Basil Pennington, openly acknowledging its growing size, said, “We are part of an immensely large community … ‘We are Legion.’”4 Backing him up, a major Catholic resource company stated, “Contemplative prayer has once again become commonplace in the Christian community.”5
William Shannon [a mystic proponent and the biographer of Thomas Merton] went so far as to say contemplative spirituality has now widely replaced old-style Catholicism.6 This is not to say the Mass or any of the sacraments have been abandoned, but the underlying spiritual ideology of many in the Catholic church is now contemplative in its orientation.
One of my personal experiences with the saturation of mysticism in the Catholic church was in a phone conversation I had with the head nun at a local retreat center who told me the same message Shannon conveys. She made it clear The Cloud of Unknowing is now the basis for nearly all Catholic spirituality, and contemplative prayer is now becoming widespread all over the world.
I had always been confused as to the real nature of this advance in the Catholic church. Was this just the work of a few mavericks and renegades, or did the church hierarchy sanction this practice? My concerns were affirmed when I read in an interview that the mystical prayer movement not only had the approval of the highest echelons of Catholicism but also was, in fact, the source of its expansion. Speaking of a meeting between the late Pope Paul VI and members of the Catholic Trappist Monastic Order in the 1970s, Thomas Keating, disclosed the following:
The Pontiff declared that unless the Church rediscovered the contemplative tradition, renewal couldn’t take place. He specifically called upon the monastics, because they lived the contemplative life, to help the laity and those in other religious orders bring that dimension into their lives as well.7
Just look at the latest official catechism of the Catholic church to see contemplative prayer officially endorsed and promoted to the faithful by the powers that be. The new catechism firmly states: “Contemplative prayer is hearing the word of God … Contemplative prayer is silence.”8
I realized just how successfully Pope Paul’s admonitions have been carried out when I discovered the following at one popular Catholic bookstore. Many shelves were marked as spirituality–the focal point of the entire store. Eighty to ninety percent of the books on those shelves were on mystical prayer. It was clearly the overriding theme….
Contemplative spirituality reaches far beyond the walls of the Catholic church. Mainline Protestant traditions (Episcopalians, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, United Church of Christ, etc.) have dived into the contemplative waters too. Their deep tradition of twentieth-century liberalism and sociopolitical activism has left them spiritually dry and thirsting for supernatural experiences. This school of practical mysticism gives them a sense of spirituality while still allowing them a liberal political correctness. Marcus Borg, [former] professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University and someone who resonates with mystical spirituality understands the popularity of mystical prayer. He states:
In some mainline denominations, emerging-paradigm [contemplative] Christians are in the majority. Others are about equally divided between these two ways of being Christian.9
A sales person at a bookstore that caters to these denominations once told me the contemplative prayer view has found a large audience in the Protestant mainstream, and many pastors are very open to these practices. She added that some members of the clergy did show resistance, but a clear momentum towards the contemplative direction was nevertheless occurring. An article in Publisher’s Weekly magazine addressing the move toward contemplative prayer in mainstream religious circles confirmed her observation. One woman in the publishing field was quoted as saying, “[M]any Protestants are looking to satisfy that yearning by a return to the Western contemplative tradition.”10 Another college professor pointed out:
My students have been typically middle-aged and upper middle class Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists, active in the lay leadership of their churches. To outward appearances, they are quite conventional people. Yet I have found that virtually every one of my students has encountered the new age in one of its many forms and has been attracted by its mystery.11
Contemplative spirituality provides a seemingly profound experience of God without having to adhere to a conservative social outlook. It also gives its practitioners comfort to know they draw on a so–called Christian well of tradition. This dilutes any reluctance some might have about the orthodoxy of these practices.
To underscore the scope and reach of the contemplative prayer movement let’s look at the numbers put out by an organization called Spiritual Directors International (SDI). On their website this group gives ample evidence of what their practices are. In one national conference, the following was presented:
This workshop offers an opportunity to study and experience the [spiritual] director’s role in a person’s move into the beginning and early stages of contemplative prayer, silence, and openness to new sorts of praying.12
One of the objectives of SDI is “Tending the holy around the world and across traditions.” A 2008 membership list showed 652 Episcopalians, 239 Presbyterians, 239 Methodists, 175 Lutherans, and a whopping 2,386 Roman Catholics; counting another forty or so “traditions,” the total was 6648. To show the nature of just what they mean by “across traditions,” the list included Buddhist, Gnostic Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Siddha Yoga, and even Pagan/Wiccan.* (see below)
(For more information about contemplative spirituality, spiritual formation, and New Age mysticism coming into the church, read A Time of Departing.)
1. Kenneth L. Woodward, “Talking to God” (Newsweek , January 6, 1992), p. 44.
2. Jerry Alder, “In Search of the Spiritual” (Newsweek, August/September 2005, Special Report: “Spirituality in America”), p. 48.
3. Michael Leach (America, May 2, 1992), p. 384.
4. M. Basil Pennington, Centered Living: The Way of Centering Prayer (New York, NY: Doubleday Publishing, Image Book edition, September 1988), p. 10.
5. Sheed & Ward Catalog, Winter/Lent, 1978, p. 12.
6. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1996), p. 25.
7. Anne A. Simpson, “Resting in God” Common Boundary magazine, Sept./Oct. 1997, http://www.livingrosaries.org/interview.htm), p. 25.
8. Catechism of the Catholic Church (Urbi et Orbi Communications, 1994), p. 652.
9. Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2004), p. 7.
10. Kimberly Winston, “Get Thee to a Monastery” (Publisher’s Weekly, April 10, 2000), p. 39.
11. Bruce Epperly, Crystal & Cross (Mystic, CT: Twenty-third Publishers, 1996), p. 14.
12. Spiritual Directors International, Conference Workshops: “Exile or Return? Accompanying the Journey into Contemplative Prayer” (http://www.sdiworld.org/conference_workshops.html).
*Note on Spiritual Directors International. Since 2005, there have been significant increases in the SDI’s demographic statistics of spiritual director members. The overall increase went from around 5000 members in 2005 to 6648 in 2008 with new denominations and religious groups added.
By RACHEL DONADIO
New York Times
VATICAN CITY — Citing advanced years and infirmity, but showing characteristic tough-mindedness and unpredictability, Pope Benedict XVI shocked Roman Catholics on Monday by saying that he would resign on Feb. 28, becoming the first pope to do so in six centuries.
Speaking in Latin to a small gathering of cardinals at the Vatican on Monday morning, Benedict said that after examining his conscience “before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise” of leading the world’s one billion Roman Catholics.
The statement, soon translated into seven languages, ricocheted around the globe.
A shy, tough-minded theologian who seemed to relish writing books more than greeting stadium crowds, Benedict, 85, was elected by fellow cardinals in 2005 after the death of John Paul II. An often divisive figure, he spent much of his papacy in the shadow of his beloved predecessor. Click here to continue reading.
Commentary from Understand the Times regarding article below on the Catholic Church’s Step-up of “New Evangelization” Program
UTT- It is important that Bible believing Christians understand the true meaning of “Evangelical Catholicism,” also known as the New Evangelization Program. The Roman Catholic agenda is to win the world to the Eucharistic Jesus in order to set up the “Kingdom of God” on earth. The Eucharistic Jesus requires a Roman Catholic priest and the process of transubstantiation. This “Jesus”, which actually is nothing more than a wafer, is placed into a monstrance (container) and worshipped and adored. This whole process will play a significant role in setting up a One World Religion in the name of Christ that prepares the way for the antichrist.
“George Weigel says New Evangelization is future of Catholicism”
By Adelaide Darling
Global Catholic Network
As the Catholic Church works to shape the culture in the 21st century, her members must embrace reality while fearlessly proclaiming the truth, said author George Weigel.
“It is the same Church, the same Faith and above all the same Lord,” emphasized Weigel, a noted Catholic commentator and biographer of Pope John Paul II.
However, he explained, “the Evangelical Catholicism of the third millennium” will live out its fidelity “in a distinctive way.”
Weigel spoke on Feb. 5 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. His lecture, hosted by the Ethics and Public Policy Center, coincided with the release of his new book, “Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church.”
He explained that the deeply cultural Catholicism that emerged during the Counter-Reformation supported the evangelization of the New World, an intellectual counterbalance to the Enlightenment and opposition to the totalitarian political movements of the 20th century. Click here to read more.
LTRP Note: Roger Oakland discusses the New Evangelization program of the Catholic Church in his book Another Jesus. Below is a link to chapter six of that book:
By Ross Levitt and Susan Candiotti, CNN
(CNN) – Opening arguments are scheduled for Monday in Philadelphia in the first case in which an official of a Roman Catholic archdiocese has been accused of protecting abusive priests by moving them from parish to parish.
Monsignor William Lynn has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and endangering the welfare of a child. Lynn served as the vicar of clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004, a position in which he was responsible for investigating reports that priests had sexually abused children.
A grand jury alleged that he knowingly allowed priests accused of abuse to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children, according to the district attorney’s office. Lynn “acted as if his job was to protect the abuser, never the abused,” a January 2011 grand jury report concluded. Click here to continue.
October 2011 “Note” by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council Shows Vatican Move Toward the New World Order
Practically, the world’s leaders will realize that their individual economies are so intertwined and the only way to solve the ever-increasing financial crises is to bring all the separate economies under one roof. Those informed regarding world affairs will recognize there exists an ever-increasing number of influential leaders who have begun to promote the idea of a global economy. The most significant of these is the G20 which in recent years has made several statements advocating such a global economy.
But the most startling statements were recently made in a 41 page “note” by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, published in several languages on October 24, 2011. Speaking for Pope Ratzinger, the Council’s document is filled with legal verbiage and complicated language, but is an amazing document to read. It is amazing because almost word-for-word, it bears upon the prophecies of Revelation 13, 17 and 18, and places Rome at the center of the prophetic drama! Click here to read this entire article.
(Reuters) – The U.S. Roman Catholic Church will establish a body in January to house disaffected members of the Episcopal Church, beginning with a few dozen ministers and at least two congregations seeking communion, U.S. bishops were told Tuesday.
Some 35 of 67 Anglican ministers who have applied to join the Catholic Church have received the “nulla osta” from the Holy See, allowing them to move forward to become priests, said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C.
Wuerl, head of a committee to move the process forward, gave a progress report to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops who are meeting this week in Baltimore.
The other clergy seeking ordination have had their dossiers presented to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he said. Click here to continue reading.
Taken from the powerful film, The Radicals, based on the true story of Michael and Margaretha Sattler, who defected from the Catholic church and who were martyred for their faith in Christ.
- October 22 – New euro ‘empire’ plot by Brussels
- October 18 – Cloning Expert’s Next Goal, a Mammoth?
- October 19 – Experts warn RFID risks outweigh benefits
- October 26 – Does Joel Osteen Not Know, or Does He Not Care?
- October 26 – New Street Lights To Have “Homeland Security” Applications
- Death toll in Turkey quake soars past 500; survivors plead for aid
- October 26 – Thai floods may cause global rice shortage
- October 20 – Mikhail Gorbachev Says Uprisings Signal and Emerging New World Order
- October 27 – Rainbow of religious leaders join pope for peace
- October 27 – Russia: Putin advances Eurasian Union
- October 29 – Christian church teams up with high priestess of Isis / Famous denomination welcoming paganism with guided meditations
- November 1 – Everyone is called to be holy, Pope says on All Saints Day
- October 31 – Vatican official explains keys to New Evangelization
- November 2 – Sarkozy, Obama push for financial crisis solution
- November 3 – Iran says united and ‘ready for war’ with Israel
To view this entire Understand the Times newsletter, click here.
Lighthouse Trails Editor:”My Journey Out of Catholicism (and why the Catholic Church is not reformable)”
By David Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails
Over the years, I have encountered many Christians who wonder, “What’s wrong with being Catholic? After all, they believe in the Cross; they believe Jesus is the Son of God. It can’t be all that bad.” If you are a Christian who has wondered about these things, this special testimonial report is for you.
I was born and raised as a Roman Catholic, so I am writing of things I know about and lived with for over thirty years. From my earliest childhood, I had a hunger and a thirst for God. I largely attribute this to my mother who instilled in me the love and reverence for God that she had. Born and raised in Poland, she grew up Catholic, but when she was about thirteen years old, while kneeling in a chapel alone, she invited Jesus Christ into her heart to be Lord of her life. Just prior to this, she had lost both her parents to mushroom poisoning. Jesus filled a void in her life that carried her through many difficult years. Years later, she shared with me that this must have been her born-again experience, though in the Catholic church she had not heard of such terminology; altar calls and making decisions to receive Christ were totally alien to her experience.
The fact is that there has never been a place in the Catholic church for evangelistic crusades and personal decisions because every child raised Catholic is brought up with the belief that he is automatically “Christian” because he was baptized as an infant. In years past, many Anabaptists were burned at the stake because they recognized the fallacy and false assurance associated with infant baptism.
I guess I could accurately say that my mother had a personal relationship with the Lord, not because of Catholicism but in spite of it. As in her case, few Catholics even realize or understand what Catholicism really teaches and how the actual doctrines and teachings are polar opposites to biblical Christianity. Yes, the Catholic Church does teach morals, as do most religions, but when it comes to salvation, the actual teachings hinder and prevent the lost from finding The Way.
As a little boy, I had a very firm belief in God, and I knew that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on the Cross for my sins. I grew up as a religious boy, but my consciousness of sin and my sense of guilt never escaped me. As I grew to adolescence and then adulthood, the realization of my own sinfulness haunted me all the more. I can still remember one snowy night in winter in Portland, Oregon when I was nineteen; although it was nearly midnight, I decided to go for a walk. The moonlit snow enabled me to see my way clearly, and looking up at the stars that night somehow made me feel in touch with God. I still remember saying out loud to God at that moment, “God, I believe if I were to die tonight, I would go to Hell; and if that is going to change, you’re going to have to do something.” This was one of those rare moments where I was completely honest with God and addressed Him in a manner other than the rote, memorized prayer I was taught in the Catholic church.
I suppose if one thing can be said for Catholicism, it can help foster a sense of guilt in a practicing Catholic. My church life consisted of confessing my sins to a priest on a weekly basis, then receiving “absolution” only to come back the following week riddled with sin and guilt again. I think few Catholics and even fewer Protestants actually know or understand the Catholic way of “salvation”; yet it is still printed in the Baltimore Catechism that we are saved by our participation in the sacraments. Central to Catholicism, in fact its very focal point, is the sacrament of the Eucharist where it is believed that bread and wine are literally transformed into the body and blood of Jesus. The implications of this belief, although unbiblical, may seem innocent enough until one realizes that this practice is without question the very heart and core of the Catholic “gospel.” In other words, your participation of this sacrament is what saves you. The point is that your salvation depends on something you do. It gives you a temporary and false sense of assurance until you sin again. In fact, according to Catholic teaching, one can never be assured of one’s own salvation. To have such assurance is to be guilty of the sin of pride. And looking back on it now, such a conclusion makes perfect sense because if our salvation were based on our performance (i.e., participation in the sacraments), we would have something to boast about. So logically from that point of view, if we don’t acknowledge or recognize our salvation, at least in theory we can be humble about it. But Paul saw the error in all this fallacious thinking when he penned the words:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
For the Catholic, the concept of salvation by grace through faith alone is nearly impossible to receive because rooted in the heart of man (and virtually all religions) is the idea that we must earn our way to heaven. Now that Catholics are beginning to read their Bibles, they will sometimes quote other Bible passages, especially from James, to prove that we are, after all, still saved by works. Little do they realize that James was trying to explain what biblical faith really is. It is not an intellectual ascent but a full trust and commitment to our Savior that expresses itself in the way we live. If James were trying to say that our good works justify us, he would not have used the story of Abraham, Isaac, and the altar to make his point. Surely, Abraham was a man of unusual faith, but he did not pretend that he could find salvation through his own goodness, nor was his attempt to sacrifice Isaac on the altar an expression of goodness but rather of his faith in God alone.
In my case, growing up as a Catholic, I had virtually no knowledge of the Scriptures because we were never encouraged to read the Bible on our own lest we should come up with our own interpretations. And here is the crux of the matter: Christians often make the mistake of thinking that because Catholics believe in Jesus and the Cross, everything is O.K. But the reality is that as a Catholic, I knew that Jesus had atoned for my sins on the Cross but that redemption was not freely available to me. In some way, I had to earn my right to the Cross. This belief of mine was rooted to the very core of my being from participating in thousands of Masses where Jesus is re-crucified for my sins again and again. This deep heart-felt belief of mine that fostered my ongoing guilt was unfortunately not misconstrued but one hundred percent Catholic and totally in line with Catholic teaching. Salvation was, therefore, something attainable but always uncertain and out of reach. It is no wonder that the highly acclaimed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who spent her life ministering sacrificially to the poor and sick in India, spent her final hours in serious doubts of her own salvation.
And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God . . . For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. Hebrews 10:11,12,14
I was now twenty years old and had completed my second year of college. I had feared the draft because I heard they were now drafting college students into the military, but now that I was twenty, I felt secure that I need not fear the lottery any longer. But then, I received my draft notice. I saw this as God’s judgment on me, but little did I know at the time that God was answering what I had said to Him on that starry night a few months earlier.
My time in the Army brought a drastic change to my life. It was the first time I was away from home. It also was my first experience in getting to know other people on a deeper level as I lived and worked with them. For the first time in my life, I met Christians who shared with me the Gospel. One of them even gave me a New Testament, which I did read as I had made the decision that I would use my time in the military to seek for and hopefully find God.
In contrast, having been sent to Germany, I witnessed the selfish and destructive lifestyle of most of the soldiers. In my unit, the majority of them got high on drugs at every opportunity. And drunkenness and prostitution was widespread too. But, I was known as the straight guy. In fact, I was so disgusted by what I saw happening around me that I determined not to have one taste of alcohol while I was there. Some of the soldiers mocked me, though I tried to be amiable and live at peace with them. I still remember one soldier blowing marijuana smoke in my face because I would not get high with them.
But all the while, I knew that my heart was unclean, and I saw in these soldiers a reflection of the dirt in my own life and knew that I was headed toward moral destruction. This made me all the more anxious to find the victory and peace I was witnessing in the lives of the Christians. It was at this very low point of my life that I realized again, like on that night beneath the stars, that without God’s intervention, my life would go to ruins. Up until now, I thought I had the power to change myself, but I now realized I was continuing on a spiritual decline. I picked up a Gospel tract that one of my sergeants had given me and found that salvation is within easy reach of anyone who will acknowledge his own sinfulness and inability to save himself. The hard part was getting to the place of recognizing my need of a Savior. And the Catholic gospel of justification by grace through works had hindered me from finding Christ for years.
I should caution you that if you were to approach the average practicing Catholic with this article, they would either tell you that I was mistaught Catholic doctrine as a youth or things have changed since Vatican II. However, the truth is literally staring us in the face when we realize that the Catholic priest performs an unbiblical ritual in the Eucharist, and Catholic doctrine still says that our participation in this is what saves us. In fact, if you were to take the Eucharist out of the Catholic Mass, you would no longer have the Mass. And if you took the Mass out of Catholicism, you would no longer have the Catholic church, and no priest can deny this.
Some may say, well perhaps the Catholic church is right about the doctrine of Transubstantiation. Maybe the communion wafer and the wine literally do become the body and blood of Jesus—under false appearances of course. But if this were true, then Jesus would necessarily have been lying to his disciples when He told them He had been using a figure of speech, using the earthly term “flesh” to express spiritual truth:
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. John 6:63 (Italics mine)
But let’s just suppose for a moment that Jesus had answered his disciples in another way when they began to murmur, “this is a hard saying; who can hear it?” Let’s just suppose Jesus answered their confusion by saying, “Oh yes, I really meant it literally. Eating my flesh is profitable and will give you spiritual life.” Given this scenario, would the Catholic church be right in the celebration of the Mass, where Christ is re-crucified daily on an altar? The answer is no because we would still be speaking of another gospel than the one each of the apostles preached. And this is the one key point I want to get across in this article: Our justification is by grace through faith alone, not by our participation in a ritual. Being born of the Spirit is what gives us life – eternal life. By the way, Nicodemus was also troubled when Jesus said to him, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). He could not understand how anyone could come out of his mother’s womb twice. Jesus was always speaking of spiritual things, using earthly terms and parables to express His meaning, but man, being carnal, always misunderstood His meaning, and so it is today.
My time in the service ended shortly after I read that tract and received the Lord in full trust to be my Savior. In fact, I found the Lord about two months before I left the service. God had wrought a miracle in my life in just two years, and I came out of the Army a new man—thanks to God, of course. God also opened my understanding of the Scriptures, but I did not know where to find fellowship. Then, I found out about Catholic charismatic meetings in my area. It seems that a goodly number of Catholics had found the Lord at the tail end of the Jesus movement and these meetings provided a place for fellowship. I still remember a discussion we had as to whether or not we should leave the Catholic church. The consensus was we should stay so as to be a light to those who are still lost. For this reason, I remained in the Catholic church for a number of years. Finally, as my life was more and more transformed by the Word of God, I realized that staying was not accomplishing my hope of being a light to Catholics, and the best witness I could provide was to leave. While I do not judge those who stayed for the benefit of the lost, I want to point out a serious fallacy in this thinking because the Catholic church is non-reformable. As I alluded to before, the sacrament of the Eucharist is another gospel, but to do away with it would be to do away with the whole structure of the Mass, and the Catholic church would then cease to exist. I feel very sorry for those believing Catholics who decided to stay; it must be very difficult for them and awkward for them not to feel like hypocrites.
At the tail end of my stay in the Catholic church, I joined an evangelical Christian community. From the day I found the Lord, I was always intrigued by Acts chapter 4, where the first Christians “were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common” (Acts 4:32). The whole idea of community seemed like a piece of heaven on earth. I joined the community with the determination to make it work, even if the task was difficult. And difficult it turned out to be. Oddly, when I became a Christian, I was soon identified by other believers as having a gift of discernment, but now in this community it seemed that the opposite became the rule for the day: if something bothered me, the leaders said it was because I was fighting against God. I remember testing out this attitude one day when our community took a few days vacation trip. Somehow, our vehicles got separated and sitting across from the driver I said in jest, “I think maybe we should turn left.” His immediate reply was, “Okay then, I’m going to turn right.” Although done in humor, this incident was a true reflection of the attitude the members of the community had toward me.
Then, the day came when some of the leaders announced that they were considering becoming Catholic – this was a decision they were making not just for themselves but for all of us. When I joined the community, it was non-denominational though its roots were in a Baptist church. It had begun as a recovery ministry for young people who had forsaken drugs and alcohol or just needed a place to live. The fact that these leaders were now entertaining thoughts about Catholicism came as a great disturbance to me, but not as a total surprise. I had witnessed over the years how some of the members seemed somewhat intrigued with the Catholic church and with Catholic mystics like Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton. I remember one Christmas Eve when three of the women decided they were going to attend midnight Mass. I overheard them the next day talking about how enjoyable an experience it had been.
But the meeting where the leaders announced their move toward Catholicism was anything but enjoyable for me. It was like watching a mutiny in one of those old pirate movies but without the violence. The senior elder of the community strongly opposed our becoming Catholic by saying that it did not represent who we were. But there were too many others who had already decided they wanted to move in this direction. The senior elder was immediately removed from the community as a “discipline,” but as time proved itself, he never came back. The community very quickly spiraled into the web of Catholicism.
I remember the night a Catholic priest was invited to speak to the community about Catholicism. This priest was recognized as a leader in the renewal movement of the Pacific Northwest. On that night, he proclaimed a great number of things. Here are some of the key points he shared with us:
What is Ecumenism? The Protestants do not know what ecumenism actually means to the Catholic church. They think it means that the Protestants and Catholics can have fellowship together as co-equals. What it actually means is that the Protestants will eventually be reabsorbed into the Catholic church.
Protestant pastors have no power when they do a communion service. They only go through the motions but nothing really happens. Only the Catholic priest has the power and authority to perform a communion service.
Protestants are the lost brethren because they have rebelled against (forsaken) the one true church.
A good Muslim, a good Hindu, and a good Buddhist are saved. They have more hope of getting into heaven than the Protestants.
The Protestants have a false notion of evangelism. As I have just told you, people of other religions are already saved. But the Protestants need to return to the Catholic church.
Hearing these things that night helped me realize that the Catholic church, as an institution, is much worse than I had allowed myself to believe. Although hearing these things was not actually new to me, it did surprise me that a leader in a renewal movement, where Catholics and Protestants mingled together, had such a low regard for the Protestants and a whole different agenda.
And perhaps what was even more surprising was that these sincere Christians, whom I had loved, lived with, and worked with side by side for over six years did not challenge this priest with his heretical beliefs that night.
The community was moving full steam ahead toward becoming Catholic, but there were some practical issues that had to be dealt with. For example, the leaders of the community had made a covenant to stay together for life, but the senior elder was no longer with them. They brought this problem to this Catholic priest who had a ready answer. He told them that he had the God-given power to dissolve the covenant. He explained that becoming Catholic superseded anything else. Then there was the matter of what to do with me. They thought if they sent me to talk to this priest one-on-one, he could persuade me to return to the “mother church.” But when it became apparent that I was not turning back, I was told that I must leave.
Other things happened in that community. Things got really hot at times; there were fights between members. Eventually two marriages broke up where the husband left the community, but the wife and children stayed behind to become Catholic. One of these husbands later confessed to me that when I was removed from the community he thought God was removing me because I was not a part of God’s special remnant. But after he was kicked out, he realized that what was once a loving Christian community had become a cult.
Not long after I was removed, the community became fully Catholic. They remain so today.
As I am writing these things, I am amazed to think how quickly the years have gone by. These events that seem like yesterday began over twenty-five years ago. And through all these years, I have never publically shared the story about the community. But there is a reason why I felt compelled to share it now. When the community was deciding to become Catholic, they were very excited because they felt that they were pioneers in going back to the mother church. They felt confident that many others would eventually follow their example. Today, I see that this is beginning to happen in large numbers. The community shared with some of their friends that they had grown spiritually as far as the Protestant church could take them, and if they were going to grow anymore, they would have to become Catholic. It is the same thing that is happening today. Many Protestant leaders are now standing up and proclaiming that we need to glean from the teachings and practices of the Catholic church. Particularly appealing to them is contemplative prayer or mysticism and the spiritual disciplines. There is no doubt in my mind that contemplative spirituality is a bridge, bringing Protestants “back” to the Catholic church. The emerging church movement is equally a bridge toward Catholicism, and the Purpose Driven movement has had a role in this as well.
If after having read this article, you would like to know more about what is happening, let me recommend these materials from Roger Oakland, one of our authors, if you haven’t read or watched these already:
The book, Another Jesus, goes into greater depth to explain how the Christ of the Eucharist is truly “another Jesus” of another gospel.
Faith Undone is Roger’s masterpiece in exposing the apostasy that is even now sweeping our nation. This book is more relevant today than the day it was written, as the things described in this book are unfolding at an accelerated rate. This book gives special attention to the subject of the emerging church.
The Emerging Church DVD series of Roger’s is also an excellent source of material that encapsulates Catholicism, the emerging church, and the false gospel that is being promoted in much of the church today.