Leaving the Catholic Church

A Letter of Resignation

by Robert M*******, Palm Harbor, Florida
[Name altered to protect identity]

Following is my resignation letter from the Roman Catholic Church and from my position as Director of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), a program designed to teach Catholicism to adults who would like to become Catholics.

This letter serves to inform you that I am separating myself from the Roman Catholic Church. This decision has come about after many months of intensive research into the Scriptures, the writings of the Patristic fathers of the church, and church history. During this period of research I have considered the writings and/or oral arguments of such Catholic authors as Keating, Sungenis, Ott, Hahn, Matatics, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). My separation from the church of Rome is driven by differences in doctrine. This is not a matter of rancor but rather a matter of being faithful to my Lord and Savior with a clear conscience. It is worth noting that I might never have reached this conclusion, except that I was appointed to the position of the Director of the RCIA. Being placed in that position compelled me to look at the Scriptures and church in depth as I studied Catholic doctrine. I readily acknowledge that there are many sincere and devout people in the Catholic church that love the Lord Jesus, but I believe that many of them are misled as to how a person is saved.

What happened that I should change my mind? When I joined the Church in 1993 I made a serious commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and to the Catholic church. My commitment to the Lord Jesus remains and has grown, but my decision to join the RCC was based upon only a surface reading of Scriptures and the Catechism of the Catholic church. The more I have looked at Scripture (and not just at localized passages) I discovered that not all the doctrines taught by the RCC are Scriptural. Not being content with this, because I realized that my private interpretation might possibly be in error, I began to read the writings of the early fathers of the church. I found that many of the doctrines held and taught by the RCC today are not in agreement with the early church, nor are they found in Scripture. Many of them actually contradict Scripture.

What are some of the doctrinal problems that force me to separate myself?

Marian Doctrine

I have reviewed the church’s teaching on Mary, as Co-Mediatrix, her perpetual virginity, Immaculate conception, and being enthroned as Queen of Heaven. These doctrines are not in agreement with scripture or the teachings of the early fathers of the church. Saint Paul writes in his letter to Timothy (1 Tim 2:5) "there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.." It was interesting to discover that none of the early church fathers in the first three hundred years of the church ever wrote about Mary as a Co-Mediator. If there is only one mediator as God’s Word says, how can there be a co-mediator? This is a blatant contradiction.

As to Mary’s perpetual virginity Scripture is quite plain. In Matthew 13:55-56 are found references to the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Now I am aware of the claim of some that these terms may refer to cousins or kindred. If one looks up the Greek words for brother and sister in this passage the meaning is clear: the gospel writer means the siblings (adelphos) of the Lord. There are other passages that list the words for cousins (sungenes) as well as for brother (adelphos) or sister in the same passage (such as Luke 21:16).

As to the immaculate conception does not Romans 3:23 say: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." It is worth noting that the scripture says that God alone (with respect to human beings) is without sin.

There is no mention in scripture for Mary being the Queen of Heaven. Nor do the early church fathers write of this. Scripture does make mention of a Queen of heaven, however, in Jeremiah 44:25. In this portion of scripture the Lord voices his great displeasure with the people of Israel for offering worship to the Queen of Heaven.

Indulgences and Purgatory

In paragraph 1030 of the CCC it says: "All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified…after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven." The idea that regenerated believers in Christ can be imperfectly purified is not scriptural. In Hebrews 10:14 it says: " for by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated." If believers in Christ are made perfect by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, how can there be any that are considered impure by God? Again it is written in Hebrews 10:10: "we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

If these passages are not clear enough, we should consider what the Lord Jesus said to the "good" thief, in Luke 23:43 "..Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Now surely no one would claim that a thief whose crimes were so monstrous as to rate the death penalty would have been able to enter Heaven, because his acts would have rendered him impure and unclean. Instead we see that by his faith in the Lord Jesus, he was cleansed from all imperfection and entered into Christ’s presence in heaven. There is no mention in Scripture of temporal punishment for sin remaining after forgiveness.

Justification

I think that the fundamental difference between Roman Catholic doctrine and the scriptures is most pronounced with respect to how we are saved. The CCC teaches that we can merit eternal life by works done in a state of grace, and not simply by faith alone. St. Paul on the other hand writes in several places that:

Romans 3:28 "For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law."

Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you, it is the gift of God, it is not from works, so no one may boast."

Galatians 2:16 "We…who know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified."

The scriptures are clear that salvation comes from repentance and faith in Christ Jesus alone. We will never be justified by our own works whether done in a state of grace or not.

Now some have argued that what Paul meant by the law was the ceremonial law of the Mosaic covenant. This cannot be the case, because Paul later refers to coveting as a violation of the law in Romans 7:7-13. So it can be shown that when Paul says that no one will be justified by the works of the law he is in fact referring to the moral code as well as the ceremonial codes.

The scriptures teach that we are declared righteous by God because of our faith in the Lord Jesus, not by performing penances, novenas, masses, obtaining indulgences or experiencing purgatory. Paul writes in Romans 4:6 "So also David declares the blessedness of the person to whom God credits (imputes, declares) righteousness apart from works." So it can be seen that we cannot earn our way to being declared righteous by God, or receiving supplemental graces from God to earn our way into heaven.

I am not saying that those who are justified by Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary have no obligation for obedience to the Lord. Nor am I saying that one is saved by faith, and then allowed to do nothing. In fact those who are called by God our Father, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, repenting of their sins, and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, will invariably seek to do the will of the Lord. To continue on with the passage in that was quoted earlier:

Ephesians 2:10 " for we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them."

I freely believe that faith without works is dead (so did the leaders of the Reformation). God does indeed call us to repent from sin and to work in His service. Nevertheless, no human being will be justified by his own works before God (Romans 3:20), because such works can never be performed perfectly. If someone claims faith in the Lord Jesus, yet no evidence of conversion is found, that person has not yet encountered the risen Christ!

I agree that sanctification, that is, being conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus, is an on going process that takes a lifetime. I agree that we are called to be holy (1 Peter 1:16) " even as He is Holy." We are to strive to complete that holiness, (Hebrews 12:14) "without which no one will see the Lord." The work of that holiness comes from the Lord and is His work, and not from ourselves (Ephesians 2:10). By our own efforts we will not succeed.

The Eucharist.

I fully agree that the Eucharist, true to the meaning of the original Greek, is in fact an offering of praise and thanksgiving to God. It is also certainly a memorial like the Passover, and we are certainly called to be obedient to Christ by celebrating it and proclaiming his death until He comes again. Where Catholic doctrine begins to differ with Scripture is when it states (Paragraph 1367 of the CCC) that the sacrifice of the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice, and that Christ is re-sacrificed, but in an unbloody manner. According to Scripture an unbloody sacrifice is not propitiatory, Hebrews 9:22 "and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."

The scriptures actually declare that there is no longer an offering for sin, because Christ died once and for all (Romans 6:10). The author of Hebrews declares in 10:18 "Where there is forgiveness of these (sins), there is no longer offering for sin." Again in Hebrews 10:10 " We have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

I am not claiming that Christ is not present in the Eucharist. He is most certainly present in Spirit. He cannot be physically present in the Eucharist because He is in heaven at the right hand of the Father. He will come again physically at the second coming. Did not the angels say to the apostles in Acts 1:11 "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking up at he sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven."

Many people in the West today think that the word "spiritual" is synonymous with "not there." I totally disagree with them. Christ is in fact spiritually present with us during the Eucharist, even as he is present in the hearts and spirits of believers.

Worship of Images

One of the things that has bothered me about the Catholic faith since the beginning, is the reverence and worship offered to images and statues. I tried to ignore this at first, because many a catechist had likened the use of sacred images to keeping of pictures of Jesus, or family members in the home. The problem with this argument is that I don’t worship pictures of my relatives or bow down to them, or pray to them. There is a clear injunction in the second commandment in Exodus 20:4 " You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below, or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them." How can I respect the church’s teaching and maintain a clear conscience before the Lord our God? Scripture no where teaches that we are to pray to any other being other than the Lord.

Scripture and Tradition

I have no problem with tradition. Tradition must, however be subordinate to and in agreement with the Scriptures or it is not from God. As I have shown above there are a number of traditions of the RCC that are not in agreement with the Scriptures. What does the Bible say about the authority of Scripture? In 2 Timothy 3:16 St Paul writes: "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be perfect, equipped for every good work." Some Catholic apologists have argued that Saint Paul was speaking about an independent, parallel, unrecorded Gospel contained in an oral tradition in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6. The problem with this concept is that Paul tells us elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 15:3, 11 " The chief message I handed on to you, as it was handed on to me, was that Christ, as the Scriptures foretold, died for our sins…That is our preaching, mine or theirs as you will; that is the faith that has come to you." It was interesting to discover what St. Augustine had to write about Scripture and Tradition:

"From the things that are plainly laid down in Scripture are to be found all matters that concern faith and the manner of life." (The City of God)

" I am not bound by the authority of this epistle because I do not hold the writings of Cyprian as canonical, and I accept whatever in them agrees with the authority of the divine Scriptures with his approval, but what does not agree I reject without his permission." (Contra Cresconium)

Papacy

The RCC teaches that the Pope is the head of the entire Christian church, and as such exercises supreme authority, and is guaranteed to be free of error when teaching on faith or morals (CCC 881 through 891).

If the Pope is infallible, how can he and the Magisterium of the church teach doctrines that contradict Scripture? The foundational passage in Scripture used to justify the Pope’s position is Matthew 16:18-19: "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." If the Roman interpretation is correct then Peter did indeed have the keys. How did the early church fathers interpret this key passage?

Hilary of Poitiers (315-368 AD) "…whence I ask, was it that the blessed Simon Bar-Jonah confessed to him, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God? ...And this is the rock of the confession whereon the church was built….This faith it is which is the foundation of the church…"

Cyril of Alexandria (444 AD) "…Jesus said to the divine Peter: You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church. Now by the word ‘rock’, Jesus indicated, I think, the immovable faith of the disciple."

It appears, that at least in the early church, that the rock referred to by the Lord was the faith of Peter, not Peter himself.

In 1 Peter 5:1 Peter writes: " Therefore, I exhort you the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ…" Note that Peter does not refer to himself as the supreme pontiff, rather as a fellow elder! Saint Paul rebuked Peter for his compromising of the Gospel at the Council of Jerusalem. This is recorded in Galatians 2:11-14 and Acts 15. It is worth noting that after Paul’s rebuke that Peter actually repented and changed his position. Where is infallibility in this?

Just for the record there was a Pope who was branded as a heretic. Pope Honorius (625-638 AD) was condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical council for supporting monotheletism. Pope Liberius (352-356) signed an Arian confession and denounced Athanasius in order to maintain his See against pressure from the Emperor Constantius II. Pope Zosimus (417-418) rebuked Augustine and the North African church for their condemnation of Pelagius and his heretical teachings. The North African church subsequently rejected the directions and admonitions of Zosimus.

Apparently the church has not always believed what Rome requires that we believe today.

As I review all these findings I find myself squarely in the position of the Reformed church. How surprising! I thought it would turn out the other way. By God’s grace I am headed back to the faith of my fathers after all.

In the Service of Jesus Christ our Lord,

Robert W. M*******

Note: In the parish priest's response to my letter he did not comment on any of the doctrinal issues that I raised.

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