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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Former Priests and Nuns

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Returning to what I began in an earlier post, I would like to give my thoughts on the two books I mentioned earlier. Between the two, they give the "testimony" as it is called, of fifty former priests, and twenty former nuns, who left their calling, eventually left the Catholic Church, and became born again Christians. The purpose of the books is to lead others out of the Catholic Church.

First, I will say that I think a few of these stories are fabricated. Probably not more than five, which is a small number out of 75 total stories. Those of you who are Catholic will see the red flags in statements such as these:

I was forty years old and the Bible had been the forbidden book which I had never opened in my life.

No seminarian could possess or read a Bible during his first eight years.

The Bible is not prohibited in any way in the Catholic Church, and reading it is strongly encouraged.

a woman . . . who would later be godmother to my first Mass . . .

Godmother is a position used during baptism, not as described here. I will say that this was from the testimony of a Spanish priest, so I suppose it is possible that they have an honorary position such as this as a Spanish cultural tradition.

I stopped saying the breviary (the Church's official prayer for the use of the clergy) and the rosary and began to pray using parts of the Bible itself.

The breviary IS parts of the Bible. It is a way of praying the Psalms.

I celebrated Mass, observed the Sacraments, recited the rosary, paid money for indulgences and practiced acts of self-denial, but at heart I felt that I was lost.

The selling of indulgences is prohibited by the Catholic Church.

Also, in one story there is a description of a priest hearing the confession of a man who was dying, and had been away from the Church, so his confession was very long. He says that he went back the next day, and asked if he wanted to confess his life of sins again, and the priest couldn't believe it when the man didn't want to confess again.

According to Catholic doctrine, once you have confessed a sin and received absolution, you do not need to confess it again. A priest might have asked if he wanted to discuss his life again, but he would not have asked if he wanted to confess those same sins again.

Now that I have cleared up those few points, I will move on to the next group. The second group of people were people who seem to have not really had a calling for religious life. Now, I realize that might seem like an easy way out, just as Bible Christians who become Catholic might be explained away as having "never really been saved."

However, the first years of seminary or religious life are for discernment. Not everyone who thinks that they are called to that life, really has a calling. Often, certain types of people are attracted to religious life. People who feel that they are not good enough, but that pursuing a religious vocation will turn them into a holy person. Other people might want the respect or perceived power that comes from being a priest or religious. One testimony said "I saw how much everyone respected the priest, and how much power he had. I decided I wanted that."

Those are the sorts of people who should be turned away, and helped to see that they do not have a vocation to religious life, but to another state in life. Most of people who gave testimonies were born between 1900 and 1950. They were part of the vocations boom of the time. Apparently, the vocations boom was partially because seminaries and convents were not being as selective as they should have been.

But most of the testimonies were from people who were real people, and who probably had a real vocation to religious life. For whatever reason, they began to question their calling and their religion. Often, it was during the upheaval of the 1960's. They all ended up deciding that they disagreed with the theology of the Catholic Church.

When I first received the books, I was very interested to see what theological arguments were so persuasive to priests and religious. I was disappointed that really, they were just like most anti-Catholic materials. They presented a mis-representation of Catholic doctrine, and then presented Bible verses which refuted the false doctrine. Many testimonies said something such as "I set about to store up works, so that I could earn my salvation."

I'm not sure that I think all of these people were being intentionally misleading. Most of them seem to have written their testimony ten to twenty years after having left the Church. I think that after so much time, they are probably looking back through their current theological lens. It would have been more accurate to say "I see now, that I was trying to earn my salvation."

To conclude, I thought I would offer some additional testimonies. Those of protestant pastors of various denominations who became Catholic. There are many at the Coming Home Network, which was established to help such ministers make the transition to Catholic life, which usually requires the loss of their job and congregation.

That isn't the case for all people, though. Dwight Longenecker, who shared his story at the link above, went from Bob Jones University, to Anglican priest, to married Catholic priest.

Longenecker says of his evangelical background "As a Catholic I regard my faith not as a negation of my Evangelical upbringing and my fifteen years within Anglicanism, but as a fulfillment of all that has gone before. I honestly and sincerely hope that I have not abandoned anything that was good, true, beautiful and loving within both of those great traditions. I try hard with Evangelicals and Anglicans to affirm what they affirm, while declining to deny what they deny."

Someone who didn't lose his congregation was Alex Jones, who brought much of his pentecostal congregation to the Catholic Church with him!

15 comments:

Sophia's Virtue said...

That was an absolutely wonderful post! Thank you so much for taking the time to critique that book!

Dana said...

Hi -- I am finding this very informative.
I would love some info from you all in regards to the apocrypha, specifically what is this group of books purpose incorporated in your beliefs, for instance, just general history or inerrant teachings of the Immortal.

And the gnostic gospels, most specifically, the gospel of Enoch since the above is referred to in the book of Jude. What is the view on it/them?

thanks so much

Faithful Catholic said...

Excellent post! Also, I'd like to put in a plug for the show, "The Journey Home" which can be seen on EWTN. I have seen Alex Jones speak(I believe it was on one of the Journey Home programs.) He has an amazing testimony.

You've done a very fair, even-handed post on this topic. I appreciate that. It might be interesting to expound upon your hypothesis regarding "the upheaval of the 1960's." That time period and the 70's was difficult for many Catholics and I believe many left the Church. I think we (society as a whole) got caught up in the culture of the times and really started putting ourselves and our desires ahead of God.

Kelly said...

Dana, I covered the Old Testament apocrypha, known as the deuterocanonical books, in this post:
http://mdcalexatestblog.blogspot.com/
2007/09/catholic-bible.html

Although the Gospel of Enoch is quoted in the book of Jude, it is not included in our Bible. Our New Testament canon is the same as protestant Bibles.

None of the Gnostic gospels are considered canonical, because the Catholic Church considers Gnosticism a heresy.

There are some apocryphal (non-canonical) writings which we consider authoritative for interpreting the Bible. These would include writings such as the Didache or the Shepard of Hermas. Both of these books were read in church services alongside Paul's letters and the gospels in the early Church. They were not included in the Bible canon because either they were written too late, or because they were not part of the universal canon. That means they were read in the Eastern Church but not the Western Church, or vice versa. However, they did not contain any theological errors, either.

Now, what I just wrote about the New Testament apocrypha comes directly from my state university religion classes. I don't know that the average Catholic would know what they are. They are not included in our Bible, read at Church, and people are not encouraged to study them or anything along those lines.

If you go to the Scripture Catholic website at http://www.scripturecatholic.com/
you will see them quoted below the various Bible verses. This is a way of understanding how the early Church interpreted and understood the Bible. They show that practices such as the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist are practices as old as the earliest days of Christianity.

I hope this helps some. :)

motherofmany said...

You are right- at least to me, in that I feel Currie is a loon who obviously slept through most of the church services he attended in his young life. That would of course be speculation, but the point is that he makes "all" and "never" statements that leave me speechless with confusion, and agan, wondering what kind of church he was a part of because it is nothing like I have ever experienced, and I have tried out a LOT of churches. So far, though, all the bios I have come across just say 'Christian' upbringing or church, and that doesn't tell me anything at all.

Blondie said...

And there's the difference between Catholics and Protestants .... Protestants have all kinds of different upbringings, according to whatever denominational tradition they were raised in. Currie cannot accurately say "all" or "every" because one Protestant church differs greatly from the next Protestant church down the road. However, in Catholicism, we are talking about *one* church - so it is easy to examine Catholic doctrine or practices and dispute a person's erroneous claims about church teaching.

motherofmany said...

But his book is called "Born Fundamentalist', so it is not about the experiences he had in acertain deniomination, but as a fundamentalist, which can be many different denomination. If his book were called "Born Protestant" or "Born Lutherna, Methodist, Baptist, etc" it would make mroe sense to me because the issues he uses to discredit fundamentalism are not fundamnetal. They are denominational.

Why does that word have to be so long!?

Kelly said...

So far, though, all the bios I have come across just say 'Christian' upbringing or church, and that doesn't tell me anything at all.

Of Currie, you mean? Or other convert stories, too?

Well, my husband is a convert to Catholicism. He always told people that he was raised Christian. When they asked what denomination, he said various non-denominational ones. According to him, his family attended several different churches, often with minor differences in theology, but never with a denomination name. So it sounds plausible to me, but it might depend on what part of the country you are located.

I grew up in a very rural area (although my husband is from the Big City) and we had three church choices: First Christian, First Baptist, and St. Ignatius. Maybe Currie attended First Christian. ;)

Erika S. said...

Mother of Many-
If you read David Currie's book he explains his position and meaning about Fundamentalist and Evangelical in the first Chapter he in no way states that every person has the same veiws. I agree it is easy to state what the Catholic Church believes because it is stated in the Catechism, non-Catholics Christains are a diverse group with many different beliefs. Mr. Currie is just stating what he learned in his Church and his Theology classes at Trinity International University & from Trinity Evangelical Dibinity School where he he got his degrees. He is speaking from his own life. Both of his parents taught at the Moody Bible Institue. Therefore I think his is more than qualified to wite about
the Fundementalist beliefs.

He states "We are called fundamentalist because we believed in the fundementals of the faith that had been formulated in reaction to the raise of modernism in American Protestant theology around the beging of the 20thcentury. We have accepted the twin pillars of the reformation sola scriptura and sola fide"

I personally see these two things are exactly what you claim to believe in.

One last point we need to talk and discuss in generalities sometimes, thats just a fact or we will never get to any kind of a point or understanding.

Erika S. said...

Sorry about the type-o's my DD was climbing all over me while I was trying to type.

Sue Bee said...

I haven’t read the book you are discussing about the defections to Protestantism, but I wonder why you think the number 75 is high? There are 1.1 billion Roman Catholics in the world (Wikipedia) – 75 defectors is a miniscule percentage of the overall membership. Personally I know of about 10 Protestants that formerly were RC and maybe 7 Protestants that have joined the RCC. The numbers are about equal. Defections flow both ways and I am sure each had valid personal spiritual reasons.

Friends of mine had a granddaughter born with anencephaly. The baby’s parents are RC and even though they knew the child would be severely handicapped or perhaps not survive at all, they went through with the pregnancy, not even considering abortion. After their baby girl’s birth they provided her with all the care they could to keep their child alive and had her baptized (of course). She had enough brain matter that she was able to breathe on her own, but she needed feeding through a tube for her entire life. Doctors expected her to die almost immediately but she lived several years, though she never showed any response to anyone or anything around her. The RCC’s outspoken commitment to the sanctity of life from conception to natural death is one of the things I admire about the RCC and wholeheartedly agree with.

About a year after the little girl died, her grandparents (my friends) received a letter from the RC church the little girl’s parents belong to. The letter told them that for a donation (minimum of $2) they would say a rosary and light a candle to shorten the little girl’s time in purgatory. Yes, the RCC still sells indulgences. Yes, they call it a “donation” but isn’t that just splitting hairs? I can think of several other words that start with “d” besides donation to describe this kind of emotional blackmail. Disgusting is one of them.

BTW this indulgence solicitation wasn't "long ago" or "far away", it was Minnesota 2006.

Elena said...

Sue, what your friends probably received was a solicitation from a Catholic mission. Missions usually send out requests for support of their work. They usually also send along something like address labels, or prayer books, or a rosary and ask for a small donation. They also offer to have a mass said with your special intentions (including a mass for the dead) or a lit candle etc. That is not an indulgence at all.
It's more akin to a televangelist asking for donations to support their work and then praying with you on the phone or offering to send you something for your support.

More info on indulgences here.

Sue Bee said...

There was a mass to be said for the child on the anniversary of her death. The solicitation came from the daughter & son-in-law's church. It mentioned the child by name and that for a minimun $2 donation a rosary would be prayed and a candle lit to expedite her time in purgatory. It did not specifically call this an indulgence, however if it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck...

If a televangelist prays for me in exchange for a donation all he can offer is to petition God in Jesus' name on my behalf. The only guarantee is that God will hear the prayer. There is no other reward (need there be?!).

According to the link you provided "A plenary indulgence is granted when the rosary is recited in a church..." So in my friends' situation, for a minimum $2 donation the RCC was offering to say a rosary on behalf of a dead handicapped granddaughter in order to secure a plenary indulgence for her in order to shorten her time spent in purgatory (a specific reward for their money).

Fortunately for the child she is already safe and at peace with Jesus, since purgatory does not exist.

Elena said...

There was a mass to be said for the child on the anniversary of her death. The solicitation came from the daughter & son-in-law's church. It mentioned the child by name and that for a minimun $2 donation a rosary would be prayed and a candle lit to expedite her time in purgatory.

Without having the letter an having to rely on your recollections of something you saw a year ago I'll say this:

Kelly already explained that churches do ask for a small fee to have masses said. At my parish it is $10.00. That's a minimal amount . My church also has waived that amount for people in need. The year after my baby's death I went in to have a mass said, got ready to pay the stipend and they told me to never mind.

That said, whether the parents had a mass said for their daughter or not, there are numerous ways to pray for the souls in purgatory that are absolutely free and only take a sincere heart and prayer, time and some effort. Every well catechized Catholic knows this.

It could be that the parish of your friends was offering to have a mas said for the soul of the daughter on her anniversary. In which case I think that was very considerate of them to remember. They ain't getting rich off of a $2.00 dollar mass fee - particularly if they are sending out reminder letters at a cost of... what is postage now? 40 cents, plus stationery, secretarial service etc.



It did not specifically call this an indulgence, however if it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck...

they didn't specifically call it an indulgence because it wasn't. Please see the links to further information on indulgences that I have already provided you this morning.

If a televangelist prays for me in exchange for a donation all he can offer is to petition God in Jesus' name on my behalf. The only guarantee is that God will hear the prayer. There is no other reward (need there be?!).

Nonetheless, televangelists make a pretty good living over the donations of the faithful who frequent their television programs, buy their literature, answer their requests for money, and call the phone lines for prayer with a credit card handy.


According to the link you provided "A plenary indulgence is granted when the rosary is recited in a church..." So in my friends' situation, for a minimum $2 donation the RCC was offering to say a rosary on behalf of a dead handicapped granddaughter in order to secure a plenary indulgence for her in order to shorten her time spent in purgatory (a specific reward for their money).

No. They could actually go into a church anytime they felt like it and pray a rosary with the intention of gaining an indulgence for their daughter if that was their wish. They don't charge you to go into church and pray. Although in my area, with the way churches have been vandalized, the opportunity to go into church and pray the rosary might be more difficult to come by.


Fortunately for the child she is already safe and at peace with Jesus, since purgatory does not exist.

I doubt the child is in purgatory too as it sounds as if she ws very young and without the opportunity for actual sin when she was alive. If she is not in need of their prayers I'm sure they will do some other poor soul in purgatory some good.

Now Sue, I have indulged (pun intended) you this morning as you are seriously off topic. This topic has nothing to do with Former Priests and Nuns. Probably in the future, one of us will do a post on purgatory. Until that time, further comments from you on that topic in this thread will be removed.

And I'll also point out that is more of a courtesy than any of us would have received over in Candyland.

Kelly said...

I haven’t read the book you are discussing about the defections to Protestantism, but I wonder why you think the number 75 is high? There are 1.1 billion Roman Catholics in the world (Wikipedia) – 75 defectors is a miniscule percentage of the overall membership.

This was 74 priests and nuns, not the general Catholic population. The number of religious is much smaller.

Elena already handled the rest of your post, so I'll leave it at that. :)

Purgatory and confession are both on my list of want to write articles. We're in the midst of a possible relocation, so my computer time is more limited than I would like.

Kelly