Thursday, October 18, 2007

Former Father

From This Rock:

Among the most venomous of enemies of the faith are former Catholics, especially former priests. Catholic Answers was originally begun to counter the disinformation spread by a failed priest. Now anti-Catholic Fundamentalists have an entire book of such propaganda in their arsenal: Far from Rome, Near to God, which assembles the "testimonies" of fifty apostate priests. (To find fifty they are forced to dig up renegades from past centuries, including arch-apostate Charles Chiniquy, author of such gems as The Priest, the Woman, and the Confessional.)

Co-edited by former priest Richard Peter Bennett, the book is distributed by groups such as Christians Evangelizing Catholics, Bart Brewer's Mission to Catholics International, and Mike Gendron's Bold Truth.

Bennett tells his own story in "From Tradition to Truth." It isn't difficult to understand how Bennett, who sounds like a sincere man, came to leave the Church. Describing his "conversion," he says, "I suffered for fourteen years, no one ever having the courage to speak the truth to me. . . . I pray that the Father will give you grace that you may accept that Christ died in your place on the cross, and know that his atonement is sufficient to make you a new creature in him."

Bennett trots out the worn canards: He was disturbed by the "outward pomp" and "inner emptiness" of Rome. He was taught only "rote, set prayer" and discovered "direct personal prayer" by accident. "I did not know my way through the Bible," he acknowledges.

One is baffled by the notion that any Catholic, much less a priest, could have so failed to grasp the essentials of the faith. But Bennett's most serious gaffe, in the opinion of our resident observer of religious life, is his remark that he spent eight years in the Dominican Order "studying what it is to be a monk."

Dominicans aren't monks. They are friars. Monks live in monasteries, usually in the same monastery for life. Their chief work is prayer. Friars are apostolic religious who are sent on mission as needed, to preach, teach, and give other service.

A small distinction? Maybe. But one to which any Benedictine or Carmelite-or Dominican-would be keenly sensitive. The problem with these "converted" priests is that one never knows the full story. Were they dismissed from the ministry for misconduct? Were they even really priests? A little investigation revealed that Jack Chick's "Alberto" was never a Jesuit. We wonder what we'd find if we explored the histories of the contributors to Near to God, Far from Rome.

Dave Armstrong does an excellent job of refuting Mr. Bennett's theology here:

"Aligned with Proverbs, the Lord's strong, clear declaration in Isaiah 8:20 is: "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." The truth is this: since God's written word alone is inspired, it -- and it alone -- is the sole rule of faith. It cannot be otherwise.

It certainly can be "otherwise" since it is in fact, according to the Bible itself (thus showing sola Scriptura to be a self-defeating concept, since it cannot even be established from Scripture Alone -- the very concept under consideration). This thinking is shot-through with internal contradiction. One falsehood is accepted, and then the system is built upon it, by adding other falsehoods. But a structure with a weak foundation cannot stand.

Mr. Bennett keeps appealing to the Old Testament to "prove" his nonexistent case, as if (his hidden, unspoken assumption) the Jews of that period accepted sola Scriptura as he does. But they did not. And this fact is clearly attested by reputable Protestant scholarly sources, such as The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (edited by Allen C. Myers, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1987 -- from Bijbelse Encyclopedie, ed. W.H. Gispen, Kampen, Netherlands, 1975 --, 1014-1015)."


Perplexity said...

A former drinker is one of the most adamant about the evils of drinking. A former smoker has no qualms about lecturing people who currently smoke. A former Independent Fundamental Baptist will go to the ends of the earth to keep others from following that church's teachings; a former Catholic will do the same.

Meaning, when you hear the words, or get the meaning of "I used to..." you know you are in for some sort of lecture and "enlightenment" the lecturer faced and now feels obligated to spread to the rest of the world.

Considering there are roughly six billion people in the world, a few conversion and nun stories don't really add up to much. Particularly when there isn't a lot to back up many of them.

When people resort to continually posting stories such as this it is because they have nothing else to "fight" with. Nothing else to justify their hatred own personal beliefs that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

It's an easy way out, rather than attempting to explain where they are coming from (without resorting to bigotry, anger and condescensions) without actually have to give thought to anything. It's a case of "hey, I'll let this person speak for me".

Because, everything you read on the Internet is true, 100%, without a doubt. And, linking to something posted on the Internet makes it completely true, and it makes the one posting the link an expert.

Seriously, it's a very, very lazy way to spread one's bigotry. Lazy and bigoted, not the best characteristics for one to have; especially one proclaiming to be the Ultimate Christian.

Kelly said...

As I wrote on Sue Bee's blog, I find it interesting that these people aren't really writing conversion stories, because that would be the story of how they came to fall in love with another denomination, so to speak. This is a refutation story.

The conversion stories written by (now) Catholics and (now) Muslims are much more framed about why their current theology is correct, and don't dwell much at all on their former theology.

It really reinforces the "anything but Catholic" mindset. In his book, Bennett specifically says that he cut out most of the theological references to their current denomination, because he didn't want people to think he was endorsing any specific denomination. Anything but Catholic . . .

Rachel said...

Correct me if I'm wrong here, please. Do any catholics - persons or churches - pass out literature or give sermons/classes/lectures/whatever on the evils of other religions?

Honestly? I have never seen it. It's kinda scary that people who LOVE God and read their bibles so much find joy in spreading hatred about another religion.

When I go to mass, I'm there to praise God, give thanks, pray for guidance and enjoy my time with the Lord as a community. I'm seriously beginning to think other religions spend their time talking about how to bash us, pass out false literature and such.

MY church has never done this. EVER.

More of my thoughts projected in text :)

Faithful Catholic said...


I've been Catholic for almost fifty years, as long as I've been alive. My entire, huge family on both sides is Catholic. Many of my friends are Catholic. I've been a member of five different parishes in this time, attended Catholic school in another parish, attended Mass at many, many different parishes. I have never, ever heard any negative discussion of the doctrine or theology of other denominations in a Mass or in a class or in CCD class or in private discussions with any clergy or religious.

kevelyn136 said...

Hi! I have been reading this blog since it started but this is the first time that I have commented. I'll start by saying that I am the youngest of a large Catholic family. Most of us are still Catholic but I have one sister who converted shorted after she married to Luthern. I know that it hurts my mom because she is a very devout Catholic but I don't think that I have ever heard her say anything negative about my sister's choice. I think that we Catholics just do not participate in judging other's religions and bashing them because we know that God is the ultimate judge of faith and He knows our hearts the best. By the way I have two sister-in-law who were not Catholic when they married my brothers but one has converted and the other is going to RCIA classes right now because they say the love and the devotion that we as a family have our faith, due to my mother welcoming them even though they didn't share our faith when they were first married. Elena, please keep up the good work with this blog. I have learned a lot and I went to Catholic school and then was homeschooled using Seton.

Faithful Catholic said...

Rachel and all,

After reading the last comment, I remembered something that could possibly, in some ways, make my last comment untrue.

I remember when my oldest brother was getting married. On the morning of the wedding, my mother expressed much trepidation about attending because my brother was marrying a Unitarian. Mom was upset because as she said, "they don't even believe in the Holy Trinity." She pulled herself together and attended even though the wedding was held in a private home, on a Sunday with a female minister officiating. Still, my mom is not in the habit of disparaging the beliefs of others. She was merely stating a fact. Sorry for misspeaking.

Two of my other siblings married non-Catholics, both of whom converted to Catholicism after being married.