Out of the Fire: On Leaving Roman Catholicism

Phyllis Nissila

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.-Jesus

If to be free is the most important goal of all, then to help someone else to be or to become free must be the most sublime and rewarding of human endeavors.Elie Weisel

Here is my story.

FROM THE INSIDE OUT
One of my relatives, a hard-working woman of few words, responded to my announcement some years ago that I no longer attended the Roman Catholic Church with the following comment: “But you’ve got to have rules!”

I searched for words. All I could think of to reply was, “When I was a Catholic, the rules were all, well, external, outside of me. Now they are inside, written on my heart…I want to do the right thing from the inside out…”

She had no reply. I have no idea what she thought from there on, but at a future visit (we lived about 2,500 miles apart at the time) she wanted to go with me to my evangelical church. She had little to say about that, too. But one thing was clear: until the day she died, that woman was an adamant Roman Catholic.

She attended Mass every day if she could. She had Masses “said” to reduce her husband’s Purgatory time after he died, and I am sure she made arrangements to have Masses said for her when her time came. She prayed the Rosary and other prayers to earn grace, observed Lenten and Friday fasts, had ashes pressed on her forehead on Ash Wednesday, did the penances the priest gave her to pay for the sins she confessed to him in the confessional, and she observed Holy Days of obligation. She did what the Pope and the priests wanted her to do. She. Followed. The Rules.

I shared my faith however I could, but the options were limited. Other family members also shared their faith. But she had a set way of thinking about everything and spiritually, she no doubt thought how she was taught: Roman Catholic. And to be sure, based on her steadfast work ethic and determined way of living, she did the best she could in her mind.

THE RULES
I knew exactly what she meant about the rules, though, which was why I searched for words to explain to her the difference between me before I received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord at age 23, and me, after. Words that would somehow make sense coming from our shared Roman Catholic background.

Like her, I was born into “the faith.” I was baptized as an infant, “made” my “First Confession” and received “First Holy Communion” at the age of 7. I was “Confirmed” at 11. I received twelve years of Catholic education, and because I was born in 1950 I had a taste of pre-Vatican II Catholicism, too, that is to say, a taste of the Church before the “rules relaxed,” as some put it. (But, truth be told, little has changed regarding core Catholic tenets, as any Catholic will tell you and as research bears out.)

In the school choir the first musical notes I learned were the square notes of Gregorian chant. I and my classmates attended Mass, in Latin, every morning before school. In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, we learned the difference between venial and mortal sins [1], partial and plenary indulgences [2], how to make a “good confession” so as not to void the forgiveness the priest gave us, and how to “examine our conscience” every night before bed (i.e., tally up the number of times we sinned that day and which types of sin, to save for confession).

We learned the difference between sacraments and sacramentals [3] and the myriad ways a Catholic could earn grace and/or special blessings, everything from wearing scapulars [4], to performing Novenas [5], to saying the Rosary [6], to wearing certain medals and/or devoting oneself to certain saints and so on. For a while I even had my own statue to pray to: The Little Infant of Prague [7]. And, of course, of special importance was attending enough of Sunday Mass (come in before one part of the Mass and stay at least through another part of it) to avoid committing another sin and to fulfill one’s “obligation”.
It seems there were no end of rules to learn and follow so that one could hope to earn enough grace so as not to burn in Hell or at least in Purgatory for an unspecified time (and it was never clear how much: a day, ten years, a millennium?).

I knew about The Rules.

OUT OF THE FIRE
At the age of about ten, spiritual things came to a head for me. Although most of my little friends were not so intense about the faith, I was a serious kid and took things seriously. And as much as I feared burning alive in Hell or Purgatory, I wanted to do the right thing, too, just like my relative. I searched for options.

I wrote previously about my kid attempt at a home-made “vision” (see https://pnissila.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/mrs-p-and-the-gold-rosary-beads-the-danger-of-one-degree-off/) Early on, we were exposed to the famous Catholic “mystics” who often had visions and other bodily experiences, and as they had acquired Roman Catholic saint status in part because of all this we figured mysticism was probably good for a lot of grace and extra blessings, probably at least good for big chunks of time knocked off Purgatory. However, my attempts were futile, there, as I wrote, so I looked elsewhere.

Me, age 10

One day in morning Mass I came across an amazing bit of information in a prayer book. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t heard about this in religion class. The exciting news was you could go to confession (if you needed to in order to receive communion), receive communion (and no eating or drinking anything beforehand for a certain number of hours), then say this prayer (plus a few “penance” prayers), verbatim, on page 468 of the book [8] and voila! Erase ALL PURGATORY TIME. At least until you sinned again, which in my little kid life wasn’t long. There was quite a list of sins you could commit, both small and big, both “omission” (what you should have done but didn’t) as well as “commission” (what you did but knew darn well you shouldn’t have). But at least for a few minutes or hours, anyway, if you followed the ritual and said the prayers, you knew that if you died you could go straight to heaven without burning. At least that’s what the prayer book indicated.

I was thrilled. I shared this with a few classmates but they were not impressed. I couldn’t believe they didn’t care! It was right there in the prayer book! [9]

So for about two weeks I worked the plan: make some excuse to skip breakfast, go to morning confession before Mass, go to communion, then say “the prayer.”

Whoa. I felt that I had finally achieved the kind of reassurance I was looking for ever since I first heard the concepts of “Purgatory,” “Hell,” “penance” and “burn alive for eternity.”

My elation was short-lived, however.

INTO THE FRYING PAN
One morning right after Mass when we were all settled back in the classroom, Sister assumed the Mad Nun Pose in the front of the classroom. Fear shot through us.

“There are SOME of you,” she began, looking straight at me, “PARADING around the church to the confessional every morning just to SHOW OFF…”

I can’t remember what she said next. To be sure, I wasn’t the best kid and one could have easily suspected me of being up to something other than easing burn time, but THAT morning she had it all wrong.

My heart sank to my toes. I felt deflated, like a balloon. Kind of numb. And that, I realized much later, marked the beginning of the end for me of trying to live life Roman Catholic style. A thought akin to one of my father’s favorite sayings, “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” crossed my young mind…

Oh, I kept up appearances because, well, what else did I know? We weren’t allowed to go to any other church (some kind of sin) and anyway we were taught that non-Catholics were on the highway to Hell. And I was also told that only the priest could really understand what was in the Bible, so I never thought about even looking in one of those. But it was no surprise, as I look back now and have looked back many times since becoming a Christian, that that system would ultimately fail to satisfy.

And, of course, what happened way back in that Catholic elementary school classroom is about the very best thing that could have ever happened to me. The hold of the church on me suddenly went slack. What did the Jesuits say? “Give us a child until he’s seven and we have him for life?” They have no idea the power of God, and how He works, even on kids the tender age of ten…

FATHER I HAVE SINNED…FINALIS
After keeping up appearances albeit half-heartedly, even playing the church organ on Sundays when I was in high school, about college time I gave it all up for good. For awhile, anyway. My last real foray in Roman Catholicism in those days occurred one Saturday afternoon on a spur of the moment inclination. I passed a local Catholic church, glanced in the open door and saw the tell-tale line-up against the side wall. Ah. Confession. Oh, well, what the heck…

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been, I don’t know, maybe three, four years since my last confession…”

He listened.

“But, wait,” I hurried, “I’m not so sure about all this, you know?”

“What do you mean, young lady,” the priest said. “This is CONFESSION. You’re here to confess your sins…”

I interrupted. “But, see, I’m not so sure about religion. I think that if people, basically, live in an onward and upward direction that when they die they will join with the goodness beyond,” or some such thing.

“Why, you might as well go and join one of those Eastern cults if you believe that!” he said, rather loudly, I thought.

Sigh. I left. What was the use?

And that was the end of that.

BEST SELLER
I got married in the church a few years later and attended Mass a few times but I still wasn’t really into the Church. In fact, cynicism was fast hardening my heart. The evening in late November 1973 that I knew beyond doubt that I had a decision to make, I was so away from God that when I casually picked up my sister-in-law’s Bible I only did so because it was a best seller and I was into reading best sellers.

But of course, God had other plans.

I opened the Bible to the Scripture that had to do with Jesus’ comment about eating His flesh and drinking His blood” (John 6:56) which, of course, means, as Bible commentator Matthew Henry puts it, “believing in Christ […] (partaking) of Christ and his benefits by faith.” [10] However, as a former Catholic an entirely different image came to mind: cannibalism.

Oh, they told us that the priest’s power to change some bread and wine or juice into the literal body and blood of Jesus didn’t actually change the substance of the elements [11], but for some reason, I got the creeps. I slammed the book shut and threw it across the room.

Suddenly, though I knew little Scripture, another scrap of it came to my mind: “no one knows the day and the hour.” Now, I knew that had something to do with the second coming of Jesus (Matthew 24:36), but at that moment, in that hour, on that day of my young adult life in 1973 I knew it meant something else for me: perhaps this was MY “day and hour,” MY time to decide: God or…?

I scanned the bookshelves and realized all that I’d read and studied didn’t really give me the answers I was looking for. I thought about my life to date and realized I didn’t have the answers within myself, either. That stuff about living upward and onward? Nonsense, really. What did I know? And so many so-called holy men and women and gurus and ministers turned out to be opportunists and fakes anyway; what did they know?

Nevertheless, despite the “spiritual food desert” growing up in Roman Catholicism I knew one other thing: the Bible, regardless of who was reading or who was interpreting, was THE reference book on God…

Right then and there, my baby sleeping in the other room, husband at work, clock ticking through another ordinary day, I chose God.

“I choose You, God,” I said, out loud, in my empty living room.

Gingerly, I retrieved the Bible and opened it once again to that body and blood Scripture which had seemed to go on for many lines, before, and saw that it was just a simple verse. The eerie feeling was gone.

But another feeling surfaced. I had a sudden sense of being part of something much bigger: a timeline that stretched both back and forward into eternity.

And I wanted to know the Bible.

THE WORD MADE FLESH
I was immediately hungry for some kind of Bible study. The only place I knew to look was the Catholic Church, so I called up the local parish and asked about Bible studies. There was one, the woman said, but it was a little controversial. I contacted the people anyway and began attending.

Controversial, to say the least. The Bible was only one of several reference books, the others being the latest in pop-theology centering on ideas such as maybe Mary was a virgin, and maybe not. But it wasn’t that important. Maybe it wasn’t sexual perversion that caused the twin cities to blow up; maybe it was just a lack of faith. Maybe the Bible wasn’t inerrant, but was a good enough collection of oral histories with good intentions and the like. Lamb that I was back then, I didn’t even know to suspect wolves. However, I still hungered.

“So, what am I missing, here?” I inquired of God one day. “These people are so kind and loving and I’m certainly learning a lot of heady things, but there’s still something I’m missing.”

This thought came to mind: “You’re going to books to learn of Me; come to Me and I’ll reveal the Word to you.” I remembered Jesus is also known as “the Word Made Flesh.”

Oh. Okay. I got it. I had previously had it backwards. Later, I read a parallel thought: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”(Matthew 6:33).

DELIVERANCE
We soon moved to another part of the country and I immediately met some born again believers who became fast friends and mentored me through the essentials of my recent “choice.” [12] I also began attending a local evangelical church and, most importantly, saturating myself in Scripture sans any sense that because I was not “a man of the cloth” I would not be able to understand it properly.

But I was still going to Mass, even singing at Mass. I guess I still had some Roman Catholic ties that needed to be loosed. I believe that my period of transitioning completely out of the Roman Catholic religious system gave me the time I needed to understand the difference between Catholicism and classic Christianity.

The more I read and studied the Scriptures, while continuously researching old and new Catholic documents, the more I understood the gaps between the two belief systems: Roman Catholicism and its many variations, additions, and deletions from orthodoxy, and Christianity, centered on “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV).

And the more I understood the differences, the more I believe I needed the time to mourn.

To mourn the fear inflicted on the little girl rummaging around in the pew for some comfort in a religious milieu all about sin and damnation and burning and earning salvation but never knowing exactly where I stood for more than a few precious moments.

To mourn the teenager who thought God was a hovering menace just waiting for me to sin to add more to my after-life suffering in either Purgatory or Hell.

To mourn centuries full of people caught up in the same beliefs, hindrances to truth, and lies.

And to mourn my loved ones and others still bound up in the never-quite-requited spiritual angst which is the fruit of such a religious system.

I knew the rules. I understood.

I understand.

AS FOR MY PART
As I prayed over this blog entry, I was almost overwhelmed by how much information there is to help others at a point of inquiry about the Roman Catholic religion. Ex-Catholic scholars and apologists, ex-Catholic priests and nuns, and ex-Catholic “ordinary people” share their research, their stories, their new-found freedom in the Lord, and their encouragement.

And just now there is also a tone of urgency in our writings as ancient mystical practices of Roman Catholic saints seem to be in sudden vogue as the experience-driven postmodern spirit with its disdain for universal truth snakes into the encroaching Emergent Church.[13]

But for my part, I offer the rest of my story, and an invitation to the reader to share yours.

THE GOOD NEWS
I remember the day I finally realized I could trust God.

I was washing the noon dishes. It was near the end of my research and mourning period, so to speak, and questions still arose. Questions about so many, many extra-biblical beliefs and practices within Roman Catholicism I could hardly count them. But suddenly, that day, standing there at the sink, I realized that for each question there had been an answer so far. As I read and studied Scripture (this time in orthodox Bible studies), as I learned and grew as a Christian, each question had so far been answered.

I stopped my task, soapy hands in mid-air, and smiled as I realized that whatever other questions I would have would be answered as well. It was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

And as I pondered another hard-to-understand idea, the notion of loving God, and why I had always had such a difficult time with that, this came to mind: “From the time you were a little girl, you thought I was out to hurt you.”

Another pause.

That… was it.

“IT IS FINISHED”
Contrary to what I was taught in Roman Catholicism, God in His gracious, incredible love for us took care of whatever “hurt” we deserved another way. That is to say, took care of it for those who will accept it, for He included the freedom to choose in our design.

He inflicted all of the hurt—all of the consequences we rightfully deserve for the gross evil we inflict on others and on ourselves—on His own Son, Jesus, Who, when the sacrifice was completed that bloody Friday declared, “It is finished.”

The real Jesus, to secure our right standing with our loving God, “stood” in our place on the cross of justice—to the end of all that was required, that fateful day—so that we would not have to.

Free, indeed.

Not because of organizational affiliation, rituals, statues, beads, medals, holy cards, holy water, holy cloths, indulgences, mystical experiences, devotions to saints, novenas, status, adorations, pilgrimages, votive candles, confessionals, relics, purgatory, limbo, wafers, wine, gender, race, creed, or tongue.

Free because of what Jesus, God’s own Son, did for us.

I am still in awe of this.

REFERENCES
On venial and mortal sins:
[1] http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/mortal_versus_venial.htm
On indulgences:
[2] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07783a.htm
On sacramentals:
[3] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13292d.htm
On the scapular:
[4] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13508b.htm
On novenas:
[5] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11141b.htm
On the rosary:
[6] http://www.theholyrosary.org/
On the Little Infant of Prague:
[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_Jesus_of_Prague
The prayer:
[8] “Prayer Before a Crucifix”
“O Good and dearest Jesus, before Thy face I humbly kneel, and with the most fervent desire of my soul I pray and beseech Thee to fix deep in my heart lively
sentiments of faith, hope and charity, true sorrow for my sins and a firm purpose of amendment, whilst with deep affection and grief of soul I reflect upon and ponder over Thy five most Precious Wounds, having before my eyes the words of David, the prophet, concerning Thee, my Jesus: ‘They have pierced My hands and my feet, they have numbered all My bones.’”
(And a postscript): “Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be, etc., for Holy Father’s intention, to gain a plenary indulgence after Communion.” (My Sunday Missal, see below)
[9] My Sunday Missal. Explained by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph F. Stedman. Confraternity of the Precious Blood, Brooklyn, N.Y., 1956. Nihil Obstat, Martinus J. Healy, S.T.D. Imprimatur, Thomas Edmundus Molloy, S.T.D. p. 468.
[10] http://bible.cc/john/6-56.htm
On the Roman Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation, that is, the wafer and the wine become literally the body and blood of Jesus as the “unbloody sacrifice”:
[11] http://www.reachingcatholics.org/eatdrink.html
On Roman Catholic Mass:
http://catholicism.about.com/od/worship/p/The_Mass.htm
[12] The “essentials” of “choosing God”–it all starts here. How to be born again:
1. Admit you are a sinner (Romans 3:23)
2. Understand God’s plan for your salvation (John 3:16)
3. Understand that your own works cannot save you (Titus 3:5)
4. Repent of your sins (Luke 13:3)
5. Ask Jesus to save you (Romans 10:13; Acts 16:31)
6. Confess Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9, 10)
[13] http://lighthousetrailsresearch.com/emergingchurch.htm (There are numerous good reference sites on this topic.)
But of course there are many, many more sites, books, articles, and testimonies on all of these topics.

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20 Responses to Out of the Fire: On Leaving Roman Catholicism

  1. Colin Markham says:

    Dear Phyllis, I was so glad to read your testimony about leaving the Catholic Church, something I have now decided to do after three years of agonising. Now I feel free to explore alternatives, although where I live (a small town on the English Channel coast) the choice is very limited and uninspiring. I was formerly a member of the Church of England and became a Catholic in 1994, when I was 44. In retrospect it wasn’t the right psychological moment for me to be making a big decision like that. My mother died in 1992 and I was in a kind of depressive state. The Anglican church I attended was fine but I thought there was something missing. Maybe I was looking for an emotional prop, something awesome to latch on to in my grief. So I investigated the Catholic Church, went through RCIA and was received at Easter 1994. Now I have had time to reflect I can see how Catholicism teaches a mixture of truth and falsehood, and the falsehoods are blatant. I can no longer exist as a kind of ‘cafeteria’ Catholic, trying to disregard the false teaching and blithely carry on. Actually I just don’t believe in it any more – priests, altars, transubstantiation – quite apart from the things I never believed in, such as Mariolatry, papal infallibility, indulgencies, confessing to a priest (how can a mere man grant absolution?), all the ritual, vestments, endless repetition, rosary, etc. And yet my spirituality has undoubtedly deepened since I became a Catholic. But maybe that would have happened if I had stayed where I was. Who knows?

    I haven’t lost my faith, just my patience with Catholicism. What made it worse is that the local church is run by an American religious order (nothing against Americans, I can assure you) who are rather second-rate. Some of the priests have been dreadful. They specialise in ordaining ‘reformed characters’, which very mixed results. One of their number was the notorious Father Corapi. In short, this order is a complete mismatch for a quiet town with a largely elderly and affluent population. Add to this the clerical abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church over the last two decades and I ended up feeling thoroughly disillusioned with the whole show.

    I am conservative theologically but looking for sound alternatives is a minefield in the U.K. Most of the churches have long been on the slippery slope of liberalism instead of sticking to the sacred and the true. The only way I can deal with this is to relocate – literally! It will have to be something Bible-based and with a simplified spirituality. Please pray that I will find a new spiritual home.

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    • pnissila says:

      Colin,

      Welcome to the blog posts and to whatever encouragement you might find, here. As I have noted, I was what is known as a “cradle Catholic,” so my experience was lengthy, deep, and intense. I had to “come out of” a lot of false doctrines and innumerable wrong teachings and practices. That said, by your summary, you have experienced enough to have put your mind and spirit in a spin, too, though your exposure was a shorter period of time. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit has lead you out quickly.

      I will pray you do find a good Bible believing church or fellowship. I say fellowship because depending upon where you live and what churches are near, you may need to rely at least somewhat or perhaps entirely upon a home-based Bible study group. That has been happening to a lot of born-again believers here in the United States. I know it looks like we have lots and lots to choose from, but there are fewer and fewer that actually teach from the Word. You might have come cross another blog post of mine that chronicles my and my sister’s journey to find a church just locally, some years ago. We visited/investigated, queried more than a dozen and it was a real eye-opener. Here is my blog account of the experience for just a taste of what’s been going on out there: https://pnissila.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/what-in-the-world-is-going-on-in-church-how-to-figure-out-whatsemerging-what-you-can-do-and-a-story-that-might-sound-familiar/

      We now fellowship with a small number of people in a home group. My sister, Claire, is, by the way, the designer of the series I introduced on (her) prophecy tri-folds, as she calls them.

      In short, it’s what we have come to call “Remnant Time,” around here. It seems to be a biblical pattern that before God intervenes in a significant way to deliver His people from evil and other “fullness of time events,” the body of true believers shrinks as apostasies grow.

      One more thing: As I review my life, even back into the darkness of the Roman Catholicism of my youth and until I was 23, I can see the hand of God in all of it. But, then, He has known “His” from the “foundation of the world.”

      Blessings and stop by any time. Be assured, the Holy Spirit will lead you to “your peeps,” as we say, but it might be a home-based Bible study group.

      In our group, we are studying prophecy just now. Here are some of the teachers we access Online” J.D. Farag, John Haller, Chuck Missler. Mostly, don’t be discouraged. God is faithful.
      PBN

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  2. Pingback: Out of the Fire 3: On Leaving Roman Catholicism (The Nest) | pnissila

  3. Dale Rudiger says:

    Hi Phyllis. I love reading accounts of how God calls out His children from darkness to light.

    I was born and raised Catholic, married in the Catholic Church, and was raising my children in the religion. One day at the end of mass (actually a holy day: 12/8/90), the priest mentioned that there would be a seminar that afternoon. I was really into self-improvement, so I checked it out. It was a very small gathering – the instructors actually outnumbered the participants. At the start, a man made a comment about how his favorite Bible passage was John 3:3, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” I remember that he seemed very excited about the seminar.

    The first topic was how the Bible described God as “Abba.” That he is a loving “daddy” that wants the best for me. This was a revelation to me. My idea of God was as a distant judge, a rule-maker that punished the bad ones and loved the good ones.

    The second topic was the importance of faith. An example was used of a person that continually prayed to God that he win the lottery. But he never took the time to buy a lottery ticket.

    The third topic was sin. The ten commandments were read – but they expounded on each one. Adultery includes looking at a woman with lust. The list went on, and I had a second revelation: I wasn’t a very good Catholic after all. In my self-improvement courses, the importance of keeping your word was stressed. I saw that I could keep external rules, but the internals… very difficult, indeed. I was convicted that I was indeed very sinful.

    At the end of the seminar, we were invited to the back of the room for prayer. I responded, and asked that God would forgive my sins. Two men prayed with me, and one of them said, “Dale, let go.” That was the clincher for me: I should submit to this loving, forgiving Father. I was living my life thinking I was responsible for saving myself. I needed a Savior!

    The burden of the law was removed from me, replaced by the joyous knowledge that I was now reconciled to God. He was indeed my “Abba!”

    The seminar was led by the handful of Charismatic Catholics. God used them to bring me to Himself. I read somewhere back in 1991 that about half of those who were involved in the Catholic “Charismatic Renewal” were leaving the Church.

    In God’s providence, several days later I mentioned my recent “born again” experience to the man who was applying vinyl siding to my house. He gave me a hug, and invited me to visit his small Baptist church. For several months, I worshiped there – and then went to mass with my family. I couldn’t help but notice the stark difference between the two congregations. The people at the Baptist church exhibited joy and gratitude. Most people at my Catholic Church seemed to be going through the motions, as I had for so many years.

    After three months – against the advice of the Baptist pastor – I decided to return full-time to the Catholic Church. I felt that God wanted me there to reach my fellow Catholics with the good news that I had received. So, for the next eight months I threw myself fully into Catholicism: I attended daily mass, I joined the Evangelization Commission, I watched TV shows on EWTN, I went to confession, etc., etc. And I became spiritually malnourished. Finally, I prayed to God for direction. He led me to the Book of Colossians. Over a weekend, I repeatedly read Paul’s letter, and meditated on it. I came to a stark realization: I needed to cut ties with Rome.

    I have now been away from the Catholic Church for 21 years. I have learned much about Catholicism since leaving. In the areas of theology, practice, and history. Returning to Colossians, I now understand how Paul’s warnings in chapter 2 apply to those born into, remaining in, or thinking of converting to Catholicism.

    — We are to let no one take us captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Catholicism is all about philosophy, and has many mediators that HIDE Jesus. It is all “not according to Christ.”
    — We are to let no one judge us in matters of food and drink, or festivals, or new moons or Sabbaths. We are to let no one disqualify us by insisting on asceticism… Catholicism REPLACES Jesus with judges (the pope – who replaces Jesus as head of the church; the priest – who replaces Jesus as the mediator in confession; and the wafer – that replaces the Jesus who is at God’s right hand with a re-presented ongoing sacrifice of bread on earth).
    — We are not to submit to regulations and ascetic practices that have the appearance of wisdom, but are not according to Christ. These human traditions ADD TO the finished work of Jesus, and dilute His perfect righteousness.
    — We are not to be deluded by persuasive arguments that deny the full assurance of understanding received from Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Catholicism TAKES AWAY FROM the fullness of salvation in Jesus, insisting that we must merit our salvation and the salvation of others.

    My dear Catholic sister approached me one day, and said that thought she had a relationship with God the Father. She said that she thought she understood the Holy Spirit. But she did not feel close to Jesus. I shared with her one reason for her lack of intimacy. The many mediators of Catholicism are like Russian Dolls. By the time you get to Jesus, He is the smallest of all the dolls. Now, I see that Catholicism is designed to not only hide Jesus, but also replace Him, add to Him, and take away from Him. We pray for our Catholic loved ones – for we fear that they will die apart from the grace and knowledge of Jesus. We fear that they will one day hear the frightful words: “Depart from me… I never knew you.” In Colossians, we are told that Jesus is the head of the church. He is our unique, all-sufficient, Lord and Savior.

    Our desire as ex-Catholics is to point our loved ones to Him. And as a necessary consequence, away from Rome.

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    • pnissila says:

      Dale,

      Thank you for your powerful response. I pray many will read through it and come to yet further realization of the truth of what you say and of what many of us know who have exited the Roman Catholic system.

      As I’ve written, I, too, “went back” to Roman Catholicism after my initial conversion, and for some who leave the church this might also be warranted. Like you, I needed to explore the differences between classic Christianity and Roman Catholicism. I think there are probably many people like us in the same situation. However, I never, myself, advise this. I leave that to those wiser ;). Your Baptist pastor was, no doubt, speaking wisdom individually for you, and my sense of direction from the Holy Spirit was specifically for me.

      I also had “unfinished ministry,” you might say, in that denomination. For a couple of years I wrote and sang Scripture-based songs at a Saturday night Mass. About the time I knew I was “invited” by the Holy Spirit to (physically as well as spiritually) “leave” Roman Catholicism (the last Saturday of 1979), the “Liturgy Committee” was planning on having a representative inform me that no longer could I sing my own songs at Mass (which songs were growing increasingly evangelical in nature), but rather only Catholic-friendly meditative selections after communion. Interestingly enough, the timing of the Committee resolution was the week I sang my last Saturday Mass during which, realizing I was “finished” with that ministry, I left on my own accord, that is to say, my own, I believe Holy Spirit led, “prompting”.

      Anyway, certainly for everyone “leaving” RCism, constant prayer for wisdom and guidance, and remaining in God’s Word is absolutely essential.

      You cite Paul’s letter to the Colossians as a key passage for you, I saturated myself in his letter to the Galatians, and to chapter 9-11 in Hebrews. For others, the Holy Spirit might use some other passage or book, New and/or Old Testament. But, He will assuredly reveal and affirm His “instructions” via His Word or via that which aligns with His Word. One of the most loving and instructive books is, I believe, the Gospel of John.

      I also LOVE the analogy of the “nesting” Russian dolls! Very apt. I used to work for an international adoption agency and those cute little dolls sat on every desk. I might, with your permission, use the analogy in a future blog, citing your contribution of course.

      Blessings to you and yours, today. And prayer for your loved ones as well as mine still ensconced in Roman Catholicism. We never know at which “stage of deliverance” they might be who, like, us after the advent of Truth in their lives, may be in some process of deliverance from that system as well.

      Many blessing to you and yours today,
      Phyllis

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    • Cathy says:

      Dale and Prisilla,
      Both of your stories were incredible on how you broke away from this “Mega-Chain of Bondage!”
      The RCC snares the poor children, born from Catholic parents, into this Romish System of Rules and Guilt!
      I am 56, my First Communion was at 7. I remember a Nun told us “We must never touch the Eucharist wafer, that only the Priest can touch it….it was Holy. We practiced, I had no idea the RCC thought it was Christ body, soul, and divinity! I just did, what I was told!
      My Aunt gave me a statue of Mary, for a present and I was in awe of the Serpent wrapped around her feet! Later, I found that in Genesis 3:15 the Jesuit Bible says that Mary crushes the snake!………instead, Christ crushes the snake/serpent in KJB! ….this is from the Greek text, instead of the Latin Vulgate, which the RCC uses!
      Do you think there might be an Esoteric Agenda???Maybe a Papal Plan???

      Next Rule, Confirmation, in the 3rd grade.
      Do you think I had any idea, of what I was doing? After having 2 girls that were Confirmed, I still did not realize what it was UNTIL….my goddaughter was being Confirmed, in the recent years, and I looked it up.
      I made a vow, that I would never enter the RCC again, so, I told my sister I could not participate.
      She thinks that I “flipped out” by not attending or sending a gift!
      I know that I have to SEPARATE from the dark fruits of Rome and that means leaving her!
      I have been advised by former Priest, Richard Bennett not to speak of Spititual topics with my husband! He has said “What am I going to do with you?”
      I cannot blame him…about 3 years ago, I said” I thought his Church was filth and tha Antichrist! ”
      Now, I have Peace and I am calm…Who the Son sets free, is free indeed!
      Sometimes he hears me muttering, and he gets angry. I know that muttering is not Christ like and I ask God for forgiveness and I am healed!
      I, unlike you both, once I was Convicted, I was through with the Babylonian System and NEVER will return!
      Amen

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  4. Pingback: Out of the Fire 2: On Leaving Roman Catholicism | pnissila

  5. Cathy says:

    Prissilla
    Hi, I saw your post on ExCatholic Journal. let me acquaint tou with my story. I am a55 year old mother of two girls.The family is ALL RC and my husband is a devout RC Irish heritage, from the North East…need I say more? I never attended Catholic schools but my children did,K- College. My husband was taught in Jesuit schools and he observes all Babylonian Traditions and is VERY active in Mother Church!
    My father was RC and married a “good looking” Prebyterian….and we were all raised RC, and finally, after my fathers premature death of cancer, my mother converted to Catholicism. You can believe how happy the family was…..but now because if my Born Again experience, she is going back to her Prebyterian beliefs…PTL. now, I have someone to talk to about Christ! She bought a KJ Bible and watches many videos fro expreiest Richard Bennett. She has attended a presbyterian church…she is on the right tract!
    I, myself am not so lucky. I have physical limitations because of disease, that will not let me go to a church of my choice….so I worship in Truth and Spirit on my own and get advice from Richard Bennett…I really trust him, along with the Bible! Believe on Christ Jesus Alone for eternal life!
    I will write later about what happened to me 4 years ago…that changed my life!
    Sister in Christ,
    Cathy

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    • pnissila says:

      Hi, Cathy.
      Thanks for contacting me.You have quite a family “mission field” like many of us :). I’m glad you have your Mom to fellowship with. I am very fortunate to have three sisters (out of ten siblings) and several other former Roman Catholic friends to get together with and continue to process out of old beliefs. I hope your other family members come around. We both know how strong a grip that belief system has on people, not to mention the fear factor. Blessings,
      Phyllis
      P.S. I have also listened to and very much appreciated Richard Bennett’s talks.

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      • Cathy says:

        I will contact you later—my husband is coming home from Mass soon! I am sure he thinks all of his sins, from the last week have been forgiven! He thinks their communion is the Source and Summit of Christian Life! Wouldn’t he just love to know that Christ Jesus, himself is our only mediator….and we do not need “a Man” to forgive our sins! Why can’t they see 1Timothy 2:5!!! Heaven forbid the Catholic people from reading scripture….and to know the TRUTH of Gods Word!
        Sister in Christ
        Cathy

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  6. jenny says:

    Phyllis, I didn’t mean to ignore you. Here is a link to a blog post that I just finished writing about what brought me “out of Roman Catholicism.” I have been meaning to write about this for years, ever since I started my blog, but never have. I knew it would be hard to write emotionally and might “offend” family members. It feels good to have it out there! Thanks for the kind request for my story.
    http://www.jennydalley.blogspot.com/2012/07/why-i-am-no-longer-catholic-part-2.html

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    • pnissila says:

      Hi, Jenny,

      I tried to post this right on your blog, but was “told” the “service is unavailable.” I’m not very tech-savvy, so it could have been me.

      Thank you very much for sharing your story. I know exactly how you feel re: family members who are still Catholic. I have a very large extended Catholic family and some are still staunch RC, but something greater and eternal compels me to continue. My family includes my best friends and I want to be able to continue in relationship with them into eternity. The anger or whatever they may experience “down here” because I left RC will have been worth if if in any way I can /will influence more of them to consider faith in Jesus Christ as the ONLY Way, Truth and Life.

      May I have permission to reference your story on my blog? Blessings, Phyllis Nissila

      Like

      • jenny says:

        Sure you can share/reference. There was something touching about Bob’s friend, a former Catholic, joining us at church this past weekend. I would love for still-professing Catholics to hear the truth and former Catholics to know they are not alone. 🙂

        Like

      • pnissila says:

        I’ll second that! And thank you.

        Like

  7. jenny says:

    I could relate to your comment on SolaSisters as I was also raised in the Catholic faith, so I had to come see your blog. This post, in particular. You made me cry. 🙂 I became a Christian in the summer of 2001, sometime between my brother-in-law’s death (the first week of June) and 9/11. One event that really stood out to me that summer was when I went to Mass with my mom. We tried the new church in town. It was/is beautiful on the outside. After church we sat in the parking lot in mom’s car and we agreed that it wasn’t the church for us. She meant she liked our downtown Catholic church better. I meant Catholicism. I remember telling her, “Mom, I don’t think I’m a Catholic anymore.” Unfortunately she still is. So is my dad and both sisters, even though they have attended Mass possibly 5 times in so many years.
    Thank you for this post. I’m looking forward to reading more.

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    • pnissila says:

      Hi, Jenny!
      I’ll be praying for your family, too. I have 10 brothers and sisters and there are still a few resistant ones although they are a wonderful bunch of people. I plan on posting more on Roman Catholicism, as there is such interest in it now, it seems. Of course, that’s probably because of the Ecumenical “push” by the Vatican. At any rate, God bless you and yours!
      Phyllis

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    • pnissila says:

      Jenny,
      Another quick follow-up to your response: I am curious as to what, exactly, brought you to such a different decision? What brought you “out of Roman Catholicism?” Was it a Scripture, a realization? Did somebody witness to you? I believe your story will also inspire and encourage others, should you be willing to share it.
      Blessings,
      Phyllis

      Like

  8. Carl Gordon says:

    Thank you for your story. Thank you for the footnotes. Thank you for making it clear Who Jesus is! 🙂

    Like

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