In the past 40 years, unlike anytime dating back to the 16th century, legions of folks who were raised Roman Catholic have decided to become Biblical/Evangelical Christians. This does not mean these Christians never become Catholic but the volume of those leaving Catholicism for Biblical/Evangelical Christianity has been to such an extent that many Evangelical Churches are comprised of up to 40% members who were raised in the Roman Catholic Church [RCC]. There are many reasons for this and those reasons range from disillusionment to a quest for spiritual growth. There are those who have had bad experiences in the Church to those who began to read the Bible and discovered variances between the Biblical text and what they were taught. Undoubtedly the sexual scandals [and associated failed cover-ups, lawsuits and admissions of guilt] affecting the credibility of the priesthood alienated many Catholics. According to a 2004 research study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 4,392 priests committed acts of molestation against 10,667 victims between 1950 and 2002. 81% of those victims were male and over 50% of those acts were committed against children 11-14 years old. The Associated Press estimated the settlements of sex abuse cases from 1950 to 2007 totaled more than $2 billion. Bishop Accountability puts the figure at more than $3 billion in 2012.
One of the issues many former Catholics bring up relates to questions about Catholic doctrine. For the most part people who accept Catholic doctrine as they were taught remain Catholic. Others investigate for themselves and remain convinced that they have been taught the complete truth by the Roman Catholic Church. Certainly those who decided to leave for Evangelical Christianity questioned the doctrinal beliefs they were taught and decided the absolute truth does not reside solely with the Roman Catholic Church.
In order to understand the reason why some former Catholics left the Roman Catholic Church we’ll list several doctrinal Roman Catholic beliefs and the source for these beliefs. For Catholics who are reading this kindly understand the doctrines stated below are NOT optional. If you are Catholic you MUST adhere doctrinally to what is listed below. The Roman Catholic Church requires obedience of its members. Violations are considered sin, as defined by Catholic Canon Law and the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church. After each doctrinal belief is listed we’ll then discuss why some former Catholics have departed Catholicism for Evangelical Christianity.
- The Pope: Jesus gave authority to St. Peter in Matthew 16:18 to be the leader of the Catholic Church and leadership in the Church has been transferred to his successors up to the present time.
Former Catholics: The Book of Acts certainly recognizes Peter as a leader in the Church not the leader of the church. In Acts 2 after he and the Apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, He preached at the Temple and 3000 Jews converted to faith in Jesus. In Acts 4 God works though Peter to heal a lame man. Peter’s preaching at the Temple and response after being arrested and violently beaten by the religious Jewish authorities, displayed real leadership. In Acts 8 the Apostles send Peter and John to Samaria. In Acts 9 and 10 Peter heals a person, raises a woman from the dead in Jesus name and baptizes a Roman and his family. In Acts 12 Peter is saved from certain death by an angel of the Lord. At the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 Peter is recognized as one of the Apostles but not the Bishop of Jerusalem. In Galatians 2 the Apostle Paul claims that Peter [Cephas] acted as a hypocrite after being sent by James who resided in Jerusalem. Peter acknowledged his error. This implies that James had the top leadership position. Later James’ leadership was solidified in Acts 21.
According to Clement, a leader in the church, in his book Outlines VI, James the Righteous was named Bishop of Jerusalem. According to Origen in his book Commentary on Genesis, after Peter and Paul’s martyrdom in Rome Linus was named first Bishop of Rome. In Eusebius, The History of the Church page 107, he lists the 15 Bishops of the Jerusalem Church. Peter is NOT one of them. In the same book page 152 the Bishops of Rome are listed. Peter and Paul are listed as Apostles. Peter is NOT listed as a Bishop of Rome. Leo 1[440-461], referred to himself as Bishop of Rome. Those before him were also considered Bishops of Rome. Gregory 1[590-604] referred to himself as Bishop of Rome, Metropolitan and Patriarch. These were titles accepted throughout Christendom, whereas the title of Pope was viewed by many of the Greek churches as an inappropriate claim of superior authority.
Gregory VII [1021-1025] was the first definitely referred to as Pope. The doctrine of Papal Infallibility [which states that the Pope cannot err when making an ex cathedra pronouncement pertaining to the nature of God, man, and the Church] was not adopted until quite recently — the First Vatican Council of 1870.
Since Roman Catholics state at every Mass “We believe in one holy catholic and Apostolic Church,” how can the Papacy be proven as Apostolic given the evidence as presented in the New Covenant and in the History of the Church? In this light, when Jesus was speaking with Peter it became clear that Peter was to be instrumental in building a church [body of believers] that did not exist at that time. The Lord predicted there would be great opposition in creating the Church, but hell could not prevent it. There is no evidence from Jesus that his words were to be passed to immediate successors. In Eusebius, History of the Church, in addition to Jerusalem and Rome, bishops were also assigned to Alexandria, Antioch, Smyrna, Hierapolis, Sardis, Corinth, Athens and Crete. At the First Council of Nicaea in 325 Rome, Alexandria and Antioch were granted primacy.
For those who believe that not only was Peter the first Pope as well as possessing apostolic authority but that his mantle was passed on to generations of [non-Jewish] pontiffs who had never been in the presence of Jesus during his earthly ministry, consider the following:
According to the THE POPES: Twenty Centuries of History, Pontifical Administration Basilica of St. Paul; THE POPES: Pontiffs through 2000 years of history, Antonio Lopes; THE BAD POPES, Russell Chamberlin. 2003; THE VATICAN HALL OF SHAME by Tony Perrottet and the Washington Post 24 September 2015…
896-897 Pope Stephen VI: Exhumed previous Pope Formosus. Tried him in a church court, mutilated him, reburied him, had the previous pope dug up again and then threw him into the Tiber River.
904-911 Pope Sergius III: Became Pope by murdering Pope Leo V and the Anti-Pope Christopher. He had a son with his teenage mistress Marozia. He also married several women and auctioned off positions in the Vatican.
955-964 Pope John XII: Slept with both of his sisters, willed land to his mistress, murdered several people before being murdered by the husband of one of his lover’s.
1032-1048 Pope Benedict IX: Continually had sex with young boys and eventually sold the Papacy.
1294-1303 Pope Boniface VIII: Had the entire population of Palestrina massacred. A shameless pedophile and had group sex with a married woman and her daughter. He did not consider homosexual sex to be sin.
1342-1352 Pope Clement VI: Had numerous mistresses and eventually developed gonorrhea.
1378-1389 Pope Urban VI: Had cardinals who conspired against him tortured. He became angry when he could not hear them scream during torture.
1471-1484 Pope Sixtus IV: Although this pope funded the construction of the Sistine Chapel unfortunately he also had 6 illegitimate sons one of which he had with his sister. He raised money by charging a high tax on prostitutes and also charged priests who had mistresses. This eventually decreased the incidence of priests having heterosexual relations and inadvertently increased the prevalence of homosexuality among the clerics.
1484-1492 Pope Innocent VIII: Had 8 illegitimate sons. He also started the Inquisition. Towards the end of his life while ill he asked to have a wet nurse so he could suck fresh milk from her breasts.
1492-1503 Pope Alexander VI: Presided over more orgies than Masses. Had 50 dancers strip in his presence then threw chestnuts on the floor and told them to bend over and pick them up. During one orgy he offered prizes and dress clothes to the man who could fornicate with the most women. He enjoyed watching horses copulate. He was murdered by his illegitimate pathological son.
1503-1513 Although Pope Julius II: Commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, he also contracted syphilis from his trysts with male prostitutes. His entire body was eventually covered with syphilitic sores.
1523-1534 Pope Clement VII: So angered France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire with his political pronouncements that they sacked Rome to silence him.
1550-1555 Pope Julius III: Fell in love with his young nephew. When he became 17 years old the Pope appointed him as a cardinal.
The evidence presented indicates that those who were elected or declared themselves to be “Pope” over the first millennium and a half of RCC history were often far from being paragons of God-fearing, Christ-following virtue. Their lives did not bear any of the “fruit of the Spirit” mentioned in the Gospels or epistles, but rather indicated that they were not even Christians, because their hearts were hardened in sin.
- Mary: According to the Catechism part 1, chap 3, art.9, para. 6 she is Mother of Christ, Mother of the Church, Wholly united with her Son, She never died and experienced a bodily assumption into heaven, Our Mother in the order of grace, Advocate, Helper, Benefactress and Mediatrix. She is Ever-Virgin, born without sin and never sinned. She rules with her son, the King of Heaven. Because of all of this she is worthy of special adoration and devotion.
Former Catholics: Upon reading the Bible for the first time what a surprise it was to learn that none of what you just read above is in the Bible. Apart from a few mentions in the Gospel and one in Acts 1:14 she is never mentioned in the New Covenant. In the New Covenant she is the Jewish mother of Jesus, who is blessed among all women for her obedience to God. The focus of the New Covenant is on Jesus, and secondarily on the Apostles who would build his church after his resurrection and assumption. His mother is present, obediently God-fearing, but not in Christ’s inner circle at any time during his earthly ministry. It was not until the Council of Ephesus in 431A.D. that Mary was solidified as Ever-Virgin and the Mother of God. In 650 Feasts honoring Mary initiated. In 1854 – over a millennium and a half after all eye-witnesses to Mary’s life and death passed from the scene — Mary’s Immaculate Conception was announced and nearly a century later, in 1950, her bodily assumption into heaven was proclaimed. Not only did these doctrines not appear in or even correspond to the teaching of anything in the New Covenant or the writings of the early church fathers, they all-but-deify Mary in a manner that violates the concept of the unity of the Godhead and the fundamental distinction between the Creator [Father, Son, and Spirit] and the created [including the Apostles, other disciples of Christ, and Christ’s earthly family, who did not even accept his divinity until after his crucifixion [viz.], Matt 12:46-50, and also the citations from Mark 3 listed below]. In Eusebius’ History of the Early Church [pages 3-36, 58 and 63], he mentions James as the Lord’s brother and specifically “For he too was Joseph’s son”. This same James is credited as the author of the epistle [letter] of James. On page 81 Jude is mentioned as Jesus’ brother and Jude’s grandsons as belonging to the Lord’s family. Does the scripture agree with this church historian?
Matthew 1:18 “It was discovered before THEY CAME TOGETHER she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit”
Matthew 1:25 “but he did not know her intimately UNTIL she gave birth to a son”
Luke 2:7 “Then she gave birth to her FIRSTBORN son” [implying she subsequently had other children]
Mark 3:21”When his FAMILY heard this, they set out to restrain him, because they said, he’s out of his mind.”
Mark 3:31” Then his mother and BROTHERS came…and called him”
Matthew 13:55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother called Mary and his BROTHERS James and Joseph, Simon and Jude? And his SISTERS, aren’t they all with us?
Acts 1:14 “along with the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus and His BROTHERS.
I Cor. 15:7 “Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”
Gal. 1:19 “But I didn’t see any of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.”
James 1:1 “Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James”
James the Lord’s brother is described in Matthew‘s Gospel as one of the brothers and Jude identified himself as James’ brother. James and Jude are half-brothers of Messiah Jesus by blood, and full brothers under the Law because Jesus was legally Joseph’s son in accordance with the Scripture. That is why the Gospels provide both Mary’s lineage back to David AND Joseph’s lineage back to David. BOTH matter to fulfill the Law of Moses and the prophesies in the Tenakh [Old Covenant]
The Scripture justifies the words of Church historian Eusebius. Joseph and Mary were NEVER Catholics. They were first century Jews. According to Matthew, after Jesus’ birth, they had marital relations like other married people do. If Joseph loved Mary but they never had sexual relations, this would not only be unlikely, but it would not constitute a legal or consummated marriage according to Jewish law.
According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary is to be considered favored, and blessed among women, but she is still unquestionably a normal Jewish woman who was blessed and favored because of her humble obedience to her God, the God of her forefathers. The additions that came centuries or in some instances a millennium later are not part of the apostolic Church. Christianity is ALL about Jesus. Mary is significant like the Apostles – but she and they are only mortal human beings, called by and obedient to God. Our relationship is to be with God the Father through God the Son – Jesus Christ – alone. Only Christ bore our sin and He alone is our Savior and King. Not believing any longer what was taught in Catholic school when compared to the Scripture is another reason why some Catholics become Evangelical Christians.
- Salvation: In the Catholic Church this is a life-long process that starts with baptism to remove Original Sin. Catholics are not taught to say they are saved because they are told that they must die in a state of grace. After baptism subsequent sins necessitate reconciliation. The sin is forgiven but the consequences of the deed must be paid. If the sin is venial [minor] various acts of contrition can reduce the consequences. If the sin is mortal [major] some degree of suffering would be required to satisfy the sin debt. In Catholicism the sin can be forgiven but the punishment remains. Since the punishment remains participation in more sacraments, prayer and other good works are required. These create a basis for the offering of indulgences that can be applied to you or someone else. These indulgences are needed to decrease one’s time in purgatory [A hell-like state that one can escape from after hundreds or thousands of years] The belief is these sins increase the suffering of the Lord who is re-sacrificed at every Mass. When one dies and has accumulated the consequences of many venial sins he/she must go to purgatory to be purified before entering heaven. If one dies with an un-confessed mortal sin that person goes to hell regardless of how they have lived their life or who they confessed as Lord.
Forgiveness occurs through the sacrament of Confession with its accompanying penance. This is a prerequisite to receiving Holy Communion [the actual body and blood of Jesus]. Because of this belief most non-Catholics are not welcome at the Lord’s table to take Communion with Catholics.
Confirmation is needed in adolescents to confer the Holy Spirit to the faithful. The Holy Spirit and grace are only imparted through one’s participation in the sacraments.
Holy Orders are necessary when the religious take on the vow of celibacy to serve as priests, monks, and nuns in the church. One must be a priest or conferred deacon to administer the sacraments.
When Catholics marry they enter the sacrament of Matrimony. Catholics who divorce are not welcome at the Lord’s table until they receive an annulment from a Church tribunal. Catholics who marry non-Catholics must agree to raise the children Catholic. The Catholic Church does not recognize marriages when Catholics marry outside of the Catholic Church. Since these marriages are not recognized by the Church these couples are viewed as living in sin.
Anointing of the sick or Last rites are administered prior to death. Receiving this sacrament is seen as necessary to avoid hell. Purgatory may still be necessary to satisfy the punishment that accompanied the sin.
Former Catholics: Many former Catholics were surprised that many of the Sacraments that were mentioned in the Baltimore Catechism were not definitively mentioned by Jesus or the Apostles in the New Covenant. History reveals when many of these concepts officially became Catholic.
310- Some began praying for the dead
375-Adoration of saints introduced
394-The Mass was formally adopted
593- Doctrine of Purgatory was introduced
787-Adoration of images and relics introduced
983-Canonization of dead saints formulated
998-Lent, Advent and abstinence from meat on Fridays became dogma
1003- Feasts for the dead were introduced
1074-Celibacy of the priesthood was asserted
1090-The Rosary became part of Catholic practice
1115-Confession became a Sacrament
1140-Doctrine of seven sacraments formalized
1190-Sale of indulgences initiated
1215-Dogma of transubstantiation adopted by Pope Innocent III
1216-Confessing to a priest became Catholic practice
1226- Adoration of the Host in Mass began
1274-Purgatory declared doctrine of the Second Council of Lyon
1303 The Roman Catholic Church proclaimed the one and only Church where salvation can be found
1415-Declaration that only Priests can say Mass and consume the Communion wine
1439-Purgatory and the seven sacraments officially decreed at the Council of Florence.
1546-Apocrypha officially decreed as part of the Old Testament Canon
1562- Council of Trent rejects Justification by faith alone and upholds salvation by faith and works.
This is what the Bible says about salvation:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 5:24 I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life
John 6:47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life
Acts 10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name
Colossians 2:13 He forgave us all our sins
Hebrews 7:25 Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them
Hebrews 7:27 Jesus was sacrificed for our sins once and for all when he offered himself
Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9 It is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.
1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life
Biblically, eternal salvation is offered to us by God when one believes the Son of God was sacrificed once for our sins and through his shed blood we receive redemption by God’s grace and not by anything we have done. This is how we are justified before a Holy God. Jesus, who came from God and became man, died a horrible death so that whoever believes in what God has done in Jesus Christ is saved.
Sanctification is what occurs after we have been saved. Sanctification displays proof of our salvation it does not contribute to it. This is so because Jesus is the Savior. He does the saving. If we contributed towards our salvation then we would be our own saviors or co-saviors with Christ. But this is not possible because we are wretched sinners. Only a perfect sacrifice could atone for our iniquity. This is why we cannot contribute towards our salvation. Sanctification occurs after we have been saved when we receive the Holy Spirit which works within us to help us become lovers of God and our neighbors. In doing so we embark in what Jesus said was the Great Commission where we become fishers of men. Good deeds or good works do not save or add to our salvation; rather, they are the demonstration of our salvation and an expression of love and gratitude towards God. [Romans 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-10, 4:11-12] The Apostle James’ epistle is often cited as declaring that works or deeds are essential to salvation, but on closer reading, it becomes clear that works are the demonstration of faith, but it is faith that saves.
- Infant Baptism: The Roman Catholic Church teaches that infant baptism is essential to ensure that a young child is assured of salvation if the child were to die before the age of awareness at which time they would begin the process of confession, communion, and confirmation.
Former Catholics: One recognizes that a rite ordained by Jesus and the Apostles as sharing in Jesus death [dunked under the water] and resurrection [raised out of the water] should be entered into with one’s freewill acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as their Savior before the church. As a dedication Infant Baptism seems reasonable, but an infant cannot grasp either the reality of sin or the existence of God. When one looks at the Scripture one sees that Jesus, the Apostles and other believers were baptized when they personally confessed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. There is not one instance of infants or small children being baptized in the entire New Covenant. At least all those in apostolic times could remember their baptism and confession of faith. Not so for nearly 100 % of Catholics. For those born to a Catholic parent, no choice was given and those baptized as infants cannot remember their baptism.
Conclusion: Many Catholics find a personal relationship with Jesus inside or outside the Catholic Church and choose to remain in the Catholic Church to win other Catholics to a personal relationship with Christ. Others choose to remain because they enjoy the traditions and do not choose to change anything about their lives. The fact that they were raised Catholic and choose to remain Catholic is good enough. Yet others remain active in the Catholic Church because they believe that the Biblical doctrine of unity of the church requires them to remain Catholic, and/or love the ritual and traditions, and/or believe that there is genuine God-given power/benefit in the adoration of Mary and the departed saints in heaven, but pursue more Bible-focused personal prayer and study and seek out opportunities for fellowship with Protestants, evangelicals/Baptists, etc.
As for those who decide to change they often want a more Biblically-focused teaching, a more congregational church community where there is not a big gap between priests and parishioners; more emphasis on prayer, fellowship and teaching vs. emphasis on ritual & formula; or in some cases a socio-cultural reason such as rejection of Catholic attitudes about sexuality and the priesthood and/or desire to marry an evangelical/Baptist/Pentecostal Christian.
The questions all professing Christians need to ask themselves is this. Are you growing in your faith where you currently worship? Are you involved in Bible study? Do you really know what the Bible teaches? Do you dread going to Church because you get nothing out of it or do you look forward to going knowing you always get something out of it and are growing in your Christian faith? Do you feel love and are welcomed by church parishioners? Is your church dying or flourishing? Do you and other congregants in your church have a ministry? Has Jesus become the Lord of your life i.e., do you sense God’s leading in your life rather than being a “self-made” person] while worshiping at your church? Do you really worship God during the Mass or just follow the pre-ordained script? Do the sermons challenge you to become more like the Apostles in the Book of Acts? Do the sermons at your church address the sinfulness in your lives and focus on faith and salvation through Jesus alone?
These are many of the questions that former Catholics ask themselves before they decided to look elsewhere. Many of the former Catholics decided their faith was stagnant — if one is losing their faith or just maintaining a spiritual status quo, they are not growing. As for you, pray! Acknowledge that you are imperfect – a sinner – and ask God to forgive all of your sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ [this is true confession and repentance]. Once this happens, the communication channel between you and God is open. Unconfessed sin closes that channel. God wants you to grow as a Christian so pray and ask him where you belong. If you remain where you are and continue to live like the worldly, self-centered and self-indulgent people around you, then you have not asked God or you do not want to change, grow, worship fully and work towards building His kingdom. Do you know how to lead people to faith in Christ? These are some of the questions to ask to help you make the best decision for you. Dear God thank you for the gift of Jesus. Amen