Thursday, January 19, 2012

Have you left Rome? And if so, why?

I have already admitted that I am uncertain about papal infallibility; thus I also entertain doubts about the exact nature of the Magisterium. These are not hills I will die upon.

When I left the Roman Catholic Church, I did so because of a crisis of faith that seemed to me at the time similar to what Philip has been talking about: that he is not comfortable with some aspects of Roman Catholic teaching. It seemed to me at the time, and does so now, that it was not proper to continue to be Roman Catholic while doubting some of its core doctrines.

What follows is a selection from my “resignation letter” to the priest at our church at the time. At one point I cited a paragraph from Richard John Neuhaus, from his chapter in the book by the title “Evangelicals and Catholics Together”, and which shortly followed the release of that initial document. Neuhaus said:

The fathers of the council understood themselves to be saying what was said much earlier by James….They also thought that the sola fide formula promoted in the Reformation era was, among other things, a denial of human moral agency, a rejection of the role of the God-given capacities of reason and will in coming to faith, a repudiation of sanctifying grace, and an invitation to antinomianism.

Did the council fathers at Trent misunderstand what the Reformers meant by sola fide?  Most scholars, whether Catholic or Protestant, agree that they did not understand the Reformers, especially Luther and Calvin, adequately.  And there is slight disagreement, perhaps no disagreement that the Reformers, especially Luther, could have expressed themselves more clearly, carefully, and consistently.

Then I responded to Neuhaus’s quote with the following:

Keep in mind here what Luther and Calvin were doing: they were endeavoring to call the church to reform itself.  It is unfortunate that these individuals could not articulate their views to the satisfaction of an “infallible” church.  But it is inexcusable, I would think, to have an “infallible” Church pronouncing anathemas on something it doesn’t fully understand.  Again, is it ignorance or arrogance?

Eventually, whether you believe the Catholics or the Protestants, the question comes down to a question of authority: Sola Scriptura, vs. the Church’s Teaching.  [While the church would say that Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium form one “Deposit of Faith,” it could also be said that in practice, this is a misnomer, because ultimately, the Church’s teaching authority always takes precedent over the other two, and you end up having what he calls sola ecclesia.]

The bottom line is that I could not accept “the entire deposit of faith.”  And rather than tell the kids, “you’ve just sort of wink and nod at some Church teachings—especially the Marian doctrines and the doctrines of infallibility—I decided it would be better to be honest about the whole thing and just leave.

If you’ve left the Roman church, I’d like to ask, why did you do it? We know that lots of people leave Rome for evangelical churches. What was it that prompted you to leave? Please use the comments in this thread to let us know. And if you have any questions of your own, I’ll be happy to answer them here.


  1. I left the RCC years ago. The breaking point was my mother told me, "If you really want something, pray to Mary, not God. Mary is God's mother and a mother can make a child do something he wouldn't want to do." In her defense, my mother wasn't very intelligent about her faith. She had a good heart but never questioned or even examined what she was told or taught.
    For myself, that statement was so unfathomable, considering that Mary submitted to the Announcement, That I think my brain vapor-locked.
    Since that time, I have grown (I hope) and I do not fault my mother for what she said but I cannot support the worship of and prayer to saints. The issue of having something other than God is disturbing to me. I do not fault those who do pray to saints but the teaching of the doctrine is anathema to me.
    I understand that it stems from the policy of Patronage that existed in Rome (and other ancient cultures) before the RCC was ever in existence. I understand that Rome co-opted other things such as event dates (For Christmas and Easter as two examples) and why they were taken over. But the institution is man-made and subject to men's faults. And I will not support doctrine such as Mary being a co-redemptrix.
    I have attended mass at various times and I have heard good things. I've also had to get up and leave during the sermon because of anger at the message. To date, I've not attended church on a consistent basis because I find the same errors/attitudes elsewhere.

  2. Hi JT, thanks for your comment. I've run into people who said things similar to what your mother said.

    You are right about the institution being man-made. I think that is what the biggest aspect of all this is: the Roman church insists on "divine institution" for itself, whereas history is enabling us to see how it all actually evolved. As more people start paying attention to church history (the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is going to be an important reminder), the claims of Rome will come more sharply into focus as the bankrupt claims that they are.

    Have you looked at any any Reformed churches? It's true that other churches have a lot of problems, but I've gravitated to those of the Reformed faith, because they tend to be more focused on the issues that brought about the Reformation, and more focused on preaching and teaching the Gospel than many others seem to be.

  3. What do you all think these verses reveal about Mary's relationship with her Son? What about her role as intercessor?

    "And Adonijah the son of Haggith came to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon. And she said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably. He said moreover, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And she said, Say on. And he said, Thou knowest that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel set their faces on me, that I should reign: howbeit the kingdom is turned about, and is become my brother's: for it was his from the LORD. And now I ask one petition of thee, deny me not. And she said unto him, Say on. And he said, Speak, I pray thee, unto Solomon the king, (for he will not say thee nay,) that he give me Abishag the Shunammite to wife. And Bathsheba said, Well; I will speak for thee unto the king.

    Bathsheba therefore went unto king Solomon, to speak unto him for Adonijah. And the king rose up to meet her, and bowed himself unto her, and sat down on his throne, and caused a seat to be set for the king's mother; and she sat on his right hand. Then she said, I desire one small petition of thee; I pray thee, say me not nay. And the king said unto her, Ask on, my mother: for I will not say thee nay" (I Kings 2:13-20).

  4. John,

    What does one do if he finds himself in no man's land, doubting certain Roman doctrines and practices, yet equally rejecting particular elements of Protestantism?

    What if he figures: "Sure, perhaps the Church isn't all it claims to be, but its creed appears more apostolic than the creeds of the various Protestant denominations? Anyway, I can't seem to find two Protestants who can agree on anything, so whither wander I? And where will I receive the Body and Blood?"

    You see the dilemma, I hope.

  5. "What do you all think these verses reveal about Mary's relationship with her Son? What about her role as intercessor?"

    I wouldn't really draw a parallel there, but if you do, read the rest of the passage (vv. 22-25). Solomon had Adonijah executed. So much for Bathsheba's intercession.