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Remaining in the Catholic Church

Question: If a person is in the Catholic Church and has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and yet refuses to leave the Catholic Church with its false teachings, is it because God has not yet opened his eyes or is it because he is being stubborn?

Answer: There is no simple answer to your question. Someone who has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour should leave the Roman Church because it teaches a false gospel. A genuine Christian should join a Bible-believing church to worship God with his brethren and for mutual edification.

Yet some who claim to have received Christ as Lord and Saviour remain active members of the Roman Catholic Church. There may be several reasons. The first one that comes to mind is this: Not everyone who claims to have received Christ actually did so. They remain in the Roman Catholic Church because it is still very much their home despite the many unbiblical doctrines and practices.

Yet others may be truly saved and yet remain for a time in the Catholic Church. Some do so for lack of knowledge. Later on they see the inconsistencies and contradictions between the teaching of the Bible and the Catholic Church and are forced by their conscience to leave. For instance, how can a Christian who believes that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, remain in a church that teaches there is a purgatory where a person is cleansed from sin by his personal suffering?

Others are simply stubborn, as you say. They are stubborn because of some ulterior motive. Perhaps they don't want to be persecuted or because they fear social and family pressures. This is really worrying, for Christ warned us that "whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38). They have every reason to doubt whether they are truly saved or not.

Another person asked...

Question:  Billy Graham does not tell Catholics who have accepted Jesus as personal Saviour to leave the Catholic Church. I am a Catholic who accepted Jesus as personal Saviour. I do not believe that baptism results in salvation. I still consider itís OK to baptize infants. I do not pray to the Virgin Mary or the Saints. I do not believe in purgatory. I do not believe that the pope is infallible. I do not believe that the Mass is a sacrifice. I do not believe in transubstantiation. I consider The Holy Eucharist to be a memorial of the sacrifice of Christ. I do not go to confession. I confess the sins directly to Jesus. There are Catholic priests who preach about accepting Jesus as personal Saviour.

Answer: I find it difficult to understand your stand. How can you remain a member of a church if you do not agree or submit to its doctrines and discipline? Billy Graham is not infallible (and he does not claim to be!) and therefore you should check out whether his advice on this matter is right or wrong. Please consider the following three points:

1. You are accursed by the Roman Catholic Church because you deny some of its main doctrines. The following are some of the curses lumped on your head ("anathema sit" means "let him be accursed"):

  • Baptism: "If anyone says that the Roman Church...does not have the true doctrine concerning the sacrament of baptism, anathema sit...If anyone says that baptism is ...not necessary for salvation, anathema sit (Council of Trent, Session 7).

  • Purgatory: If any one says, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened to him; let him be anathema (Council of Trent, Session 6).

  • Papal infallibility: The Roman Pontiff... possesses...that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals. Therefore, such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the Church, irreformable. So then, should anyone, which God forbid, have the temerity to reject this definition of ours: let him be anathema (First Vatican Council).

  • Transubstantiation: If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained, but says that he is in it only in a sign or figure...anathema sit (Council ofTrent, Session 12).

  • Sacrifice of the Mass: If anyone says that the sacrifice of the Mass is merely an offering of praise and thanksgiving, or that it is a simple commemoration of the sacrifice accomplished on the cross, but not a propitiatory sacrifice...offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfaction and other necessities, anathema sit (Council of Trent, Session 12).

  • Confession: If anyone denies that the sacramental confession was instituted, and is necessary for salvation, by divine Law; or says that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always observed from the beginning and still observes, is at variance with the institution and command of Christ and is a human invention, anathema sit (Council of Trent, Session 14).

2. The Roman Catholic demands your mental submission to the teaching of the magisterium, whether you believe it or not.

  • While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their authentic Magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act. Christ's faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine (Canon Law, 752).

  • While not infallible in their teaching, [Catholic bishops] are the authentic instructors and teachers of the faith for Christ's faithful entrusted to their care. The faithful are bound to adhere, with a religious submission of mind, to this authentic Magisterium of their Bishops (Canon Law, 753). 

3. As a Christian, you are called to walk according to the truth. If, by the grace of God, you know the truth of the Gospel and you are now trusting in Christ, your Lord and Saviour, it is only natural that you should turn away from every falsehood and embrace the doctrines of Christ. How can you remain in fellowship with a church that upholds so many doctrines that you know to be false? Why don't you seek and join a local Christian community where the Gospel is faithfully preached and obeyed?

Please ask yourself: Can I remain a member of a church that curses me? Can I consider myself a faithful Catholic since I disregard and disobey the magisterium's claim of supreme teaching authority? Can I conscientiously follow Him who is the Truth while living a lie?

© Dr Joseph Mizzi