Two weeks ago, on the May 15, 2013 post entitled, Jesus and Syncretism, I stated that there are several of you Christians who believe that the mainstream Christian Church has wrongly added “pagan” customs and practices (incompatible syncretism) to the Christian faith. I concluded that I believe the Christian Church, for the most part, is NOT pagan.
Well, what I wrote in that post stirred up my memories of being in the Roman Catholic Church and why I later left it. Here are my thoughts about it.
My Early Childhood
My parents were very devout Catholics. And being a little concerned about me growing up in New York City and wanting me to grow up Catholic, they enrolled me into a parochial school. I did well there, but what I saw and experienced within the church and school buildings during those years, as I now look back, appear to be practices that God may not approve belonging in His Church. Questions still linger about what I saw. As I described in the earlier post, is there incompatible syncretism – a mix of unChristian practices with Christian doctrines – especially within the Roman Catholic Church of today? Is the Roman Catholic Church guilty of adding ungodly, “pagan” customs into its worship?
In that school, I remember studying catechism (a summary of Catholic doctrines in question and answer form) and being told that if I missed going to a Sunday Mass, the Catholic Church service, for no good reason, it would constitute me committing a mortal sin – a very serious sin punishable by hell if not confessed and repented. Is not this incompatible syncretism?
I especially remember the humungous statue of the Virgin Mary shown dressed in blue and white along with other large statues of other saints along the walls of the church walls.
I saw the candles the faithful would light up in front of these images after they deposited money into a slotted tin box in front of them. Was not this the worship of idols or images within the church building?
Are not Christians to pray to God and Jesus Christ only? Why pray to a St. Jude? Is not Christ our mediator between us and the Father? Why are there more “Hail Marys” prayed to the Virgin Mary than “Our Fathers” whenever the rosary is prayed?
My family moved out of the city during my pre-teen years. Soon I found myself being an altar boy at the St. Rose Catholic Church in Meriden, CT.
As an altar boy, during Sunday Mass, I remember genuflecting constantly alongside the priest before an altar. I remember ringing a bell whenever he raised the chalice or cup containing wine above his head toward God. As I look back, this does look like incompatible syncretism.
And the uniforms that the clergy and altar boys wore (and wear today), where did that tradition come from? Is all of this incompatible syncretism? Does all of this sit well with God?
Both my parents were behind me and close to the parishioners and clergy of this church. I have nothing but wonderful memories of being a Catholic in my youth. But, however, I definitely saw evidence of syncretism that may be incompatible worship to God. To me, the evidence still exists.
I Leave the Catholic Church
At the age of 20, I left the Roman Catholic faith. It was not because of any improprieties or misbehavior from any church official. I never once witnessed or experienced any of the allegations of scandals you hear about the Roman Catholic Church today. No, it was all because of doctrine! What happened? Another religious organization caught my attention. Using literature and media such as booklets, magazines and radio broadcasts, this other church overwhelmingly influenced me to believe I was in the “wrong” church. This other church (not the Jehovah’s Witnesses, by the way), led me to believe the Roman Catholic Church I was attending was pagan. Because of this other church’s teaching, I stopped attending Catholic Mass on Sundays. I stopped observing holidays such as Christmas and Easter with my family. Because of this other church, it dawned on me that I never really knew the Bible. Whether that was planned by God to happen in my life or not is another factor I have considered.
Anyway, I left the Church because I perceived the Roman Church being steeped in paganism. I saw a church heavily following a lot of little-known-to-me traditions from her early theologians, the Church Fathers, and other traditions based on several so-called ecumenical councils. I noticed the Bible seemingly being less valued by the Roman Church.
And I was led to believe the Roman Catholic Church was a copy of the Roman Empire and that the office of the pope was equivalent to that of a Caesar.
My parents, because I was older then, respected my decision to leave the church. But I could tell they were hurt and disappointed inside. They wondered where they went wrong in bringing me up in the Catholic faith. One time I will never forget is when I overheard them talking to each other. My mom asked my dad,”Do you think maybe what he learned from this other church is true?” My dad quickly responded, “Of course not!”
My grandparents were incredulous when they learned I had left Catholicism. My grandfather asked me point blank, “How could you leave THE CHURCH which began with Christ and the apostle Peter?!”
You may be asking, what is my point? Why am I reflecting on all this?
Well, today, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is NOT a “pagan” church. It is still a Christian Church – a large and very visual one.
But here is the crux of the matter, it was so easy for me to leave the Roman Catholic Church! Too easy to change my beliefs!
By the way, this other church that I mentioned and became a member, no longer teaches what she taught me and has repented of her views – very much to her credit. I may write about her in future posts. I am thinking about it.
Today, however, I am asking the following questions: How does God view the Catholic Church? Does He listen to prayers directed to Him by the Catholic Church parishioners who sincerely want to seek Him and be forgiven of their sins? Are these parishioners hypocritical? Are they pagan? Are they going to hell?
I have stopped judging the Catholic Church as pagan. I now see the Roman Catholic Church as God’s church needing some reform. I will let God be the judge of the hearts of Roman Catholics – especially of their leaders. I will not label this church as “The Great Harlot” or “The Babylonian Mystery Religion” as some of you Christians do. How do those who believe that the Roman Catholic Church is an “abomination” to God know that for certain? Who made us the judge of where other Christian churches stand before Him?
Stay with me here. When Christ walked on this earth in Judea, Samaria and Galilee, He always was dealing with the church of His day. Was not the high priest in Jerusalem a believer in God? Were not he (the high priest) and the Sadducees and Pharisees zealous for God? They were not worshiping other gods. They did not want syncretism – a blending of new beliefs into their religion. Christ did not see them as followers of God but as sinful hypocrites. It was the outward appearance of holiness that Christ was vehemently against – not so much their church. Did not Christ tell the people under them, “Do as they say not as they do”? (Matthew 23:3)
How About The Virgin Mary?
When it comes to Mary, I do not agree she remained single and a virgin after Jesus was born. Other than that, I have done far too little research here at the present time regarding Mary and paganism. There is a lot for me to study as of yet. I am now sure that the Fathers of the Church were perfectly aware of the pagan practices going on all around them. They did not reuse statues of other goddesses such as Venus, Athena, Hel, Eostre, Isis, Diana, Hera, and others and paste Mary’s face on them. Instead, I believe, they constantly and continually looked, not to paganism, but to the Old Testament and to Jewish and Christian tradition as they contemplated Mary. I now see the Catholic Church having greatly look at the Old Testament rather than on paganism.
This can be seen from the garments of the priests. Could the Roman Catholic Church have viewed the garments worn by the priesthood and high priests of the Bible’s Old Testament and developed her version of priestly wear? I am not a scholar of Catholicism and her history, but I believe they did. Even so, being ignorant of much of Catholicism, why should I therefore condemn anything that church believes and be totally wrong about it?
Yes, there are other doctrines and traditions I do not agree about within the Roman Church, but I disagree with some of the Protestant and other church doctrines as well. But if you and they believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you and they are still Christian with me.
Why do some Christian organizations proselytize other Christian church members who believe differently than them? I believe it is because it is easy – too easy – for Christians to draw away other Christians from other sheep folds into their own pens than it is to attract non-believers, agnostics and atheists. The work of the church is to seek the lost – not the found. Many of you Christians understand what I am saying here.
I have more to say about this and other thoughts that I need to organize and present to you – God-willing – over the next few weeks.