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Testimonies of Former Catholic Priests

While He was on earth our Lord Jesus Christ spent much of His time showing the priests and leaders of the 'religious establishment' how far they had strayed from God. The outward ceremonies of their faith had got in the way of real religious experience.

Our Lord is still speaking today — calling us away from religious deadness. If we ask Him, He will give us a personal and felt relationship with Himself, as all the writers in these pages say. Let the following former priests tell their story.

Dr. Hegger

Former Brazilian Priest & Seminary Professor

During my childhood I often heard it said that one of the best ways to escape from eternal Hell was to enter a monastery. I decided to follow that advice.

Monastic life is meant to cultivate strong will-power and make one capable of controlling all passions and lusts.

In my monastery various forms of bodily torture were employed to achieve such will-power. We scourged ourselves several times a week, lashing our naked bodies with knotted cords.

Despite the great pain we were told that if we could endure such whippings calmly, we would receive strength to resist every kind of sensual and sexual urge. We were also told that by scourging ourselves we could atone for sins we had already committed and so shorten future punishment in Purgatory.

Round our waists, thighs and arms we wore penitence chains on which were spikes which dug into our flesh. There were also many other kinds of 'bodily chastisement'.

Alongside self-inflicted punishments we had other kinds of humbling exercises designed to extinguish our pride and vanity. In one of these routines a priest had to lie on the floor across a doorway so that other priests would tread on him as they went by. Whenever I did this I felt like a worm upon which people trod, but I thought that God must be very pleased with me for such a voluntary self-humiliation.

The worst humiliation included licking an area of the floor clean with our tongues. Doing this made me feel like an animal, — like a pig wallowing in the mire, or like a dog sniffing around. Sometimes I even felt like an insect creeping in the dust.

But, however I punished and humiliated myself I could not detect any change or improvement in my character or behaviour. I only discovered that my weak and sinful nature was very much alive. For example, when I licked the floor clean with my tongue, it was just then that the strongest feelings of vanity and pride rose up in me. What a wonderful chap you are!' I would think. 'What will-power you must have! You are able to do what others cannot do! You inflict such painful humiliations upon yourself! Wonderful!'

I realised that by these absurd procedures I was only inflating myself with pride.

The monastery is a sublime effort that is doomed to fail. Why? Because the priest or monk takes his sinful nature along with him into the cell.

After seven years as a priest I was promoted to be Professor in Philosophy in a Roman Catholic Seminary in Brazil. However, serious doubts had already begun to develop in me.

At various times I read the Bible and asked myself, 'Is my Church really in accord with this book?' In the Bible it is clearly stated that the only mediator between God and man is Jesus Christ, Who took away the punishment of sin on Calvary's Cross. My Church, however, taught that there were several mediators, especially Mary the 'mediatress of all grace'.

I also began to doubt that God had given to the Pope, infallible authority and power to interpret the Bible, and that it was the duty of every Christian to accept the Pope's view. Could it be right that the Pope had absolute authority to overrule and restate the plain words of the Bible?

With such doubts in my heart I could obviously not remain a priest of the Roman Catholic Church.

For me, the living death of the monastery came to an end. I left the life of semblances and shadows for a world of fascinating reality in which I was free to breathe at last.

I surrendered my office as Professor and left the Roman Catholic Church. I laid aside my priestly cassock, which in tropical Brazil just soaked up the heat, and walked lightly and freely in my shirt sleeves, but deep within I still carried the burden of my guilt.

Outwardly, I was free — but inwardly I was not at rest, for I had lost sight of God completely.

I received much help from an 'Evangelical' church in Rio de Janeiro — a local church where the congregation based their faith only on the teachings of the Bible. The sympathy of the people there helped me very much for they provided me with civilian clothing which I had no money to buy. They also gave me food and

shelter and I shall always be grateful to them.

But most of all the preaching of their minister gripped me. It was completely new to me — to hear such explanations of the Bible. But could I be helped by a non-Catholic preacher?

Certainly, in my seminary training, and as a priest I had heard regularly about the alleged false teachings of such churches, but I had never understood what they taught.

In Rio de Janeiro I heard the minister explain that a man cannot save himself, or deserve entrance into Heaven by any of his own efforts because he is utterly lost and hopeless.

With all this I could heartily agree for I had all too clearly experienced my inability to change myself. In spite of the greatest efforts and every kind of penitence I had not succeeded in becoming a different kind of person.

The preacher went even further and showed that there is only one way to be set free from sin, and that is to be given, by God, a completely free pardon and a new life. He showed how this experience must be obtained directly from Jesus Christ, who gives it freely and unmistakably to all who hand themselves over to Him in complete trust.

At first I found this difficult to believe. It was like a fairy story — too good to be true. I could see the beauty of yielding to Christ. It sounded amazing, wonderful, and yet at the same time it seemed too easy, too cheap.

As a Catholic I believed that salvation was the hardest matter in life;' a matter of struggling and deserving God's favour. But now I began to understand the true teaching of the Bible.

Yes, salvation is indeed the hardest thing in the world and must be deserved by perfect obedience to all the demands of God's law, in other words — perfect sinlessness.

But the amazing fact is that the Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, has fulfilled all these demands for us and on our behalf, if we trust Him.

At last the wonderful break-through came. My soul opened itself wholly to Christ in complete trust. I could see that it was not the Jews who had crucified Christ — I had done it! My sins were taken by Him. A blinding flash of light illuminated the rubbish heap of my former life.

My soul lay like a bombed-out city before me, and I was filled with anguish at seeing the sin which had permeated my whole being. But, over the rubbish heap I realised and knew that Christ had forgiven me and made me a true Christian. I had become a new person.

Jesus spoke of the relationship between Himself and true Christians in these words, 'I know mine and they know me'. I had begun a new life knowing all the feeling of close fellowship with God which I had never known all my days as a Catholic priest. The dead legalism of the Church of Rome was behind, and the future was a living personal relationship with our wonderful God.

Jean Brepsant

Former Catholic Priest for more than 30 years in France and London

What I am about to relate happened many years ago and can now be safely told. I was in the train between Paris and Lyon. Opposite me sat an officer of the French armed forces in Indo-China.

Worry and sorrow was written all over his