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Exit from Catholicism

The personal testimony of Mike Ramsay

In 1969 I was studying for teaching at De La Salle Roman Catholic Teacher Training College at Hopwood Hall, Middleton, Manchester UK. I was in my third and final year. The college was run by the De La Salle brothers, Vatican II was in progress, and there were welcome winds of change blowing through the institution.

I had been baptised as an infant and had attended Catholic schools throughout my education from convent to grammar school. I had been told that I was a child of God and a member of God’s true church on earth. I had faithfully gone to mass each week, but had begun to question the church’s teaching after meeting a Brethren couple a few years before.

I never read the Bible, but when I realised that my Christian friends were always talking about Christ and reading the Bible I thought I would follow suit. They challenged me frequently about my faith and testified to Christ’s salvation by telling me of their conversion and the fact that salvation was by grace not by works. I never attended their meetings, but they prayed for me and gave me several books to read.

About Jesus

I was becoming weary of the church services. The more I read the Bible the more I discovered that Christ was pre-eminent in the Scriptures, not Peter, Mary or the saints. There was no mention in Paul’s letters about appealing to Mary or the saints for help, no mass, no purgatory, no special clothes, no special buildings, nor any priests. It was all a revelation, but I was still far from God.

I realised that Christianity was about Jesus. I loved His teaching, His clashes with the religious authorities, His wisdom – in fact everything about Him. But I had no peace because at this time I was on a “works trip”, believing I had to earn my salvation. I was very good outwardly, visiting the sick and lonely, and even joining the ‘Samaritans’ – all in an attempt to please God and follow Christ.

My trip down this blind alley ended one night in Nottingham. I was staying at the University. By now I had become very proud and self-righteous. I looked down on most people, and scorned many people behind their backs. But here, in November 1969, I was watching a film in a cinema with some students, wondering what the point of life was.

Heart poured out

Later we headed for a nearby pub and, on leaving, I suddenly found myself crying in the street. I was so embarrassed, but had no idea why. That evening in a small room I poured out my heart to God in desperation. There were no flashing lights, but God suddenly convicted me of my sin – particularly my self-righteousness and pride.

Until then I had thought myself quite a good person, but now I saw myself as someone separated from God by my sin. I was shocked by what He showed me, but following this God mercifully revealed the true meaning of the cross to me. Christ had died as my substitute to bring me peace with God.

As a Roman Catholic I had never really understood why he had died. But now I was forgiven and saved. Oh happy day! In the weeks and months that followed I read the Bible and discovered that I could no longer believe that the Catholic faith was true.

Another gospel

Are Roman Catholics just like Protestants? Over the past 40 years, as church-going has declined in Europe, the differences between the Evangelical church and the Roman Catholic (RC) church have become blurred. The practices of the RC church are viewed by many as “just their peculiarities”. But this isn’t the case at all. RC teaching is another gospel. Though it teaches salvation by grace, it contradicts this with its declaration that we need the sacraments to receive grace.

The Council of Trent, Session VI, Canon 10, states: ‘If any one says that justifying faith is nothing else than trust in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ’s sake; or that it is by that trust alone by which we are justified: Let him be accursed.’

It teaches that only by being in a state of grace are we acceptable to God, which is why Roman Catholics are encouraged to receive the sacraments frequently. The teaching which causes the greatest damage, I believe, is the doctrine which states that we are born again at baptism. Sadly, as we see yet another priest scandal emerging, I am reminded that if it had not been for God’s grace I too would have had no power over sin. As it is, the Scriptures declare: ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you.’ These poor men have been led to believe that they are Christians, yet have no power to overcome sinful temptations. How can anyone support a system which has robbed so many men of their God-given sexuality, marriage and children?

As the years have gone by I have realised how tragic it is that the RC church has overemphasised the importance of other people alongside Christ. Mary is declared to be sinless and a mediator, as too are the thousands of so-called saints. There is no assurance of heaven but only of purgatory. Indeed, the present Pope granted indulgences for any RC visiting Lourdes quite recently.

Catholics need evangelising – ask any evangelist who works in Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal or South America.

Alarming development

Strange as it may seem, in the UK we have an alarming but emerging development. There are prominent Christian leaders today who believe that Catholics are Christians but just need some encouragement to pursue their faith more fervently! Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said (and I would agree with him): ‘There are Christians in the Catholic church in spite of, not because of.’ But this is something different. In recent days most will have read of the worldwide success of the Alpha course introduced by Holy Trinity Brompton, London. In the newspaper they produce there are good stories of folk coming to faith in Christ, yet at the same time there appear some amazingly strange statements. The paper has declared in recent years that the last Pope had ‘done much for world evangelisation’! The paper frequently comments on the fact that many Cardinals endorse the Alpha course, including Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the papal preacher, whose books include statements clearly indicating his belief that we are born again when we are baptised. He is included in the list of participants in the Alpha for Catholics course, recommended and promoted by the Alpha organisation.

Clever ploy

After Roman Catholics have completed the course, they are offered another course which teaches about the mass, the intercession of Mary and the saints, indulgences, etc. However, in Galatians we read that Paul was so very concerned about adding any practices to the gospel that he had to reprimand Peter for siding with the circumcision group in regard to what was necessary for salvation and life practice.

Thinking about Galatians 3:4, it seems that some false brothers had infiltrated the ranks to spy out the freedom believers have in Christ to make them slaves. Paul says that he did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truths of the gospel might remain with them. ‘As for those who seemed to be important, whatever they were makes no difference to me ... When Peter came to Antioch I opposed him to his face because he was clearly in the wrong.’ Paul was angry that there were those who insisted on adding other practices to the simple message of grace alone. And so should we be!

I am greatly surprised that some well-known leaders see no wrong in advertising Roman Catholic evangelisation courses such as those that appeared in the Philo Trust magazine some months ago or encouraging Catholic clergy to write magazine articles as did the Bible Society last year. Though I would probably be labelled by some a “Reformed Charismatic”, I believe the Bible to be vital for doctrine and practice. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is discernment of spirits. What a clever ploy of the enemy to stop Roman Catholics from being evangelised by suggesting to us that RCs don’t need the gospel! Catholics need to be told that they need to be born from above, and receive a ‘righteousness from heaven’.

Mike Ramsay is a former Roman Catholic who is now part of the leadership team in the UK. This article was recently published in the monthly newspaper, Evangelicals Now, and is reprinted here with permission of the author.