Sunday, 31 May 2015


Why I Am No Longer a Roman Catholic
I was brought up Roman Catholic, taught that missing Sunday Mass was a mortal sin, except when you were sick. (A mortal sin: you would burn in hell, for eternity, unless you confessed it, and were absolved.)
How could I have believed that?
It’s taken me years to learn not to accept other people’s theology, but to question everything, including other people’s interpretations of Scripture. (As I’ve blogged in Inerrancy and Me, I’ve been to Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Charismatic, Anglican and non-denomination churches. They have all believed in inerrancy, and all taught different things.)
The first time I skipped Church, to study for an exam, I was 21. And—incredibly–I wondered if I would go to hell if I died before I went to confession. (The whole system–missing Mass is mortal sin; forgiveness only through confession–of course, bolsters the power and authority of the priesthood. But I didn’t see that then.)
And then, after skipping Mass again, I realized that given that I was so often excruciatingly bored by the ancient words of the liturgy that I knew by heart, it was extremely unlikely that God would send me to hell for missing Sunday Mass.
Or that he would forgive me upon the say-so of a priest, when I wasn’t truly sorry.  Or would not forgive me without formal confession, if I were sorry.
Scripture did not say that missing Sunday Mass was a mortal sin, and being a Catholic Charismatic had me reading Scripture.
And so I didn’t go the next Sunday, or the next… In fact, because of memories of almost unbearable boredom during 21 years of Catholic Masses, I simply cannot force myself to go now even when I visit parents, in-laws, Catholic relatives or friends. How anti-social!
A slippery slope. I began questioning other things.
An aspect of my family’s faith which annoyed me was their large donations for masses to be said for dead relatives to spring them from purgatory. My mother still pays for masses for my little family, so let me not totally discount any spiritual blessing from this, because we have certainly been blessed.
I thought of Sister Josephine in school, who told me that she loved me best of all the students she’d taught over 40 years, and would use her discretionary “pocket money” to buy masses to be said for me in perpetuity in Rome. I would look at the Mass cards dubiously, and wish she had bought herself (or me!) chocolate instead.
But she would be delighted with the woman I now am, the life I now live, and my durable faith, so perhaps her intention of buying prayer for me was honoured by God—or perhaps there are still priests in Rome praying for me. Perhaps.
The shawl of faith kept unravelling.
Come on, did the words spoken by a priest change the host to the very Body and Blood of Christ? If it did, if I were indeed ingesting GOD, wouldn’t I be radically changed?
But after Mass, I, and everyone else at boarding school, was as bitchy as before. I mentioned that to Sister Josephine, and she replied, “But how do you know what you would have been if you had not received Holy Communion?” And that indeed, who knows.
Nah, didn’t believe in transubstantiation any more. We do it in memory of him, that’s all.

Gotterdamerung. The Twilight or Destruction of False Gods. It’s very sad, very stressful, very painful—and very liberating!
And what was all this praying to saints? Wasn’t Jesus, God himself, who died to atone for our sins enough? Who could have enough devotion to pray to Therese, Anthony, and Jude in addition? And why, why, why pray to this crowded communion when you can go up the waterfall, through the veil, to the presence of the Most Holy God himself?
Didn’t Jesus say we shouldn’t be like the pagans who think they will be heard for their many words? Instead how I suffered through the gabble, the noise of the Catholicism I was brought up in, the Novenas, the Litanies, the Rosaries, the Masses
And all the extra-Biblical dogmas men with too much time on their hands have conjured up—Papal Infallibility, the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, these
“infallible dogmas” were mere invented ideas, conceits.
Oh, let me not get started!! Especially on the sentimental, ubiquitous, extra-Scriptura reverence for Mary.
Where is all this in Scripture, I used to ask? an anguished, roaring bull–knowing little of Luther, little knowing he asked the same questions 500 years ago!!
So what is coming from Catholicism to Mere Christianity like?
Imagine the Lord Jesus sitting by a quiet, still mountain spring. He is surrounded by the turmoil of the money changers and those selling doves. By apparitions of the virgin, dogmas, novenas, litanies, rosaries. A terracotta army of saints. A noisy crowd of witnesses. You cannot see him or hear him clearly. That was Catholicism for me.
And how grateful I am to the tormented Martin Luther for pointing out that a man is saved by Jesus alone, without all this paraphernalia.
We can come back to the heart of worship, which is all about Jesus.
And we must make sure we ignore the moneychangers and those selling doves in Protestantism too, steer clear of the noise of too many festivals, conferences, books, celebrities, big name speakers, big egos, all flogging their course, book, blog, their way to the Way. Their Latest Greatest Shortcut to Heaven.

But you, Man of God, flee all this, and come back to the Jesus you’ll encounter in the Gospels, those simple sparse first century narratives. Come back to the heart of worship.


  1. What an interesting piece of writing. Most will know me a former Roman Catholic Priest. Now married i consider myself as being "recycled" within Church of England. To me there is no such thing as "roman" catholic, presbyterian or any other make of church in essence. One is either Christian or one is not. One is either true to Christ or one is not. By their fruits will you know them. As for transubstantiation. This is not an exercise in molecular science. I have seen wafer hosts, baps, pitta bread used for communion. The question is if the dynamic of eucharist is alive in the community that celebrates. As for benediction and adoration. If it brings people closer to Christ go for it. nothing ventured nothing gained. The R C church has made manymistakes but has many treasures. It is important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater

  2. Thanks. If you could link back to the post, it would be good :-)

  3. Thanks Anita Not being 100% technical please can you help with this. I'm sure Pat would pass you my email details if that helps

  4. Hi, Oh just to hyperlink it to the original post
    But if it's too hard, don't worry. I am glad you liked it :-)
    I was a novice at Mother Teresa's convent in my late teens!

  5. I met Mother Teresa in Rome Once sort of. I said honour to meet you--she didnt sound very impressed.......

  6. Hi Anita.
    I can identify with much of what you write abot the rigmarole of catholicsm and its clerical man made self serving pointlessness.
    On beginning to travel that path of awareness in the 1960's, I began to question, doubt, and then tentatively reject the then accepted Irish catholic beliefs system.
    That started in my third year in a major Irish seminary. I left in my sixth before ordination, very unsure, but knowing that to continue was certainly wrong.
    Like many paths, there were twists and turns and false summits.
    Now, 50 years later and in my 70's. I am a convinced humanist. I acknowledge, and live by the essential human values similar to the central tenents of christianity, often referred to as the Golden Rule. (Do to others as you would wish to be done by)
    I think that Christ was a charismatic, gifted, compassionate and spiritual man: no more, no less. The then Jewish nation sought and expected a saviour, and while some still await, that branch becoming known as christians, promoted Christ to a central god like status, and subsequenty manufactured numerous rules, statutes, beliefs and regulations, all of which became codified and maintained by professional regulators, otherwise known as the RC clerical hierarchy. Most of it is in their self serving interests as opposed to the the wellbeing and spiritual needs of the common people.
    So I now reject the whole paraphernlia of all organised religion, especially the RC church. I'm certain that its alleged "benefits" (quite apart from any objective quantifiable analysis), are far outweighed by its gross waste of vital human energy and resources.

  7. HI MMM Good to see you are still out there. Religions go off track when the rules become more important than the God & People they are meant to serve. Now part of Church of England there are still rules and regs. To some part I go with the flow for the greater good and the vibrant (not massive) parish of which I am part

  8. I've just been discussing with a friend the absence of any critical comments on Anita Mathias's splendid critique of the RC church, or indeed my own further comment rejecting all religion.
    We've wondered at the silence of all those previously vociferous critical commentators, probably, we thought, from disgruntled RC clerics.
    He summed up his thoughts by saying, "Maybe they've wised up, given up, and realising they can't 'put-up', they've finally shut up!"
    Any views on that?

  9. Sean Page & MMM ! Get a room you 2 ffs! :)

    1. Hit a raw nerve, have I? How revealing it is to have such a constructive contribution to the discussion.
      But anyway I'm happy to be recognised as "ffs".

      ..........."Free From Subservience", the RC totalitarian mindset.
      ..........."Far from Silent"........ out of misplaced obedience to an outdated antiquated coercive religion dominated by a small minded out of an touch clerical hierarchy with no legitimacy spiritually, theologically or rationally.
      ........Oh, I mustn't forget: ....."For Free Speech"

  10. Quite a mixed up theology to be honest. Anyone who knows much about Luther knows he scratced on the table 'hoc est enim corpus' at the thought of the calvinists suggesting that the Eucharistic celebration was mere commemoration. He truly believed in real, substantial presence - just not transubstantion. Furthermore, anyone who knows Luther, knows he had a deep veneration for the mother of Christ. Yes, Christ alone saves and needs no intercession to save us. But a communion of praying saints (the redeemed by Christ) on earth and in heaven, is quite different and Luther embraced it. So, inerrant theology versus pick and mix, which suits me and blurring bits to make it up as I go along. Makes me think of 1 Cor 13 - and Paul's advice that we dont know anything fully now. The same Paul who writes to Timothy that 'the church is the pillar and foundation of truth', after all it is 'body of Christ' to the same Paul. Anywya, just some musings. I dislike generalised, blurred articles that make it all sound so simple - and this was one example of that.

  11. It was a personal piece "Why I Am No Longer a Roman Catholic," not really an attacking on Roman Catholicism, or defence of mere Christianity. But anyway, thanks for reading :-)