Testimony of Richard, former Catholic priest. From Tradition to Truth by Richard Peter Bennett
It was difficult for me, as a Roman Catholic, to abandon the ecclesial tradition.
this blog is not against Catholics, nor against any denomination. The blog is also not for ecumenism.
This blog works for the spiritual growth of Christians in sound doctrine. Eternal salvation is not a game. We are convinced that every man should spend at least two hours a day reading the Scriptures, Christian literature, praying and working for the salvation of his soul. After all, God will call us at his own time. What time is it again? We are passengers on earth and must think about the essentials.
This testimony will surely help Catholics and those who have left Catholicism and strengthen their convictions in the Word of God. The Church itself does not save anyone. It was Jesus Christ who gave himself a ransom for the salvation of humanity. The reader will therefore understand that Richard did not abandon Catholicism from the first day he began to understand the significance of the Sacred Scriptures on faith. He had committed himself to God for the Catholic Church and it was after more than 25 years of struggle and research that he finally decided to submit to Jesus Christ alone. Towards the end, you understand that whoever leaves Catholicism needs inner healing. Very often, when we understand the truth, we resent priests, catechists, bishops and the whole system for keeping us captive in traditions that are not biblical. We mourn the lost years and we feel as very heavy the burden of catching up with the years of confusion. Be at peace, the one who died for you will make everything contribute to your good. Who knows if it will lead you, as in Richard's case, to deliver a multitude through your experience of discovering the truth?
We would like to thank Brother Richard for his testimony. God bless him. Bless you too and grant you the discernment of the speech here presented. You have a price in the eyes of God. Love of Christ.
Childhood and family and social influences. Born in Ireland to a family of eight children, I had a happy and happy youth. My father was a Colonel in the Irish Army; I was almost nine years old when he retired. As a family, we loved to play, sing and do theatre, all as part of the Dublin military camp. We were a typical Irish Catholic family. My father sometimes knelt solemnly at the bedside. My mother spoke to Jesus while sewing, washing dishes or even smoking his cigarette. Almost every night, we knelt in the living room to recite the rosary together. It would never have occurred to us to miss Mass, even in case of serious illness. So as soon as I was five or six years old, Jesus Christ became for me someone quite real, like Mary and all the saints. I therefore understand all those who come from the traditionally Catholic European countries, Latin America, or the Philippines, and who put Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the other saints in the same bag.
The indoctrination of the Jesuit school.
I was taught catechism at the Jesuit school in Belvedere, where I attended school in elementary and secondary school. Like any boy raised among the Jesuits, I was able from the age of ten to recite the five reasons why God exists and that the Pope is the leader of the only true Church. Getting souls out of purgatory was also a serious matter. We memorized the following words: "It is a holy and healthy thought to pray for the dead, so that they may be delivered from their sins," even if we did not understand the meaning of those words. We were told that the Pope, as head of the Church, is the most important man in the world: his words have the force of law and the Jesuits are his right-hand man. Even though the Mass was said in Latin, I did my best to go there every day, as I was so attracted by the mysterious atmosphere that surrounded it. We were also told that attending Mass was the safest way to please God. We were encouraged to pray to the saints; there were patron saints for every possible and conceivable circumstance. I hardly invoked them, except for Saint Anthony, patron saint of lost objects, for I tended to lose everything.
Adolescence and missionary appeal.
When I was fourteen, I felt called to become a missionary. This call did not change anything, however, to my way of life at that time. From sixteen to eighteen years old, I lived an extremely pleasant time of development, having achieved as much success academically as on the sports fields. At that time, I often had to take my mother to the hospital, where she was undergoing treatment. One day, while waiting for him, I fell during a reading of the following verses of Mark 10:29-30: "Jesus answered: in truth, I tell you, there is no one who has left, because of me and the Gospel, home, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or lands, and who does not receive a hundredfold, at this time, houses, brothers and sisters , mothers, children and land, with persecution and, in the coming century, eternal life." Having no idea of the true message of salvation, I decided that I had actually received a call to be a missionary.
My attempts to deserve my salvation.
I left family and friends in 1956 to join the Order of St Dominic. I then spent eight years learning to be a monk and studying the traditions of the Church, philosophy, the theology of Thomas Aquinas, and some biblical notions from the perspective of the Roman Catholic Church. My personal faith was, in a way, institutionalized and ritualized because of the Dominican religious system. Sanctification, I was told, was achieved by obeying the laws of the Church and the Dominican order. Many times I have spoken with Ambrose Duffy, the student director, about the law as a means of sanctification. I didn't just want to become "holy"; I also wanted to have the assurance of my eternal salvation. I have memorized part of The teaching of Pope Pius XII that says: "The salvation of many depends on the prayers and sacrifices offered by the mystical body of Christ with this intention." The idea of "winning salvation" through suffering and prayer is also the fundamental message of Fatima and Lourdes; so I sought my own salvation and that of others in suffering and prayer.
In our Dominican monastery of Tallaght in Dublin, I was doing painful feats in order to win souls: I took cold showers in the middle of winter and flogged my back with a steel chain. The principal knew what I was doing; his austere life was for me a source of inspiration as much as the Pope's words. With rigor and determination, I studied, prayed, did penance, and tried to respect the Ten Commandments and a host of Dominican rules and traditions. Fast outside, and empty inside.
In 1963, at the age of twenty-five, after being ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, I studied Thomas Aquinas at Angelicum University in Rome. There, I began to experience difficulties: it was the pomp outside, and the emptiness inside. For years, through books and images, I had made a representation of the Holy See and the Holy City. Was it the same city? I was also shocked to see some who came to Angelicum University in the morning and seemed completely uninterested in theology. They read "Time" and "Newsweek" during class. Those who were interested in teaching did so only to obtain a diploma or a situation in the Catholic Church in their country of origin.
One day I went to the Colosseum, to stand at the very place where so many Christians had shed their blood. When I arrived at the Forum, I headed to the arena. I was trying to imagine these men and women who knew Christ so well that rather than deny Him, they gladly consented to be burned alive or devoured by the beasts; but the joy of this experience was tarnished by young thugs who, on my way back to take the bus, called me "smoke" and "garbage". I sensed that they did so not because I had taken a stand for Christ as the first Christians, but because they saw in me the Roman Catholic system. I quickly chased away these thoughts, but the teachings I had received about the present glory of Rome now seemed to me to be vain and illusory.
Shortly thereafter, I spent two hours praying during the night in front of the high altar of the church of San Clemente. I thought back to the call I received in my youth to become a missionary, as well as to the promise of the "one hundredfold" harvest of Mark 10:29-30. I decided not to take my theology degree, which had been my ambition since the beginning of my studies on Thomas Aquinas. I made this important decision after a long prayer, and I was sure it was the right one. The priest who was to direct my thesis did not want to hear anything, and to make things easier for me, he suggested that I pass on to a thesis written by someone else a few years earlier. It would be as if I had written it myself, provided I supported it before a jury. This proposal made me nauseous. I kept my decision, finishing my studies at the University at the ordinary level, without the degree. Soon after, I was ordered to go to the island of Trinidad in the West Indies as a missionary.
Pride, fall, and a new hunger.
I arrived in Trinidad on October 1, 1964. For seven years, I have tasted success as a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, fulfilling all my duties and attracting many people to Mass. In 1972, I bedred in the charismatic Catholic movement. At a prayer meeting in March that year, I thanked the Lord for making me such a good priest and asked Him, if that was His will, to make me more humble. That evening, in an unlikely accident, I had a fracture to the back of the skull and several spinal cord injuries. It was only later that I understood: if I had not come so close to death, I would never have come out of this state of complacency where I was complacent before the accident. The prayers, all done and learned by heart, proved to be perfectly hollow, while in my pain I cried out to God.
The search for God and the understanding of God's salvation. In this suffering that has been holding me for weeks after the accident, I have begun to find some solace in personal prayer. I have stopped saying the breviary, the official source of the prayers of the Roman Catholic clergy, as well as the rosary. I began to use biblical passages to pray. It took me a long time: I didn't know how to find my way into the Bible; the teaching I had received, year after year, led me to distrust her (the Bible) rather than to trust her. My training in philosophy and scholastic theology did not help me any more, so that entering the Bible to find the Lord was a bit like entering a huge dark forest without a map.
When I was appointed to a new parish later that year, I found a Dominican priest who had long been a brother to me. For nearly two years, we worked side by side, seeking God as best we could, in this parish of Pointe-à-Pierre. We read, study, pray and practice what we had learned from the teaching of the Church. We have established communities in several villages. In the sense that it is understood in Roman Catholicism, we have done very well: many people came to Mass and catechism was taught in many schools, including state schools. I, for one, continued to study the Bible, but this had little impact on our work: it simply showed me how little I knew the Lord and His Word.
Christ died in my place.
So it was wrong to try to atone for my own faults, or to add some payment for the price of my sins myself.
Richard Peter Bennett.
The charismatic Catholic movement was developing, and we introduced it to almost all of our villages. Because of this movement, some Canadian Christians came to Trinity to share their faith with us. Their messages have brought me a lot, especially in the field of prayer for healing. Their teaching was mostly experience-oriented, but it was a blessing for me in that it pushed me to place deep trust in the Bible as a source of authority. I began to bring the biblical passages closer to each other, and even to quote chapters and verses! Canadians often quoted Isaiah 53:5: "Through his bruises we have healing." In studying Isaiah 53, I discovered that the biblical remedy for sin lies in death by substitution: Christ died in my place. So it was wrong to try to atone for my own faults, or to add some payment for the price of my sins myself. "If it is by grace, it is no longer through works; otherwise grace is no longer a grace. »
"We were all wandering like sheep, each following his own path; and the Lord made the fault of all of us fall upon him" (Isaiah 53:6). I often sin by irritating myself against other people; sometimes I even got angry. I asked, of course, forgiveness for my sins, but I had not yet understood that I had a sinful nature, that nature that we all inherit from Adam. The truth according to the Scriptures is: "There is not one just, no, not one. (Romans 3:10). And again: "For all have sinned, and do not attain the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). The Catholic Church had taught me that the depravity of human nature had been taken away by the baptism received at my birth. Intellectually, I still believed it, but deep in my heart I knew that my depraved nature had not yet been overcome by Christ. It was at this time that this verse of Philippians 3:10 became the cry of my heart: "My goal is to know Him, and the power of His resurrection." I understood that it is only through His power that one can live as a Christian. I attached this verse to the dashboard of my car and in other places that expressed my raison d'être. In His faithfulness, the Lord responded to this cry.
The discovery of the authenticity of the Bible.
I first discovered that the Bible, the Word of God, has absolute value and is free from error. I had been taught that the Word had only relative value, and that in many areas its truthfulness was questionable. Using Strong's Concordance, I began to study what the Bible says about itself. This has made me understand that it is, on the contrary, perfectly reliable, that it comes from God and that it teaches absolutes. The historical facts she brings back are true; all of God's promises are true, as are the prophecies, and the biblical commandments to live according to righteousness. "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, convincing, righting, educating in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adapted and prepared for all good work. (2Timothy 3:16-17) The Bible, The Word of God, is the source of supreme and absolute authority in all matters concerning faith and the conduct of life. I made this discovery during a visit to Vancouver and Seattle. It was the first time I understood this truth and felt free to talk about it. In front of about four hundred people in a large parish in Vancouver, I proclaimed, Bible in hand, that the Bible, Word of God, is the source of supreme and absolute authority in all matters concerning faith and the conduct of life. Three days later, the Archbishop of Vancouver, James Carney, summoned me to his office and forbade me to preach in his bishop's office. He also told me that my punishment could have been much harsher if a letter of recommendation from my own archbishop had not tempered it. I came back to Trinidad soon after.
The conflict between the Church and the Bible.
When I was still a parish priest in Pointe-à-Pierre, Ambrose Duffy (the man who gave me such a severe training when he was student director) was asked to assist me. It was a turnaround. After some initial difficulties, we ended up becoming good friends. I shared with him what I discovered. He listened and commented with great interest, wanting to know what motivated me. I saw in him a channel of communication with my Dominican brothers and even with the staff of my archdiocese.
He died suddenly of a heart attack, which was a huge sorrow for me. I saw ambrose as the man who could have explained to me and my Dominican brethren the contradiction between the Church and the Bible, as well as the truths with which I struggled so hard. I preached at his funeral, but my despair remained deep.
I continued to pray on Philippians 3:10: "… To know Him, and to know him, as well as the power of His resurrection." But to know Him better, I had to first understand my sinful state. I saw in the Bible (1Timoté 2:5) that if my priestly role as an intermediary corresponded well to Roman Catholic doctrine, it was completely contrary to biblical doctrine. I loved being respected, almost idolized. I justified my sin by saying to myself, "After all, if this is what the greatest Church in the world teaches, who am I to question it?" However, my internal conflict was intensifying. I was beginning to see that it was a sin to worship the Virgin Mary, the saints and the priests. And while I agreed to give up invoking the Virgin and the Saints as mediators, I could not renounce the priesthood, for I had invested all my life in it.
Years of internal conflict.
Mary, the saints and the priesthood were only a tiny part of the immense struggle I faced. Who was the Lord of my life: Jesus Christ and His Word, or the Church of Rome? This last question especially, has raged in me during my last six years as a parish priest in Sangre Grande (1979,1985). The idea that the Roman Catholic Church is the supreme authority on morality and faith had been instilled in me from an early age. Apparently, no one could change anything about that. Not only was Rome the supreme authority, but it was always to be called "our Holy Mother." How could I speak out against her, while dispensing her sacraments, who were to be the guarantor of the fidelity of an entire people?
In 1981, during a spiritual renewal session in a New Orleans parish, I went so far as to renew my consecration in the service of the Roman Catholic Church. Yet when I returned to The Trinity and found myself facing the real problems of existence, I returned to the authority of the Word of God.
Tension grew within me, so that sometimes it was the Roman Church that was for me the absolute authority, and sometimes it was the Bible. My stomach made me suffer during those years; my emotions were a reflection of this conflict. I should have known that two masters cannot be served at once, and that I was obliged, as a Catholic priest, to place the absolute authority of the Word of God lower than the supreme authority of the Church of Rome.
This contradiction is reflected in what I have done with the four statues of the church of Sangre Grande. I have removed and destroyed the statues of St. Francis and St. Martin, as the second commandment of God's law declares in Exodus 20:4: "You will not make a statue of yourself." But when some people refused to abandon the statues of the Sacred Heart and the Virgin Mary, I left them in place because of the higher authority of the Roman Catholic Church, whose law, in Canon 1188, states: "The practice of to show sacred images in the church for the veneration of the faithful must be perpetuated. I did not see that this was an attempt to subjugate the Word of God to that of men.
Christians from the other side of the ocean attended Mass; they saw our holy Christian, holy water, our medals, our statues, our priestly clothes, our rituals, and found that everything was fine! The captivating style of the Catholic Church, its symbols, its music, its aesthetic sense had something fascinating. The scent of incense does not only enchant our olfactory sense: it immerses thought in a deep sense of mystery.
The turning point.
One day, a woman stopped me. She is the only person who has challenged me during my 22 years of priesthood. "You Roman Catholics have the outer form of piety, but you don't have the power to do so," she tells me. These words troubled me for quite a long time, because I loved candles, banners, folk music, guitars and percussion. No priest in Trinidad had liturgical clothing or banners that were more gleaming than mine. It was obvious: I did not practice the verses I had before my eyes.
In October 1985, God's grace prevailed over the lie I was trying to live. I went to Barbados to pray about the compromise in which I was trying to stay, and where I felt trapped. The Word of God is truly absolute. It was on her alone that I had to obey; yet it was to the same God that I had promised to obey the supreme authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Church according to the Bible
In Barbados, I read a book explaining the meaning of the Church according to the Bible: it is "the community of believers." In the New Testament, there is not a single trace of a hierarchy, nor is there any "clergy" above the "laity." Rather, as the Lord himself says: "One is your Master, and you are all brothers" (Matthew 23:8). To regard the church as a community, that left me free to reject the Roman Catholic Church as the supreme authority, to depend only on Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Christ's work is perfect, no one can add anything to the perfect personal salvation that Christ offers. "It is through grace that you are saved, by means of faith. And it doesn't come from you, it's God's gift. IT IS NOT THROUGH WORKS, SO THAT NO ONE WILL GLORIFY THEMSELVES. (Ephesian 2:8-9). I finally realized that by biblical standards, the bishops I knew in the Roman Catholic Church were not believers. They were, for the most part, pious men, loyal to Rome and filled with devotion to the Virgin Mary and the rosary; but none of them understood that the work of salvation was complete, that Christ's work is perfect, and that no one can add anything to the perfect personal salvation offered by Christ. They all preached confession of sins and repentance, human suffering, religious acts, "human solution" rather than the Gospel of grace. By the grace of God, I saw that it was not by the Church of Rome or by any kind of merit that one is saved. It is "by grace indeed that you are saved, by the means of faith. And it doesn't come from you, it's God's gift. It is not through works, so that no one will glorify themselves. (Ephesian 2:8-9). New birth at forty-eight.
I left the Roman Catholic Church when I saw how impossible it is to live in Jesus Christ while remaining faithful to Roman Catholic doctrine. When I left Trinidad in November 1985, I only had enough to get to nearby Barbados. There I was accommodated with an elderly couple; I prayed to receive a suit and the money to go to Canada, since I had, in all and for everything, a hundred dollars and clothes for the tropical climate. These two prayers were answered without having to make my needs known to anyone except the Lord. Coming from tropical temperatures in the thirty degrees, I landed in the snow and ice in Canada. A month after I arrived in Vancouver, I arrived in the United States. I trusted the Lord to take care of all my needs, since I was starting from scratch in life, at forty-eight, without money, without residence card, without a driver's license, and no one to recommend me, apart from the Lord and His Word.
I spent six months with a Christian couple on a farm in Washington State. I explained to my hosts that I had just left the Roman Catholic Church, that I had accepted Jesus and His Word in the Bible as being entirely sufficient; and all this in an "absolute, final, definitive, and resolute" way. Yet, without being in the least impressed by my four adjectives, they wanted to know if there was any wound or bitterness left in me. Through prayer, and with immense compassion, they took care of me, knowing, having taken the same step, how easy it is to let bitterness in. Four days after my arrival at their home, by the grace of God, I began to experience repentance and to see the fruit of salvation manifest. I had not only to ask forgiveness from the Lord for my many years of compromise, but also to accept His healing in the areas where I had been so deeply wounded. In short, at the age of forty-eight, on the authority of the word of God alone, by grace alone, I accepted the death of Christ who became our substitute by giving ourselves our place on the cross. To Him alone comes all the glory.
Once I was refurbished physically and spiritually by these two Christians and their families, the Lord gave me a wife, Lynn, who was also "born again" by faith, endowed with wonderful disposition and a beautiful intelligence. We went to Atlanta, Georgia, where we both got work.
A true missionary, with a truthful message. In September 1988, we left Atlanta to be missionaries in Asia. It was a rich and abundant year in the Lord as I never thought possible. Men and women came to know the authority of the Bible and the power of Christ's death and resurrection. I was amazed at how effective the Lord's grace can be when the Bible alone is used to present the Lord Jesus Christ. What a contrast to the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church, which like cobwebs had obscured my mind for almost twenty-one years! Every missionary I was in Trinity, I had no truthful message.
In order to explain the abundant life which Jesus spoke of and which I benefit from at present, there are no more expressive words than those of Romans 8:1-2: "There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit Indeed, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus freed me from the law of sin and death. I am not only freed from the Roman Catholic system: I have become a new creature in Christ. It is by the grace of God, and only by his grace, that I have gone from dead to new life.
My task, the one the Lord has prepared for me, is to be an evangelist in the Pacific region of the Northwest United States. What Paul said about his fellow Jews, I can say of my dear Roman Catholic brethren: the desire and prayer of my heart is that they be saved. I witness that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is based on the tradition of their church rather than on the Word of God. If you understand the devotion and terrible suffering that some of our brothers and sisters in the Philippines and South America are living in their religion, you can understand the cry of my heart: "Lord, give us this love that will understand the pain and torment of these brothers and sisters who seek to please You. By understanding the pain of the Roman Catholic heart, we will be motivated to present to them the Good News of Christ's completed work on the Cross.
My testimony shows how difficult it was for me, as a Roman Catholic, to abandon the ecclesial tradition. But when the Lord asks for it in His Word, we must capitulate. The Roman Catholic Church's "outward form of piety" makes it difficult to pinpoint the problem. Everyone must come to a personal conviction as to the authority that gives us to know the truth. Rome declares that it is only under its authority that the truth can be known. In his own words (Canon 212, Section 1), "The faithful and conscious Christian is bound, by Christian obedience, to follow what the sacred pastors, as representatives of Christ, declare as doctors of the faith, or decide in as leaders of the Church. (Code of Canon Law, based on the Second Vatican Council, promulgated by Pope John Paul II, 1983). And yet, according to the Bible, it is the Word of God itself that is the source of truth. It is because of these traditions of men that the Reformers took as their motto: "Writing alone, faith alone, grace alone, in Christ alone, and to God alone glory. »
The most difficult step for good Catholics that we are is to repent thoughts of "merit," "gain," "to be good enough," to simply accept, empty-handed, the gift of justice we find in Jesus Christ. The refusal to accept what God commands is the same sin as that of the religious Jews of Paul's time, who "in ignoring God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God" (Romans 10:3). Repent and believe in the Gospel!
You can contact Richard Bennett by email at: [email protected]
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