PART II

 

WHAT HAPPENED!

 

A sequel to

"MY DAMASCUS ROAD"

 

A Test and Trial of Faith

 

"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts" (Prov. 21:2)

 

 

Foreword

 

FRANCISCO LACUEVA'S return to Spain, involving his apparent abandonment of the evangelical faith, brought great sorrow to all true Protestants in the United Kingdom. It brought even greater sorrow to Protestants in Spain who could not but feel that a severe blow had been inflicted upon those whose evangelical position was difficult enough already.

It was inevitable in the circumstances that questions should have been asked and these indicated that many friends were deeply disturbed with what had transpired. Many of those questions have remained unanswered, so that Mr. Lacueva's account will be welcomed on that score. It will be welcomed also for its clear evidence that our brother has found his way back to a truly reformed faith, which, without doubt, is the only adequate alternative to Romanism. I was privileged recently to sit in on a conversation between Mr. Lacueva and another converted Roman priest, during which they discussed their respective `Damascus Roads', and subsequent experiences. In no uncertain terms both expressed the view that current popular protestantism has little to offer Roman Catholics who know their dogma but are not necessarily satisfied with it. Their own spiritual pilgrimages had clearly shown them that the only answer to Romanism today is that body of truth which was so effectively and decisively preached by Luther and Calvin.

One important lesson to be learnt from this book is that Roman Catholic priests and laymen, when converted, must be given time and opportunity for that drastic adjustment which necessarily follows their conversion before they are invited to testify to their new-found faith.

If there is any one person who, under God, is responsible for the author's return from Spain and recovery of evangelical religion, that person is Mrs. Lacueva, whose faith and fortitude throughout long, heart-rending months have been so amply vindicated. May she and her husband find joy and purpose through God's abundant blessing in the days to come.

T. OMRI JENKINS

(European Missionary Fellowship).

 

An Appreciation

 

I AM GLAD that Dr. Francisco Lacueva has written an account of his experiences during the past few years. Incidents often happen in a life which make a profound impression upon others and related experiences become firmly fixed in the mind. Both of these statements have been proved to be true, where I am concerned, as a result of my association with Dr. Lacueva.

If the reader of this book heard Dr. Lacueva tell his story or has read his other book, "My Damascus Road" (now reprinted and amended in this new edition), it will be easy to understand the deep impression which the events of Dr. Lacueva's life have made upon me. From my very first contact with him onwards, there was never any doubt in my mind concerning his conversion from Romanism to the Gospel of Christ, through faith alone in Christ. There were, however, certain evidences of the need for clarity concerning his experience, but this was understandable in the light of all the circumstances which surrounded his conversion.

The disappearance of Dr. Lacueva certainly came as a shock and aroused great alarm, which was followed by somewhat uncontrolled wild rumours. An urgent call to prayer in Belfast, at the time of his disappearance, resulted in one of the most blessed prayer meetings that I have ever been privileged to attend. Prayer was sustained for Dr. Lacueva over the whole period following his disappearance.

No one will ever understand fully the thrill and joy it was to me to receive the news of the return of Dr. Lacueva and then to speak with him on the telephone. It was a moment of deep emotion and of thanksgiving to God.

The privilege of having some little part in the preparation of this publication and an opportunity to share in the fellowship of the united Lacueva family have been added joys. It is my sincerest prayer and wish that this account of "What Happened!" will prove to be a real source of blessing to all who read it, and, above all, that its circulation will be to the glory of God, Who has in His own Sovereign way done great things of which we are glad.

NORMAN PORTER,

(Evangelical Protestant Society).

 

Introduction

 

ON returning to my home in England and to the Evangelical faith, I wondered whether I should write an account of my painful experiences over the last three years. Then I considered that my case had already received excessive publicity and that it would be wiser to remain silent in the intimacy of my home and in the limited circle of brethren in the faith with whom I attend religious services, and in the renewed fellowship of all those here, in the British Isles, who have taken an interest in my welfare. But without exhibitions, meetings or written testimonies.

In such conversion testimonies, especially those of ex-priests, it is so easy to allow a certain desire to draw attention to oneself to mingle with the best intentions; and of this I wished to remain free.

However, as the days passed after August 12 last year (1967), I came to realize that (a) my brethren in the British Isles, Spain and Spanish America required an explanation of my strange disappearance; (b) this explanation could well help many other ex-priests who may experience a crisis similar to my own and finally (c) in the happy outcome of my crisis, which God in His mercy provided, there is a message for all Christianity at a time when such confusion reigns over Ecumenism and Christian Unity.

Now, after much prayer and reflection, I have decided to put in writing an account of this crisis, which has been very sad indeed in many ways. First of all, I publicly confess my sin against God and before my wife and feel no more worthy to be called a servant of Christ Jesus, having secretly left my home in England in such a way to go back to Spain and ask readmission into the Roman Catholic Church.

Although I actually came to the conclusion that, for conscience' sake, I had to leave my wife and ask for readmission into the Roman Church, this so-called "good faith" did not exculpate before the Lord my wrong behaviour. The Word of God warns us quite clearly, on this point, that it is only the real and objective truth which provided the ground for salvation:

"Then said Jesus to those which believed on Him, If ye continue in My word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

"And ye shall know THE TRUTH and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31,32),

and not the subjective conclusions of the individual:

"There is a way which SEEMETH RIGHT unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).

For example, if the "good faith", that is, "sincere conscience", were a sufficient ground to exculpate a wrong behaviour, the vast majority of the atheistic communists the world over would then be saved, since these communists adhere to the Marxist ideals most sincerely and enthusiastically.

I would humbly ask my Roman Catholic readers to excuse me if any of my statements hurt their feelings. This is not my intention; I wish only to give testimony of an experience and of the pressure exerted on my weakened mind by certain ideas. I cannot linger now over an exhaustive explanation as to how my former doubts have been resolved. This I hope to do shortly in my next book, "On the road to Christian Unity". When that book has been published, I shall be very pleased to discuss its contents with any interested reader.

Before proceeding further, I wish to lay down five basic standards for an "evangelical" ecumenical dialogue and these I should like all my brethren to bear in mind when trying to convince a person holding different confessional principles:

(1) Recognise in all humility that the light we see and the salvation we experience is the fruit of the free grace of God.

(2) Not to argue doctrinal points on which we have no exact and proved information. Nearly all books discussing Roman Catholicism suffer from this defect.

(3) Be ready to admit the sincerity of the convictions of our readers and interlocutors. It is a very serious mistake to think, for example, that all Roman Catholics or the priesthood as a whole are a body of ignorant people or hypocrites.

(4) Not to try to make a proselyte but to win a soul for Jesus Christ.

(5) Remember that it is the Roman Catholic system, not the individual person, which is responsible for error and deviation from the Gospel.

Using these standards in our efforts to win souls, access by the mysterious action of the Holy Spirit to the heart of our neighbours will be easier, and they themselves will realize that if any affirmation hurts them it is in order to heal, not to harm them, just as a good surgeon's scalpel hurts. We cannot be silent when the love of Christ constrains us. Often silence is the greatest betrayal of the Gospel.

 

 

 

A Serious Danger

 

ON reading once again the first chapter of the First Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful of Corinth, my eyes penetrated as if for the first time the deep meaning contained in verses 26 and 27:

"For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called:

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty".

So many times I have wondered why we ex-priests find it so difficult to accept the pure Gospel of Christ and to continue in the simplicity of the Gospel.

Perhaps those verses of St. Paul hold the answer.

A few months ago, here in Tunbridge Wells, I attended a lantern lecture on the evangelising labours of the "Spanish Gospel Mission" in several areas of southern Spain. The simple faith of those ordinary farmers, labourers, etc., and the modest wives of rustic villagers, impressed me more than many sermons.

Yes; the simple villagers, many of whom can only just read and write (and who sometimes cannot even do that), and cannot boast of academic degrees or theology courses, or any great learning, but feel their need of salvation and hunger and thirst after righteousness--these are the most ready to receive in simplicity, joy and peace the "Good News" of the love of God, through Jesus Christ, to men (see John 3:16).

Not that I despise theological study. I still hold the same affection and reverence for Theology. But a purely mental and more or less academic study of Theology, especially of Scholastic Theology based scarcely, if at all, on the Word of God, can only swell the head, leaving the heart empty:

"Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth"(1 Cor. 8:1).

I dare not pass judgment on the sincerity of the testimonies of many of my companions who have been converted to the evangelical faith, just as I am sorry to have had the sincerity of my own conversion doubted. But I wish to point out one danger which is common to us, as ex-priests, however upright our intentions may be in such a radical change as conversion to Christ.

When many years have been spent in studying, reading, hearing, teaching and preaching the doctrines characteristic of the Church of Rome, and beneath the dead weight of a family and national tradition modelled exclusively on Roman Catholic patterns, there always remains during the time immediately following a conversion to the Gospel a residue difficult to eliminate all at once, a "substratum" which cannot be replaced in a day or even a month. Much study of the Word of God is required, much reflection and much prayer. What is needed is, in the right sense of the word, a "brain-washing".

I must confess that, in my supposed self-sufficiency as Professor of Theology and Magister Canon, I underestimated this danger. I read a great deal, meditated less, prayed little and began to devote myself wholly to broadcasting without the necessary preparation. I shall never forget the wise admonition of Rev. John Savage at the close of our first meeting at Torquay, at the beginning of July, 1962: "Before dedicating oneself to the ministry, a considerable time should be spent in the desert, as in Paul's case, in prayer and meditation. If this is lacking, it will always be reflected in the ministry".

It brings me some consolation to know that through those brief messages which I had the privilege of broadcasting to my fellow-countrymen on Radio Monte Carlo and Radio ELWA and sent on magnetic tapes to certain individuals, for more than nineteen months many thousands of people were able to hear the pure message of the Gospel and numbers unknown to us were able to receive Jesus Christ through faith as their personal, all-sufficient Saviour. Without doubt, those nineteen months were the most profitable of my whole life.

Now, at this stage, I feel I should render tribute to the self-sacrificing labours of Don Luis de Wirtz and the "Sentinels' Union", who patronised the work and covered all the expenses.

However, I realize that my biblical knowledge was not sufficiently deep, nor my spiritual life steadfast enough. I would add that perhaps my physical capacity for work was then more limited than might have been supposed.

 

The Dark Night of the Spirit

 

SHORTLY after the publication of my book, "My Damascus Road", I began to receive letters from former companions and friends to whom I had sent a copy. The tone of these letters varied greatly: it was nearly always charitable (or let us say compassionate), offering prayers and encouraging me to return, but always deploring my decision to leave the Church of Rome. Some contained a more or less veiled attack.

The majority of letters I received in reply to our broadcast messages, even from Roman Catholics (and from some priests) were more favourable.

One priest from Salamanca, who has since entered the Roman Catholic mission field in South America, said to me: "I hear your messages regularly on Radio Monte Carlo and when I compare them with those of Radio Vaticano, I do not need to comment on the difference.... "

However, Spanish ecclesiastical circles were more familiar with the book which my former pupil, Dr. Manuel Fernández, Magister Canon of Santander, wrote in 1963 in reply to mine, under the title "Your Damascus Road?"

As is usual in such cases, the author tried to expose to the public certain traits of my character which, according to him, had contributed to my desertion from the Roman Church. Then he went on to refute the main affirmations contained in my book.

In this, he had a considerable advantage over me, since many priests and friends of mine dared not read my book for fear of excommunication, but burnt it unread, whilst his book, which had been approved by the Church and had the preface written by the Bishop of the Diocese himself, could be read by all.

At the time when my spiritual crisis occurred in the early months of 1964, I had already prepared for publication the book already mentioned, entitled "On the Road to Christian Unity" (which I have improved and added to and hope to publish soon, D.V., under the title "The Problem of Christian Unity"), in which, at the same time, I completely destroyed Dr. Fernández' arguments, which were very weak from the Biblical point of view.

I must confess that, in reality, my temperament influenced my return to Spain and to the Church of Rome much more than it influenced my decision to leave it.

I have no intention of excusing myself in these pages for my mistaken decision in leaving my home to seek readmission to the Roman Church. I do not ask for excuses, but only for understanding and compassion. God alone, who will judge us all, knows the bitter pathway of my crisis and certain details must remain hidden until the Final Day of Judgement. For my part, I have learnt never to judge anyone, in accordance with the commandment of Christ (Mt. 7:1 ff), but to understand all who pass through similar problems and to walk humbly before God and man.

My aim is to give a natural and sincere explanation of my actions and of their intimate causes in order that my brethren in the faith may understand them more easily.

As a child, my weak constitution and nervous temperament, together with a family upbringing which deprived me of all initiative (I was an only child and my father died when I was six years old) and then my preparation at the seminary under the dominion of fear, and repression, causing diminution of personality, all worked together to leave me defenceless against life's problems, which seemed to me so difficult, whilst other children, stronger or more shrewd than I, took full advantage of the circumstances. Only in the latter part of my ecclesiastical career did I encounter two Superiors who took some interest in stimulating my good qualities.

However, because many other factors of temperament and surroundings were unfavourable to me, even my academic successes had a harmful effect on my character, making me hyper-sensitive, with an inordinate craving for success, and reticent; and, in consequence, fearful, timid, resentful, uncommunicative and anxious to avoid complications: and so my ever-ready smile and my well-known "sympathy" for all men (attitudes which helped me without being aware of it to live without enemies) were of little value before God, who alone knows what is in the heart.

My best friends in Spain reproach me for not having taken them into my confidence concerning my problems. I should like them to understand now why I did not. It was the fear of lowering myself in their estimation and falling from my pedestal which prevented this.

In these circumstances, I am not surprised that many were amazed at my radical decision in June, 1962, to make a complete break from the Roman Catholic Church and embrace the evangelical faith. Dr. Fernández says, in his book, "Your Damascus Road?", p. 5:

"No one, so far as I can understand, suspected you of such a decision. Those who knew you well would not have considered you even capable of it. Your timid, peace-loving spirit, avoiding all complications and much more inclined toward a comfortable life than to becoming entangled in anything involving compromise, prevented us from doing so”.

Psychologists know that introvert, secondary and apparently timid characters such as mine lack the physical energy to react in normal everyday life. Yet, when an idea begins to possess them, small volumes of such energy are accumulated little by little until one day they feel physically capable of carrying out the most fundamental decisions.

Doubtless, Dr. Fernández, like many other superficial observers (despite his presuming to "know me well") had not noticed that beside my many psychological and moral weaknesses I have always had one positive quality (as much a gift of God as the splendid qualities of others)--a great love of truth and justice. My intimate friends (those who really "know me well") and my former companions in the Chapter will not deny this.

Therefore, despite my "timid, peace-loving character, avoiding all complications and inclined toward a comfortable life . . . ", I decided to take such a difficult and important step, because I had discovered that the Roman Catholic system is false and unjust.

After these introductory remarks, I will pass on to explain the course of my crisis.

Notwithstanding the limitations of my emotional life, there still remained in my heart some vibrant chord which was brought into play by certain sentiments.

After my meetings of preaching and testimony in England, I received some anonymous notes and brief messages from various staunch Roman Catholics, containing prayers, addresses of priests, small pictures of St. Judas, reproaches, etc. Particularly violent (and beyond the limits of the proverbial English courtesy) was the letter I received from a well-known ex-nun, in reply to my offer of spiritual help in a letter I wrote to her at the suggestion of a third party. To her I was simply one of many editions of Judas Iscariot.

As my work became too great for my strength and I began to suffer from nervous exhaustion, four obsessive ideas took possession of my mind:

1. In view of the diversity of Biblical interpretations and the responsibility of private study of the Bible in the Protestant field, I believed that the infallible authority of some organ of authentic interpretation was necessary, such as the Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church claims to be.

In this, one of my temperamental characteristics came to the fore and found in me, as in so many Roman Catholics, fertile ground for abandoning personal study of the Word of God: the anxiety to avoid personal responsibility in seeking out the truth and to put on the shoulders of others the task of taking the initiative in the matter of our salvation and the moral ordering of our lives. Is not the religious ignorance of the masses in predominantly Roman Catholic countries due largely to this?

Moreover, the power of the priests relies to a certain extent on this very ignorance, since a laity too familiar with the Bible and the History of the Church could create problems for a religious hierarchy which may be little accustomed itself, as a rule, to the study and detailed examination of such material. It has rightly been said that the reason we have dictators is that the masses have not acquired the power of independent action.

Without doubt, here lies the power which the expression "Holy Mother Church" exercises over the minds and hearts of Roman Catholics and, above all, of priests. This expression which, to the Roman Catholic mentality refers particularly to the teachings and rules of the Hierarchy, contributes to maintain in the faithful a "child" complex, which encourages its subjects to cling blindly to the skirts of the "Mother" and elude the development of personal responsibility and initiative regarding the knowledge and practice of the message which the Word of God addresses to each of us.

And now, when speaking of this, I cannot help looking back at my country, Spain, considered by many to be the perfect example of a Roman Catholic nation where, since 1939, the clergy have had an unparalleled opportunity to teach religion in schools, institutions and universities; yet the level of preparation, competence and ability to perform this task is usually so low that students in my country are profoundly disappointed with official religious teaching.

Returning to my experience, I must admit that under the impact of this idea--the supposed necessity for an infallible authority--I forgot two facts of supreme importance, one Biblical in character and the other historical.

I forgot the Biblical fact that from the book of the prophet Isaiah to the first Epistle of St. John the Holy Scriptures emphasise that one of the characteristics of the new Covenant of God with His new "people" is that for each one of the faithful to possess fully the Holy Spirit there is no need of special teaching authority, such as that of the priests and prophets in the Old Testament, but that "all thy children shall be taught of the Lord" (see Is. 54:13; Jer. 31:34; John 6:45; 14:26; Heb. 8:11; 1 John 2:20,27).

Needless to say, we cannot expect the Holy Spirit to replace entirely the necessary study, the guidance of specialists in the subject and constant prayer for the interpretation of difficult passages of the Bible.

The historical fact which I forgot is that the so-called infallible teaching authority of the Church has very frequently been wrong in its interpretation of the Word of God. We could quote here innumerable examples, including many interpretations by the Council of Trent, but, in view of the size of this book, we will mention here only one.

Boniface VIII, in his famous Bull "Unam Sanctam" in 1302 solemnly proclaimed ("ex cathedra") that "it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff" (see Denzinger, No. 875; in old editions, No. 469). The declaration is well known, but what is less well known (because the books replace with leaders a considerable part of the papal argument) is the curious Biblical basis which the Pope lays down for such a daring assertion. Let us examine one of the arguments (the rest are equally weak, though not so laughable) in its entirety:

"And we learn from the words of the Gospel that in this Church and in her power are two swords, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles said, `Behold, here' (that is, in the Church, since it was the Apostles who spoke) `are two swords'--the Lord did not reply, `It is too much', but `It is enough' (Luke 22:38). Truly he who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter misunderstands the words of the Lord, `Put up thy sword into the sheath' (John 18:11). Both are in the power of the Church, the spiritual sword and the material. But the latter is to be used for the Church, the former by her; the former by the priest, the latter by kings and captains, but at the will and by the permission of the priest. The one sword, then, should be under the other, and temporal authority subject to spiritual. For when the Apostle says `there is no power but of God, and the powers that be are ordained of God' (Rom. 13:1) they would not be so ordained were not one sword made subject to the other".

It need hardly be said that not even the least discerning of present-day students of Bible Exegesis would be convinced of the accuracy or infallibility of such a curious interpretation, yet this remains as a permanent example of the "infallible" interpretation of such teaching authority and of the Biblical basis for a dogmatic definition which continues to weigh on the conscience of all faithful Roman Catholics.

In order to elude the force of this reasoning, many modern Roman Catholic theologians say that only exegetical interpretations solemnly defined as such are infallible and that, in reality, the infallible definitions of the Church are very few, maybe less than twenty. However, this is such a debatable point that not even specialists in this field manage to agree as to the use of a so-called "infallible teaching authority" which can pronounce solemn declarations only on a very limited number of occasions, leaving faithful Roman Catholics on countless numbers of extremely important issues without any well-defined rule concerning the degree of obligation with which the various ecclesiastical teachings seek to bind the consciences of the people.

2. The second idea which obsessed my disturbed mind was the need for external unity of the Church, since I misunderstood this problem of unity. The Ecumenical Movement, which appeared to dominate the preliminary discussions of the Second Vatican Council, and the constant hammering on my eyes and ears of verse 21 of chapter 17 of the Gospel according to St. John brought me to the erroneous conviction that the external unity of the Church was of supreme importance. I finally told myself, and later repeated many times to Roman Catholic friends in Spain, that I saw in Protestantism greater orthodoxy but in Catholicism more unity.

One of the greatest advantages of the two and a half years which I spent in two monasteries in comparative solitude and retreat, with much time for study and meditation, was the opportunity I had to devote myself completely to the study of St. John's inspired writings (Gospel, Epistles, Revelation).

Thus the study of the passage previously mentioned (John 17:21) led me to the following conclusions, which I will explain briefly:

(a) It is most probable (as a certain relevant Roman Catholic scholar also admits) that Jesus' prayer in this chapter refers exclusively to the Twelve Apostles, the twentieth verse being in parenthesis and verse 21 following on from verse 19. The content of verses 22-29 seems to corroborate this opinion. So it can be understood that the Lord prayed fervently and effectively for the closest unity of the Twelve to the end that his unparalleled testimony before the world (both spoken and written) might have monolithic unity.

As for the further development of the Church, it is natural that external unity be subject to all those imperfections common to the evolution of any organism made of human, fallible and defective materials. Only the Eschatological Church (at the end of all time) will be truly "one", as she alone will be perfectly holy, catholic and apostolic.

This does not make the problem of division any less serious. It would be desirable for the Reformed Churches, without losing their denominational characteristics, to agree to accept a kind of "credo" or series of articles summarising the doctrinal points necessary and sufficient to embrace them all under the superdenomination of "Evangelical Church", modelled on the Church described in the New Testament and having full Biblical orthodoxy. The various denominations would cover up their differences under this common denominator more sincerely and effectively than the various Romanist Theological "Schools" (Dominicans, Jesuits, Augustinians, Franciscans, etc.) conceal their differences, which are sometimes greater than those existing between the different Protestant denominations, beneath a more or less sincere and cordial obeisance to all the dogmatic teachings of their Church.

(b) Careful examination of John 17:21 also brings us to the conclusion that the unity to which Jesus refers is, above all, an internal unity. Firstly, vertical: as the Father in Jesus and Jesus in the Father, so all the faithful must be one in Jesus and in the Father. Now indeed the union between Jesus and the Father is total: Jesus is the "Word of God made flesh" (John 1:14), that is, the perfect expression of the saving truth and of the amazing love of the Father (John 1:1,18). Orthodoxy and Love, Truth and Service, are inseparable in the Church as well as within the Holy Trinity. Thus, the more we partake of the truth and of the love of God, the more we are one in the Father with Christ.

This internal unity must be reflected externally, to serve as a testimony to the world: "that the world may believe that thou hast sent Me" (John 17:21). In the same way that Virgil in his Aeneid could say of Juno: "incessu patuit dea" ("By her walk alone it was evident that she was a goddess"), so the Christian in his conduct must show that he is a "child of God". This is what attracted the attention of the people when they saw the Apostles: “they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13).

This inner unity must be horizontal also, amongst the faithful themselves. If each of us is one with God in Christ, the totality of Divine Truth and of Divine Love must dwell in all and be manifest in all one to another. Therefore the distinctive sign of Christianity is: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). And the heathen perceived the strength of this testimony, exclaiming with admiration: "See how these Christians love one another".

(c) If the totality of the Word of God is not preached to the world (neither adding to nor taking away from it --see Rev. 22:18,19) or if the differences between Churches are widened by selfishness or spiritual pride, Christian testimony leaves much to be desired. If each of us endeavours to live the life of the Gospel, in constant prayer and testimony, to hasten the coming of the Kingdom of God and enliven spiritual communion with the Holy Trinity in Christ (1 John 1:3), the barriers existing between denominations will be lowered, just as the fences between adjacent fields of wheat disappear from view as the crops grow.

On the other hand, mere external unity in the form of a carefully systematised uniform organisation, with all its outward show and impact on the eyes of the flesh (hence the Vatican's power of propaganda), is no more than a caricature of true unity, for the outward uniformity seen by the world and admired by the ignorant is the fruit of a spiritual dictatorship claiming to be the exclusive organ of the Holy Spirit, and with a drier and more detailed code than the Talmud with its innumerable prescriptions.

It is not easy to find the Holy Spirit in a system which suppresses the true liberty of the children of God (yet the Holy Spirit may be present in the faithful of all denominations, even those which have strayed furthest from the Gospel, because He is omnipotent and acts when and where He pleases). Through a reaction which can be explained psychologically, many Roman Catholic adherents (and ecclesiastics) have certain reservations concerning many doctrinal and disciplinary points dictated by their Church, but dare not break with her since they cannot imagine that the true Church of Jesus Christ can exist elsewhere as, in their eyes, the Orthodox and Protestant Churches are nothing but a collection of branches torn from the one true Church.

3. Let us come now to the third idea which obsessed my mind: "Shall I be lost?" I asked myself. The Evangelical Churches tell me that if I truly believe in Jesus and sincerely repent of my sins, entering on a new life in the service of the Lord, I am saved (see Acts 16:31; 2:38; Ephes. 2:8-10, etc.); I am born again (John 1:12; 3:3). But the Church of Rome tells me that, beside this, I must be a member of the Roman Catholic organisation and a loyal subject of the Roman Pontiff. "What shall I do?" I continued. "Will not the second way be safer?"

In accepting this idea, I forgot yet another elementary principle of the Gospel: that we are not saved by belonging to a particular church, but we belong to the true Church by the very fact of being saved. We must examine carefully, beside those already quoted, the key passages in the New Testament (Mt. 3:2; Mark 1:15; John 20:31; Acts 4:12; Rom. 1:5,16; 3:24,25; 1 Cor. 1:21; 4:1; 2 Cor. 5:20,21; Col. 2:8-14, and many others) and we see that it is never stipulated as an indispensable condition of salvation that we belong to a particular external organisation (affiliation to the invisible Church is automatic for the believer and to prescribe this would be superfluous).

Nevertheless I told myself: "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven"

(Mt. 7:21). And will not one of the commandments of God be that we should try to find the true Church? And this can only be found in an external organisation, since the congregation of the saved must be seen externally, being not merely spirits but human people having bodies and souls.

Then I forgot another fact, Biblical as well as historical. The primitive Church of the New Testament, the origin and model of the whole Christian Church throughout the centuries, was not a uniform organisation under the jurisdiction of a single Papal Head, but a collection of separate local churches united by the same evangelical faith and the same Christian love (`agápe' in the original Greek of the New Testament), within a truly catholic intercommunion, manifested in the kiss of peace, the giving of the right hands of fellowship (Gal. 2:9) or admission to the Lord's Table, but with complete autonomy in pastoral exercise and the maintenance of discipline.

Certainly we must seek an authentic church to give praise, testimony, and service to God together, but the norm in this search is not the claim of a universal organisation to the exclusive right to salvation but rather, in the words of article 19 of the Church of England:

"The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same".

Are these characteristics inherent in the Church of Rome? Decidedly not. She does not preach the pure Gospel; she does not administer duly the Sacraments ordained by Jesus Christ. To show this in detail would make this account of my experience too lengthy. I will do so in the book already mentioned.

4. Finally, the fourth idea which obsessed me was the vain hope that the Church of Rome could be reformed "from within" and that I could participate in this reform, holding strongly to the main principles of the Reformation (as I always did even in the past three years of my crisis), whilst still belonging to what I believed was the "one visible Church of Christ". I hoped that, finally, the Church of Rome would admit such an evangelical principle as, for instance, justification by faith alone, and I said to myself: "If we could find together visible unity and pure orthodoxy, it would be the best". The reservations on this point put to me by such well-informed people as Dr. Lloyd-Jones and Don Samuel Vila did not suffice to convince me otherwise.

I have just said that the Romanist Church is not endowed with the characteristics of the true Church of Christ; much less so the "sole right" of such a Church. In this, the basis of my obsession was false.

Moreover, my hope of reforming the Church of Rome "from within" was false.

At the time of writing this, I am preparing a recension of the already well-known Dutch Roman Catholic "New Catechism".

It is well known that Dutch Roman Catholic theologians are generally considered the most advanced in all the Church of Rome (I would say: the most modernistic). Yet despite all their progressiveness and modernism, through the abovementioned book can be seen their enthusiastic and unconditional adhesion to the Roman Catholic doctrines which are most in conflict with the Reformation and which render the barrier impassable: these are the papal and marian dogmas.

This shows once more that the Church of Rome cannot be reformed fundamentally without a true miracle since, by its own definition, it cannot change or deny its solemnly defined dogmas. Paul VI gave this warning in his inaugural speech at the second session of the Second Vatican Council:

"Yes, the Council aims at renewal. Note well, however, that in saying and desiring that, we do not imply that the Catholic Church of today can be accused of substantial infidelity to the mind of her Divine founder. Rather it is the deeper realisation of her substantial faithfulness that fills her with gratitude and humility and inspires her with the courage to correct those imperfections which are inherent in human weakness.

"The reform at which the Council aims is not, therefore, a turning upside down of the Church's present way of life or a breaking with what is essential and worthy of veneration in her tradition, but it is rather an honouring of tradition by stripping it of what is unworthy or defective so that it may be rendered firm and fruitful".

Even in secondary or tangential matters, any change in teaching or discipline will inevitably be accompanied, in the official document of the Church, by the well-known ambiguous formula: "As the Holy Mother Church has always taught . . . ."

Will the day soon come when the most outspoken, sincere and nobly progressive of the Hierarchy and theologians of the Church of Rome will break valiantly, as a whole or in groups, with the strong ties of "dogma" and the idea that their Church, despite all its defects, is the only earthly instrument of salvation? I doubt it, but God will have the last word.

Only by the means of preaching, testimony, and prayer can we endeavour to bring its adherents out of the Church of Rome one by one.

On the other hand, the great majority of those counted among the adherents to Rome are only nominally so, since in their convictions and their lives there is neither Catholicism nor Christianity of any kind. This is due largely to the fact that, in the majority of such cases, they have listened only to authoritarian prohibitions and have witnessed only manifest injustices. Of the "Gospel" which is essentially the "bringing of good tidings" of the saving love of God to men in Christ and of the generous and complete pardon of all sins to every believing, contrite, and humble heart, they have heard nothing, or almost nothing. The little good which was done by the last generation and that now being done by the "new wave" of Roman clergy is but scanty and imperfect.

I come now to the factors which brought my spiritual crisis to its climax at the beginning of 1964.

No doubt the grey climate of England and the idiosyncrasy of the Anglo-Saxons contributed to some extent to my state of depression, but I cannot but mention the extreme friendliness with which I was welcomed everywhere during my travels throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles, and that the courtesy, politeness, consideration, seriousness and sense of responsibility of the English were winning me over, while the diet in my English home suited me marvellously.

It is a curious fact that although I was unable to get acclimatised physically and psychically to the English land and character, I have to admit that on returning to Spain I immediately began to miss many English qualities, particularly the discretion and respect for the personal privacy of others. Naturally, as a Spaniard, I admit that at times I would give a lot to see in English people a little gay spontaneity and noisy familiarity which perhaps are the fruits of the sunshine of my homeland.

At the end of 1963 and beginning of 1964 my crisis reached its climax. The spiritual tension was becoming more acute every moment.

Our great mystic Juan de la Cruz spoke in a remarkable manner of "the dark night of the spirit". Only those who have passed through such an experience can fully understand it. For my part, I cannot imagine a more terrible spiritual condition. Month after month passed in the deepest darkness without my knowing which road to take, yet feeling acutely the urgent need to take one or the other, since I believed my eternal salvation was at stake.

The exhortations of my family and friends were quite unable to bring me out of myself and make me think of helping others, since I was obsessed by the thought that I could do nothing useful while unable to put my own house in order.

I can truthfully say that I lived in constant prayer--anguished, almost despairing prayer.

There is a proverb in Castilian which says: "If you want to know what it is to pray, you must pass through deep waters". Indeed, it is said that when a person finds himself on the high seas, in the midst of a tempest that tosses the boat around like a nutshell, when the surface of the ocean convulses, suddenly producing now threatening mountains, now dark abysses which seem on the point of swallowing up the boat in their giant mouths, this is when the soul of man feels truly humbled, grows faint and despairs of any help but that of the Omnipotent Creator, who alone can calm the tempest and silence the fury of the boisterous waves. This is when man sees imperatively, urgently, despairingly, the need to pray.

As if in the midst of such a tempest, I too prayed with anguish; but I lacked perseverance and was afraid to confide my doubts to relatives and friends. Only my wife realised that something strange was happening within me, due, no doubt, to excessive mental work; but she did not understand the depth of my crisis.

Shortly before going to Spain, I explained my situation briefly to Dr. M. Lloyd-Jones, but I made the mistake of not following his advice to rest completely for a month. My obsessive idea was stronger than any advice.

This feeling of being in darkness with respect to my spiritual condition was combined with what psychiatrists call a "guilt complex".

In a person who has left the Church of Rome, which claims the title of only Mediator of Salvation, and particularly in a person, who, like myself, has for many years been in the Roman priesthood, such a guilt complex frequently takes the form of "the lost sheep" or "the Prodigal Son". This feeling was all the stronger in my case, because the text which I had selected from the three offered to me for the homily in the competition for the position of Magister Canon of Tarazona in 1949 was chapter 15 of the Gospel according to St. Luke, which contains the three parables of the lost coin, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son.

The only way out which occurred to my disturbed mind was to flee from my home in England, back to my own country to ask for readmission to the so-called "only fold" and to the family of the "Father of the Prodigal Son". With this decision, I left my wife and other English relatives in the utmost confusion and distress concerning my whereabouts.

As my family and friends in England were sure of my Evangelical convictions, they could not believe that I had left of my own accord and I understand that they feared some accident had occurred, that I had been kidnapped, drugged or even killed.

In all this, my wife and her family, who were the most affected by my mad decision, hid their distress and preoccupation in silence and prayer.

Many prayer meetings were arranged in various parts of the British Isles to entreat the Lord to come to my aid. I can never be grateful enough for this proof of Christian charity. Thank you, my friends. In the end, God answered your prayers.

Meanwhile, other people and several publications, misled by the first confusing news, hastily put forward a public explanation of the facts, which did not tally to the slightest degree with the truth.

Seen from a different angle, I must also thank those who had such a high opinion of me that they could not doubt my fidelity to the Gospel and therefore had to work out some other explanation. It is only human nature, even in believers, to be fallible and imperfect. The Word of God assures us that we are liable to error and spiritual backsliding. If we were more firmly anchored to the One Who is great in His faithfulness (Lam. 3:22-24), the vicissitudes of life and the failures of others would not have such power to disturb our minds.

Blessed be God, Who allowed my soul to pass through such great tribulation, that I might be purified, refined, and brought to a deeper knowledge of His Word, of my wretchedness and the weakness of human nature itself!

In effect, as was stated by a great Baptist preacher, tribulation is always the fruit of a conflict with sin. The contrast between the holy ways of God and the erring ways of sinful man, the conflict between the leading of the Holy Spirit and the lack of complete surrender on our part to the action of the Spirit, this is what brings about such disorder in our thoughts, feelings, and personal wishes and makes us suffer deeply and creak like an un-oiled hinge. The cross which weighs on us will cease to be heavy and even to be a cross at all as soon as the horizontal pale of our will ceases to cross the vertical pale of the will of God.

So I learnt that my tribulation was the fruit of a conflict with my misery and an instrument of purification in the hands of God for my good.

Moreover, all this trouble has helped me to understand more fully the weakness of human nature and to teach me to understand all men. Now I can sympathise with all, and not be confused by anything. I can understand without difficulty the doubts, anxieties, and even the desperation of my fellow-men. How much we lack such comprehension! As he so often did, Augustine of Hipona came straight to the root of the matter in a few words, concise and to the point, when he said:

"Every man is capable of the same misdeeds as any other man, if He Who created man cease to uphold him".

With greater authority, Jesus gave us this wise standard in the Gospel:

"Judge not, that ye be not judged.

"For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again" (Matt. 7:1,2).

St. Paul also shows us the positive value of Christian charity, the basis and summit of our spiritual life, in four expressive verbs, arranged in wonderful gradation:

"Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Cor. 13:7).

"Beareth all things"; that is, charity is never offended by another person's failings; "believeth all things"--instinctively tends to see the good side of the words and conduct of our neighbours; "hopeth all things": when error or sin are in evidence, charity makes us trust in the grace of God, which will have the last word concerning salvation. And when no reason to hope seems to remain, charity "endureth all things", carrying on the struggle undismayed in positive, active perseverance in order to make the best of the present situation for the benefit of its neighbour. Quite a full programme!

 

Escape from the Desert

 

HAVING explained the causes and circumstances of my spiritual crisis, I will now relate the only true version of the facts which preceded, accompanied and followed my decision to return to Spain.

By the time my crisis had reached its climax, I had been put into contact with a Spanish Jesuit who was finishing his studies in astro-physics in London.

No discussion took place between us in respect of my theological doubts. When we first met I realised that his Biblical knowledge was far too limited to embark on a fruitful conversation. Neither was this his intention! He confined himself to recommending, insisting and persuading me to go away to some secluded place, such as that occupied by Jesuits in a Catalan town, in order to meditate in peace on the subject of my doubts.

When the day came on which I had decided to leave, he accompanied me to, the offices of Iberia in London and from there to the airport, where he said goodbye. He also undertook to arrange for someone to telephone my wife that same night, 9th March, 1964. It is understandable that statements coming from that source to the Press concerning my conduct should have held some air of triumph, caused by the idea of helping in the return of a lost sheep to the true fold.

I would repeat that I suffered no violence whatsoever throughout the entire period of my crisis and recovery. I was neither kidnapped, drugged nor anything else of a similar kind. Only my confused state of mind was responsible for my strange conduct.

Many readers will now wonder, as indeed I have already been asked, how I could think of abandoning my wife and returning to Spain in order to try to resolve my spiritual crisis away from my home.

To this I must reply that, in consequence of my confusion in thinking that the Church of Rome was the one true Church of Christ (through keeping intact her external unity and a teaching authority to interpret the Word of God), my disturbed mind made me feel it necessary to leave my wife, since in the eyes of the Church of Rome my marriage was not valid because of the vow of chastity which I took at my ordination as sub-deacon. As for requesting from Rome the necessary dispensation to regularise my position with the Church of Rome, both my vow of chastity and the canonical impediment of a marriage of so-called "mixed religion" prevented my considering it, since I was blinded by the idea that my vocation still called me to take up the ministry once again. This is why Dr. Lloyd-Jones' advice in reply to my letter of mid-March, 1964, did not make any impression on me. He said, "but I feel constrained to point out that the factor in your situation which must come first is that you are a married man".

My first impression in coming once more into contact with the liturgical services of the Church of Rome in Spain was one of deepest disappointment. After hearing, in England, so many truly Evangelical sermons, well prepared, true outpourings of the Word of God to man, penetrating deep into the heart of the hearer for his salvation, the preaching I heard in cathedrals and churches in Spain seemed to me quite deplorable: "wood, hay, stubble …" (1 Cor. 3:12). I shall never forget the uncomfortable feelings I had when I was in a central church in Madrid, which was filled to overflowing with worshippers, during a late Sunday Mass. After the reading of the Gospel, the priest, celebrating Mass turned to the congregation and hurriedly stammered out such a string of vain, empty remarks, showing his lack of interest and preparation, that it made me feel quite ill. The only good point about his sermon was that it lasted no more than five minutes at the most, not even long enough to fulfil the diocesan standards on preaching with regard to the duration of sermons.

At this point I cannot but examine myself publicly and accuse myself too, of wasting much time in my sermons, throughout so many years of preaching in the Cathedral, on arguments and phrases calculated to arouse the attention and please the ear rather than to go direct, with the two-edged sword of the Word of God, deep into the human heart to the saving of the soul. I always tried to say things which would be beneficial, but only on very few occasions did my preaching prove to be of any practical use.

If any Protestant minister, or (with much more reason), a Roman Catholic priest, should read this, I beg him, in the Name of Jesus Christ and of the precious Blood of the Saviour, shed at Calvary for the salvation of man, to think of his responsibility as a herald of the Gospel message and leave out all "profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called" (1 Tim. 6:20) and panegyrics, novenaries, etc., and dedicate his time and oratorical gifts to proclaiming with a loud voice what have always been called "eternal truths": salvation, sin, repentance, Calvary, the urgent need of conversion, etc. Who would not tremble on hearing the Lord's threat through the prophet Ezekiel?

"Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word of My mouth, and give them warning from Me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

"Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

"Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him (that is, and he abuse My gifts making them an occasion for sin), he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

"Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul" (Ezek. 3:17-21).

From the place where I was staying in Cataluña, I wrote to my wife and to the "Sentinels' Union" at Saltdean (Brighton), where I had worked during my stay in England, telling them of my whereabouts and the reasons for my flight as they then appeared to me.

My wife, accompanied by an English friend who speaks perfect Spanish, at once came to find me.

In the course of the days which we spent together, my doubts seemed to be dispersing, but the severe admonitions of one of the Jesuits made such an impression on my weakened mind and caused me such grave spiritual concern that when my wife left, several days later, to make arrangements to move permanently to Spain so that we could live in Tarrasa (where I had already rented a flat), I wrote to her again asking her not to come and reiterating my decision to re-enter the Church of Rome and ask for rehabilitation in the ministry. I also left a note at the house of the friends with whom I was staying and went back to the Jesuit residence already referred to, in South Cataluña.

My wife later told me that on receiving my letter she returned by the first 'plane that day on which there was a free seat, to Cataluña.

But it was already too late. I was advised, in the interests of my own spiritual peace, to move secretly to another solitary place where I could meditate calmly without writing to anyone or receiving any letters, in order to escape any investigations with regard to my whereabouts. Somebody undertook for an anonymous third party to collect some personal effects which I had left at Tarrasa and these were sent to me at the Carthusian Monastery where I was then living.

So, then, on 19th April, 1964, four days after leaving Tarrasa, I left South Cataluña for my father's native village in the Province of Teruel, where only the parish priest knew me. There I spent a week, in a house dedicated to "Spiritual Exercises," resting, reading, and walking in the village and surrounding countryside.

After a conversation with the then Archbishop of Zaragoza, I moved to a Carthusian Monastery, near the capital of Aragon, where I spent four months and a day (as in the case of a prison sentence. In Spain, prison sentences are not usually for four months, one year, two years, etc., but for four months and a day, one year and a day, two years and a day, etc.), from 25th April to 26th August, 1964.

The first thing I did in this Monastery was to practise, with a Jesuit who was an old acquaintance of mine, the famous "Spiritual Exercises" written by the founder of the Society of Jesus, Ignatius de Loyola. These deal in detail with the "eternal truths" (salvation, sin, "the last things", etc.) and with the main passages of the Gospel of the birth, life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

These Spiritual Exercises are designed in the mind of the author to root out from the hearts of those practising them all sinful affections and reduce the spirit to the exact degree of so-called "holy indifference" at which they will be equally ready to accept honour or shame, health or infirmity, life or death, riches or poverty, etc., as the Lord disposes, and even predisposed towards what is most troublesome to human nature, thus becoming an obedient and suitable instrument to the will of God, particularly as manifested through the Superiors and, above all, the Pope, to whom every Jesuit professes a fourth vow which makes him as a slave to the Pope, in addition to the classic monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

In the second part of the above-mentioned Ignatian book, under the heading "Rules for Thinking with the Church," a series of standards is set out requiring blind obedience to whatever is commanded by the authority of the Church. I give below only the first rule, which serves as a model for the rest:

"Always to be ready to obey with mind and heart, setting aside all judgment of one's own, the true spouse of Jesus Christ, our holy mother, our infallible and orthodox mistress, the Catholic Church, whose authority is exercised over us by the hierarchy."

The spirit of unconditional obedience explains the powerful influence of the Society of Jesus within the Church of Rome, as being of a perfectly disciplined army.

It also explains the acute antagonism of Jesuits to the Reformation, "the bitter rebellion against Rome," as Protestantism is commonly presented in the Church of Rome. Indeed, the Society of Jesus was the main support of the Counter-Reformation, initiated by the Council of Trent, in which Spanish Jesuit theologians exercised a decisive influence over the wording of Council documents.

Jesuit norms for "indifference" and blind obedience to the Superior have without doubt also contributed to forming, right up to the present century, a type of fanatic, cold, scarcely human monk, yet they have also produced many examples of moral purity and complete dedication, and in much greater numbers than other religious orders.

Nevertheless, many voices are beginning to make themselves heard within the Society of Jesus, demanding greater freedom of action and reliance on personal initiative, beside other internal reforms; discussion of these reforms at the last General Congregation of the Order have not reached the public. In his address to the delegates of the Congregation, Pope Paul VI commended to the Society of Jesus particular dedication to the fight against atheism.

After this digression, I pass on to my life with the Carthusians. Throughout the four months and a day which I spent there, I went out only twice--in the monks' truck, to have my hair cut in a nearby village.

Except for an occasional stroll in the garden, my only occupation was to read books and more books from the monastery library and write on various subjects.

So solitary was my life with the Carthusians that the Father Prior of the monastery declared in amazement, when I left, that I had been more "Carthusian" than they themselves. However, this was true only in one respect, that I used to remain alone all day in my cell.

Since I lived there as a guest, I did not have to share the austerity of Carthusian life, only its solitude. The diet of the Carthusians is very restricted, whereas I could eat anything without restriction, my food being prepared separately. I am indeed supremely grateful for the hospitality, friendliness and generosity of the Father Prior, Procurator and Vice-Procurator and the Brother Porter, who looked after me so well and patiently all the time I lived there.

Words are insufficient to describe the rigour of Carthusian life. The most appropriate phrase would be: it is like being buried alive.

Like other religious orders, the Carthusians are divided into Fathers and Brothers, the Brothers devoting themselves mainly to manual work, agriculture, masonry, carpentry, gardening, cooking, etc. Several may work together, saying just what is necessary to carry out the work. When I was there, one Brother was a doctor, another an architect, etc. In this way, all services were provided within the community itself, without having recourse to anyone outside. Of the Fathers, some had formerly been local priests, others professors, etc. The oldest, who was 94, had been director of music in a cathedral.

All the monks wore tunics, cowls, special scapulary and belt, everything being white.

The Fathers and students who aspired to become Fathers led a life even stricter than that of the Brothers. Apart from Conventual Mass at eight in the morning, each one remains in his cell in the strictest silence and isolation.

Each Carthusian cell is a complete dwelling in itself, consisting of a kind of ante-chamber, bedroom/oratory, workroom and garden. In the Carthusian Monastery at Zaragoza, these apartments were arranged horizontally, on one floor, and all the cells converge on the centre of the Monastery where the cemetery lies; there the monks are buried in the greatest simplicity; a wooden cross erected in the earth shows the resting-place of each one.

The hours are divided between prayer, reading of religious books, instructive study of books of their own choice and manual work in the workroom or garden.

Over the lintel of each cell are capital letters, indicating in alphabetical order, the identity of the monks. It is as if they lose even the name and surname by which they were known in the world, to become Father or Brother JJ, KK, LL, MM, etc. On each door is a small plate with a short Biblical text, and on the side of the door is a very small window, through which food is passed each day, and which the Brother responsible for waking or calling them knocks with a stick.

They never have breakfast. For most of the year supper consists of bread and water. The only meal, at midday, is copious and consists mainly of root vegetables and greens. They never eat meat. There is no heating (nor air-cooling system, of course) either in the cells or in the other rooms.

They go to bed toward eight in the evening and get up again each night at the repeated ringing of the monastery bell at 11.30. At midnight they assemble to sing Matins and Lauds from the Monastic Breviary. They stay up until two or two-thirty in the morning. Then they go back to bed and rise again about six in the morning to pray until it is time for Conventual Mass and private masses.

They sleep on hard boards, without any kind of mattress. One day when I told the Brother Porter how difficult I should find it to get up in the middle of the night and get back to sleep again with the bed cold, he answered kindly: "If we look at it aright, it is a blessing that we divide our night's sleep into two parts, because if we had to sleep all night at one stretch our bones could not endure such a hard bed for so long".

Once a week they eat together (in silence) in the Refectory, then go for a short walk, in twos; then each one may speak to his companion, this being the only exception during the whole week. Once a year they go for a short outing and meal in the country and this is the only time they go outside the grounds of the Monastery.

They may receive visits from family and friends, and from guests who wish to practise Spiritual Exercises or Retreat in complete solitude. As is the custom in Carthusian monasteries, they distil the liquor which is known as "Chartreuse," which in French means, in fact, "Carthusian".

Besides a certain number of cows and pigs, there were two thousand hens and close to the big henhouse grew two thousand rose bushes, which were to provide material for perfumed rosaries; these were made by means of a small device which compressed the rose petals leaving them as hard and firm as the beads of a rosary.

One day, on the way to the cell of the Father Vice-Procurator, I passed close to a large room which was in darkness. The Father who was with me said: "If ever you go in there by mistake, do not be afraid of falling, because you will only fall softly on to a great heap of rose petals.

Of the guests of family, only men are admitted to the rooms of the hospice or to attend the liturgical functions with their strange rites, from a gallery separated from the chapel by a railing. The priests may attend the prayers of the service in the same choir as the monks.

The female members of their families may visit the monks from time to time in a small building at the main entrance to the Monastery, as no woman is allowed even to enter the grounds of the Monastery precincts.

Only people of exceptionally even temperament and healthy state of mind can endure such a life as that of the Carthusians.

I know that a number of monks have had to enter an asylum and by watching the countenance, gestures and walk of some who live in the monastery it is easy to deduce that their minds also are in danger.

In contrast to the extreme austerity of this kind of life, the longevity of the Carthusians is proverbial. They told me there that some years ago it was felt necessary in Rome to mitigate to some extent the rigour of Carthusian life in order that it should survive. Then the monasteries sent to the Pope a large delegation of monks, all above eighty years of age. At this demonstration, the supreme authority of the Church of Rome gave up the idea of insisting on relaxing the rules of the order and so the Carthusians continue in their original austerity. No doubt, silence and retreat from the bustle of the world has its beneficial effects, but surely true witness for the Lord must be carried on in this world of tumult and anxiety.

We should be wrong to underrate the fervour, goodwill and absolute decision with which these men try to attain the highest holiness, although the method may be wrong and unnatural. We should be ashamed of our indolence in obeying the leadings of the Holy Spirit (see Rom. 8:14), enjoying as we do the privileges of the Evangelical Faith.

Although we abhor the system, we must try to understand the individuals who undertake such a rigorous exercise in order to attain perfection. We deplore the error under which they live and believe that the monastic life is a big mistake.

Surely such a life was far from the mind of Jesus when He sent His disciples to preach the Gospel throughout the world.

 

From there I was transferred to a Benedictine Monastery in the central mountains of Spain, about 50 miles from Madrid, where I spent exactly two years, two weeks and two days; I was sent there because the Archbishop of Zaragoza (the diocese in which the Carthusian Monastery was situated), who was managing my proceedings, was moved to Madrid, so I too had to move to his area, as it was more convenient for him.

Compared with the rigid Carthusian life, the Benedictine life seemed to be almost worldly.

The Benedictines wear tunics, cowls, scapulary and belt in dark brown, almost black. They are considered to be specialists in the Liturgy. They sing the Gregorian chant beautifully and carry out to perfection every detail of the liturgical ceremonies. They dedicate themselves to study and prayer in a form similar to that of other monastic orders and also admit Brothers who devote themselves specially to manual labours.

They also have an annexe, intended as a college for children wanting to become monks in the community; they receive free food and education, studying for the "Bachillerato Superior" (higher school leaving examination taken when about 17 years of age) until they pass on to the Novitiate, to put on the habit of the Order and begin ecclesiastical studies.

The monks (Fathers and Brothers) go to bed every night at nine-thirty and rise at five in the morning to sing Matins in the chapel. They go to the chapel six times a day to pray from the Monastic Breviary, dividing its recitation into the several Canonical Hours. They also hold every day the solemn Conventual Mass which, since the Second Vatican Council, all Fathers who are available celebrate together. During this Mass the Novices take Communion. The students and Brothers, if they have passed the so-called "Solemn Profession," then receive the sacrament in both kinds.

The rest of the time is divided between study, reading, recreation, walking and working in the garden. They have a large trout factory and distil various liquors; among them the one called "Benedictine," which takes the name of the Monastery. The liquor and the fishery bring in the means of support for the community and college.

They may walk outside every day, travel when necessary and receive guests and relatives. Women cannot penetrate inside the buildings and rooms reserved for the monks (cells, refectory, corridors) but they may visit places of artistic interest inside the Monastery.

The Fathers often go out to celebrate Mass, to preach and hear confession, when invited by the parish priests of villages near the Monastery.

There is also a hostelry or roadhouse attached to the Monastery, which until 1966 was administered by the monks themselves.

My life in the Benedictine Monastery was much less solitary than with the Carthusians. Until January, 1966, I could travel when I considered it expedient and daily (in good weather) could walk along the nearby road or to a village a little more than a mile away. I could also play my melodica and I played table tennis, which provided me with a healthy pastime. In the spring and summer months when the hostelry was open, I frequently talked to the guests and made many friends.

The climate is extremely cold in winter (with temperatures as low as 17°C or about 0°F), with snow, lasting for several months. The monastery is situated at a height of about 1160m (more than 3600 feet), and behind it, to the northwest is Mount Peñalara, whose summit, always covered by snow, reaches 2435m (more than 7500 feet). But in summer the climate is delightful and pleasantly fresh in the shade, while only 50 miles away, in the capital, people are overcome with the heat beneath a sun which beats mercilessly down on the central plateau.

In the long months of autumn and winter, and part of the spring, I had plenty of time to meditate, study, read and write books.

A book entitled "The Spiritual Message of the Gospel of St. John" by the French Carmelite monk Paul Marie de la Croix, and which I had been given in the original French by the Jesuit Father who had given me the Spiritual Exercises in the Carthusian Monastery, inspired me to study deeply the writings of St. John. After reading all the commentaries I could obtain on this material, I decided to write a long book entitled "Theology of St. John". The Monastery library provided me with abundant material. I worked for about a year and a half and reached the final version of this work which, providentially, was not published in the Roman Catholic field.

In the last two months of my stay at this Monastery I also prepared a book on Psychology and Religion. I also gave a complete course of lessons and part of two others, in Latin and Greek, to Aspirants and Novices of the Monastery and made numerous recensions of books for the quarterly review of the Order "Yermo" (The Desert).

Once again, I should like to express my gratitude to the Father Prior and to the Community for the friendship, understanding, generosity and hospitality they showered upon me.

 

An Example of Roman Curial Proceedings

 

A FEW days after returning to Spain, measures were taken for my re-incorporation into the Church of Rome and rehabilitation in the ministry, as I had requested immediately on arrival in my country. I mention it now with shame!

I received a detailed questionnaire, which I quickly filled in and sent off. "In about fifteen days you will certainly have some news," said the Jesuit Father who had just given me the Exercises in the Carthusian Monastery. This was at the beginning of May, 1964, some fifteen days after I had sent in the questionnaire. Fifteen days? After fifteen months, still nothing had been settled!

First there was the excuse that the people in charge of my affairs had overlooked the matter. Finally, at the end of October of the same year, when the Archbishop was present at the third stage of the Council in Rome, two curials from Madrid came to the Benedictine Monastery and subjected me to yet another detailed interrogation, this lasted about four hours, during which time the whole of my past and present life was scrutinised. My papers then went off to the Papal Court.

The months went by. I wrote time and again to the Archbishop of Madrid, asking him to expedite my case. But a year later my papers still slept peacefully in a corner of one of the bureaucratic drawers of the so-called "Holy See".

What was to happen? I was disconcerted. I was advised to write a letter in Latin to the General Secretary of the Holy Office (formerly the "Inquisition" and now the "Congregation for the defence of the Faith"). So I wrote in the best Latin at my command, warning them of the responsibility resting on their consciences. Still no reply!

My case serves to show, once more, that the Romanist bureaucracy, even to the highest member of the Hierarchy of the Church of Rome, are much more concerned with antiquated canonical prescriptions and, above all, with the prestige of their institutions than with the grave and urgent problems of the individual person.

Finally, during the last session of the Council, at the beginning of November, 1965, the Archbishop of Madrid explained the urgency of my case to Cardinal Ottaviani himself and the latter brought it to the attention of the Pope. In this way, on 11th November, 1965, an order left the Vatican authorising me to celebrate Mass for a year and consequently to be rehabilitated partially and provisionally in the ministry and re-admitted to the Church of Rome.

It seems to me now almost incredible that I could have returned to the practice of the celebration of Mass and auricular confession. However, the fact that I was prepared to pass through all this for the sake of the obsessive ideas which were in my mind may help us to understand that, as soon as a person believes that only one particular Church can be the exclusive Mediator for our salvation, even the greatest difficulties take on a more or less convenient aspect, and Biblical and theological problems are seen from a different angle, and lose their perspective. It is as if a key idea takes possession of the mind and forces our intellect to fabricate an interpretation of doctrinal principles and even of historical facts, which will appear congruent with the central idea whose domination seems to us inescapable. And so long as a person does not manage to shake off the fascination of this key idea, by means of a calm insight into the true Biblical and historical basis of the whole system, it is most unlikely that he can be persuaded from outside to change his mind, since the very defence mechanisms of his "psyche" work resolutely to entangle him in a net from which it is very difficult to escape.

A new condition was imposed on me in exchange for such "liberality of the Holy Mother Church," as the order expressed it: I was to remain throughout the entire trial period of one year, inside the Monastery precincts. The document in Latin said: "intra septa Monasterii".

Indeed, I fulfilled this condition faithfully. In all the time I did not once step outside the Monastery precincts, although the monks themselves assured me that I need not take things quite so literally. One of them tempted me more than once, saying: "Why not come with us this evening to X for a game?"

I must say at once that this provisional rehabilitation did not make me at all happy. Weariness at the long wait, and disillusion on seeing how little interest the upper hierarchy of the Church seemed to take in the acute problems of one who hoped to be received with any feeling but that of complete indifference on the part of those who boast of being the most essential and active part of the "Mother Church," had made their impression on my mind.

In that year of 1966, I began to realise that my provisional position was going to continue indefinitely and that the most sensible step would be to request secularisation, that is, to be relieved of all obligations inherent in a priest's estate, including that of celibacy.

In reality, I was returning to the state of scepticism concerning religion in which I had been before my conversion to Christ.

Nevertheless, there was a considerable difference in my state of scepticism in 1966 compared with the time before my conversion in 1961. Now, despite my crises and disappointments, I sought eagerly after the truth and longed to hear once more the voice of the Lord; a voice which, due to His incomprehensible designs, I had not managed to hear for three years.

When the year's trial period stipulated for my provisional rehabilitation was over, without waiting for a further deferment I left the Monastery on 13th November, 1966, and went to live in a flat in Madrid with three friends.

 

The Final Stages

 

IN the middle of December, 1966, I obtained audience of the Archbishop of Madrid. I explained to him my wish for secularisation.

"Have you thought carefully about this?" he asked me.

"Yes, sir," I replied. "I believe this is what I should do."

"What a pity! Now that it seems to me we are so near obtaining permanent rehabilitation . . . But it would not have been total . . . For example, you would not have been allowed to hear confession again. Perhaps that would have been all, though. However, go and see the Provisor and tell him what you want".

And so that same morning I went to the Provisor's office and, in accordance with the instructions he gave me, I drafted an application for the dispensation and sent it off in next day's post.

Until a few years ago (less than ten), it was very difficult for a priest of the Latin rite to obtain the dispensation from the law of celibacy. Much paper work was involved, explanation of serious motives in the court proceedings, proof (with competent witnesses) of loss of liberty on taking the vow of perfect chastity on ordination as sub-deacon, and a great deal of time for finalisation if, in the end, such a dispensation was indeed granted. Nowadays it can be obtained very easily, particularly in a case like mine, since I was a former "deserter" to the Protestant side, with problems still pending in that connection (I was married to a Protestant and had a child).

Whereas the rescript of partial and provisional rehabilitation had taken two and a half years to reach me from Rome, the Pope's indult for secularisation, in reply to my application of mid-December, 1966, took only six weeks to reach Tarazona, the diocese where I was officially registered.

When I received the document I learnt, to my amazement, that this was exactly what the "Holy See" wanted, "since my ministerial rehabilitation created a new problem in Rome with regard to the Ecumenical Movement". The words which came instantly to my lips were: They could have told me this at the beginning, instead of leaving me to hope and despair for so long.

I learnt later that the pressure exerted by my family in England and by Protestant friends in various countries on the highest members of the Hierarchy of the Church of Rome, including the Pope himself, must have been largely responsible for the mistrust and indifference with which I was treated throughout the proceedings. Blessed be the Lord, Who made all things work together for good!

No less providential was all that happened to me afterwards.

From the moment I obtained secularisation, the ecclesiastical hierarchies became totally disinterested in my position. I found all doors closed to my finding suitable work. My academic title of Licentiate of Theology was the only one which qualified me to teach in Church Colleges or Institutes and none was prepared to accept me.

For several months I lived virtually on charity, or on generous gifts.

Knowing that in a certain South American Republic, Latin teachers were urgently needed, I wrote, as an expert in this course of study, to the Cardinal Archbishop of the capital of that country. Months later, I received from him a curt letter assuring me that he had nothing to offer me.

The only money I could earn in Madrid in nine months came from giving regular private lessons to three pupils in Latin and one in Greek which, from April, 1967, a priest and former pupil of mine obtained for me, and to him I shall always be grateful.

My advertisements in newspapers and requests for work in editorials were no more successful. The future for me could hardly have appeared blacker. In a few months I should have been without work and without a penny to my name.

The burden seemed the heavier, falling, as it did, on a mind depressed and tormented for several years.

Added to all this, in the summer of 1967, the heat in Madrid, which was exceptional, reached 41°C (106°F) and continued for several weeks. Week after week of stifling heat, just when I had to go out in the middle of the afternoon to give lessons at private houses, dehydrated my system; then, through my taking too much liquid, severe gastritis developed and finally a stomach ulcer which, fortunately, was treated in time.

During these months I suffered a lot from insomnia, due to my constant preoccupation over the future. I doubt if I could ever have slept without pills.

The fact of not having anything to do, and of feeling incapable of doing any useful work, is one of the worst torments a man can suffer when he is physically and mentally able to employ usefully his faculties and knowledge, yet unable to find any field of action in which to exercise them. For this reason, my state of mind improved remarkably from the time of giving my first successful private lesson; at least I could achieve something for my pupil and therefore for myself.

 

My Return Home

 

WHEN I look back over the events of my life throughout 1967, I cannot help being amazed at the ineffable ways of God and I thank Him for the mysterious way in which He guided my wife's steps and mine, to reunite us in our home in England and restore me to a renewed profession of my evangelical faith. Truly, "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

My spiritual state on leaving the Benedictine Monastery was deplorable. Disappointed, depressed, my faith and hope almost dead; as I have already said, scepticism began to fill my mind.

I even thought, in my despair, that God did not want to listen to my prayers, nor take any interest in my problems. Was there really a Providence to take a paternal interest in the terrible and widespread misery of man? I asked myself, conscious that I was no exception, but that many others endured greater suffering than I.

As Asaph says, in Psalm 73, verse 2:

"But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped".

In this "almost" and "well-nigh" is the saving action of God, who as a refining fire, did not allow my bush, like that of Horeb (symbol of the chosen people), to be consumed (see Exodus 3:3). When God wishes to prepare and sanctify His people, He purifies them, but does not consume them.

In the midst of all my confusion, one thing seemed clear to my mind: the renewed conviction that the Church of Rome was far from the truth and love of the Gospel and therefore was usurping the right to appear before the world as the one true Church of Christ.

From November, 1966, to August, 1967, I went only five or six times to a religious service in Roman Catholic churches and, even then, only from sheer curiosity concerning the preaching, and once to a service in the Cathedral of the Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church in Madrid, again out of curiosity, to see the consecration of the new Bishop.

As the time passed, I began to realise that if ever I actively professed any religion in my life again, I could only do so in the evangelical faith.

In the spring of 1967 I read two books which were of great help in enlightening my mind and awakening me from my spiritual lethargy: these were the two volumes by Dr. Lloyd-Jones on the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. ch. 5-7) and the two volumes entitled "Concilios" ("Counsils") by Javier Gonzaga. Further, I was visited in my flat in Madrid by the evangelical pastor who, years before, had helped me to find the true Jesus Christ of the Gospel and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, I still did not feel able to pray or read, or meditate on the Word of God.

My wife, for her part, continued to hope "against hope" (Rom. 4:18) for my return home one day. The difficult conditions in which she had to bring up our daughter, with no husband by her side, were ruining her health, though not her faith.

At the end of March, 1967, three years after I left for Spain, her doctor told her it was imperative that she take a decision regarding her marriage. Several friends advised divorce. She knew that English law was in her favour if she were to ask for divorce before the courts, because of desertion, but she knew too that I had not left her to go after another woman, but because of the terrible spiritual crisis through which I was passing.

An almost supernatural intuition told her that, before September that same year, God would provide an adequate solution. The messages she listened to at the Sunday religious services confirmed this feeling. Yet human means seemed to conspire against her. Through a friend in London, who speaks correct Spanish (and who had visited me previously, in January, 1965, at the Archbishop's Palace of Madrid and in a restaurant in the capital), she began to write to me, thus reopening a correspondence which had lapsed for a year and a half. But our contact by letter seemed to worsen the situation instead of clarifying it.

Despite everything, following the impulses of her heart when it seemed absurd to try to see me in person, she decided in mid-July to get a 'plane to Madrid. In fact, she felt quite clearly that she could not be divorced with a clear conscience without first trying to talk to me personally.

Yet somebody had to go with her, as it was risky to go alone on such an expedition. A friend, Rev. John C. W. Rosser (Irish Evangelistic Treks) who had only one week free, had offered to accompany her to Spain should his wife give birth to their second child before that week, as indeed happened.

There still remained one difficulty of a religious and social nature. Perhaps in Spain it would not appear right for her to arrive accompanied only by a young man, even though he was married as she herself was. She then thought of asking one of her close relatives. Of all these, only one cousin, who had been bridesmaid at our wedding, and who had just obtained her degree in languages, was able to accompany her; what was more, that was the only week she would be free during that period.

This accumulation of providential circumstances persuaded her even more deeply that her decision was right in the eyes of God. And on the night of 18th/19th July, 1967 (or rather, at three in the morning of the 19th), all three arrived at Madrid and stayed at a hotel which, according to the taxi-driver, was near where I lived, although in fact it was about two miles away.

The next day, Mr. Rosser knocked at midday at the door of my flat.

The owners of the house were on holiday in Mallorca and my only companion in the house was eating out, near his office. I was lying in bed, troubled with gastritis, but went in my pyjamas to receive my visitor.

My illness was yet another providential circumstance, because had I been in perfect health, I should probably have been away from the house, eating at some restaurant or giving a private lesson.

After a short conversation with Mr. Rosser, I agreed that my wife should visit me at six in the evening of the same day.

In my impatience I went downstairs at five minutes to six. As my wife does not like lifts, she decided to walk up the hundred and twenty steps to the seventh floor where I was living, at exactly five minutes to six. Had she taken the lift, we should probably have missed each other and been waiting in different places: she at the door of my flat; I in front of the house.

My wife brought with her the little hymnbook from which we used to sing together at the chapel we attended regularly on Sunday at Tunbridge Wells.

Going back over those hymns, reading the Word of God and praying together after such a long separation, it seemed as if the breath of the Holy Spirit fanned the flame which lay buried in the depths of my heart beneath the ashes of more than three years of perplexities, anxieties and disappointments. A new light illumined my mind and in our souls, afflicted by such deep trials, the hope of a second and permanent period of happiness in our lives was born again.

 

At this stage, I have reason to thank once again our Heavenly Father for the unexpected visit of my wife to Madrid, because it was really the means God used to hasten the work of the Spirit in my heart to bring me back to a full restoration of my evangelical convictions and of my spiritual condition.

What would have happened had my wife not come to Madrid in the summer of 1967? God alone knows, and I cannot guess how long my spiritual recovery would have taken.

To the question as to how I could pass so quickly from the lack of conviction to a renewed assurance, I can only say that I now understand from my own experience how a person can be uplifted from the depth of perplexity in a very short time, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through some special circumstance like that of the coming of my wife to Spain, just as the heart of an unbeliever can be changed suddenly through some preaching of the Word, or even by a visit of a missionary. We know that with God all things are possible!

In the photographs which my wife brought with her I saw for the first time our little daughter, who was nearly three years old. Fibres of my heart which until then had lain dormant began to vibrate within me. I felt myself a "father" with much greater reason than when, as a priest, the lips of my parishioners at confessional called me by that name.

Even my physical illness suddenly improved and in the two remaining days during which my wife and her companions were to stay in Madrid I ate with them without experiencing the slightest discomfort. Only after they had left did the pain begin again, because of the continued heat in Madrid. This is when I began to have medical treatment, which, only a few days after I arrived back at my home in England, had already produced such a remarkable effect that I no longer felt the slightest discomfort and since then I have not had to restrict my diet in any way.

In the twenty days which passed between my wife's visit to Spain and my return to England, I fulfilled my commitments with regard to my private lessons and applied for my passport.

And so, on the afternoon of an extremely hot 12th August, 1967, at the airport of Barajas near the Spanish capital, I took the 'plane (BEA) which brought me in less than two hours to London.

My wife's presence at the airport was a blessing, as the Immigration Officer who examined my passport before I collected my luggage was not at all convinced that I was married to an English person and was just preparing to send me back to Madrid. My wife was called to an information desk to confirm my statement regarding our marriage. Had she not been there, I might well have had to take the next plane back to Spain. However, I was unaware of my wife's proceedings and we did not manage to find each other in the great hall where the luggage is collected.

This small detail, insignificant as it may seem, was the last bitter trial through which God saw fit for us to pass before our reunion, as from there I took the train to my home in Tunbridge Wells, where I found neither my wife nor my daughter, since they had been waiting for me at the airport.

Looking back once more, I again give thanks to God, who ordained this bitter experience in order to strengthen my spiritual condition and Biblical knowledge. I acknowledge my sin of backsliding and in so doing wish to make clear to all who read this booklet that I am now fully restored by the grace of God and rejoicing in His salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone. I have no hesitation in declaring the falsity and blasphemy of the Church of Rome and take my stand on the sole authority of God's infallible Word.

I am entirely happy, healthy in body, soul and spirit and firmly established, through the free grace of God and with no merit on my part, in the evangelical faith of the Reformation.

 

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,

The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;

For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless.

And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When thro' fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design,

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

 

 

NOTES TO PART ONE

 

1. M. FERNANDEZ, Tu Camino de Damasco? ("Your Damascus Road?"), Estella, 1963, page 9.

 

2. After the grave crisis through which I passed during three years (1964-1967) and which is told in the second part of this book, I have recently been able to discover, clearly, the fundamental error of the Roman Catholic system which marks the dividing line between Rome and the Reformation, namely, the concept of the Church as "the continuation of the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus".

 

3. Amongst the defects in my character, and although somewhat lessened by a "perhaps", M. Fernandez (see page 16 of his book) includes that of being "somewhat covetous of money". If this means that I have never been a spendthrift, I accept it; but no one can say to me that I ever anxiously sought the highest stipends from Masses and sermons. I may add, too, that I have never exploited anyone. As for the rest, I have to confess that the author, in the same paragraph, pronounces too favourable a judgement upon my qualities.

 

4. The fact of having "failed spiritually" in the Church of Rome, as I myself confess in this book, implies, according to M. Fernandez' judgement on my conversion (see o.c., p. 22) that in the evangelical faith I was, as it were, endeavouring "to try my hand again, after having failed the first time", since "in it our honour and pride are at stake". I can firmly declare before God that the determining motive for my leaving the Church of Rome was the discovery of its doctrinal falsity. However, I allow that many devout Roman Catholic priests, because of scruples of conscience, or of greater facility for achieving their "own righteousness", do not feel tempted to doubt the Roman system. The man "convicted of sin", "conscious of his own weakness and needing the pure mercy of God" is the one best prepared to accept the evangelical faith, which places the emphasis on "faith in Him that justifieth the ungodly" (Rom. 4:5) and on child-like submission to the leading of the Spirit (v. Rom. 8:14), whilst Roman Theology, though not denying the necessity for grace, lays emphasis on one's own merits and the exercise of free-will, in order to obtain salvation. Jesus said with reason that the "harlots and publicans" (people morally despicable) were about to enter more easily into the Kingdom of Heaven than the "righteous Pharisees". If it is the sick who need a physician, and Jesus came to save sinners, and not the righteous. I am happy to have experienced the failure of my own righteousness (precisely in the Church of Rome, where "self-righteousness" is so esteemed) and to have been led, by the mercy of God, to faith in "the righteousness of Christ" (whose Spirit has given me the power, actually in the Evangelical Church, to "walk not after the flesh"--v. Rom. 8:1-14).

 

5. M. Fernandez (o.c., p. 32) asks me "if I believe in sin, if I believe in man's liberty, and that the holiest of men may fall into sin". I reply: I believe that the most holy man may fall into sin, and falls, in fact, many times (v. James 3:2; 1 John 1:8,10). But the believer cannot lose his legal justification before God, nor his final salvation, for the simple reason that his salvation is not in the hands of his own defective "liberty", but in the all-powerful hands of the Father and of the Lord Jesus (v. John 10:27-29), and his final perseverance does not depend on his love to Christ, but on the perfect love which God, in Christ, has toward him (v. Rom. 8:35,38,39). [Read the note at the foot of this page]

With reference to the Bible texts which he quotes, not one of them affects the security of the true believer's salvation. In fact:

1 Cor. 10:12--constitutes a warning to the presumptuous Christians in Corinth, proud of their standing (as were the Israelites, of belonging to the "chosen people"), to beware of falling miserably, as do all who trust in their own merit, strength or position. It has nothing to do with losing one's personal salvation. The Greek verb "hestánai" signifies the pride of the self-confident, not the humble gratitude of the man who knows himself to be saved by pure grace, even although he is as sure of his salvation as the man condemned to death is sure of his pardon, when informed that his sentence has been repealed (v. 1 Jn. 5:13).

Phil. 2:12.--This Scripture does not deal with the fear of losing one's salvation, but with the humility, vigilance and responsibility of the believer who co-operates with the Divine activity in the work of our common salvation. See the verse following, and compare also the phrase "with fear and trembling" with 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:15 and Eph. 6:5.

Rom. 11:22.--The Apostle warns the Christians who have come out of paganism in general, not to become puffed up by the fact that the infidelity of the Jewish people resulted in the abundant salvation dispensed to the Gentiles, without any merit whatsoever on their part. Unless, by faith, they become worthy of the goodness that God has extended towards them, they will be no better off than the "chosen people". This being so, the true believer always abides in the goodness of God, and, therefore, can never be cut off from the "Israel of God".

1. Cor. 9:26,27.--The whole context clearly shows that it is not a question of being saved or condemned (the "reprobus" of the Latin Vulgate has falsely suggested the idea of condemnation to Hell) but of the earnest competition with which the faithful believer has to contend as he serves the Lord, and seeks to obtain the prize, promised to those who aspire to perfection and the winning of souls to Christ (cf. with Phil. 3:12-15; 1 Thess. 2:19 and 2 Tim. 4:7,8), so as not to be "disqualified" as servants of little use in the service of the Lord.

1 Cor. 4:3,4.--This passage is not concerned with theological justification, but with a right appraisal of the faithful discharge of his apostolic office as "a steward of the mysteries of God" (verse 1). Paul leaves to God the appraisal or judgement ("anakrínon") on the degree of his faithfulness in the ministry (see 2 Tim. 4:8). The writer of Phil. 1:21-25 and 2 Tim. 1:12 was sure of his salvation.

Regarding the appeal of Fernandez to the "Holy Fathers", suffice to say that no evangelical considers them to be infallible, especially when they are later than the Third Century, and even less so when they are not even unanimous in their interpretations.

 

6. One of the greatest difficulties which confronts a Roman Catholic, and especially an ecclesiastic, upon leaving the Church of Rome is the false idea that the Roman Hierarchy is infallible, and that it is impossible to find true Christianity outside Rome. Ignorance of the Word of God, ignorance to be seen even amongst the highest Roman dignitaries, is one of the most common reasons. (In a public gathering we heard the following words, from the lips of a Spanish bishop: "You, with your prayers, are to me like those Amalekites who held up the arms of Moses, whilst the Israelites were fighting against . . . against ... against their enemies". The hesitation was unavoidable after having turned the "enemies" into supporters of Moses.) Nor is their knowledge of Church History any greater. And, on occasions, tremendous obstacles to finding and accepting the evangelical faith are raised by scruples of conscience, or no scruple at all, when things are left to take their course, simply to avoid complications.

 

7. M. Fernandez is a brilliant philosopher (even under-estimating those of us who, not being so specialistic as he--see o.c., page 43--ought to regret having been excessively metaphysical in our Theology classes) and it is natural that, as a Roman Catholic philosopher (and not one of the most progressists), he should defend, in a lengthy chapter of his already quoted book (pp. 43-60) the so-called "Perennial Philosophy", or "Aristotelian-Thomist"; and, concretely, the Thomistic theory of "the analogy of being", which, applied to the divine mysteries, has given occasion for the lessening of the transcendence of God, transcendence so clear in the Holy Scriptures, where we are confronted with an inaccessible God, except when He Himself deigns to reveal Himself, and totally "Other", that is, infinitely distinct in His being and infinitely distant in His holiness from us all, miserable sinners that we are. In the Church of Rome, such a diminution of God's transcendence has given rise to the false construction of a "Theodicy" or Natural Theology, whilst the Bible tells us that it is "by faith" (Heb. 11:3) that we even receive the right conception of the Creation, and that, in order to know God, a "revelation" is necessary (John 1:18), and a divine favour which "enlightens the eyes of the understanding" or "of the heart", as many MSS have (Eph. 1:17,18). It is true that God has not left man without some manifestation of "His eternal power and Godhead" (Rom. 1:20), so that the man who fails to perceive the presence of God behind the marvels of Creation is "inexcusable". But this knowledge does not become convincing nor practical (Rom. 1:21) without the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit. So that, on this point, we can do no less than "follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther", as M. Fernandez points out (v. o.c., p. 49).

 

8. The recent, and now famous, Dutch Catholic Catechism (v. "A New Catechism", transl. of Kevin Smyth, London-New York, Burns & Oates, Herder and Herder, 1967, p. 458), endorsed with the customary "imprimatur" and prefaced by the bishops of The Netherlands, clearly admits that, in the early centuries of the Church, "the sacrament (of Penance) was envisaged only for three offences: apostasy or idolatry, murder and adultery… if they were publicly known and hence gave great scandal". Historical evidence has been able to achieve more, in the minds of these theologians, than the curses of Tridentine Council, although they continue to give the name "sacrament" to a disciplinar measure to be taken by the whole congregation.

 

9. Under the heading "A Nefarious Principle has become the Leaven of Corruption", of this Part One, we shall say something about the causes which have determined the formation of a mass of anti-biblical "dogmas" in Roman Theology.

 

10. M. Fernandez (o.c., pp. 95-100), affirms, along with the Council of Trent, that the Mass is a true sacrifice, instituted by Christ to apply daily the one and only propitiation and expiation accomplished on the Cross, and affirms that the Epistle to the Hebrews says nothing to the contrary, since there the sacrifice is spoken of as being "the only one of its kind" (emphasis his). In support of this, he appeals not only to Tradition, but also to four passages--and their parallels--of the Bible. To his statement that the Mass is the application of the sacrifice on Calvary, the only one of its kind, we reply that: (A) The New Testament knows no other application of the sacrifice of the Cross, than faith, as an anguished looking to the Cross, as did the Israelites when bitten by poisonous serpents in the wilderness (v. John 3:14,15). (B) The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is unique, not only in its kind, that is, as to its nature, but absolutely unique (as a propitiatory and expiatory sacrifice), in the New Covenant, for the simple reason that Jesus Christ is represented in Hebrews 10:12 as "seated" (symbol of His "offering" being finished for ever, since the priest must be "standing" when sacrificing), and with no more offering to make for sin, neither in Heaven, nor on earth. He cannot, therefore, offer Himself again, with blood, nor "without blood by the ministry of priests" (Denzinger, 1743, formerly 940), because He has ceased to be an "offering" (v. Heb. 10:18), in order to be "an intercessory priest" (Heb. 7:25), i.e., "Advocate" (1 Jn. 2:1) and not in the attitude of "one who prays" (standing), but as a "King" (seated).

The Bible references which the author cites are: (a) The prophecy of Mal. 1:11, to which we have referred in two different places to show that it is not the Mass which is foretold there, but Heb. 13:15,16; (b) The prefiguration of the pretended sacrifice of Melchizedek, in Gen. 14:18, where expositors (including the best amongst the Roman Catholics, such as the Dominican A. Colunga) have found no trace whatsoever of any sacrifice. If it should be there any prefiguration of the Mass, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews would not have overlooked the parallel of "bread and wine", when making a contrast between Melchizedek and Christ (Heb., chapter 7); (c) In the words of the Institution of the Lord's Supper, where the imminent sacrifice of the Cross was only proclaimed beforehand (and is now commemorated--v. 1 Cor. 11:25,26), and not offered (for this reason Jesus did not say "offer", but "do this in remembrance of Me"); and (d) 1 Cor. 10:14-22 (error in book corrected) where "the table of the Lord" is contrasted with "the table of demons" (verse 21). The Roman expositors use this reference as if the Greek "trapédses" signified "altar" in both cases, when in verse 18 we have the proper word for "altar" ("thysiasteríu"). Paul does not place the emphasis upon the "trápedsa", but on the "koinonía" ("communion"): those who eat and drink of the Lord's table are made partakers of the Lord.

 

11. Leaving on one side many details, contributory or of personal allusion, to which M. Fernandez has by now accustomed us, and for which there is no room for discussion in these brief notes, let us get to the point and examine the Biblical texts where he finds, "without any kind of doubt", the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, by virtue of Transubstantiation:

John 6:51-58. With reference to this passage, we can sum up the thoughts of M. Fernandez on the following points: (1) it is impossible to make a metaphorical meaning from these words, since for a Jew it would have meant: "to persecute someone to death"; (2) even in face of the violent reaction of his listeners, Jesus does not withdraw or explain His statement (v. o.c., pp. 63-67). We reply: (1) It is surprising that Fernandez, as a Professor of Theology, does not know that, besides the metaphorical meaning to which he refers, the modern Manuals of Roman Theology (see Aldama, in the BAC), admit a meaning that is symbolic (although Aldama rejects that as well; certainly, for reasons unworthy of a theologian of his stature) and that, precisely it is that symbolic sense of ASSIMILATING CHRIST (His redemptive work) BY FAITH--the only meaning the sacred text allows. It is to be noticed that the original Greek of John 6:55 does not say "my flesh is truly meat", etc. (according to the Vulgate), but "true meat", etc. Now, the whole of John's Gospel is full of this symbolic contra-position: the "true" and the "false" means in the way of salvation: as, in chapter 3, the false (carnal) and the true (spiritual) birth into eternal life (vv. 3,5,6); in chapter 4, true and false water (vv. 10,13,14); chapter 6, meat that perishes and meat that remains (v. 27); chapter 8, the light of life versus the darkness of death (v. 12); chapter 10, the good shepherd and the hireling shepherd (vv. 11-14); chapter 11, resurrection and life versus death (vv. 25,26); chapter 15, Christ is the "true vine" (v. 1), versus the vine that produces only wild grapes, etc. (2) Again, Christ (in the manner peculiar to the Johannine style) corrected the poor comprehension of His listeners, when He said (verse 63): "It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; THE WORDS THAT I SPEAK UNTO YOU, THEY ARE SPIRIT, AND THEY ARE LIFE". That is to say, it is only the spiritual eating (partaking) of Christ by faith that is necessary for salvation ("But there are some of you that believe not"--verse 64).

Mat. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:15-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-35 (Institution of the Eucharist). M. Fernandez argues: (a) The phrases can only be understood as they stand from their obvious and literal meaning; (b) The Apostles, as simple men, tended to interpret things literally; (c) For fifteen hundred years (i.e., until the Reformation) "the Church understood them in accordance with their obvious meaning" (v. o.c., pp. 67-71). We reply: (a') Paul's insistence in speaking of "bread' and "cup", and his references to the commemorative (1 Cor. 11:26) and mystical (1 Cor. 10:16,17) function of the Lord's Supper, exclude any literal meaning with regard to the corporal (and sacrificial!) presence of Christ in the bread and in the wine; (b') To imagine that the Apostles literally understood that, under the appearances of bread and wine, there was there a human body (then mortal, not glorious or spiritual as it now is in Heaven) can only be possible because of theological prejudice (as if the Apostles were imbued with the Aristotelian-Thomist mentality of Roman Catholics). The very fact that those simple men made no objection whatever does not indicate that they understood the phrases literally, as in Matt. 16:6-12 (about the leaven of the Pharisees), but that, first of all, they were familiar with the act of the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup, as symbols of the communication of one's own self and goods, in token of friendship, farewell, a pact and "testament"; and, secondly, they had been instructed in John 6:63 that the meaning of "eating the flesh" and "drinking the blood" of Jesus was a spiritual one. (c') Finally, to think that "for fifteen hundred years the whole Church understood these phrases in their literal sense (with the consequent "most gross sin of idolatry") is to be entirely ignorant of the History of the Dogmas and, too, the "Tradition" of the Church, which understood them in a symbolic sense (v. for instance, Rouet de Journel, nos. 337, 343, 504, 509, 1424, 1566), until after the famous discussions between Abbots Ratramnus and Radbertus (in the ninth century!), when the doctrine of transubstantiation began to triumph in the Roman Church (with the consequent "gross sin of idolatry"), due to the Aristotelian-Thomist concept of "substance" and "accidents" (scientifically untenable). Such a doctrine as this was sanctioned for the first time in the "Profession of Faith" that the local Roman Council of 1059 imposed on Berengarius, Canon of Tours (v. Denz. no. 690, and 700, formerly 355). Luther admitted the real Presence, not through conviction of the Scriptures, but because of his Ubiquitarian views (that the body of Christ was everywhere as well as His divine nature) and because of the weight of a secular tradition from which he was unable to free himself. But it cannot be forgotten that he was the only one of the great Reformers to be victim of such a deception.

Finally, the phrase "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body" (1 Cor. 11:29) does not provide any basis for the Roman dogma of the real presence. In Gal. 3:1, by its analogy with the passage we are discussing, we are given the key to its correct meaning and interpretation: In the previous verses (1 Cor. 11:17-28) and those which follow (vv. 30-34) we observe that the Corinthians, by their gluttony and egoism, were clearly demonstrating that they did `not discern", that is, see any difference between a worldly feast and "the body and blood of the Lord" in the Christian Lord's Supper where the bread and the wine represent a constant remembrance of the death of Christ and a call to Christian unity (see 1 Cor. 10:17), in the spirit of Christian love, waiting for the Second Coming of the Lord (another proof that the Lord is not bodily there, but only in Heaven--see Acts 1:11; Heb. 9:24-27; 10:19,20; Jn. 16:7) with continual watchfulness and self-denial. Those who fail to take into account this significance of "The Lord's Supper" are judged, that is to say, punished and proved by the Lord, so that they may escape the condemnation of the unregenerated world. Compare the Greek words "krinómenoi" and "katakrithômen" of verse 32, in order to note the difference between the paternal "instruction" ("paideuómetha") implied in the former (see Heb. 12:5-11), and the condemnatory rejection in the latter.

 

12. M. Fernandez cites John 20:21-23, as "very clear evidence" of the sacrament of Penance (o.c., pp. 102,103), affirming that the text and context make any other meaning impossible. We reply: The fact that the formula "to forgive sins" is used there gives no occasion to think that the Apostles had acquired divine power to blot out sin from man's innermost being (Mark 2:7); only Christ, since He is God, can do this (Matt. 9:5,6). In order to understand John 20:21-23, it is necessary to take into account the fact that here Christ, as He breathed the Spirit upon the disciples, symbolically communicated to them a double commission, in virtue of the commission He had received from the Father: (1) The "ministry of reconciliation" of which Paul speaks in 2 Cor. 5:18-20, which consists of the preaching of the Gospel or "word of reconciliation" by which God is ready to reconcile in Christ any repentant and believing sinner. In the jargon of the scribes, this is "the key of knowledge": By preaching the message of salvation, or by keeping silent, the preacher opens or closes the door of salvation (see Ezekiel 2:17-21; 33:7-9), or in other words, remits or retains sins (parallels: Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:14-18; and more explicitly Luke 24:36-49); (2) The exercise of community discipline, by which the Church community expels from its midst the unworthy and re-admits those who give evidence of true repentance and Christian behaviour (parallels: Matt. 16:19; 18:15-22; 1 Cor. 5:2; 2 Cor. 2:5-11). In the jargon of the Jews, this is "the key of discipline". Here is the origin of the time-worn theme of "the hierarchical power of the keys" which Roman Popes, bishops and priests claim for themselves.

 

13. See L. Ott's "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" (translated from German by Patrick Lynch, Cork--The Mercier Press--1966), pages 483,484. M. Fernandez only cites 2 Macch. 12:36 ff. (Ott also quotes it), affirming "that it is the main argument, brought forward in Theology, in support of Purgatory" (italics his). Then he adds: "The Protestants themselves do not deny the strength of this argument. It was Luther alone who excluded this book from the Canon of Scripture" (o.c., p. 101). This phrase is completely inexact, since all the main Reformers (see Calvin's Institutes, Book 3, chapter 5, parag. 8) exclude that book, since it is not found in the true Jewish "Canon", and even Jerome, the official patron of all biblical scholars in the Church of Rome, had no doubts about consigning it to the Apocrypha (see the authentic Canon accepted by the Church already A.D. 160, in Rouet de Journel, no. 190).

But, furthermore, 2 Macch. 12:36 proves nothing in favour of Purgatory, even when considered as a historical book not divinely inspired, but able to reflect the mentality of late Judaism.

In fact, the passage refers to the incident in which some Jewish soldiers, killed in battle, were found to be carrying as spoils of war, small idols of precious metal under their coats. This constituted a "sin" or legal impurity, since if the intention was to worship these objects the crime would be one of idolatry, meriting condemnation to Hell (according to Rome itself), where there is no deliverance for sin. For that reason, Judas Maccabaeus demanded "a sin offering" to be offered (v. 43), so that on the Day of Resurrection the said soldiers who, according to the author of 2 Maccabees, had "died godly", should appear cleansed from all legal impurity. It does not deal, then, with personal expiation in Purgatory, since their personal punishment for sin is seen in v. 40 (cf. 1 Cor. 11:30). Besides, according to Rome, there is not any "reconciliation" nor "deliverance from sin" in Purgatory (v. 45), but only the temporal penalty is paid (a strange payment, beyond the grave, totally unknown to the Jews). The History of Dogmas shows that the belief in Purgatory is of pagan origin. A false interpretation of Matt. 5:26, found already in Tertullian, was the "biblical" support for Purgatory (see Rouet 352). As official doctrine of Rome, it appears for the first time in the 1st Council of Lyons (v. Denz. 838, formerly 456).

 

14. After what has been said in the text, we only want to add that the absolute silence that the New Testament observes about Mary from Acts 1:14 onwards, where she is seen praying in the Upper Room with the Apostles and the other early Christians, is very significant. The Apostle Paul, in his fourteen Epistles, does not mention her even once, avoiding even naming her, when he says that Jesus was "made of a woman" (Gal. 4:4). If Mary, in the plan of Redemption, had occupied the very high and indispensable place that Rome assigns to her, is it credible that all the Pauline writings and the rest of the canonical Epistles should be totally silent about such a teaching?

For his part, M. Fernandez, whilst recognising that the "formal content" of the Marian dogmas "is difficult to find clearly laid out in the Holy Scriptures" (o.c., p. 73; italics his), goes on to state: "Not all the dogmas are to be deduced from the Fountains of Revelation by means of the intellect alone (the so-called "via intellectiva"), strictly speaking, but also through the affections (the so-called "via affectiva"). I do not believe that there is any theological objection at all in affirming that the Marian dogmas here questioned are founded biblically on the DIVINE MOTHERHOOD of Mary, interpreted by a legitimate affection on the part of her children, since to know what a `mother' really is, it is necessary to love her" (o.c., p. 74; italics and emphasis his, brackets ours).

To this we must reply that the emotions have their place, by imparting ardour to faith which is founded on the objective content of Divine Revelation, and not by deducing or inventing new beliefs. Sentimentalism is not the best method that can be used to draw orthodox conclusions from a declaration such as "she bore according to the flesh the Word from God made flesh", as the Council of Ephesus defined; much less, from the sober biblical statement "Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ" (Mt. 1:16). In reality, all the "affective" excesses of Epiphanius, Ephraim, Bernard, Bonadventure, etc., were based even more upon false "sentimental" deductions from the famous "Eve-Mary" parallelism than upon the expression "Mother of God", and this parallelism comes up already in Justin (v. Rouet, no. 141) and in Irenaeus (Rouet, 224). It is noteworthy that this parallelism, when well understood, is so susceptible to an orthodox interpretation that even the well-known Baptist writer John Bunyan takes it in Part 2 of his famous allegory, "Pilgrim's Progress". But every parallelism implies an analogy, and Roman theologians have carried the analogy to such an extreme that they make the function of the derived meaning greatly exceed that of the original allegorical meaning.

 

15. Having made in the text a correct exegesis of the Biblical passages cited by Roman Theology as proof of the infallible Primacy of jurisdiction of the Apostle Peter, it only remains for us to answer three important points in M. Fernandez' exposition (v. o.c., pp. 77-89): (1) Bearing in mind the degree of reason that Cullman demonstrates in his exposition of Matt. 16:18 (see, in the text, our own interpretation which agrees with that of the best Protestant expositors), we have to add that Cullman is too one-sided in his interpretation of the term "Kephas" (supposed to have been used by Jesus in aramaic), by detaching it from the whole context of Matthew, and of the New Testament itself; and, above all, he commits the grave, anti-biblical error of conceding to Peter a real Primacy over the Primitive Church, later delegated to James, pastor of the community at Jerusalem (where did Cullman find such resignation of power?); (2) The context of the quotation from Augustine in Tract. in Joannem 124, 5, made by Fernandez (o.c., p. 88) falls back upon himself, since what Augustine means by the phrases "cuius Ecclesiae Petrus . . gerebat figurata generalitate personam ..." and "universam significabat Ecclesiam", as anyone well-versed both in Augustinian and in classical Latin can realize, is that Peter made his confession of Matt. 16:18 in the name of the whole Church (as the mouth-piece of the disciples), and that in the commission given to him by Jesus in Matt. 16:19, he also represented the whole Church community (in accordance with Matt. 18:18). On the other hand, what does Fernandez understand by a "theological, not literal, sense" in the words of Augustine when interpreting Matt. 16:18--"Therefore He (Christ) says on this rock which you have confessed I will build my Church. For the stone was Christ, and Peter himself was built upon this foundation"? Would the sense of Augustine's interpretation be truly "theological" were it not based upon a correct "literal" interpretation of the text? And by this we do not wish to defend the allegorical method of interpretation, often found in Augustine's writings; but it is precisely in this "theological" interpretation of Matt. 16:18 that Augustine, the allegorist, is in agreement with the majority of the so-called "Holy Fathers", including the literalist Chrysostom. (3) But the main error of Roman Theology (and of Fernandez) is that the Pope is Peter's successor--a statement that Cullman, like any other Protestant, has been very careful not to uphold. Fernandez expresses himself thus (o.c., pp. 88,89): "We have spoken of the Primacy of St. Peter. But we should have gained nothing if this were Peter's, exclusively, and were not passed on to Roman Pontiffs. For this reason, something must be said about the problem of `succession'... It is sufficient to say that if Peter is the `foundation' of an `everlasting' Church ("the gates of hell shall not prevail against her") by virtue of his Primacy of jurisdiction, this Primacy must be everlasting, and, therefore, Peter must have successors. Otherwise, the Church is left without `foundation' . . . If Christ has in mind a society whose principle of unity and stability consists in a head, it is then seen that the prophecy of an everlasting Church brings with it the idea of a succession of heads".

In this last paragraph of M. Fernandez we have the summary of the basic principle of the whole Roman system, and the fundamental error which has led an organization which arrogantly claims to be the "only true church of Christ", to commit the monstrous mistake of substituting the only true `principle of unity and stability' of the Church, i.e., Jesus Christ (her Unique Head, proclaimed in the infallible message of His Word, and in the power of His Spirit, the only Vicar of Christ on earth), for the pretended universal and infallible headship of a man of whom the Scriptures, along with Tradition and History, bear witness to the fact that he is not head of the Church universal by disposition of Christ, is not Peter's successor, and has given no evidence of possessing the gift of infallibility. It is obvious from Acts 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:4-8; 5:1-4, how far Peter himself was from even thinking of such a deviation from the truth. And amongst the seven bonds of unity enumerated by Paul in Ephesians 4:3-6, this "head", who is called the Pope, is not found. Blessed be that great spiritual revival of the sixteenth century, which we call "The Reformation", because it brought us back to the clear recognition of the fact that "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11), and that if Peter was a "foundation stone", as also were the other Apostles and evangelists, it was only because, with the apostolic kerygma, crystallized in the written New Testament, he laid down the unique "principle of unity and of stability" of the Church: "Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone" (Eph. 2:20).

 

16. M. Fernandez states (o.c., p. 41): "If, instead of the rôle of `advocate' (lawyer), we assume that of `prosecutor', what about the Protestant Church which, whilst pointing out to our minor differences and harmless discussions, does permit the DIVINITY OF CHRIST to be denied? Is not Bultmann represented, officially, as belonging to the Protestant Church? And this denial, does it not indeed violate THE MOST ESSENTIAL AND FUNDAMENTAL MESSAGE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT?" (italics and the capitals used in Fernandez' passages are always his own).

To this we reply that we true Pro-testants (that is, witnessing to the true Gospel. With reason we call ourselves "evangelicals", to distinguish us from traitors to the Gospel, however they may call themselves) are absolutely agreed that to deny the divinity of Christ, as do Bultmann and his kind, is to violate the most essential and fundamental message of the New Testament: but this gives no right to generalise about the "Protestant Church", within whose vast diversity of denominations if we tolerate anyone "belonging officially to a Protestant denomination" (such as Bultmann and other Modernists--Fernandez must know by this time that Modernism is increasing quickly in the Roman Church itself) who may trespass in matters so vital as to take away from a so-called "reformed" message its essential "protestant" character, it is not because we are in agreement with him on such points. Rather, it is because on this side of the Reformation we do not have a religious dictature such as Rome has, able to impose its authority upon a monolithical, worldwide organization: but we do have the Word of God as the only infallible criterion, under the unction of its sole interpreter, the Spirit (v. 1 Jn. 2:20,27), by Whose help we are able to discern all who are "liars" and "anti-christs" (v. 1 Jn. 2:22: 4:2,3, and cf. Jn. 1:14,18; 20:31; 1 Tim. 3:16), be they German or Italian.

 

17. In order to defend the right of Rome to forbid the reading of a Bible which does not have the explanatory "Romish" notes, Sr. Fernandez presents two reasons: (a) "that the Scriptures contain difficult passages", as Peter himself acknowledged (2 Pet. 3:16); (b) that, on requiring "explanatory notes" in the Bible, "the Catholic Church `does not prohibit the reading of the Bible' . . but wishes to avoid a wrong interpretation when read" (o.c., pp. 29,30).

We reply (a') that the fact that the Scriptures contain difficult passages is no excuse for not reading them, but, on the contrary, a reason for studying them, as Paul and Peter himself recommend (v. 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Pet. 1:19; 3:2), since, according to the very text which M. Fernandez quotes (2 Pet. 3:16), it is precisely the "unlearned and unstable" who "pervert" (better “twist") "also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction". It follows from this that it is not the studious reader of the Bible but the ignorant one who twists the Scriptures to his own destruction.

May we be allowed to recount two anecdotes, passed on to us recently from a very reliable source: In July, 1967, the Mother Superior of the "Colonia della Pontificia Opera di Assistenza" in Ormea, Italy, said to the "Archpriest" or senior priest of the district: "My confessor has forbidden me to read the Bible, because it would put bad thoughts into my mind". Also recently, the parish priest of Bardino Nuovo, Italy, confessed: "If we ourselves have never read the Bible through, how can we expect the laity to read it?"

So P. Quesnel, the French priest condemned by Rome, was in the right, when he said: "To forbid Christians reading the Sacred Scriptures, above all, the Gospel, is to forbid the children of light using light and to make them suffer a certain kind of excommunication" (Denz. 2485, formerly 1435).

(b') If it is a "distorted" reading of the Bible that Rome seeks to avoid by the provision of explanatory notes, we challenge Fernandez to present us with a Protestant interpretation as distorted as the one that the "infallible" Boniface VIII gives of a great number of Bible passages, especially Lk. 22:38--v. the second part of this book, under the heading "The Dark Night of the Spirit"--in his bull "Unam Sanctam". The true believer knows that the Spirit will guide him into a right understanding of the Scriptures (v. 1 Jn. 2:20,27; Jn. 16:13), as long as he studies prayerfully their whole message, since the best interpreter of the Bible is the Bible itself, as Scripture complements Scripture in the most wonderful way.

 

18. In a long chapter (pp. 43-60) written in defence of the Thomist principle designed to legalize the evolutionary process of Roman dogmas, M. Fernandez asserts: (a) that "the function of reason, even when applied to the syllogism" (when the syllogism "serves only as a condition for ascertaining what God has revealed"), "is none other than to guarantee, or ensure, that the so-called `conclusion' is God's `revealed truth"'; (b) because "God, when He speaks, reveals to us not only words, but concepts. These concepts enshrine a content whose truth is guaranteed by Divine Authority"; (c) "To investigate what God has said--he adds--that is, to know that `content' is the task of human reasoning. . . . This previous reasoning is always indispensable . " And he concludes: "It is for this reason that in exegesis a whole flood of historical-philological arguments must be employed in order to ascertain the literal meaning of the Word of God" (o.c., pp. 58,59).

We reply: (a') The function of reason can never guarantee (not even as a condition for discovering that a conclusion is indeed virtually "included" in a revealed premise-known) that the said conclusion is God's "revealed truth", IF GOD HAS NOT EXPLICITLY (by the very words used) OR IMPLICITLY (as expressed by the meaning of the words used) SAID so: (b') because Divine Revelation is now crystallized in WRITING, i.e. in grammatical phrases which express ideas, and there the limit of "revealed truth" is reached. The work of discovering what is the objective content (or message) that these words and concepts express (in part only, when compared with the whole Divine Truth, let it not be forgotten--v. 1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 5:7) may be described as "a pious personal application" or "a theological lucubration", with a view to going deeper into theological teaching. But to turn the philosophical-theological lucubration, by which a content may be discovered, into a guarantee that the conclusion arrived at is "revealed truth" is to destroy the boundary which separates established Revelation, that is, FINISHED REVELATION (v. Heb. 1:1,2; Jude 3) from the changing formulas of theological and philosophical doctrines.

Let us illustrate this difficult matter: Just imagine that God tells me that underneath my apartment there is water, and that the Church discovers from the objective content of the term "water" that it is colourless, tasteless, odourless liquid whose molecules are composed of two parts of hydrogen to one part of oxygen, etc. I shall be able to accept these conclusions virtually comprehended in the objective content of the idea expressed in the term "water" AS THE SCIENTIFIC TEACHING OF THE CHURCH, BUT NEVER AS TRUTH REVEALED BY GOD.

(c') The disparity between this case and the "flood of historical-philological arguments (employed in exegesis) to ascertain the literal meaning of the Word of God" is evident: historical-philological studies tend precisely to investigate what the literal meaning signifies in our own language (i.e. THE GRAMMATICAL EXPRESSION THAT IS REVEALED within a certain Semitic style and construction that enwraps it); that is to say, it assumes an investigation on the part of the reasoning faculty (illuminated by the Holy Spirit) to discover the grammatical meaning of the phrase; whilst the function of the analytical syllogism, tending "to discover the objective content of what has already been revealed" operates in the opposite direction: it works out from a literal meaning, already understood in its literary-grammatical sense, towards a philosophical-theological lucubration of the "objective reality" of a revealed grammatical (logical!) expression.

 

19. In the tenth and last chapter of his book (pp. 105-107), M. Fernandez endeavours to make a comparison between the "weak points" of Catholicism and those of Protestantism. The result (as presented by Fernandez) is unfavourable to Protestantism, and he, therefore, deplores the fact that I had not come to this conclusion "before making a decision, to prevent it from being `a leap into the dark'." (v. o.c., p. 107).

We reserve the full explanation and discussion of the "weak points" of Protestantism, to which the author refers, for the oft-mentioned book, "The Problem of Christian Unity". All that is needed for the present is a very simple observation, but one of utmost importance. Sr. Fernandez seemingly forgets that, precisely on account of the seeming strength of its "infallible, unchangeable, dogmatic unity", the Roman system cannot suffer one single "weak point" without the whole edifice collapsing, in accordance with the well-known axiom "Perfect good must he flawless; the slightest defect turns it into evil". The Reformation, on the other hand (see Article XIX of the Church of England), admits that no visible Church can claim for itself the attribute of infallibility, so, therefore, the "weak points" of Protestantism (if there are any) do not endanger the solidity of that granite-like, anti-Roman, evangelical triptych: BY FAITH ALONE, BY GRACE ALONE, BY THE WORD ALONE.

 

20. W. Hendriksen, The Gospel of John (London, Banner of Truth, 1961), vol. II, p. 365.

 

21. See the reply of Peter and John (Acts 4:19,20) and that of Paul (Acts 24:14) before the "correctly" established authorities. Let us not forget that our Lord Himself was condemned by a High Priest who was a "correct" successor of Aaron.

 

 

NOTE:  

We reject the doctrine ‘once saved always saved’ (which is taught among Baptists, Presbyterians and Reformed), because according to the Scripture not only a believer can lose his salvation but actually there are some believers who have lost it. Please read this.

 

 

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