The Changing Face of Roman Catholicism
|By: Mike Gendron; ©2003|
|Mike Gendron reports on his recent attendance of a Catholic Evangelization Conference—teaching Catholics how to respond to Christian evangelism methods.|
The Changing Face of Roman Catholicism
Did you ever think you would see the day when Protestant pastors would convert to Roman Catholicism and then be used to draw others to the Catholic faith? That day has arrived as evidenced by The Springtime of Catholic Evangelization Conference, which was held June 27-29 at the Plano Center outside of Dallas, Texas. The sponsors gave my wife Jane and I complimentary tickets ($65 at the door) in hopes that we would come back to “the one true church.” They made only one request in exchange for the free tickets. They asked us not to proselytize Catholics during the conference. So off we went to see and experience the changing face of Roman Catholicism in America. The event was promoted by the Fullness of Truth Catholic Evangelization Ministry, a ministry “established to promote and share the inestimable gift and irrefutable truth of the Roman Catholic Faith with all mankind, though with sincere charity and reverence.”
When we arrived we were indeed surprised to see so many attendees. About 1500 zealous Catholics were gathered to learn how to defend their faith and evangelize non-Catholics. Surprisingly, only two of the ten conference speakers were Catholic priests, one of whom was ordained at the age of 44. Three of the featured speakers, Tim Staples, Jeff Cavins, and Marcus Grodi, promoted themselves as former Protestant pastors who have since converted to Roman Catholicism. Another speaker, Stephen Ray was a former Baptist Sunday School teacher. Patrick Madrid, the founder and publisher of Envoy Magazine (a Catholic journal of apologetics and evangelization), Johnette Benkovic, host of a Catholic TV program, Marcellino D’Ambrosio, professor at the University of Dallas and Rosalind Moss, a Jewish convert to Catholicism were also part of the platform of speakers.
I told some of the conference sponsors that this kind of an event is not representative of the Catholic Church I left in 1984. Twenty years ago, Catholics would have never attempted to schedule a lay conference on apologetics and evangelism. There would not have been enough interest. Nor would you have seen a conference where lay people outnumbered priests in the key authoritative roles of teaching. Yet these types of conferences are springing up all over America. Former Protestant ministers are writing books, producing television programs such as The Coming Home Network International, debating evangelicals and aggressively pursuing the re-unification of all Protestants to the Church of Rome. Catholic bookstore shelves are now filled with books and tapes of these former Protestants who have left the true faith for another gospel and another Jesus. It is no wonder Roman Catholicism is beginning to appear more evangelical to the non-discerning observer.
The conference had something for everyone. Each of the three days started with a rosary and the Sacrifice of the Mass. Those who wanted to confess their sins to a priest had several opportunities. Throughout each day attendees were encouraged to go into a special room to spend time adoring the Eucharistic Jesus. Booths and tables were filled with merchandise for sale, from statues and rosaries, to books and T-shirts. One T-shirt gave the top ten reasons to remain a Catholic. The Mary Queen of Peace Center sponsored a booth of particular interest. They offered pictures of Mary and a phone number (214-233-MARY) that is active 24 hours a day with the latest message from Mary’s apparition in Medjugorje. Conference topics included “The Eucharist—You Are What You Eat”,
“Peter and the Papacy—Source of Unity and True Ecumenism”, “Why Be Catholic When You Can Be Anything Else”, “How To Keep Your Kids Catholic”, and “Hey Catholic—Are You Saved?” In the main auditorium, the Virgin Mary had prominence with her picture displayed on two huge banners. The only sign of Jesus was a crucifix hanging near the stage.
Much of the conference focused on educating Roman Catholics on how to defend their faith against evangelicals quoting Scripture. Needless to say, there were some questionable teachings presented and noted. Tim Staples said: “only a holy priest who has permission from his bishop can cast out demons.” Regarding Mary’s ability to hear the prayers of a billion Catholics simultaneously, Staples said: “Our blessed mother can do this because she is not bound by time.” One of the priests, John Corapi, who spent most of his time sharing humorous stories, said: “I so often thank God that He allowed me to be baptized into a good Catholic family.”
Patrick Madrid presented several ways to overcome objections and defend the faith when confronted by evangelicals. He said, “The Catholic Church is the true church founded by Christ” and the reason you do not see monsignors, pope-mobiles and other such things in the Bible is because these are part of the organic growth of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, he proclaimed, “the Catholic Church does not amputate books from the Bible,” suggesting that’s exactly what the reformers did with the apocryphal books. When an evangelical opens a Bible and starts quoting Scripture, Madrid said to tell them, “Oh good! You are using our [Catholic] book, how nice.” He said to be sure to contrast our rich soil which has produced such saints as Mother Teresa with the Protestant soil, which is so thin. Madrid also talked about all the Catholics who died for their faith. He failed to mention all the martyrs the Church brutally murdered for not bowing their knee to the papacy or the Eucharist.
The “Stump the Apologist—Question and Answer” session gave us a good insight into the contemporary Catholic mind-set. Most of the questions dealt with how Catholics should respond to evangelicals who use Scriptures to renounce the Catholic religion. Almost all the answers began with “The Church teaches…” instead of “The Bible teaches…” Of course, this came as no surprise since Catholics are taught that their Bishops are the only people entrusted to give an authentic interpretation of the Bible. How tragic that our Lord’s authority has been replaced by a religious institution intent on controlling its people with insidious indoctrination.
In conclusion, I could not help but contrast this conference with The Proclaiming Jesus Conference held in Dallas last October. Six speakers equipped the saints to become faithful witnesses to Muslims, Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons and Catholics. The Proclaiming Jesus Conference was free and many of the resources were given away at no charge, but only about 100 Christians came to hear how to earnestly contend for the faith. Yet, 1500 Catholics paid $65 to learn how to defend their religion against those who proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As more and more Protestants depart from the faith of the apostles and join the Roman Catholic Church, they will be instrumental in persuading others to do the same. This changing face of Roman Catholicism is consistent with how Scripture describes the last days. “Some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1). They appear to be godly men but they have chosen to believe another gospel. These men will be seen “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:1). Clearly the power they deny is the Gospel. “It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). These former Protestants, who have demonstrated their denial of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by their adherence to a gospel of works, sacraments and indulgences, will continue to deceive others without resistance unless the Body of Christ takes a stand to earnestly contend for the faith. Whenever doctrinal error is propagated unopposed, it flourishes and deceives even the elect if that were possible. The Spiritual Battle for Truth has intensified! Only the word of God can expose, refute and correct this global religious deception.