Mary Ann Collins
I left the Catholic Church because I discovered that some of its doctrines and practices were contrary to Scripture, However, in spite of that, I still had a sense of loyalty to it. When people spoke against it, I was hurt. When I learned unpleasant things about the history of the Catholic Church, I was distressed. When I did the research for the articles on my website (CatholicConcerns.com), I lost a lot of sleep, I ate a lot of Rolaids, and I had some stress-related health problems. It was very hard on me emotionally, but I kept on doing the research because I wanted to know the truth. And as I learned, I wrote articles. Later, some of those articles became chapters in this book.
Since then, I have been learning some unpleasant things about current events. Things are happening in America and other parts of the world that I never dreamed could ever happen. And I have come to the conclusion that the bad things in Catholic history are not primarily due to Catholicism. Some unscriptural teachings of Catholicism contributed to them, but the basic problem is our fallen human nature. As Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Better undersstanding of Scripture does not necessarily solve the problem. The Anabaptists were persecuted by both Catholics and Protestants.
I used to attend a small Evangelical church where the pastor taught good doctrine and led Scripturally sound Bible studies. He had a charismatic personality and he seemed to love the Lord. But eventually I learned that he was a controller and a manipulator. Some people in that church were emotionally abused by him. What would that pastor be like if he had the power and money and prestige of the popes? I doubt if his knowledge of Scripture and sound doctrine would have protected him from the temptations involved, because he wanted to control people.
Do you remember Jim Jones? When he started out, many people thought that he was a good preacher and a good pastor. But he wound up causing 900 of his devoted followers to commit suicide in their community in Guyana. What would a man like that have done if he had the power and money and influence that the popes had during the Middle Ages?
In politics, many individuals and news reporters have the attitude that “we” are the good guys and “they” are terrible people. Such harsh critics fail to recognize that people who strongly disagree with them, and who do things they don’t approve of, may be sincerely doing the best that they can based on what they have been taught. They may have good intentions, even if their behavior results in destructive consequences. It is possible to be distressed by the consequences without demonizing the people.
The Bible describes a time when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6) In other words, instead of studying the Scriptures and living according to God’s direction and standards, they followed their own opinions. And what is the result of that? “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
We can see the results of that in Catholic history, in world history, and in current events. Businesses can be plagued with greedy, dishonest people. Schools can be plagued by bullies. Families can be plagued by dissention and divorce. And Jesus warned us that in our churches there would be tares among the wheat. (Matthew 13:24-30)
When we read about popes who did bad things, we should be grateful that we have never had to face the temptations, and the level of responsibility, that come with having that kind of wealth and power and influence. We need to remember Paul’s warning, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) We need to remember the old saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
When we learn about destructive things such as the Inquisition, we need to remember that Jesus warned us that such things would happen. He told His disciples, “…yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think he doeth God service. (John 16:2) Please note the deception involved. People are doing a bad thing (killing faithful followers of Jesus Christ), but they sincerely believe that it is good (pleasing to God).
One example of this is the Apostle Paul before his conversion. When he hunted down Christians to have them killed, he thought that he was serving God. We need to be careful not to “monsterize” people who do such things. We can’t tell the difference between a persecuting Saul (who will later become a godly Paul) and other persecutors. Only God can do that.
When we read about persecuted Christians (whether in the old days of the Inquisition, or the many Christians who are being persecuted in various countries today), we need to remember Romans 8:28. If those Christians love God, then He will make their trials and tribulations work out for their long-term spiritual good. True Christians who suffer for Christ and for the truth of the Gospel have a special kind of relationship with the Lord that can only come from having sacrificed everything in order to be faithful to Him. For all eternity, they will be grateful for how God’s grace got them through their trials, and how they came to know God’s love and faithfulness at a much deeper level because of it.
Jesus told us, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) That applies to the victims of the Inquisition, and to persecuted Christians today. And it also applies to us. When we read the newspapers and it looks as if the world is going crazy, we need to remember that no matter what happens, we can have peace and joy and confidence because of Jesus Christ. He told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) He spoke that to His disciples shortly before going to the Cross. If we are also His disciples (believing in Him, loving Him, serving Him, and obeying Him), then it applies to us as well.
During World War II, Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy were sent to a Nazi death camp because they hid Jews in their home. At first, Corrie hated the Nazis. She saw them as monsters. But Betsy saw them as trapped, tormented men and women. She forgave them and she prayed for them, even when they were cruel to her. She told Corrie to forgive them, and eventually Corrie was able to, by the grace of God. (You can read about this in Corrie’s book “The Hiding Place.”)
Betsy died in that camp. Corrie was released due to a “clerical error” (i.e., God’s intervention). After the war, Corrie established places for helping people who had been prisoners in the death camps. Then she travelled the world, evangelizing and preaching about the importance of forgiveness. During her travels, she encountered one of her former prison guards. Seeing him, at first the old feelings came back, but by God’s grace, she was able to shake his hand. When she did that, God’s love broke through, and she and her former tormenter embraced each other, weeping.
A Dutchman named Jan Vogel betrayed Corrie’s family and many other Dutch people. He was caught and sentenced to death. When Corrie found out about it, she wrote to him, telling him that she forgave him, and telling him about God’s love and forgiveness. Jan Vogel became a Christian a week before he was executed.
Betsy ten Boom saw the Nazis from God’s perspective. Eventually, Corrie was able to do the same. With God’s grace, we can do the same for other people who do harmful things, whether they be the Inquisitors of long ago, or people today.
Jesus told us to love everybody, even our enemies. (Matthew 5:44) And He is able to enable us to do it. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13) If bad things happen, then we can choose to respond like Corrie and Betsy ten Boom. And God will enable us to do it. His grace is always sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
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