1. St.Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, X, 7 and 8. 2. St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, XL,4. 3. Ruiz Bueno, Padres Apostolicos, Introduction, Madrid 1950. 4. Ibid, Introduction. 5. Le Camus, L'Oeuvre des Apôtres, V. II, Barcellona 1909, p.29. 6. Mgr. Le Camus, Ibid,V. I, p.10. 7. St. Polycarp, Philippians 7:2. 8. St. Cyprian, Epist. LXIII ad Cœcilium Fratrum. 9. Jeremiah, 6:16 (Septuagint). 10. St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, XVII, 1,.2. 11. St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, XVII, 15.
Regardless of this grotesque dogmatic deviation, I did not wish to abandon my Church. First, however, I had to be assured that I could find refuge in the solace of the spiritual life afforded to me by my order and my monastery. Certainly, I could leave it to the hierarchy to take on the responsibility and obligation to recognize and correct this heresy.
Nevertheless, questions remained. Would I be compromising the interests of my soul if I remained in a religion in which every pope is considered infallible and as such can introduce new doctrines, decrees, and false teachings relating to the faith, the sacraments, and the worship? Wouldn't these impact the integrity of my spiritual life? As Saint Vincent of Lerins warned even since the fifth century:
It is a great temptation if he whom you consider a prophet, interpreter of the prophets, teacher and pillar of truth, whom you follow with the utmost respect and with much love, suddenly begins to introduce in subtle and imperceptible ways dangerous falsehoods that you may not discern easily, dazzled by your preconception of his previous teachings and your blind obedience.1
Moreover, it was easy for me to discern that the very spiritual life of Roman Catholicism bears evident marks indicating the influence of its theological deviations. Doctrinal deviations such as purgatory, practices such as partaking of only one element in Holy Communion, and excesses such as Mary worship, are clear indicators and symptoms of theological degeneration, apparent only to those who wish to look at things objectively. Indeed, having already adulterated the original purity of the evangelical and Apostolic faith with the innovation of Papism and the heresy of infallibility -hence abandoning parts of the true teaching about man- they have deviated in many other areas.
Congruent to all other cases of heterodoxy that appear in ecclesiastical history, they "subsequently extend the distortion to other teachings, initially as a matter of habit and later as if having been given a license for distortion. Eventually, by distorting incrementally all aspects of doctrine, they distort everything."2
It is not at all surprising that various persons highly esteemed for their spirituality in the Roman Church began to sound their trumpet calls, although somewhat late, with public statements as striking as the following:
How can we know if the minor means of salvation that bombard us did not lead us to forget our only Savior, Jesus...3 Our piety today appears like a tree with such entangled branches and such thick foliage, that the souls are in danger of losing sight of the trunk, which holds it all, and of the roots, which embrace the earth.4
Another, even more urgent, entreaty:
We have so bejeweled and over-adorned the picture in such a way, as to cause the image of the One Who is our only need to vanish beneath the embellished ornaments.5 The solution is not only simple but also possible, as the most sincere and daring faithful of this Church have come to recognize. Unfortunately, it remains elusive and distant in its application: Let us not taste a Christianity other than the one of the apostolic era, the wise and highly respected Roman Catholic, Mgr. Le Camus thunders. Let us not allow those who improvise and suggest to us different ideas to agitate our spiritual life, to whittle away our good disposition, and to diminish our efforts.6
These words simply echo the admonitions of Saint Polycarp to the Philippians:
Therefore let us abandon the vanities of men and false teachings and return to the teaching handed down to us from the beginning.7
And the observations of Saint Cyprian to Cecilius:
When truth is missing from practice and tradition, this is rather indicative of the longevity of falsehood. There is a very safe method for spiritual souls to discern between truth and falsehood: it suffices to return to the beginning of the divine teaching, there where the human falsehood ends. Let us return there, to the evangelical beginning, the original teaching given by our Lord; and to the apostolic tradition, there where the word of our thoughts and actions emanates.8
The words of the great Prophet Jeremiah are also very pertinent:
Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.9
I was convinced, therefore, that the very spiritual life within the Roman Church was not without danger since [I]t is a great temptation for the faithful of the Church of God when their leaders fall into delusion. Moreover, the temptation is far more serious and greater when the deceivers occupy very high positions.10 Whoever entrusts his soul to a church that is governed and directed by the heterodox runs the risk of facing the same fate as the faithful who found themselves under the pastoral authority of Origen. The Holy Fathers wrote the following about his actions:
In reality, the bad influence of this teacher on the faithful entrusted to him by the Church presented not a simple but a very great temptation [...] since they did not suspect nor did they feel any danger from him and thus were led progressively and unconsciously from the old faith to an impious innovation.11
Thus, I arrived at a new decision. I no longer wished to stay under the patronage of a false Christianity that exploited the Gospel to serve the imperialist agenda of caesaro-papism. I did not want to be counted among those who, as Saint Cyprian said, "cannot have the true God as their Father since they have rejected the true Church as their Mother,"12 adding further that those who deviate from the true teaching and the original ecclesiastical unity "do not have the law of God, do not have the faith of the Father and the Son, and do not have either life or salvation."13
I was absolutely certain that I had no other recourse but to proceed with my final decision. I made my exit, putting an end to my terrible lot -a lot already defective in every respect- in the bosom of Papism. The grace of the Lord undoubtedly sustained me during those days of such a grave and life-altering decision. It was with great effort and much inward questioning that I withstood the pleading and many tears of my beloved brothers at the monastery. Unfortunately, these were interwoven with numerous reproaches and threats from those in the higher echelon. They called me ungrateful and labeled me an apostate of my forefathers' church and of my country's religious tradition.
To the few who still wished to hear me out, I was content to respond with the words of Saint Jerome, which filled me with much strength and consolation:
We are not obliged to follow the delusions of our predecessors and our relatives but the authority of the Scriptures and the commandments of God.14 As for the alleged "betrayal" of my country's tradition, I was consoled by these words:
Anything that opposes the truth, even if it consists of a tradition or an old custom, is heresy.15
Months later, when I wrote the first chapter of my work The History of Spanish Orthodoxy, an epistemological account regarding the first Iberian Churches created by Saint Paul,16 it suddenly occurred to me that I was the only one who had not betrayed the true old Spanish tradition. And this is because the Church of my country, during the first four centuries of its foundation, was truly Orthodox and not Papist or subservient to the Vatican, as she is today.17 In the end, I left the monastery and shortly thereafter publicized my decision to abandon the Roman Church. Some other monks and priests had felt inclined to follow me, but only up to that point. At the final moment, not one of them appeared willing to sacrifice his Church position, his prestige, and his good reputation in the community.18
Before I walked away from the monastery, though, I had the presence of mind to ask my superiors to certify that my departure was the result of my own choice, while my overall conduct during my monastic life had been exemplary. This letter became subsequently the "deplorable detail" that prevented the Papist Uniates [Greek Catholics] from fabricating slanderous attacks regarding the causes of my "apostasy."
This is the story of how and why I abandoned the Church of Rome, whose leader forgot that the kingdom of the Son of God is "not of this world."19 The leader of the Church of Rome, by forgetting that "he who was called to the office of the episcopate was not called to be vested by human authority but to serve the entire Church,"20 emulated him (Satan) who "in his pride, desiring to be like God, lost true happiness in order to earn a false glory",21 him who "sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God,"22 and who says in his heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."23
Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the great mystics of the West, was then justified when he wrote to Pope Eugene: For you, there is no greater poison, or a more dangerous sword, than the passion of supremacy.24 Driven by this unbridled passion, the popes forced their church to "fornicate with the powers of the world,25 making her the desolation of the merchants."26 In doing so, they violated the commandments of God, expounding the sophistries and teachings of men,27 and "they undermined the truth to build upon it their falsehoods."28 They were found to be liars 29 and followers of the father of lies.30 This was inevitable, because as it happens with the heresies of all epochs, "they introduced human superstitions into the divine dogma and violated the commandments of the ancients by showing contempt for the teachings of the Fathers, invalidating the wisdom of the predecessors, being captivated by the unbridled passion of an impious and vain lust for innovation, and unwilling to restrain themselves within the boundaries of the sacred and incorrupt antiquity."31
Behold the plight of the pope, who not unlike the pitiable Origen, "showed contempt for the simplicity of the Christian faith and claimed to be superior in knowledge to anyone else, disregarding the traditions of the Church and the teachings of the ancients."32 Under these circumstances, I could not have acted any differently than I did. I chose to be obedient to the voice of my conscience, the voice that echoed the commandment of God Himself to His chosen people: Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins and lest you receive of her plagues.33
FOOTNOTES TO CHAPTER 612. Habere iam non potest Deum Patrem, qui Ecclesiam non habet matrem. St. Cyprian, De Unitate Ecclesice, VI. 13. Hanc unitatem qui non tenet, Dei legem non tenet, non tenet Patris et Filii fidem, vitam non tenet et salutem, ibid.14. Nec parentum nec maiorum nostorum error sequendus est, sed auctoritas Scripturarum et Dei docentis imperium. St. Jerome, In Ierem., I, 12. 15. Tertullian, DeVirginibusVelandis, h. I. 16. Published in Athens under the title: The Journey and the Work of Apostle Paul In Spain (Republished by "Ecclesia"), Apos-toliki Diakonia, March 1954. 17. See, Relations of the Iberian Churches and the Church of Africa, From St. Cyprian Until St. Augustine, Lux, Lisbon 1950. Also: Archbishop Juan B. Cabrera, La lglesia en Espana (Desde la Edad Apostòlica hasta la invasion de los Sarracenos), Madrid 1910. 18. Fortunately, the truth is that things are much different today and, by the Lord's help, we can foresee some conversions in the near future due to the interest and love for Orthodoxy, which we are constantly struggling to increase in the West.19. John 18:36. 20. Origen, 6th Homily on Isaiah, I. 21. St. Gregory the Great, Epistle to Ioannis, Patriarch of Constantinople (Epist. S. Gregor. Magn. lib. V, ep. XVIII. Ed. Bened., 1705). 22. 2 Thess. 2:4. 23. Is. 14:13-14 [Septuagint].24. Bernardus Claravalensis, Ad Eugenium Papam, De Consideration, III, 1. 25. Cf. Rev. 18:3. 26. Rev. 18:3. 27. Cf. Matt. 15:3-9. 28. Tertullian, De Prcescriptionibus Hcereticorum, 42. 29. Cf. Prov. 30:6. 30. John 8:44. 31. St.Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, IV, 7. 32. St.Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium, XVII, 14. 33. Rev. 18:4.
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Last update: 20-5-2011.