Out of the Fire 2: On Leaving Roman Catholicism

Phyllis Nissila


I am reading How Mankind Committed the Ultimate Infamy at Auschwitz, a New History by Laurence Rees. He chronicles the history of the infamous World War II concentration camp with new perspective based on information gleaned from dozens of original interviews with survivors and Nazi perpetrators.

One of the cruelties of the concentration camp for its victims was never knowing if/when they would be set free, which gave the camp overseers much more power and kept the inmates scrambling to comply with orders. The situation  reminded me of the Roman Catholic concept of purgatory: a condition of penance/torture-by-fire after death that is also without defined limit. Or so the teaching goes. And knowledge of purgatory definitely had a certain power over me when I was growing up, kept me on my knees, so to speak, doing what I could to avoid it.


The only ones who escape some or all of this cruel sentence in Roman Catholicism are those who earn “plenary indulgences” via some rite or some “works” such as confession to a priest followed by a certain prayer (and then remain sin free), by visiting various Catholic shrines or holy places (some pilgrimages+indulgences are available for a limited time only, however), by attending Mass and receiving communion, by suffering physically, or by doing various kinds of “good works” [1]. Or so it goes.

I wrote before (https://pnissila.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/out-of-the-fire-on-leaving-roman-catholicism/) how this teaching contributed to my fear of God when I was a child, for it was never specified how long one would have to suffer in purgatory’s fires after death (note: nowadays, the emphasis is more on purgatory as a place of “purification,” or “perfection,” the exact method downplayed). Even a few minutes seemed gruesome to me.


And I wondered: would a given sin net a day or a thousand days in the fire? How much more time would a mortal sin, even though confessed, add to the sentence? Did sins of omission rank less in burn/purification time than sins of commission?  What if your relatives didn’t like you and they never prayed for you to have a shortened purgatory sentence, or what if they couldn’t afford to have Masses “said” to get you out sooner, or what if you didn’t have relatives or they didn’t know you had died? So many questions for a child afraid of fire. I wouldn’t hear the good news related to all this for many years, but fortunately, I did.


To those still bound by this teaching, who believe, like I did long ago, that you must somehow do some of the penance required by God for your sins, I invite you to consider the following scriptures that have helped me and countless others in the process out of Roman Catholicism and into the joy of our salvation:

“For by one offering he (Jesus) hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified: (Hebrews 10: 14 KJV).

“Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down and the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

“It is finished” (John 19:30).

The good news is really– good. Jesus, the only Lamb of God, paid the price, i.e. the penance, for our sins. In full. One time. On the cross. Praise God. Believers are free, indeed.



[1] Just a few references on how to avoid purgatory from a priest, a nun, and a Roman Catholic saint.

According to Fr. Paul O’Sullivan: http://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/purgb2.htm

According to Sister Angelica:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbbMYapIOvA

According to St. Bridget of Sweden: http://www.angelfire.com/ca3/rafaelmarie/St.Bridget.html

On Purgatory itself:



Fire photo from the public domain at: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=fire

This entry was posted in Commentaries, Ex-Roman Catholic/Catholicism, most recent posts, Out of the Fire: On Leaving Roman Catholicism, Purgatory and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Out of the Fire 2: On Leaving Roman Catholicism

  1. Colin Markham says:

    Phyllis, I have been greatly encouraged by your intelligent and thoughtful posts about leaving the Catholic Church. I live in a small seaside town on the coast of the English Channel where the choice of denominations is very limited. I hang in there (with the RC Church) because the ‘opposition’ is just as bad or worse. But in all honesty I don’t believe in a lot of Catholic doctrine. I am on the brink of leaving the RC Church and just becoming a ‘non-denominational’ Christian until I can find a new spiritual home. My faith is strong. It’s Bible-based. I love to delve into things to find the truth about Christianity and have discovered a lot about Catholicism that just doesn’t ring true. I can recommend ‘The Unfinished Reformation’ by Gregg Allison and Chris Castaldo (Zondervan, 2016) to anyone who wants to explore the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism in a reasoned and balanced way. It was a particularly important read for me in my present state of disillusionment. My mantra now (at 68) is ‘keep it simple’, which Catholicism isn’t! But ‘simple’ is not the same as ‘easy’. Our journey in life is not always easy. I am referring to simplification of theology and spirituality, off-loading all the accretions added by man since the early years of the Church. It’s that early Church that’s the key, before the Church became a wealthy imperialist institution. It wasn’t meant to be like that. In some ways the Quakers got it right in their early pioneering days but they’ve gone all humanist over here in the U.K. At any rate, thank you once again for your inspiring blog.


    • pmcb says:

      Hello, Colin, from this side of the pond.

      And thank you for another comment. It’s nice to hear from you again, and I’m glad you are maintaining you’re relationship with Christ in these days when it is hard to find Bible-based fellowships. But, then, He is “perfecting” His, as the Scripture notes.

      Even for Protestants here in the U.S. (and I’m including the various denominations in the so-called Southern Bible Belt) there is a lack of Bible-based fellowships. So the same phenomenon you call “going all humanist” is going all around the globe. Prophetically, of course, this will continue to happen until the one-world religion emerges, but it is hard at times to be of the fewer and fewer remaining and hungry for the real thing. Thank God for the Internet, many of us over here often say.

      A question for you: I am just now considering compiling (revising and re-formatting) my “Out of the Fire” series into a book. My hope is that current Catholics who might read it will see in it encouragement and hope and, of course, realize this is just one person’s story, and NOT merely a criticism of RC. I am first of all an encourager in the Body of Christ, and I want this aspect of what I present to stand out. I know how it is to feel responsible to have to defend the entire RC system when someone critiques it as if it is a personal attack on oneself (very clever, nuanced psy op, that “feeling”…).

      On the other hand, maybe compiling a book is truly the Lord’s leading.

      So, when you read through my material, does this encouragement come through to you, and do you think putting all this in a book might be good direction?

      Thanks for the recommendation for the Unfinished Reformation, by the way.

      Blessings and Cheers,


      • Colin Markham says:

        Hello Phyllis. I think the main thing is to encourage readers of your blog/book to remain Christian. Many people who leave their church, whatever denomination, leave the faith and some go to other faiths. By pointing out the shortcomings of Catholic doctrine you are doing a Christian service to people who are either wavering (as I once was) or are, like me, convinced that their Christian convictions are not best served by remaining in the RC Church. In the end you have to be true not only to God but to yourself. You cannot live a lie. Whilst there are certain things I like about the Catholic Church, there are too many man-made doctrines, fanciful fabrications that I feel uncomfortable with, and some of these are not minor issues. For instance, most of the doctrine about Mary is nonsense and totally un-Biblical, and in some instances blasphemous. Such things are blatantly misleading, entirely unnecessary for a true understanding of the Christian faith and for salvation.

        Many cradle Catholics won’t question anything the Church has taught them out of fear of either divine or Church retribution. This atmosphere is hardly Christian. There is simply too much in the way with Catholicism, too much to take on board. I am convinced that the Christian faith was never meant to have so many elaborations and rules. It’s reminiscent of legalistic Judaism as taught and practised by the Pharisees and the scribes. Christ replaced all of that in his own person and in his atoning death. He is the new Temple. He is our High Priest and we have no need of priests. He is, in short, everything we need for an understanding of forgiveness and redemption, all rolled into one. The Church, as an institution, is Pharisaic and its mode of worship is too ritualistic. The head of the Church is Christ. He is our Redeemer and Saviour. Everything else cooked up by man is detail, and much of it superfluous.

        So please continue with your project. Readers of it will recognize it as a personal account of seeking freedom from the RC Church, but along the way they will also see that many of your anecdotes correspond with their own experiences. This in itself is encouragement.

        I hope this helps.



      • pmcb says:

        Thanks, Colin, and excellent summary.


  2. pnissila says:

    Hey, Carl. Yes, the questions DO seem silly, especially to non-Catholics. However, they represent the logical conclusions/questions fostered by the teachings on purgatory. I hope people who are currently seduced by things Roman Catholic do a very careful study of the tenets of that religious system before they go further.

    And I am eternally grateful for Jesus’ great gift on the cross…He set me free, indeed!


  3. Carl Gordon says:

    Just read some pertinent comments on this site:
    Victim’s of Johnson’s Sozo Ministry Speak Out | Closingstages

    Although not Roman Catholocism, other heresies abound these days! Thank GOD for His Word!! Abiding in Him and letting HIs Word abide in me!


  4. Carl Gordon says:

    “So many questions for a child afraid of the fire…” I remember that kind of fear too, having grown up in Roman Catholocism, (but now free…). The questions surrounding that statement seem almost ludicrous, were they not for real and taken seriously by anyone still bound in that system! Even though I am now saved, what you shared about Jesus brought me to tears! Many thanks!


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