Reader Dale Rudiger commented on the very first post in this serious, https://pnissila.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/out-of-the-fire-on-leaving-roman-catholicism/ , offering what I think is an exceptionally apt analogy pertaining to why it is so difficult to discern core Gospel truth via the Roman Catholic church. Dale says: The many mediators of Catholicism are like Russian Dolls. By the time you get to Jesus, He is the smallest of all the dolls.
In the nineties I worked for a child and family welfare agency with affiliates around the globe including Russia. Our travelers to that part of the world brought back the most delightful “nesting dolls”. A typical example of nesting dolls is represented in the picture to the right.
These cute little folk art figurines represent several “members” of a common theme. The smaller sizes “fit” into the next larger sizes until all of them fit into the last, biggest doll. A theme could be a family (father down to baby), a series of the same type figure such as a child or a woman, a series of religious personages, or my favorite back then, a series of recent Russian/Soviet heads of state.
Dale’s analogy led me to imagine any number of nesting doll configurations that might represent Roman Catholicism or aspects of that religious system. The dolls might illustrate, for example, the following “people themes”:
- The Roman religious hierarchy (priest, bishop, arch-bishop, cardinal, pope)
- Sub-categories of the hierarchy (canons regular, mendicants, clerks regular, etc.)
- Various “orders” of priests (Jesuit, Franciscan, Trappists, Carthusians, etc.) or nuns (Franciscan, Carmelite, Sisters of Mercy, Holy Name Sisters, etc.)
- Roman Catholic saints, male/female.
Roman Catholic nesting dolls might also illustrate more abstract themes such as these examples:
- The Catholic sacraments (baptism, confirmation, eucharist, extreme unction, confession, holy orders, etc.)
- “Sacramentals” (the rosary, the scapular, the “stations of the cross,” the “miraculous medal,” etc.)
- The “vows” taken by nuns and priests (poverty, chastity, obedience)
- The “seven deadly sins”
- Gradations of sin from venial (lesser sins) to mortal (grave sins that cause one to lose one’s salvation until forgiven by a Catholic priest in confession)
- Ways to earn indulgences (novenas, observing saints’ days, certain prayers, certain acts of charity, visitation of Catholic shrines, etc.)
- Types of approved “penances” for sins…
(Is your head spinning yet?)
Dale went on to write, I see that Catholicism is designed to not only hide Jesus, but also replace Him, add to Him, and take away from Him […].
Let the discerner conclude what the intent of Roman Catholic hierarchy has been via the codification of its hundreds of rules and regulations added since the third century. For my part, having lived the system until my conversion to Christ as a young adult, I would direct people away from the dense tangle of religious requirements “nested” in Catholicism and toward the clear availability of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Who alone is (not just represents) our salvation.
I would direct those with eyes longing to see, ears longing to hear, and hearts hungering for truth to the following:
“(If) you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10, NIV).
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jesus quoted in John 14: 6).
I would encourage the reader and my loved ones still enmeshed in Catholicism to consider the one and only “figure” of classic Christianity necessary for salvation: Jesus Christ in whom, as the apostle wrote, “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). As my reader put it, I would point (my) loved ones to Him. And as a necessary consequence, away from Rome.
Photo from the public domain