Cardinals Explain Why Catholics Leave the Church
“THE rise and spread of the sects or new religious movements is a marked phenomenon in the religious history of our times. They operate with considerable vitality,” stated cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria to a special meeting of high-ranking Catholic clergy held in the Vatican in April 1991. This was reported in the Vatican English weekly edition of L’Osservatore Romano. Cardinal Ernesto Corripio Ahumada, archbishop of Mexico City, was more specific in his speech. He said about the spread of the new religious groups: “The most widespread pseudo-Christian sects are the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.” Cardinal Angel Suquía Goicoechea, archbishop of Madrid, Spain, listed Jehovah’s Witnesses among those who “have taken root in the greatest number of countries.”a
Why are these groups effective in predominantly Catholic countries and areas? Several cardinals advanced a variety of reasons. Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal, archbishop of Cebu, Philippines, stated: “The most effective means to do this seems to be a direct attack on Catholic teachings and practices, especially against Marian devotion, the use of statues, the cult of the saints, the sacrament of confession, the rule of priestly celibacy, etc.”
That is an interesting remark in view of the fact that the first-century Christians initiated none of these practices.b The cardinal’s admission echoes a statement by another Catholic prelate, Cardinal Newman, who wrote back in 1878: “The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints . . . , votive offerings . . . , holy water . . . , images at a later date . . . , are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.”
What other reasons did the cardinals offer for the so-called vulnerability of their flocks? One, says Cardinal Vidal, “is the scarcity of priests who could minister, in a personal manner, to the needs of the Catholic faithful. Little wonder, therefore, that many of our dioceses are wide-open fields for the proselytizing activities of the sects.” But why the shortage of priests? A chief cause is the unscriptural requirement of celibacy imposed on priests in all the Latin church since the 12th century. Even the Catholic Jerusalem Bible states at 1 Timothy 4, verses 1 and 3: “The Spirit has explicitly said that during the last times there will be some who will desert the faith . . . They will say marriage is forbidden.”—Compare 1 Corinthians 9:5; 1 Timothy 3:1, 2.
What answer to the problem of Catholics leaving the church did Cardinal Vidal offer to his fellow prelates? “There is the challenge to read and study, pray over and live the written Word of God.” And that is precisely what Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage all sincere people to do, regardless of their social or religious background. That is why they are so intent on preaching “this Good News of the kingdom . . . to the whole world as a witness to all the nations” before God brings an end to this Satan-dominated world. If you wish to ‘read and study the written word of God,’ please contact Jehovah’s Witnesses at their local Kingdom Hall.—Matthew 24:14, JB; 1 John 5:19.
a In 1991 there were over 320,000 active Witnesses in Mexico, over 88,000 in Spain and 180,000 in Italy.