Why I Left the Priesthood for a Better Ministry
I WAS ordained as a Catholic priest on July 31, 1955, at the age of 24. It was the culmination of 12 formative years spent at the archdiocesan seminary, Rachol, Goa, India. And what had created in me a desire to be a priest?
I was born in Bombay, India, on September 3, 1930. The following year, my father retired, and the family settled down in Salvador do Mundo, Bardez, Goa, on India’s southwest coast. I was the youngest of four children. From infancy I was reared in a Portuguese Catholic culture and tradition, which has existed in Goa since 1510, when it was colonized by Portugal.
My parents, faithful to their beliefs, were zealous Catholics who each year celebrated Christmas, Lent, Easter, and feasts in honor of the Virgin Mary and several “saints.” The priests who participated in these celebrations were often accommodated in our home, sometimes for more than ten days at a time. Thus, we had continuous rapport with them, and as a youngster I was impressed by them.
My Service in Goa, Salamanca, and Rome
I started the priestly ministry with great enthusiasm, and I had no qualms whatsoever about the veracity of the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. During my first seven years of ministry in Goa, I performed sociopastoral duties at the St. Thomas Chapel in Panaji, the capital of Goa. Simultaneously, at the then Portuguese government Polytechnic Institute, I held a civil assignment that had a dual role—professor and also director of the institute’s campus.
In 1962, I was sent to the University of Salamanca, in Spain, where I earned my PhD in Philosophy of Law and Canon Law. In the course of my juridical training, some of the subjects I studied, especially Roman Law and History of Canon Law, incited me to investigate how the constitution of the Catholic Church had evolved and emerged to the point of identifying the pope as Peter’s successor with ‘primacy of jurisdiction over the church.’
I was happy that plans were being made for my theological doctoral studies to be in Rome, Italy, where I would have the opportunity to learn more about the hierarchy of the church. I moved to Rome in the summer of 1965.
At this time the ecumenical council Vatican II had reached its climax. While I pursued my theological studies, I had interesting discussions with several theologians and “Fathers of the Council” who opposed the ultraconservatives in the council. The reigning pope was Paul VI, with whom I had personal contacts in my capacity as the vice president of the Indian Priests’ Association in Rome.
Early Conflicts and Doubts
Throughout the period of these contacts and my studies and research for my doctoral theses, I had opportunity to gain further insight into the history and development of the basic structure of the Catholic Church.a Contrary to the views of the conservatives in the council, who were accustomed to Pius XII’s (1939-58) type of absolute monarchy, the liberals finally managed to get the council’s approval of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Latin title, Lumen Gentium, Light of the Nations). Among other matters, in chapter 3 it dealt with the right of the bishops to participate as a body in the full and supreme authority of the pope over the church. This doctrine was deeply rooted in tradition but was considered heretical and revolutionary by the conservatives.
I found both views to be unacceptable, as they lacked the truth of the Gospel. They are a distortion of Matthew 16:18, 19 and give license to all the past and future unscriptural doctrines and dogmas of the church.b I noted that the Greek words used in this text, peʹtra (feminine), meaning “a rock-mass,” and peʹtros (masculine), meaning “piece of rock,” were not used by Jesus as synonyms. Furthermore, had Peter been given the primacy as the rock-mass, like a cornerstone, there would have been no disputes among the apostles later on as to who was the greatest among them. (Compare Mark 9:33-35; Luke 22:24-26.) Also, Paul would not have dared to rebuke Peter publicly for “not walking straight according to the truth of the good news.” (Galatians 2:11-14) I came to the conclusion that all spirit-begotten followers of Christ are equally stonelike, with Jesus as their foundation cornerstone.—1 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 2:19-22; Revelation 21:2, 9-14.
The higher the level of academic and pastoral status I attained and the greater the exchange of ideas I had, the more distant in mind and heart I became from various dogmas of the Catholic Church, especially those related to the priestly ordination in the context of “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” and “the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist”—called transubstantiation.
In Catholic parlance, “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” is a perpetual commemoration and bloodless renewal of Jesus’ sacrifice on the “cross.” But the Christian Greek Scriptures in general and Paul’s letter to the Hebrews in particular were sufficiently clear for me to deduce that the sacrifice of Jesus was a perfect sacrifice. His work was whole. It neither required nor was susceptible to any additions, repetitions, or improvements. The sacrifice was offered “once for all time.”—Hebrews 7:27, 28.
My Search for the Truth Continues
To test myself, I continued to work for several dioceses and archdioceses in Western Europe, for the archdiocese of New York, and for the diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska. It was a painful nine-year test in my search for the truth. I was mainly involved in administrative matters, ecclesiastical jurisprudence, and judicial practice. I stayed aloof as much as I could from liturgical rites and ceremonies. The greatest challenge was that of saying the daily Mass. It created a serious conflict of feelings and emotions because I did not believe in the repetitive bloodless sacrifice of Christ or in transubstantiation or in the earthly sacral priesthood required to perform validly and licitly the “magic” of transubstantiation.
During the Second Vatican Council, there was an uproar about this “magic.” Liberals led by the Dutch Catholic hierarchy supported only “transignification,” that is, the bread and wine only mean or represent the body and blood of Christ. On the other hand, the ultraconservatives, led by the Italian Catholic hierarchy, staunchly defended “transubstantiation,” that is, the changing of the substance of the bread and wine into the true and real substance of the body and blood of Christ by the “consecration words” uttered during Mass. Hence, the saying was: ‘In Holland all things change except bread and wine, while in Italy nothing changes except bread and wine.’
I Make the Break
In view of such misrepresentation of Christ and his gospel, I felt terribly disappointed and frustrated that my goal to glorify God and save souls was undermined by false doctrines. Hence, in July 1974, I finally resigned from the active ministry with the request for an indefinite leave of absence. It was illogical and unacceptable to me to ask for dispensation from a priesthood that had no Biblical basis. Consequently, from July 1974 to December 1984, I remained in seclusion. I did not associate with any other religion of Christendom because none of them shared my conclusions against the Trinity, the immortality of the soul, the concept of all righteous people gaining everlasting life in heaven, and the never-ending hellfire punishment. I viewed these doctrines as products of paganism.
Inner Peace and Happiness
My religious seclusion ended in December 1984. In my capacity as manager of the Credit and Accounts Receivables Department for an Anchorage, Alaska, business, I had to discuss several invoices with a customer, Barbara Lerma. She was in a hurry and stated that she had to attend a “Bible study.” The expression “Bible study” drew my attention, and I asked her a few Biblical questions. She promptly and efficiently gave me Scriptural answers that were rather compatible with my own doctrinal conclusions. Finding that I had more questions, Barbara put me in touch with Gerald Ronco, who was at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Alaska.
The upbuilding Bible-related discussions that followed brought me inner peace and happiness. These were the kind of people I had been searching for—God’s people. I prayed to God for guidance and in due time began associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses as an unbaptized preacher of the good news. I was indeed surprised to learn that this organization’s headquarters was located in Brooklyn, New York, only a few miles from the Holy Family Church in Manhattan, where I had served (in 1969, 1971, and 1974) as associate pastor of the Parish Church of the United Nations.
Helping My Family to See the Truth
After six months of association with Jehovah’s Witnesses in Anchorage, I moved to Pennsylvania on July 31, 1985. Here I had the privilege of sharing the good news of Jehovah’s Kingdom with my niece Mylene Mendanha, who was pursuing graduate studies in biochemistry at the University of Scranton. When Mylene learned that I was looking for Jehovah’s Witnesses, she was taken aback, as she had earlier been misinformed that the group was a cult. At first she did not say anything to me because she respected me as her uncle and a priest and had high regard for my academic and pastoral achievements.
The following Sunday, Mylene went to the Catholic Church for Mass, and I went to the Kingdom Hall for the Bible discourse and Watchtower Study. That very evening we sat together, she with the Catholic Jerusalem Bible and I with the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. I showed her the name Yahweh in her Bible and the equivalent, Jehovah, in the New World Translation. She was thrilled to learn that God has a name and that he wants us to call on him by his name. I also told her how unscriptural the doctrines of the Trinity, transubstantiation, and the immortality of the soul were and showed her the pertinent scriptures. She was simply amazed!
Mylene’s interest was further piqued when I told her about the hope of everlasting life in Paradise on earth. Before that she was worried as to what would happen to her at death. She thought she was not holy enough to go directly to heaven, but she did not think she was so wicked that she should be condemned to everlasting hellfire punishment. Hence, the only alternative in her mind was purgatory, where she would have to wait patiently for people’s prayers and for Masses to send her up to heaven. However, after I showed and explained to her several scriptures concerning the hope for everlasting life in Paradise on earth, she was eager to learn more about this wonderful good news. Mylene attended the Kingdom Hall meetings with me. We started a formal Bible study with local Witnesses. Shortly after, we made our dedication to Jehovah God and were baptized on May 31, 1986.
My family, especially my eldest brother, Orlando, were upset at the news of my leaving the priesthood. He consulted my sister Myra Lobo Mendanha, who calmed him down, saying: “Let us not be troubled by this, since Alinio would not have relinquished all his 43 years of hard work without a very good reason.” In September 1987, Myra and her family joined me in Wisconsin, U.S.A. I had no difficulty in making them see the unscriptural nature of many of the Catholic doctrines and practices. They were keen to learn Bible truth. Immediately, Mylene and I started a Bible study with them. Upon their moving to Orlando, Florida, they continued their study.
The peace and happiness we all enjoyed made us share the good news of Jehovah’s Kingdom with my eldest sister, Jessie Lobo, who lives in Toronto, Canada. She had been witnessed to in 1983. However, having a brother as a priest, she believed that nothing would make her change her faith. Four years after that initial conversation with Jehovah’s Witnesses, when she found that I had become a Witness of Jehovah and that Myra and her family were preachers of the good news, she contacted a Witness who promptly arranged a Bible study. Jessie was baptized on April 14, 1990; Myra, my brother-in-law Oswald, and my niece Glynis were baptized on February 2, 1991. They are very happy to serve Jehovah, the Most High.
The conservative traditionalists and the liberal progressives in the Catholic Church are certainly intelligent people. They believe they are doing God’s will. However, we should not overlook the fact that “the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) It is clear, then, that the wisdom of this system of things is foolishness with God. (1 Corinthians 3:18, 19) How grateful and happy I am that Jehovah makes “the inexperienced one wise” through an accurate knowledge of his Word.—Psalm 19:7.
My 19 years of service as a Catholic priest is history. Now I am a Witness of Jehovah. It is my desire to walk in Jehovah’s ways and to follow his Son, Jesus Christ, our King and Savior. I would like to help others to know Jehovah so that they too might qualify for the prize of everlasting life on a paradise earth, to the glory of the true God, Jehovah.—As told by Alinio de Santa Rita Lobo.
a I left Salamanca while still doing research on my Canon Law thesis, which I presented in 1968.
b This text states in part, according to the Catholic New American Bible: “I for my part declare to you, you are ‘Rock,’ and on this rock I will build my church . . . Whatever you declare bound on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you declare loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” —See box, page 23.
[Box on page 23]
Keys of the Kingdom
As to the “keys of the kingdom of the heavens,” its meaning becomes obvious when considering the reprimand Jesus issued to the religious leaders: “You took away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not go in, and those going in you hindered!” (Luke 11:52) Matthew 23:13 further elucidates “go in” as indicating entrance into “the kingdom of the heavens.”
The keys Jesus promised to Peter constituted a unique educational role that would open up special opportunities for individuals to enter into the heavenly Kingdom. Peter used this privilege on three occasions, helping Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles.—Acts 2:1-41; 8:14-17; 10:1-48; 15:7-9.
The object of the promise was, not Peter’s dictating to heaven what should or should not be bound or be loosed, but Peter’s being used as heaven’s instrument for the three specific assignments. That is the case because Jesus remained as true Head of the congregation.—Compare 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 4:15, 16; 5:23; Colossians 2:8-10; Hebrews 8:6-13.
[Picture on page 24]
Alinio de Santa Rita Lobo now a Witness