Born Polish; i.e., Born Catholic
I was raised the fifth of eight children (seven boys) of Polish-American parents in inner-city Detroit, Michigan, USA. I was born into a Roman Catholic heritage of many generations. My father had actually attended a Roman Catholic seminary for more than a year, pursuing a priestly vocation, before meeting and eventually deciding to marry my mother instead. I was blessed with academic skills and an interest in achieving and doing my best in whatever task was at hand. I attended Catholic elementary schools until the seventh grade at historic churches built by Polish immigrants who settled in Detroit from the late 1880s onward. I served as an altar boy under the Latin Rite for a year (and would have served longer had we not had to move around a bit, as explained next).
Our lives changed dramatically in late 1956. Over many years my father had become an alcoholic, and was increasingly abusive to my mother. My older brother, Fred (just turned 18 at the time), brought us out of that distressed home, and we never returned to live with our father. My mother, and the remaining older brothers, helped to raise the rest of us in Southgate, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. We attended St. Pius X Church, and I regularly and gladly participated in CCD classes for 6 years, right through high school.
I thrived in academics, enjoyed sports, and was athletic enough to compete for an appointment to the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, NY. A boyhood dream come true, I did attend there and did quite well in that structured environment. (A decade later I went back there to teach for three years.) As a Cadet, I attended mass and other services regularly, participated in the Cardinal Newman Forum, and sang in the Catholic Choir.
In summary, I was a practicing Catholic for 25 years: through college and in my early military career, which included a year in South Vietnam. One common theme in my youth was the comfort that I found in tradition and rules – whether for academic success, personal behavior, family stability, spiritual comfort, or achievement in life. The Roman religious system laid out clearly what I had to do to become acceptable to God and how to stay in His good graces. It was possible to know what I was expected to DO spiritually what it took to get to Heaven. I thought about that a lot, and wanted to be acceptable to Him. I did not know then that the Apostle Paul taught clearly, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
My Timeless Church was Changing – a Lot!
The Roman Catholic Church convened a historic gathering of Church leadership from 1962 to 1965, known as Vatican Council II, to modernize and update the Church in light of the many developments in the modern world. But the changes of “Vatican II” continued to evolve, especially in the United States. By 1970 they cumulatively became so disorienting to me that I believed my Church had left me! The rules and practices were so different, many of which I had found useful and comforting, and I wondered what else might change in the future.
My wife (and high school sweetheart) Linda had been raised in a Christian denomination. When we got married in 1967, it was a brief, “mixed-marriage” ceremony at my home Catholic Church, St. Pius X. My mother did not attend because Linda was not Catholic (not an uncommon response in that era). Nevertheless, my Aunt Lucille arranged for us to get a Papal blessing from Pope Paul VI for our marriage (shown here).
As a married couple, we attended masses each Sunday and all Holy Days of Obligation wherever we lived. After I returned from serving in South Vietnam in 1970, Linda began taking classes to become a Catholic, so that we could be one in our worship. However, within several months we stopped attending our local Catholic parish, out of my cumulative frustration with the on-going liturgical changes, and a long-simmering dissatisfaction with “My Church” over five years.
Dropping Out of “the Only True Church” – Where Else Could We Go?
We just dropped out of regular church attendance for about ten years. We never considered going elsewhere for regular Sunday services. My religious upbringing taught me that the Roman church was “the only true church,” founded by Christ Himself on St. Peter! So where else was there to go? Most holidays we did attend church services on Christmas and Easter as a part of our family observances, at whichever Catholic or Christian church was convenient.
Meanwhile, I channeled my zeal into my career and educational attainment, and these effectively became my idols. I earned graduate degrees in nuclear engineering (Masters & Ph.D), civil engineering (Masters), and a Masters of Business Administration. Career highlights during a 26-year career in the U.S. Army include: serving on a nuclear weapon design team at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, teaching Cadets as an Assistant Professor in Mechanics at West Point, commanding a 900-man engineer battalion in Germany, negotiating nuclear test inspection protocols with the Russians, serving in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff on NATO nuclear policy matters, and finishing as a Colonel within the Army Secretariat. Such career pursuits had become my selfish goals for my benefit, and also “for my family.” In short, I had become my own “god,” not giving spiritual matters or my eternal destiny much thought. Although our material comfort and lifestyle was quite “satisfying,” Linda and our two young daughters suffered for it spiritually.
My Faith Was Not Based on the Bible
Before continuing my story, it is important to note at this point that I did become a ‘lapsed Catholic’ due to objections with Rome’s theology, because I had no idea they were not true and not based on the Bible. In retrospect, I do not even recall our family having a Bible! As children we each had our Baltimore Catechism, St. Joseph’s Missal (containing the standard Catholic prayers: Mass, confession, the Church calendar of saints’ days and feasts, etc.), rosaries, Mass cards, scapulars, and saints’ medals. Only much later did I find almost all of these practices were contrary to the Bible.
Furthermore, no true Christian in my circle of friends and colleagues ever explained to me (confronted me?) with biblical truths that are contrary to Catholic teachings. I would not have responded well, until God gave me the grace to hear and understand, but no one even tried. I now understand that they could have used any of the following fundamental differences between official Roman Catholic teachings and what the Bible teaches. If you are a Roman Catholic, active or passive, please check out these matters in the Bible for yourself. Why not?
· Rome calls the Sacrifice of the Mass a real sacrifice (or a “re-presentation” of Christ’s sacrifice) – for the remission of sins in either case – in spite of the very clear teaching of the book of Hebrews such as: “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews chapters 7, 9, & 10 clearly teach that this sacrifice was all-sufficient, hence a one-time divine work!) Conclusion: There is no need for the Mass, at all! In fact, it is blasphemous to contend that Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient, and that we can and must do more!
· The same grievous error applies to the “penance” we supposedly must do and the indulgences we can earn to complete payment for the penalty for my sins. No! Jesus on the cross said, “It is finished,” which in Greek is Tetelestai, or “paid in full,” meaning the debt to the Father due for our sins was paid for by His Son, in full. Period. Conclusion: These false teachings lead Catholics to follow a very different Jesus from the biblical Jesus: the One who is necessary for salvation but not fully sufficient!
· Christ is said to be bodily present in the wafer of the Eucharist during each Mass, which wafer is therefore worthy of worship! From childhood we were taught to fast from food from midnight until taking the wafer or “Host” of Communion at Mass the next morning, out of reverence for “God,” and a solemn reminder of what “It” represented. We knelt and bowed at the presentation of the consecrated “Host” presented by the priest during the Mass. Of course, I had no idea that there was no hint of such practices in the New Testament Church, or in the Scriptures. Luke, in the book of Acts, did teach with these words from the angels at Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, that Christ would return physically, but only once at the end of the age: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw him go into heaven.” No hint in this verse that Christ also will return daily on every altar where ‘Mass’ is performed. Conclusion: The wafer of Catholicism cannot be the same Jesus returning to us “in like manner.” Furthermore, contrary to the second commandment, which Catholicism blends into their version of the first commandment, I now understand the worship of a wafer of bread, as “God,” is idolatry!
· The birth-to-death sacramental system of Catholicism suited me quite well. The concept of being able to earn more saving grace through the sacraments and other rituals made “worldly” sense. All worthy attainments, whether they be professional, military, or academic, are merit-based, aren’t they? So why not I follow a merit system to “get in God’s good graces” and stay there through my moral efforts and obedience to “His Church”? But I learned much later that the Bible teaches the opposite, that grace that is earned is no grace at all! The Apostle Paul taught this in many ways, for example, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Also consider: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Conclusion: We cannot earn God’s grace. We need not “do” any more than to believe that Christ, God Himself, has already done everything for our salvation, as the perfect sacrifice! Further, even having such belief, or faith, is a gift of God’s grace, and is not self-generated. How dare I think I can add to what Christ did at Calvary to merit my salvation!
· The significant divine roles attributed to Mary and reverence for her are pervasive in Catholicism, but even more so in certain groups, such as the Polish people. In our home, the role of Mary was far more prominent than Jesus, since she was “Our Mother.” Mary, supposedly, is more accessible to us, and Jesus has to listen to the requests of His Mother! In truth, the New Testament has no hint of this elevation of any creature. In fact, the New Testament records only a handful of direct references to Jesus with His mother, and there is only one minor mention of Mary in the entire Book of Acts, the earliest record of the church! Each of Jesus’ conversations with or about His mother seems to be dismissive in tone, but not to the point of sin. Only later did I understand – through Scripture such as “I will not give My glory to another” – that God would never elevate Mary or any other servant in the way that Rome has done. What blasphemy! Conclusion: Catholicism falsely teaches that Mary shares in God’s glory, and in fact serves as co-redeemer, dispenser of all graces, source of all holiness, Queen of Heaven, and many other divine roles, which cannot be!
· How did Rome’s teachings and traditions get so far off track? The authority of the Pope and Bishops and the Traditions of the Church are based on the supposed “Apostolic Succession” and consistency of their teaching from the time of St. Peter. When I was brought to saving faith much later, I was quite dismayed to learn how non-historical these claims were. Unlike the Catholic popes, Peter himself does not claim a higher position than being a fellow elder: “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed… Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock.” Conclusion: Although there is much more to debunk about claims the papacy makes for its supremacy and power, Rome’s claim of Peter, and His successors, as being the head of the church is not claimed by Peter himself. Nothing in the early church history in the book of Acts supports Rome’s claims that the apostles had successors: bishops who controlled all churches in a particular city or region, and certainly not the subsequent development of a central church authority over all the world’s churches.
In short, I grew up without the Bible, except for short selections read during the Mass and other religious observances. Only much later – by God’s sovereign grace – was I given ‘eyes to see’ and ‘ears to hear’ what the Bible really taught, after studying the Bible for myself in my late 40s.
My “Churchianity” Phase
In 1980, we started going to church again regularly, for the wholesome upbringing of our daughters, now ages nine and seven, at the Christian military chapels or churches in the communities where we lived. We never joined a church, since I still considered myself Catholic, albeit one in self-imposed “exile.” As I look back on that period, I consider it my “Churchianity” phase; i.e., going to church as a good thing to do on Sundays, and that lasted twelve years. At church we met weekly or more often with very nice people and made many good friends, and the youth programs were very beneficial and safe for our daughters. But we never really thought much about our eternal destiny, nor did we hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ. In hindsight, we were mostly in what I now recognize are spiritually dead, mainline Christian church services, which taught at best a social gospel. Implicitly, salvation came through helping the sick, the poor, and homeless and thereby becoming acceptable and pleasing to God. It was a bloodless gospel, offering salvation through good works and self-generated moral effort, not the work of Christ at the cross.
Born from Above
My spiritual life took a radical turn on October 25, 1992. The issue of abortion was on the ballot for the upcoming election in Maryland. As is common in many mainline Christian churches, there is acceptance of abortion as a woman’s “right to choose.” At the start of this particular Sunday service, pamphlets arguing for and against abortion were announced as “available in the back.” Having been brought up in a poor family with many children, some of whom doubtless were not “convenient,” our family had benefitted from solid Roman Catholic teaching in support of the weakest among us, especially the unborn. Therefore, abortion was unthinkable as something acceptable to God. I understand now that God had been preparing me for this moment over several years. I had become increasingly disturbed about the grave national sin of abortion. For a decade or more I had subscribed to very traditional Roman Catholic sources, who also lamented that within the American Church there were many leaders, even bishops, who overtly supported a “woman’s right to choose” an abortion, clearly against the teachings of the church in Rome. Now having this abhorrent practice tacitly endorsed by my present church, although not surprising, was starkly confronting me.
I clearly believed something internal was prompting me to action, such that I knew I had to say something publically and forcefully against abortion at that service, and that this would be my last time in that church after eight years. I spent the rest of that service composing my thoughts, sensing divine assistance and boldness. At the end of that service I asked the pastor for two minutes, which was readily granted due to our long-standing service involvement in his church.
I spoke clearly about the evil of abortion, the need to understand what was being “chosen,” and concluded by stating that we could no longer be part of that church. As one can imagine, the silence in that assembly was palpable as we left, never to return. Only a few members contacted us afterward to clarify why we were leaving, but no one else left over this issue.
That day I was changed profoundly. Over time I began to understand that it had been the Holy Spirit who had prompted me to speak, gave me the words to speak, and enabled me to speak out boldly. I was transformed in the process of following the firm prompting of the Holy Spirit. How so? Within days my interests focused exclusively on the spiritual versus the secular! It was a wonderful awakening of my spirit. It was as if I now was tuned to the right frequency on a radio, and could now hear the Spirit’s words clearly. I could not explain it, but I loved it! A few examples: I discovered a local radio station that had recently changed from rock music to a Christian format, and I could not get enough of its hour by hour biblical teaching. My daily reading during the hour-long commute to and from the Pentagon was now Christian books and articles, replacing completely the current news and political articles I had preferred to read. However, I still had to learn what a hopeless sinner I had been, before God’s grace made me a new creation. More on that later.
Transitioning to the Gospel of Grace, but the Tentacles of Catholicism Run Deep!
Regarding church attendance, I knew the answer this time was not to stay away from church. In fact, I even considered it was possible that I was being called back to the Roman Catholic Church, under the more traditional rites of my youth! I attended two services each Sunday morning for the next 5 or 6 weeks, including attendance at several Roman Catholic masses! We quickly settled in a local Southern Baptist Church and attended Bible classes and their services on Sunday morning, Sunday evenings, Wednesday night activities, many special events, and soon began participating in small home study and prayer groups. Within two months, I came forward at the “altar call” at the end of the Sunday morning service to profess my new faith and join the church as a member. The pastor asked whether that included baptism. I declined, since I had been baptized as an infant, and I did not want to discredit what my parents had done in good faith. Recall, at this early stage of new life in Christ, I had no theological objections to Roman Catholicism’s understanding of baptism as a sacrament that imparts sanctifying grace to the soul, which of course no work of man can do. Six months later, as adult believers, my wife and I both were baptized by immersion. We had come to understand that baptism was done in obedience to New Testament teaching, and testified to the new birth that we both had been granted. We could not be baptized in order to appropriate or induce that new birth, as Catholicism teaches. Discipleship based on the study of the Word of God was bearing palpable fruit.
Remarkably, in retrospect, during those first six months I also considered a return to Catholicism with some intentionality. Recall that I believed that the Church itself had left its own moorings and was adrift in the 1960’s and 70’s. Many priests, nuns, and other devout Catholics believed the same thing, and they left in droves during that time. The conservative Catholic publications I was reading lamented the ‘liberal’ (worldly) influences on social issues, the continuing trend away from orthodox Roman Catholicism, and open defiance of Papal authority. These conservative elements were working to restore some of the old ways, including the Latin Rite of the Mass, which I missed. At age 47, I still believed the religious teachings and practices of my youth; I just could not find them anywhere taught in the Bible! I really yearned for a restoration of the familiar liturgy and other traditional observances. I was intrigued to discovered there was a remnant in the United States that also longed for the restoration of the “Holy Mother the Church” of my youth.
Therefore, four months into my new life in Christ, I explored whether my new calling after my military career was to teach at a new “priory” under the Latin Rite, a high school being started in the fall of 1993 to teach young Catholic boys who would explore whether they had a vocation to the priesthood. Since I had had some desire to teach high school, and I longed for the reinstatement of the old Latin Mass, this opportunity seemed like the perfect fit, and perhaps was the Lord’s purpose for my recent spiritual transformation. Again, implicitly I still believed Roman Catholicism to be true, even while I was now fully involved in my Baptist church and thriving on the fresh study of the Word of God. Accordingly, I spent a week helping with other volunteers to restore an old convent, which that year was to become St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, Pennsylvania, near Scranton, Pennsylvania. By God’s grace, during one of the Latin masses that ended each workday for the crew, the Lord made it very clear to me that this was not the path I should be following.
In retrospect, I am grateful that the Lord allowed me to pursue this course to return to Catholicism, as part of my fresh zeal for God and the intentionality that marked my new life in the Spirit. This episode should demonstrate to Catholics that I did not have a personal animus against my former Church. Rather, I was open to returning, until the Holy Spirit clearly closed that door. St. Gregory’s Academy did open in 1993, functioned for decade or more, but is now closed.
Blessed Assurance? Really? So “Holy Mother the Church” Taught Error?
My biblical learning thereafter was steady and purposeful. It took four years until I understood the Bible teaches I could have assurance of salvation. That shows how much unlearning I had to do about the Roman Catholic sacramental system that I missed so much. In Romanism you can never be sure of a heavenly destiny. If you are sure, that is the sin of presuming on God’s grace. Such presumption is a mortal sin that – unless and until confessed by you and absolved by a priest – removes the sanctifying grace needed to gain Heaven, or even get to Purgatory. For example, even if a pope or a Mother Theresa were to be sure of their gaining Heaven through their good lives, they would be disqualified under Romanism even for Purgatory en route to Heaven, unless they confessed and were absolved of their mortal sins of presumption, before they died. This realization of assurance of my eternal destiny was wonderful, even if very hard to fathom. But now, for the first time, I had to confront the fact that teachings of my former religion contradicted the Bible. I had not given Catholic doctrines much thought in the 26 years since I had left that Church, with the last four of those years as a new believer learning the Bible. The dark question quickly arose in my mind, “What could be the source of this erroneous teaching?” and I did not want to “go there.” For six more years I succeeded in avoiding thinking about whether the Roman Catholic teaching I grew up with could be false, but I did sense that I would have to deal with that down the road. I just continued to grow in the Word, witness, and enjoy my new life in Christ.
Unfinished Business – Facing My Own Sinfulness
The Lord had some unfinished business in my understanding my conversion, and He humbled me profoundly at the seven-year mark. You may have noticed that the Spirit entered my life through an unusual way, after my obedience to His prompting to speak out in faith to rebuke my church for supporting abortion. I cannot explain it, nor did I try to. But God sovereignly knew He would show me my utter depravity, and my total dependence on His grace, being nothing that I could ever merit. He showed me, through a very humbling spiritual depression, lasting seven months, that the saying “but for the grace of God,” I was a hopelessly lost sinner, actually applied to me!
The Holy Spirit led me to understand that the parable Jesus taught about the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 16:9-15) applied to me, and I was the Pharisee! I needed to learn that I was just like the tax collector; the Lord granted me the humility to acknowledge my hopeless state! It was a very hard, but certainly a very necessary lesson for me (unfinished business, if you will) from my conversion seven years earlier. God had graciously given me the faith to believe the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and He saved me for His purposes and His glory, and through nothing I deserved or could ever merit. Hallelujah! And now what was that work that He had prepared for me?
Confronting the Errors of Catholicism
In the tenth year since my rebirth, a missionary came to our local Bible church, having spent six years in Siberia! Mike had been converted in his early 20s during his time at a Catholic seminary studying to be a priest. His “coming out verse” was 1 John 5:13: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Present tense: sure knowledge of eternal life! Wow! Mike went back to his seminary and several brethren were converted through his witness, and, of course, they were asked to leave.
I had puzzled a lot over whether a Catholic who became a born-again believer could stay in that false church. With Mike’s story, I saw afresh the blessed assurance that Catholics cannot have, and when they learn they can have that assurance (based on Christ’s finished work at the cross) they cannot stay as a Catholic! I now understand that the Holy Spirit will cause them to move out, in His timing. I have since encountered many such testimonies of former Catholics who tried to stay but could not, and were obedient to the New Testament admonition to depart from false teaching.
When we met in 2001, Mike had for thirty years been teaching about the errors of Roman Catholicism. I helped him teach his seminar on Catholic doctrine at my church later that year. I realized that I could no longer avoid the issue that Romanism opposes biblical Christianity on so many points. I knew then that I was called to teach and to witness accordingly.
My Dear Wife Goes Home to Her Lord (2009)
My belief in blessed assurance faced a most important test when my bride, Linda, of almost 42 years, was losing her four-year battle with breast cancer. She had made a re-dedication of her life to Christ as I was coming to Christ, and as noted before, we both were baptized by immersion as adults. Her breast cancer had been in remission for over 15 years, but came back as stage IV in 2005. After more than three years of chemotherapy and other treatments, it became clear that she would not survive this time. Facing a remedial operation late in the process, we decided we did not want resuscitation or other extra measures if her survival prospects were not good. The Holy Spirit gave us both that peace that passes all understanding. After ten days of home hospice, she passed peacefully into the arms of Her Lord, with close family around.
Linda and I had often remarked that we could not comprehend how non-believers could face eternity without Christ. This is especially sad and tragic for Roman Catholics, and others, who are depending on their religious rituals to continue being good enough for God to consider them holy enough for Heaven. They can never have the assurance that the Bible clearly teaches, again as exemplified by 1 John 5:13: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” We are born-again, from above, per John 1:13 – “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” [Please note that this verse has brought numerous Catholics to saving faith!]
Since Linda’s promotion to glory, God has blessed me with another godly woman, Maija, who became my wife in 2011. She was saved out of the occult in 1979, and her testimony complements my understanding of the dangers of false teaching, and the sovereign grace of God in the lives of all believers. We both are unworthy, yet eternally grateful examples of Jesus’ promise in John 10:27-29 – “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”
Completing the Race Set Before Me
In summary, for ten years as a believer I was reluctant to deal with the truth that Romanism teaches a different gospel. I had to travel a long path to discover point by point the errors that I could not see from within the Church. I did not have any objections against the Roman Church when I left, nor did I for many years thereafter. Hopefully, I can empathize with those who are still in Romanism and blinded from the truth of the Word of God regarding salvation and so much more. Furthermore, in recent years, I have been dismayed to learn that many evangelical Bible believers and leaders – most of whom have never been under that false system – do not know the fatal differences between biblical Christianity and Romanism. They do not know whether or not there is a need to witness for Christ to Catholics, and if so how to do this. Therefore, they are not equipping their flocks to do so. Doubtless many are also influenced by the reasonableness of Rome’s ecumenical arguments for all “Christians” to work together, “in unity,” especially to withstand the secular tide against families, babies, and long-standing cultural morality. The blurring of the gospel message to promote greater “unity” is an intentional strategy of Rome in its outreach to other “Christian” and non-Christian faith communities.
Now in retirement from my secular career, my focus is to try to address the lack of knowledge of believers and have them understand that Rome teaches a very different gospel than the gospel of grace in the Bible. There is a great need for more workers among the harvest field of Roman Catholics, all of whom need to hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ. To whom much is given much is expected. I have been delivered by His grace from the bondage of working my way to Heaven. I now accept His free and perfect gift of salvation, and I desire that for all those caught up in my former religion. To God be the Glory, Great Things He has Done!
If you would like to contact me, I would love to hear from you. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you.
 Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 4:1-4
 Hebrews 10:12-14
 John 19:30
 Acts 1:9-11
 Exodus 20:4-6; Deuteronomy 5:8-10
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2083 and following
 Ephesians 2:8-9
 Romans 4:3-4
 Luke 2:48-52; John 2:1-5, 10; Matthew 12:46-50 (in parallel with Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21); Matthew 13:53, 58; John 19:25-27
 Acts 1:14
 Isaiah 48:11
 1 Peter 5:1, 3