Catholic Readings and Reflections: Are Members of the Clergy Appointed by God?
By Ah-dong, Spain
Editor’s Note: Many Catholics believe that members of the clergy are appointed directly by God. They think that by submitting to their priests, they are, in effect, submitting to God. Ah-dong had also espoused this belief, but after a period of investigation and seeking he came to understand the principles guiding how God uses and appoints people. After he had reached this new understanding, his old views on the matter changed and he welcomed the Lord’s return. Want to know how he became reunited with the Lord? Read on to learn more about Ah-dong’s experience.
I was raised in a Catholic family and at an early age I heard our priest say: “The Lord Jesus spoke to Peter saying: ‘That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven’ (Matthew 16:18–19). After the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, He conferred special authority to Peter. There is a very important section of the Catechism, which says that the Catholic Church is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. When Peter died, he conferred his special authority to the priests, bishops and the pope. These members of the clergy stay unmarried their entire lives and their foreheads are anointed with holy oil. As such, they are qualified to inherit the authority and power to forgive sin, which was conferred upon Peter by God. The church has granted us these powers, so we must administer on behalf of God….” After hearing this, I always believed that the priests are those used by God, and that we must listen to their teachings and guidance and confess to them when we sin in order to be forgiven. We also had to give our food to the priest to be consecrated. (Things that were consecrated by the priest were considered holy.) This was all common knowledge that every parishioner should know and respect. When I was little, no matter where I was, if I saw a priest I would immediately kneel on the ground to receive his blessing, thinking that by doing so God would protect me. I and other parishioners never dared to ask the priests and bishops questions and certainly would never doubt that their teachings were in line with God’s will. No matter whether what they said was right or wrong, we should submit to them without judgment or critique. To do otherwise would be to resist the Lord Jesus.
Later, after moving to Spain, because I was often too busy with work, I drifted further and further from God, prayed to God less and less and rarely attended Mass. Sometimes, when I returned to China, I would hear my mom talking about how the priests had given strict orders not to come into contact with members of The Church of Almighty God and had even made many remarks condemning Eastern Lightning. Hearing how the priests had condemned them, and observing my parents exaggerated expressions, I put up my guard against Eastern Lightning.
In March of 2018, I met and began spending time with my future wife in Spain. She was also a Catholic, so we would often have conversations about our faith. One time, while chatting with my wife about the priests, she mentioned that nowadays most priests don’t exalt and testify to God and teach us according to God’s word, but rather spend Mass glorifying themselves, boasting about how many countries they have been to, how many dioceses they preached in, and how successful they had been in multiplying church membership. They bragged that the church had to rely on their leadership in order to flourish. Hearing this, church members all very much looked up to and venerated the priests and whenever they encountered any problems they would consult with them. Rarely would church members actively seek God’s intention. Some priests would encourage parishioners to donate, preaching that the more one donated to the church, the greater would be God’s blessing. Some priests only seemed to care about money. When church members invited a certain priest to preach in their church and gave him thousands upon thousands of dollars for services, the priest would, unbelievably, directly pocket all the money without a second thought. As for those members of the church who donated relatively little, the priests would barely give them the time of day and adopted a cold, indifferent attitude toward them. I was amazed to hear all of this. I thought to myself, “Aren’t all priests very devout and full of love for all people? How could these people that I have so much respect and admiration for act like this?” I didn’t dare believe that this was all true. However, later, I also heard that the CCP was planning on revamping the Catholic Church with “Chinese characteristics,” and that the pope had already accepted the CCP’s newly appointed clergy. Some of the more devout members of the church said, “Isn’t that like compromising with Satan?” Thinking of how the priests had done so much that didn’t accord with God’s will, I began to question: Were the priests and the pope really chosen and appointed by God?
One day, my wife excitedly said to me: “Ah-dong, these days I’ve been watching The Church of Almighty God’s videos and movies and I’ve learned that the Lord Jesus, for whom we’ve waited so long, has finally returned as Almighty God, the Christ of the last days. Almighty God has issued the truth and performed the work of judgment starting from the house of God, showing us the way of cleansing and entry into the kingdom of heaven. Almighty God’s word has authority and power—I feel it is God’s voice, it is God calling out and speaking to us! Why don’t you try reading Almighty God’s word?” Upon hearing this news, I was a little surprised. I thought to myself, “This is unbelievable—has God really returned? What has God been saying? Could the words that God has issued resolve my confusion?” I wanted to get to the bottom of this matter, but I also remembered how the priests had condemned Eastern Lightning and was immediately resistant and thought against investigating. Thus, I made a silent prayer, saying, “Dear God, my wife says You have returned, but I’m not sure if You have come again as Almighty God and I dare not lightly accept Almighty God. Dear Lord, I pray that you may enlighten me and guide me onto the right path, so that I do not lose my way.”
During that period, I was indecisive, “Should I investigate or not? If Almighty God really is the return of the Lord and I don’t accept, won’t I have missed out on God’s saving grace and be regretful for the rest of my life?” I thought long and hard and eventually decided to make my investigation online. In this way, I wouldn’t come in direct contact with people from The Church of Almighty God and thus wouldn’t risk any danger or damage. Having made up my mind, I opened up my browser and found their website “Gospel of the Descent of the Kingdom.” In the book, The Word Appears in the Flesh, I saw the following two passages: “Since the time when Almighty God—the King of the kingdom—has been witnessed, the scope of God’s management has unfolded in its entirety throughout the whole universe. Not only has God’s appearance been witnessed in China, but the name of Almighty God has been witnessed in all nations and all places” “Some people fear, some harbor guilty consciences, some are alert, some take care to listen attentively, some repent and start anew, feeling the utmost remorse, some weep bitterly in pain, some relinquish everything and search desperately, some people examine themselves and do not dare act wildly any longer, some seek urgently to get close to God, some examine their own consciences, asking why their lives cannot progress. Some remain in a muddle, some unshackle their feet and advance courageously, grasping the key and losing no time in attending to their lives. Some still hesitate and are unclear about visions—the burden they bear and carry in their hearts is heavy indeed” (“Chapter 8” of Utterances of Christ in the Beginning in The Word Appears in the Flesh). These words perfectly characterized all our attitudes toward God’s appearance and work in the last days as well as my own concerns and considerations. I thought of how when my wife told me that God had returned as Almighty God the Christ of the last days and invited me to investigate The Church of Almighty God with her, I had hesitated and didn’t dare investigate because I believed the priests’ condemnation of Eastern Lightning. My wife, by contrast, hadn’t been restrained by the priests and had actively sought Almighty God’s words and work. Were my wife and I not perfect examples of the two kinds of people described in the phrases, “Some people fear” and “some relinquish everything and search desperately”? This passage touched my heart—only God examines our hearts and minds and can cut to the essence of our thoughts and feelings. In that moment, I felt that these words were God’s words, that they possessed power and authority and no human would have been capable of uttering them. As such, I decided to begin formally investigating Almighty God’s work in the last days and fellowship and discuss with the brothers and sisters of The Church of Almighty God.
Through fellowshiping Almighty God’s word with my brothers and sisters, I came to understand that the key to seeking and investigating the true way was to do so according to God’s word—only the wise virgins placed special importance on listening for God’s voice. I also learned the meaning of God’s incarnation, the profound mystery of God’s name, and how to distinguish between the true and false Christ. These were truths that I never understood in my years as a Catholic. I had also never heard any of the priests or nuns discuss these truths. It was all so fresh and illuminating! The brothers’ and sisters’ fellowships all accorded with reason, were in keeping with the Bible and left me thoroughly convinced. I no longer kept my guard up around them. From then on, I and my wife would regularly attend meetings and fellowship with brothers and sisters from The Church of Almighty God.
At the end of one meeting, a question suddenly sprung into my mind and so I asked a sister, “We Catholics believe that the priests, bishops and the pope are all those who are used by God, and no matter whether what they say is right or wrong we should submit to them. Submitting to them is just the same as submitting to God. Is this understanding in keeping with God’s will?”
The sister excitedly replied, “Brother, you’ve brought up a very important question. This question relates directly to whether in our belief in God we should follow God or follow people. We believe that based on what God says to Peter in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 16 Verses 18–19, Peter is the one that God uses and that the priests, bishops and the pope are Peter’s inheritors and also those that God uses. As such, we treat these members of the clergy in the same way that we treat God—listening to their every word, obeying their every order, and worshiping and following them. Is this an apt interpretation? We transferred God’s commission to Peter into the hands of the church leaders, believing that they were Peter’s inheritors and those that God uses. Does this belief have any basis in the Bible, does God’s word back it up? If not, then do our beliefs not stem from the notions and imagination of mere people? Perhaps we should settle down for a moment and reflect: In the Age of Law, God chose and appointed Moses, but does this then mean that all of the leaders of the Jewish faith were chosen and appointed by God? In the Age of Grace, the Lord Jesus personally chose and appointed the twelve apostles, but does this then mean that all of the priests, bishops and popes of the Age of Grace were personally chosen and appointed by God? When we lack the truth, it’s easy to confuse various ideas and defer to regulations, but, in so doing, it becomes very easy to believe in God while blindly worshiping and following mere people. So exactly what kind of people are qualified to be called those that God uses? Almighty God says, ‘The work carried out by the one who is used by God is in order to cooperate with the work of Christ or the Holy Spirit. This man is raised up among man by God, he is there to lead all of God’s chosen ones, and he is also raised up by God in order to do the work of human cooperation. With someone such as this, who is able to do the work of human cooperation, more of God’s requirements toward man and the work that the Holy Spirit must do among man can be achieved through him. Another way of putting it is like this: God’s aim in using this man is so that all those who follow God can better understand God’s will, and can attain more of God’s requirements. Because people are incapable of directly understanding God’s words or God’s will, God has raised someone up who is used to carry out such work. This person who is used by God can also be described as a medium through which God guides people, as the “translator” who communicates between God and man. … In terms of the substance of his work and the background of his use, the man who is used by God is raised up by Him, he is prepared by God for God’s work, and he cooperates in the work of God Himself. No person could ever do his work in his stead—this is human cooperation that is indispensable alongside the divine work. … The man who is used by God, on the other hand, is someone who has been prepared by God, and who possesses a certain caliber, and has humanity. He has been prepared and made perfect in advance by the Holy Spirit, and is completely led by the Holy Spirit, and, particularly when it comes to his work, he is directed and commanded by the Holy Spirit—as a result of this there is no deviation on the path of leading God’s chosen ones, for God surely takes responsibility for His own work, and God does His own work at all times’ (‘Concerning God’s Use of Man’ in The Word Appears in the Flesh).
“From Almighty God’s word it is clear that God will raise up directly in every age and personally appoint a group of people to assist in God’s work. These are people that God prepares in advance, so that His work can be even more effective. All those who are personally appointed and used by God have His word as backing. Just as, in the Age of Law, when God appointed Moses to lead the Israelis, He personally spoke unto Moses: ‘I will be with thee: and this thou shalt have for a sign, that I have sent thee: When thou shalt have brought my people out of Egypt, thou shalt offer sacrifice to God upon this mountain’ (Exodus 3:12). In the Age of Grace, when the Lord Jesus appointed Peter to shepherd the church, Peter also had God’s word as testament. Jesus three times entrusted Peter with the task of shepherding God’s flock and even said He was giving the keys to the kingdom of heaven to Peter. Thus, we can say confidently that those that are used by God have God’s personal testimony and word as testament.
“What’s more, the work of those who God appoints and uses is to assist in God’s work and is all confirmed by the work of the Holy Spirit. The work and sermons of such people exalt and bear testimony to God in every aspect, allow God’s followers to attain the supply of life, be truly shepherded, enter into God’s word, gain knowledge of the truth and achieve growth in life. These works and sermons also allow people to build ever stronger relationships with God and to gain an ever deeper understanding of Him. Because God is righteous and holy, those that God appoints and uses certainly accord with God’s will. He would never use people that despise the truth, go about self-aggrandizing and take God as their enemy to do the work of the church. Now if we evaluate the priests, bishops and the pope based on the principles by which God uses people and the effect achieved by the work of those that God uses, does it appear that they’ve been personally appointed by God? Do they have God’s word as testament? Do their sermons and work resolve our practical questions and problems and allow us to understand God’s intentions and gain ever greater knowledge of God? We’ve all personally experienced that they are incapable of these things, that they don’t have God’s personal testimony and lack the work of the Holy Spirit as confirmation. So how could they possibly be one of those that God uses?”
After listening to the sister’s fellowship, I gave some serious thought to the issue and finally said, “So those that God personally appoints must have God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit as confirmation. By accepting the watering and guidance of those that God uses, we can attain spiritual satisfaction, gain a better understanding of God’s word, and grow in knowledge of God. As for the priests and other current members of the clergy, God has never said that they are among those used by God or that they are Peter’s inheritors. These members of the clergy often brag about how they can endure great pains and make sacrifices, but they are not exalting and bearing testimony to God. Not only do they not practice God’s word, they also never guide us in practicing and experiencing God’s word. As a result, we as believers are utterly bereft of spiritual supply and suffer great thirst. Even more maddening is how some priests seem to despise the poor and curry favor with the rich—they don’t treat all believers equally. From this it is clear that the priests and other members of the clergy just don’t have the work of the Holy Spirit, much less the Holy Spirit’s confirmation—they simply are not among those used by God. Alas, due to the priests’ false interpretations of the Bible, I had always thought that the priests and other clergy members were all appointed by God and that submitting to them was the same as submitting to God. As such, I treated them as I would treat God Himself. Looking back now I can see how incredibly absurd and preposterous this was. Thanks be to Almighty God for resolving my confusion.”
Sister continued, saying, “Given that the priests, bishops, the pope and other members of the clergy don’t have God’s word as testament and it is not apparent that they have the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit, then what is the nature of their work? Where did these titles come from? Let’s have a look at this sermon: ‘The leaders and pastors of the religious world have not experienced the work of God or been made perfect and built up by the Holy Spirit, but have instead become leaders and pastors in the religious community after graduating from a seminary and being given a diploma. They are without the work and confirmation of the Holy Spirit, they have not the slightest true knowledge of God, and their mouths can speak of nothing but theological knowledge and theories. They have not actually experienced anything. Such people are totally unqualified to be used by God; how could they lead man before God? They hold up graduation from seminary as proof of their own entitlement, they do everything they can to flaunt their knowledge of the Bible, they are insufferably arrogant—and because of this, they are condemned by God, and loathed by God, and have lost the work of the Holy Spirit. Of this there is no doubt’ (‘Results That Can Be Achieved Through a Genuine Understanding of the Truth’ in Sermons and Fellowship From the Above (Selections)).
“From this we can see that the members of the clergy were either trained in seminary or promoted and ordained by high-ranking members of the church. As long as they have a certain level of education, a recommendation from the church and the consent of an ordinary, they can attend seminary, receive a diploma after six to eight years, and then apply to the bishop to be ordained as a deacon or priest. By no means have they been used by God after experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit, practicing God’s word, and being made perfect. As a result, the priests and other clergy members only speak of theological theory and biblical knowledge in their sermons. Believers never hear they talk about their experiences in practicing God’s word or their practical understanding of God’s word and so they are not supplied with life. As such, we cannot put priests on the same level as God Himself, submitting to their every word and decree, and worshiping and following them. To do so would be blasphemous to God. Additionally, we must be discerning when we listen to the priests speak. If what the priests say is in keeping with God’s word, then we may accept and submit, but if it goes against God’s word then we should pay no heed. Rather, we should pray more to God and seek God’s requirements in His words—only in so doing do we accord with God’s will. If we are not discerning when listening to the priests and don’t weigh what they say in the context of God’s words, but rather persist in blindly following, then we are worshiping and following mere people, instead of putting our faith in and worshiping God. In so doing, we very well may follow the members of the clergy in acting in resistance to God and will meet with His curses and condemnation. This is just like how the Jews forsook the Lord Jesus’ salvation after listening to the lies and false theories of the Pharisees and even followed along with the Jewish leadership in nailing the Lord Jesus to the cross. This ultimately angered God’s disposition and caused Him to curse the Jews, leading to their two-thousand-year subjugation, forced exile and diaspora. Is this not just the result of their failing to practice discernment and blind following of the Pharisees? Thus, we ought to learn from the failures of the Jews and not follow them down that same fateful road.”
I nodded, saying, “When you put it that way, it makes even more sense. Indeed, the majority of the priests graduated from seminary and received their diplomas, and the bishops and the pope attained their positions by vote—they certainly weren’t confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Now, I understand how I ought to think of these clergy members. In the future, I should evaluate whether what they say is in keeping with God’s word—in this way I can avoid following them in resisting God. Reflecting on this issue now, I see that the priests, bishops and the pope obviously are not among those used by God, and yet they wantonly preach of how they have the authority invested in Peter by God to make believers worship and adore them. How shameless and malicious they are!”
Sister nodded her head and said, “Yes, these clergy members make ridiculous interpretations of God’s word based upon their own notions and imagination and then inculcate believers with their heresies and false theories. This is a very serious offense! Let’s see how Almighty God’s word explains this, Almighty God says, ‘Look at the leaders of each denomination—they are all arrogant and self-righteous, and their interpretations of the Bible lack context and are guided by their own imaginings. They all rely on gifts and erudition to do their work. If they could not preach at all, would people follow them? They do, after all, possess some knowledge and can preach on some doctrine, or they know how to win others over and make use of some artifice. They use these to bring people before themselves and deceive them. Nominally, those people believe in God, but in reality, they follow their leaders. When they encounter someone preaching the true way, some of them say, “We have to consult our leader about our faith.” A human is the medium of their faith in God; is that not a problem? What have those leaders become, then? Have they not become Pharisees, false shepherds, antichrists, and stumbling blocks to people’s acceptance of the true way?’ (“Only to Pursue the Truth Is Truly to Believe in God” in Records of Christ’s Talks).
“From the revelation of God’s words, we can see that these clergy members make false interpretations, take God’s word out of context and, in order to make believers treat them as they would treat God, they constantly preach about how they are among those that God uses and that submitting to them is the same as submitting to God. These clergy members are also always self-aggrandizing and building up their own reputations. They only speak of profound biblical knowledge and theological doctrines or of how much pain they’ve endured and how much work they’ve done. They do this to ensnare people’s hearts, make them worship and look up to them, obey their every command and come to them whenever they encounter the slightest difficulty. They are brazenly vying with God over believers! Even more abominable, is how these priests, bishops and other clergy members despise the truth—when they hear the good news of the Lord Jesus’ return and see how the words that Almighty God has issued have authority and power, not only do they not seek and investigate, but even despise Almighty God because so many believers have accepted Almighty God’s work. To keep believers firmly within their grasp, and to secure their own status and income, these priests do everything in their power to spread lies about, slander and condemn Almighty God’s work in the last days. They prevent believers from seeking and investigating the true way and, as a result, even when believers hear the good news of the Lord Jesus’ return, they don’t dare seek and investigate. Some believers even follow along with their priests in resisting and condemning God’s return. From these facts it is abundantly clear that the members of the clergy do not rejoice in the truth and are not true servants of God. They are no different from the Pharisees who resisted and condemned the Lord Jesus before. They all forbid believers from accepting the true way and are evil servants who vie for God’s chosen people with God Himself! They are the roadblocks and stumbling blocks which hinder believers from walking the path to the kingdom of heaven. They are God-resisting, God-betraying antichrists! Because the priests, bishops and other clergy members have once more nailed God to the cross, they are among those doomed to be cursed by God!”
Hearing this, I nodded my head in agreement, saying, “Only today has it become clear to me that these members of the clergy don’t really worship God and seek the truth. Rather they are insufferably arrogant, truth-hating false shepherds. Thinking back to how some priests would even self-aggrandize and boast before the entire congregation, saying ‘I am God’s agent and the church must rely on my guidance’ ‘I’ve traveled to so many countries,’ how in sermons during Mass, they acted as if what the Lord Jesus had said to Peter extended to them as well, claiming that they were inheritors of the authority granted to Peter by God—I now realize that they were doing all this to secure their own status and income. What’s more, from an early age, we Catholics are made to study the Catechism, which is written by the clergy. We rarely read the word of God in the Bible. I don’t have the slightest idea of how to believe in God, how to listen to God’s word and I even wrongly believed that by listening to the priests’ word, I was believing in and submitting to God. Through following the priests’ every command, I had unwittingly allowed the clergy members to take the place of God in my heart. Is this not just following God in appearance while following people in substance? Who knows how many people didn’t dare seek and investigate God’s return because they had believed the words of the priests? I, too, nearly missed out on God’s salvation in the last days for the same reason. These clergy members are truly false shepherds and evil servants! I must duly investigate God’s work in the last days and must never again believe their falsehoods and lies—I mustn’t be deceived by them anymore.”
Observing that I had gained some discernment with regard to the clergy’s essence, the brothers and sisters all gave thanks to God for His enlightenment and guidance.
Through fellowshiping Almighty God’s word with my brothers and sisters, I gained discernment with regard to the fallacious notion that “priests, bishops and the pope are appointed by God.” Later on, after a period of study of Almighty God’s words, I became certain that Almighty God is the returned Lord Jesus. I thank God for not forsaking me, allowing me to have the good fortune to personally read the words issued by God in the last days and keep pace with the footsteps of the Lamb. Thanks be to God for His salvation!