On July 15, 2006 I went to see Catholic apologist Gerry Matatics. Some of you probably remember Gerry from his many debates with James White. Some of you (both protestants and Catholics) probably wonder what’s happened to Gerry since he “…[F]ully embraced the traditional Catholic Faith, rejecting as constituting a counterfeit Catholicism all the doctrinal, liturgical, and moral novelties of the last forty years -- and those who have sought to impose them (John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I & II, and Benedict XVI)-- and attending exclusively the Traditional Latin Mass offered by validly-ordained Catholic priests”[source]. Gerry’s new position has deemed him somewhat of an anathema with most of the other popular Catholic apologists, as well the great majority of Roman Catholic laymen.
Gerry came to the Holiday Inn in Totowa New Jersey to give “…a brand-new, exciting, eye-opening seminar entitled ‘Counterfeit Catholicism and the Fulfillment of Prophecy: Ten Troubling Facts No One Can Deny.’” The seminar was to be 4 hours long. I got there about 15 minutes early, Gerry got there about 20 minutes late, and by the time he set up, the seminar kicked off about 45 minutes late. There were probably around 30 or so people in attendance. Gerry’s is like a whirlwind, running in with multiple boxes of books and notes, setting up a large table of notes, notebooks and books, scattered haphazardly across a table, talking and apologizing for being late.
I was only able to stay for the first presentation of the multiple talks Gerry gave, but I did introduce myself to him on the way out, and explained to him I went to a Reformed church, and took classes via Westminster Seminary. I think it really charged him up knowing a Protestant came to hear him, and he generously offered to send me the tapes for the entire seminar. I couldn’t help but like Gerry, despite the fact that he denies the very Gospel I treasure. Perhaps he thought I was on a journey on my way “home to Rome”. This is hardly the case. Rather, my interest in my own studies of the Reformation and Catholicism prompted me to hear his perspective. Gerry represents a new group of “reformers”. I wanted to hear for myself what his “95 Theses” are.
The seminar began with prayer. I hadn’t felt uncomfortable until this happened. The entire room rose to their feet, except a few of us. Gerry began praying- including a prayer to Mary, as well as asking a number of saints to “pray for us”. The flyer for the seminar did say, “People of all faiths (or none) are warmly welcome!” I didn’t feel at all comfortable at this point, and Gerry’s opening comments explaining that he “renounced Protestantism” and rejected “faith alone and Scripture alone” didn’t at all make me feel welcome. However, Gerry’s a likeable guy, so I was determined to hear at least some of his presentation.
Gerry’s new position is somewhat “eschatological.” He emphasized more than once that the church is in a “last days” crisis. Thus, the entire undercurrent of his talk had a sense of urgency; reminiscent of those dispensational evangelical church services I grew up in where the rapture was going to happen at any moment. The signs of the times proved this to be the case. Gerry began by saying that this is an “age of apostasy”. He appealed to 2 Thessalonians 2 that in the last days there would be a “great falling away” and a “great deception.” While the church has experienced great crises over her 2000-year history piecemeal, in the last 40 years she is experiencing them all at once. Gerry holds the great majority of Catholics have been swept away by great deceptions in last 40 years, particularly ecumenism. Not only the Bible predicts this, but also various “approved” sightings of Mary throughout history have similarly confirmed the great falling away of the church in the last days. Mary said in 1846 that the church in the last days would be in “eclipse”- that is, hidden by darkness and difficult to see.
Gerry noted that Jesus asked at his return whether he would even be able to find the church at his return. In other words, the Bible predicts the “true” church will not be so visible in the end times. The church is to end as it began in the 1st century- underground. Likewise, there have been periods during church history in which only a “remnant” has remained. Those of you who have heard Gerry debate with James White, may recall that White brings up how Athanasius stood almost alone against the majority of the Church. Matatics likewise brought up the same point. During the Arian crisis 97-99% of all the bishops were “heretics”. It was Athanasius who stood alone against heresy.
An interesting point Gerry raised is how the “Church” has responded to heresy in the past, and how it is to respond to it now during these “last days.” Gerry noted there is a common misconception that those in authority of the Church have their finger on the pulse of all heresies, and are busily combating them. In other words, Catholic laymen think they shouldn’t be involved in combating heresy, but should rather leave it in the hands of the Magisterium. Gerry says this shouldn’t be, and hasn’t been the case during the history of the church. For instance, during the Nestorian heresy, the laypeople raised their voices against Nestorius as a heretic. It was the laypeople that preserved the faith, and for this were subsequently praised by later popes and councils. Gerry declared: when the shepherd becomes a wolf, the flock must defend itself! The “true” children of the Holy Church do not simply wait for Rome to declare error and truth. Gerry’s exhorted Catholics to know their beliefs in order to combat heresy within the church. It’s up to Catholic layman and lay-groups to preserve the “true” Catholic faith handed down from the apostles.
After listening to Matatics for an hour or so, I couldn’t help but conclude Gerry’s in the same boat as the Protestant Reformers. Gerry vigorously distances himself from them, but in essence, he’s engaging a similar battle. He’s taking on “sola ecclesia”. He’s taking on an authority structure that does not admit error- for to admit error would devastate its hold on its people. The Reformers likewise at first attempted to cry out against abuse and heresy within the Church. They were not listened to. Maybe Gerry realizes that Rome will never hear him- which is why his latest lectures emphasized that these are the “last days”. Perhaps Gerry doesn’t expect the Magisterium to listen to him- as Gerry and his small group of Catholics represent the “true” church, holding on till the end. It's Gerry and The Late Great Catholic Church.