Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Gerry Matatics: Catholic Apologist For The "Last Days"

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.


Oddball Pastor said...

It is Matatics own version of Remnant theology.

Really it is a fascinating thing to watch. For the Reformes the RCC was not biblical enough. For Matatics, the RCC is not Catholic enough (Catholicism being biblical in his eyes).

Howard Fisher said...

Good post. I am always amazed at Protestant converts. They never really become good catholics simply because they still think like a Protestant. Using our language while adding Rome's views to their own.

Gerry's experience is hardly unique.

Thanks for taking the time to do this kind of work.

God Bless


James Swan said...

Gerry said he was going to send me the tapes of what I missed from the seminar. If he does so- i'm going to review them.

During the seminar I had an awful sinus headache (I get these regularly), and I had to leave early.

Anonymous said...

Sinus headaches are brutal! I would be happy to hear when they are a thing of the past for you.

Christ's donkey

Steve Dillard (aka Feddie) said...


I am a Catholic convert who reads and enjoys your blog (even if I do disagree with you on many points). I am, however, troubled by this statement from your post: "despite the fact that he denies the very Gospel I treasure."

Is this statement directed solely at Matatics or all Catholics? Surely, you don't believe that all Catholics are "gospel deniers." I mean, it's one thing to say that Catholics are mistaken in their interpretation of the Bible, and it's quite another to characterize that as denying the gospel. It just seems to me that with the culture rotting at its core, and Catholics and reformed protestants sharing much common ground, there ought to be a desire to use less hostile characterizations. I am not suggesting that we paper over our serious theological disagreements, but calling every Catholic a gospel denier seems a bit over the top.

But perhaps I misunderstood you.

James Swan said...

Hi Steve-

first, thank you for reading this blog.

My comment was directed toward Gerry. During the seminar, Gerry repeatedly denied that justification is by faith alone. He made sure to emphasize this. I believe the Bible teaches Justification by faith alone (Romans 3-4). Thus, Gerry denies that which I treasure.

Steve Dillard (aka Feddie) said...


I respect your position. It's one that I once held. But opposition to sola fide is not peculiar to Gerry. Indeed, all orthodox Catholics would reject that doctrine. But it's one thing to say, "Catholics reject a biblical dotrine that I believe to be at the very heart of the gospel," and quite another to call someone who disagrees with sola fide a "gospel denier." I just think we, as brothers in Christ, ought to move beyond such rhetoric. I may think that your wrong about sola fide, but I certainly don't question your love/devotion to Jesus Christ.

Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to promote some sort of "warm fuzzy," let's-pretend-we-don't-have-any-theological-differences dialogue. I am just suggesting that questioning whether the other side is even Christian strikes me as unproductive.

James Swan said...

Hi Steve,

At the seminar, Gerry Matatics used the old analogy that if one is suspending a heavy object in the air by a chain, if one link is weak or bad, the entire object will crash to the ground. I feel similarly about Rome’s denial of the heart of the gospel- sola fide. While Rome may say some nice things about the gospel, it denies the very heart of the Gospel. Thus, the entire Gospel “falls” in official Roman Catholic declaration. If one link in the chain is bad, the entire chain is bad and will not support what it intends to.

Right before the seminar, my wife leaned over to me and asked, “Are these people here our brothers and sisters in Christ?” I whispered back, “No…and maybe.” I said this because my opinion is that Rome denies the heart of the Gospel and so therefore does not officially teach the “Gospel.” On the other hand, I don’t deny that there are some Roman Catholics that are my brothers and sisters in Christ- but this is despite Rome’s teaching, not because of it.

I realize this is a harsh opinion to Roman Catholic ears- but this does not mean I “hate” Catholics or dislike them. You won’t find me calling Rome the “Whore of Babylon” or saying that the Pope is the antichrist. I do believe though that doctrine is important- so did Gerry Matatics. I believe doctrine has eternal consequences- so did Gerry Matatics.

I know it must seem arrogant and foolish to believe that sola fide is the heart of the Gospel. But I believe the Bible teaches it, also teaches that finding justification in any other way is a doomed endeavor. I will attempt to present this position with as much respect as I possibly can.


Anonymous said...
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James Swan said...
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Leo said...

"Really it is a fascinating thing to watch. For the Reformes the RCC was not biblical enough. For Matatics, the RCC is not Catholic enough (Catholicism being biblical in his eyes)."

It is indeed a matter of doctrine, just as Swan above points, and correctly so, however, it is not that we say that the Church is not Catholic enough, but that there are those in the Church who are not keeping with the doctrines which the Church has always and everywhere taught, and subsequently teaching the opposite of what the Church taught in some cases, in which case they would be outside the Church because they thereby place themselves in heresy incurring the ipso facto sentence of excommunication in the manner which matatics is clearly presenting, these persons just happen to have infiltrated the Church straight to the top, see story of a communist infiltrator of the Catholic Church, and that it is the man calling himself pope is one of these.

Christsdonkey said...
... My Catholic aquaintance has said pretty much what you have about Mr Mattatics. When I brought him up in conversation some time he maintained that Gerry is still a Protester at heart. He never submitted himself to the Church. That he is still thinking he knows what the truth is and the Church Christ founded on Peter does not.

I saw that same accusation over on Fisheaters, and it is indeed ludicrous. If you don't believe that he did indeed submit to the Church, you should hear some of his talks from when he was a novus ordo.

"That he is still thinking he knows what the truth is and the Church Christ founded on Peter does not."

No, he is using the proofs that the Church has left us to show that the current hierarchy is not keeping with the Church of Christ founded on St. Peter, the thing is that he is using that very Church to show that what is there now is not the Church, it is the principle of compare and contrast.

howardfisher said...

"I am always amazed at Protestant converts. They never really become good catholics simply because they still think like a Protestant. Using our language while adding Rome's views to their own."

I am a convert from Protestantism, and I say that you are here in error in that it is Rome's views which are being utilized and believed, it is because we believe that the Church cannot err that we say that the current erring Church is not the Church of Christ founded on Peter, we cannot stand back and see what puports to be the Church deny contradict and ignore previous magisterium of the Church.

Leo said...

FM483, I must say that as a Catholic, I have to disagree with you.

Protestants pretend that it is either or; like it's either the Bible or Tradition, Christ or the Pope, that it is either faith or works. It is both faith and works which contribute to the justification of man before God.

The phrase "faith alone" is found in only one place in the Bible, and oddly enough, it is refuting the Protestant view that man is justified by faith alone. The phrase comes from the second chapter of the epistle of St. James which states "you see that by works a man is justified and not by faith alone?". It is for good reason that Our Lord says "Every tree that brings forth not good fruits shall be cut down and shall be cast into the fire" (Matt. 7.19) because it is important for the faithful to understand that they must yield good fruit in order to be numbered among the elect. Our Lord is here giving warning to the faithful that faith without works is not enough to be saved. and, therefore, he adds: "Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven". But, first of all, before we get carried away, just what is a "good work"? Good works are actions that are performed, while in the state of sanctifying grace, according to God's will. These are actions inspired by faith, and they are necessary for salvation, as they are the manifestation of faith, and are what is referred to in the gospel as "good fruit". This is not to say, of course, that a man may work his way into heaven, but that these works are a bi-product of faith. Christ explicitly states that those [souls] who yield not forth good fruit [works as a manifestation of their faith] shall be cut down and cast into the fire (damned). It is therefore, a great error for one to perceive that they may attain salvation simply because they yield not forth bad fruit [commit no evil]. Thus, those who do neither good nor evil, shall not see salvation, as heaven is the reward of those who have performed well, and if no good work has been done, then they may not expect a reward, as St. Ambrose illustrates in his 41st Letter: "And so He first bestows on us a gift by baptism, and afterwards gives more abundantly to those who serve Him faithfully. So, then, the benefits of Christ are... rewards of virtue"; so, we see that He only gives to those who serve him, and serve Him faithfully, and also, that the rewards of Christ are a consequence of virtue.

The Holy Ghost is the sanctifier, who sanctifies the world and men, but men can only be sanctified if they comply with that grace of the Holy Spirit through faith, hope, and love of God and his neighbor; and he must also perform other "works". We see from St. Paul that God rewards good works: "If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward" (I Cor. 3:14); and "Do not therefore lose your confidence which hath a great reward. For patience is necessary for you: that, doing the will of God, you may receive the promise." (Heb. 10:35-36) , and still more, he exhorts us to do good works in these words: "... run that you may obtain" (I Cor. 9:24); he describes this life as a fight, a fight that we must win in order to be saved, which means doing and not simply being: "Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold on eternal life..." (I Tim. 6:12), and encourages St. Timothy, which applies to all of us, "To do good, to be rich in good work, to give easily, to communicate to others" (I Tim. 6:18), that we may attain eternal life. Now we have seen that works are necessary, but we must also understand that it is not simply works, nor is it simply faith, as we shall now cover. We know that we cannot work our way into heaven, no matter how holy we are. This entails that one must have faith, but what if we have faith, what if we have faith enough to move the mountains, is faith all we need to be saved? The Holy Spirit, speaking through St. James in his epistle, says "What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him?
So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself" (James 2:14-17). This clearly shows how faith without works is not sufficient for salvation. He goes on to say: "Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:19-20). Once again reiterating the fact that faith without works is dead, but he also adds that the devils believe and tremble, showing once again that faith is not all that is required. St. James goes on to say: "Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?...For even as the body without the spirit is dead: so also faith without works is dead." (James 2:24-26). He states that faith without works is dead, but then adds "not by faith only" meaning that it [justification] is by works, through faith, meaning both, he certainly does not say works only, and he does not say faith only, but that they are one, and must be done in unison with faith. Apparently we must not only believe, but we must "fight the good fight" so to speak. St. Paul says "Workout thy salvation" now we know that we can't work our way into heaven so what does St. Paul mean? He means we must not only believe BUT we must also as St. Paul says: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle... Exhort your hearts and confirm you in every good work and word." which means that we must hold the faith and keep it alive in everything we do, and do good works in faith. St. James further illustrates this: "But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. But he that hath looked into the perfect law of liberty and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work: this man shall be blessed in his deed. " (James 1:22-25). This is simply further driving home the point that we must be a doer of the word and not simply a hearer, and that the doer will be blessed in his deed.

We also notice that when eternal life is promised it is always in the future. It is not that "we are saved" but that "we shall be saved". So, we may not in truth say "I am saved" for he is a liar unless he be in the company of the Blessed. "Which some promising, have erred concerning the faith". The Council of Trent speaks thus of this error: "If any one saith, that it is necessary for every one, for the obtaining the remission of sins, that he believe for certain, and without any wavering arising from his own infirmity and disposition, that his sins are forgiven him; let him be anathema." (sess. VI, Can. XIII) and "If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because that he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema." (Sess. VI, Can. XIV). It is said by St. Paul "That thou keep the commandment without spot, blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." and "But thanks be to God, that you ...have obeyed from the heart unto that form of doctrine into which you have been delivered" meaning that we must hold the faith [that means live the faith and believe it inviolately], and not simply believe. For not even the great St. Paul was assured of his salvation, he too had to "run the Race" and "fight the good fight" even though he had been so great an apostle, even though the Holy Spirit had spake through him and delivered to us many epistles in the new testament. We must not say to ourselves that because we read scripture and sing a couple of hymns and clap our hands and listen to a pastor provide us with his private interpretation of scripture that we are going to see God no matter what. We must practice virtue and be obedient to the traditions which God has given us. We must rely on His mercy and fulfill God's requests.

It is a great error for one to perceive that it is possible to work one's way into heaven, as defined by the Council of Trent: "If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema." (Sess. VI, Can. I) Thus we see, that the Protestant perception that Catholics believe that they can work their way to salvation is completely and totally false, but that Catholics hold that one must work by grace, through faith. The council goes on to proclaim that it is error for one to assume that he may attain salvation without observing the commandments of God: "If any one saith, that the man who is justified and how perfect soever, is not bound to observe the commandments of God and of the Church, but only to believe; as if indeed the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of observing the commandments ; let him be anathema." (Sess. VI, Can. XX).

We know that it is impossible to please God without faith, and therefore, without it will not be saved (Heb. 11:6), Justification is accomplished by faith and works. Protestants will argue against this by citing Eph. 2.9 which states that it is not by works that we are saved, but who is saying that we are saved by works, the Catholic Church does not say this, so where do they get the idea that Catholic believe that we are saved by works? St. Paul there says that faith is a gift from God that does not include "works of the Law". But according to this Protestant logic, St. Paul contradicts himself as shown above he says we must do good works in order to attain salvation as shown above, so obviously, the interpretation that the Protestants give this is not the correct context that this verse is to be understood by. In Galations Ch. 5 we see the context that this is to be read by "faith that worketh" meaning that faith is what drives the works, it is faith that powers them, and gives them life. This verse goes on to say "faith that worketh by charity" meaning that we have faith, by love, and St. Paul also says that faith without charity is nothing, meaning, that faith is accomplished by charity, which is an act and faith, which is an act of the will, are one; thus charitable works, it's why we have charities. Faith is a gift of God, and it is not achieved by men, and it is God who causes all of this, but, however, He requires of us actions on our part in order to perfect that faith that he has so graciously given us (James 2:22). St. James says that the man who knows that he must do works and does them not is a sinner, (James 4:17) meaning that it is sin not to do good works. Faith and works are to be one, to be united as the body and the spirit are one as once again St. James tells us "For even as the body without the spirit is dead: so also faith without works is dead." (James 2:26) as St. Irenaeus, one of the most illustrious of the primitive Christian Fathers says: "For these two, faith and good works, rejoice in each other's company, and agree together and fight side by side to set man in the Presence of God".
All of this means that we must have both faith and works, and not simply one or the other as
We see how the argument that the Protestants use, that is the either or, is a faulty argument and falls short of a correct understanding of the scriptures according to the context they were written in. The Bible must be read as one, not simply taking verses and placing them to stand all by themselves as to serve as a rule, without a measurement, context, by which to read the rule.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post, James.

Christ's donkey:

I don't think that's at all what Gerry Matatics is saying. He's saying that the church has been taken over by hereticvs, who do not believe what Peter and the early popes & church fathers said.