Seminary seeks help leading reformation in Latin America

BENYOLA: What motivated you to start these missions and what is your educational background?

ACOSTA: Well, we must go to the very beginning. I grew up as a Roman Catholic in Colombia. I wanted to be a priest, like one of my brothers, so I also went to the Roman Catholic Seminary.

All my classmates were scheduled to go to Rome to finish studies there and be ordained. I, however, was asked to stay behind in Bogotá to take care of a Roman Catholic high school as an administrator for two years. I lost interest because I missed the camaraderie with my seminary classmates. I left the seminary and came to the United States and attended Temple University in Philadelphia. I studied School Business Administration and eventually became a school principal with the School District of Philadelphia.

I met Mimi, an English teacher who also became a school administrator, and I married her. Mimi and I were devout Roman Catholics, but Mimi could not sleep because she was afraid to die and go to purgatory, believing that she would spend many, many years there before going to heaven.

In order to help her, I decided for the first time to read the entire Bible, searching for purgatory. In the Roman Catholic seminary, neither I, nor my classmates, ever read the Bible. No one owned a Bible. In fact, the bible was not even a topic of conversation. Because of my love for Mimi I read the entire Bible, line by line, looking for purgatory. It took me almost two years. I did not find purgatory in the bible. Instead, God spoke to me through the Bible, allowing me to understand and trust in his magnificent plan of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone and only by his mercy. The assurance of salvation by imputation of Christ’s righteousness upon me, the fact that I was able to know my eternal destiny before I die, became the most joyful experience. It was as if the gates of heaven were opened wide for me.

When I shared this with my Mimi, she, who was more Catholic than the Pope, did not fully agree because, even if the Bible said that, it had to be authenticated by the “infallible authority” of the magisterium of the church.

I did not depart from Roman Catholicism, but the battle for the truth was heavy in my heart. To appease my conscience, I tried to force the Bible into the doctrines of Roman Catholicism and vice versa. But that syncretism did not work.

In 1994, under the signature of Pope John Paul II, the Vatican published the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a comprehensive compendium of the Roman Catholicism doctrine. I read the entire catechism, this time underlining anything that did not agree with the Bible. I underlined almost two-thirds of that book.

Accepting the church’s claim that the bible, tradition and magisterium of the church are equal authorities, the confusion demanded the involvement of the authority of the church. There was an irreconcilable tension between the Bible and the catechism regarding purgatory. Mimi and I made an appointment with our pastor who was a monsignor. A monsignor is an official title for a priest, similar to a bishop.

We arrived at the meeting with the expectation that he was able to prove to us that the Bible was wrong so that we could stay in the Roman Catholic Church. Monsignor received us in his living room and cordially asked, “Noé and Mimi, what can I do for you?” I looked at him, and my first thought was, I wonder if this man knows if he is going to heaven or not. So I said, “Monsignor, if you die tonight, where you will go?” He said, “I don’t know. The best I can hope for is purgatory.” I said, “Monsignor, that’s the reason we are here. Number one, my wife cannot sleep because she is afraid to die and go to purgatory for many years. I read the entire Bible looking for purgatory and I cannot find it in the Bible.” I also explained to him that the Lord Jesus was here for over 33 years and he spoke about heaven and hell. He did not say a single word about purgatory. I went further, sharing with him that the doctrine of purgatory denies Colossians 1:21-22.

The doctrine of purgatory affirms that when a person dies all sins are not fully paid by the blood of the Lord Jesus. Venial sins will have to be burned by purgatory flames to purge the individual in order to be presented blameless to the Father, because the Father cannot tolerate the presence of sin.

Colossians 1:21-22 says, “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet he has now reconciled you in his fleshly body through death, in order to present you before him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” The Bible here clearly demonstrates the sufficiency of the blood of Christ to pay in full for the sins of the believer to present him blameless to the Father. To deny the sufficiency of the blood of Christ is to deny the sufficiency of Christ, and if Christ is not sufficient then we do not have a redeemer.

Monsignor surprised us with this answer, “The truth, Noé and Mimi, is that purgatory does not exist.” I could not close my mouth; however, Mimi was cured of her insomnia.

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interviews, Reformation