An unusual situation


#1

Good folks, I need advice.

First, a little background: I’m 23, and a recent graduate. My parents are strong Christians, and I was raised in an Evangelical tradition. My grandfather and several uncles are Lutheran ministers, so I was exposed to that as well. Recently though, I’ve felt inexplicably drawn to the Catholic Church. Over the past ten months or so, I’ve done a LOT of research and reading about Catholic history and doctrine. I’ve also spent a ridiculous amount of time on this forum, mostly lurking but occasionally posting more recently. I feel like I’ve seen every argument from both sides a dozen times over in the threads here, and for me the majority of the evidence seems support the Catholic position. Still I have qualms and doubts, and for a number of reasons (chief among them: fear*) I haven’t taken any formal steps toward conversion.

However, in the last couple of months I’ve gotten into a pretty serious (and unexpected) relationship. She is a Non-denominational Christian, and currently attending a small Bible college. She’s known since early on that I’m investigating Catholicism, and she’s agreed to do some research into it for herself. Although I’m still wrestling with a number of things, I suspect deep down that I’ll one day enter the Catholic Church. Thus I find myself in the rather odd position of trying to convince her of things I’m not entirely sure I accept myself. My biggest fear is that I’ll fail: and we both know that a “mixed” relationship would be untenable in the long run.

To further complicate matters, we’re both living in China right now (I did say this was an unusual situation!). I’m afraid our Chinese wouldn’t be good enough to talk to the local priest about this (his English is even worse), and then there is the issue of the Chinese church being in questionable communion with Rome anyway (at least at the episcopal level-- although our local diocese [Xiamen/Amoy] hasn’t had a bishop since 1983).

Well, that’s a lot of venting, but I’d really appreciate any advice, especially from people who have been in similar circumstances, or those who know more about the situation of the Church in China.

Thanks,
Phil M.

*I mean personal fear of change or the unknown or making a huge mistake. My family has been amazingly understanding, although they are a bit worried about me.


#2

I shall try to refrain from comment on the Latin church, as I belong to the Orthodox, and know about our situation in China (knew the former archbishop, met Chinese Orthodox, my parishoners are there right now, etc). I would say that the pope of Rome understands the situation, and would understand yours. After all, the two of you are in questionable communion with Rome too.

I also come from a strong Evangelical Lutheran background. I went to a Latin school as the sole non-Catholic through most of it.

I can across Orthodoxy by accident (article on Orthodoxy in the Encyclopedia Britannica). I had thought that Orthodoxy was just like the Latin church, but just in Greek, more incense and just as wrong.

When I embraced Orthodoxy, I wasn’t 100% sure about of a number of things, and many I didn’t get until years in the Church.

I had to go, because an agnostic friend pointed out that I kept saying what the Lutherans believed but then said what the Orthodox believe and voiced my agreement. “Why aren’t you Orthodox?” Having no answer in the negative, I was chrismated soon after.

Though no cheerleader for Rome usually (many here would corroborate that), you seem, as far as I can tell on the net, past the point of no return, and Lutheranism as it is going now is moving in the opposite direction. I’d prefer the live over the dead German.


#3

dacoobob,

It’s always great to hear testimonies such as yours. God will never disappoint those who seek him with a humble heart. I will pray for you in your journey.


#4

Well, Dacoobob, I really can’t tell you about converting, because I’m a cradle Catholic myself. Sure I’ve had to re-convince myself many times that the Catholic Church was right, it’s just that I’ve never had to convince myself that my past beliefs were wrong. As to converting, you have to follow the truth at all costs. That’s what I like about Catholicism. Protestants want to follow the Bible. Catholics want the truth (of which the Bible is a big part, but not the only part). It’s that bigness of Catholicism that attracts me. One can be a Catholic for so many different reasons.

As far as that relationship goes, I recently broke up with my non-Catholic girlfriend. I’m willing to admit a mistake when it happens. I’m not saying that your relationship is a mistake, but when I was dating this non-Catholic girl, her friends once asked me, “So would become a Baptist to marry her. After all, isn’t love more important than doctrine?” Well, what I’ve discovered is that it’s not worth the pain of having to compromise your beliefs in order to be in any sort of a relationship. In reality, I do think love is more important than doctrine, but I just happen to be in love with the Catholic Church (doctrines and all).

I suppose the question then becomes, what are you looking for: love or truth? I hope you can find and keep both. Remember to look at it from both sides. Don’t just ask, “What will become of our relationship if I become Catholic?” You must also ask, “If I believe the Catholic Church is right, should I be letting anything get in my way? Will I be able to live with myself while denying what I believe is truth?” These are tough questions, but they are necessary.

Now, as far as being in China goes, here’s the scoop (and I get this all from the Pope’s recent letter to the Church in China which can be found at the following webpage.)

vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/letters/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_let_20070527_china_en.html

The Chinese government tries to keep the Church under its control. As a result, there are some bishops who are recognized by the Magisterium but not by the Chinese government. (These bishops and their followers constitute the underground Church in China.) Also, there are some men who have been ordained bishops without Rome’s approval. Rome does not view these bishops as legitimate, but nevertheless, they are validly ordain. Likewise, when they administer the Sacraments, they do so validly, but not legitimately. In other words, you should only go to these Bishops if an alternative is not possible (which is highly unlikely). Fortunately, most Bishops are recognized by both China and Rome. I assume the same goes with priests as it does with Bishops.

But alas, that is all I know about the Catholic Church in China.

Hey, I hope I’ve helped you out. God bless you on your journey.


#5

If it came down to it I think I would have to choose Truth over a woman, even a woman as special as my gf. That’s why I’m so anxious to bring her around if possible. I would also see it as a pretty obvious “sign” if she does end up convinced as well. As a matter of fact however, she has stated that if we get married and I were to convert, she would follow me into the Church (her suggestion, not mine). Wow.

This is more or less what I understand as well. Only bishops are required to join the “Patriotic Association”; at the parish level there should be no problem (especially since we have no bishop here). To tell the truth I’m less worried about that whole issue than about the fact that I don’t have access to RCIA-type instruction in English (as far as I know). My Chinese is just not good enough for deep theological discussion. :frowning: I’m thinking about going back to the States after this year, maybe I should defer action till then… :shrug: On the other hand, I don’t want this to turn into just an “intellectual football” for me by procrastinating forever…


#6

Well, my suggestion is that conversion should come before marriage, for a really simple reason. Once you’re married, if you find that your wife doesn’t want to convert, well, you’re already committed to the marriage. There will be a lot more freedom on both your parts if you know what each other sincerely believe before getting married.

Well then, in that I case, my suggestion is that you get yourself an English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and start reading away. I would contact Catholic Answers and ask them what you should do as far as working with somebody to learn the faith. The forums here are great, but you do have to understand that most people here are not professional apologists (though most of us want to be). The people at Catholic Answers would probably be most able to help you. I forget what there phone number is, though you can find it on their website. (Also, it might cost quite a bit so an overseas call.)

Of course, I don’t know where in China you live. If you live anywhere near Hong Kong, well, you’ll have no problem finding English speaking priests there, I’m sure, but my guess is you don’t live near there, otherwise you would already have thought of that.

Since you might be coming back to the states in about a year anyway, you should probably get in touch with somebody from the RCIA program from your local American diocese. If they know you’re studying the faith, and they see your sincere, they might be able to make accommodations for you when you come. This way you can be enrolled in RCIA in spite of your circumstances.

OK, I hope all this helps.

God Bless.


#7

Do not seek out the persecuted Church in China, as you could be putting the true (underground) church there in jeopardy. Wait until you can go to Hong Kong or the Republic of China or until you get back to the states. Alternatively, if you live near the embassy you could seek out the Catholic
priest there and inquire about Mass times and RCIA (if any). It seems as though you meet the knowledge level to become Catholic through your own research, so the priest may not even require you to attend RCIA if you demonstrate this knowledge and acceptance of the faith and may just choose to let you enter via baptism (if necessary) and communion. Since you are in China I am sure that it will be difficult for you to find a copy of your baptismal record which will be required for any conversion, and if none can be obtained a conditional baptism may be received (which means just what it says, that if your original baptism was valid, this second ‘baptism’ has no spiritual effects).


#8

IN His gospel Jesus repeatedly told us not to be afraid. He told us the old law was fear and sacrifice and he wanted love and mercy. Make your decision for the right reason, don’t be led by fear.


#9

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