Can one be an individual and a Catholic? Or does one have to be a conformist?

Is the Church all imposing? One must conform or be cut off. Or is that an illusion drawn by outsiders? Is there room for the individual, the non-conformist, the questioner, the skeptic, and the critical thinker who values freedom of thought in the Catholic Church?

I ask this question to stimulate thought and clarification of my thinking on this question and does not necessarily reflect my own beliefs. Because this view of the Church as being all imposing is popular. The question is do you think that there is any validity to this or is it a popular myth?

A few examples of what people think the Church is imposing may prove helpful.

CCC 25 needs more than one reading.

As an outsider, I do view the catholic church as “all imposing” in regard to it’s adherents. One of the things that bother me most about the catholic church is the authority to make morally binding rules for it’s members. It’s one thing to standardize doctrinal positions, but it’s another thing to require that members must follow laws to attend mass on Sunday, fast on certain days, etc., under pain of mortal sin. Do catholics view these laws as man made or God made? There are protestant denominations who also profess specific doctrinal positions and believe that these are the only correct positions. If someone shares these positions, I see nothing wrong with joining these denominations, including the catholic church, although I believe they are limiting themselves with regard to studying and interpreting scripture to it’s fullest.

Everyone conforms himself to something–be it his own ideas or that of others. This is a given fact.

The question really is, in matters of faith and morals, is the Catholic bound to hold to Church teachings? Yes, he is.

Now, is obedience hard? It can be. We are fallen creatures whose nature is corrupted (not totally depraved as some would have it), our intellect is darkened, and our will weakened. This can make it hard to conform ourselves to God’s law.

The good news is Jesus gave us many helps to do what, because of our fallen natures, we cannot do without God’s grace–his saving help. He has given us Church teachings, the Sacraments, the lives, intercession and help of the Saints in glory, good spiritual reading, a relationship with him based on love, etc. We can in good conscience and good will conform ourselves to what God desires only through his grace. In order to do that, though we need to ask for it.

This is where prayer comes in. We need to pray for God’s grace, accept it, and use it. We need to ask in humility and gratitude for our creation, God’s love in redeeming us, and in patience, knowing that conforming to God’s will is a life-long endeavor.

Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you for it is light and easy to bear.” Compared to enslavement to our passions, the passing fancies of the world, and the ensnarement in sin, it is light and easy to bear. We merely need to be willing.

Adherents by their very nature adhere to the rules of whatever they belong to. For example, if I belong to a country club that has a dress code, the club is within its rights to insist that I conform to it.

The Church only makes morally binding what it cannot change. Sunday obligation? It’s the commandment to “keep holy the Sabbath day.” The 10 Commandments have never be abrogated. The Church merely moved the obligation to Sunday, in honor of the Lord’s resurrection, instead of Saturday. Most fasts do not fall under pain of sin. Those that do are a part of God’s will for us. He called for fasts in the OT and the Church continues to call for them in certain circumstances. Is it really so hard to give up meat for one day out of the week during Lent? No, of course not. It’s only a burden if we see it as a burden.

You may join any denomination/sect you wish. But, will you be getting the fullness of the truth in one of those? Will you be completely conforming yourself to Christ if you don’t conform yourself to obey the Church he founded and to which he gave his authority to “bind and loose” in matters of faith and morals? Look at the first Council of Jerusalem. Did those gathered have the right and authority to bind and loose the Gentiles from certain practices? If so, when did that change? When did Jesus withdraw that authority? These are the questions one must ask oneself. :slight_smile:

I would say that whatever answer that you may get depends on who you ask.

God did not create us as clones and I do not think that God wants us to be clones.

Either we are all God’s kids and we are all individuals or we aren’t.

God-Incarnate’s invitation was to “Come follow Me” and each and every one of us has a different way of following Jesus and we all have a different “job” to do in this following of Jesus.

Jesus said, “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the FATHER except thru Me”, He said the FATHER, He did NOT say God.

Even though Jesus said that there is only one way to THE FATHER and He Is that Way, He did not say that there is only one way to HIM.

God has a Plan and God has had a Plan since before creation and only God knows ALL of the “details” of God’s Plan and somehow or another, God’s Will will come to Fruition in the unfolding of God’s Plan.

God will not force you to follow His instruction as given in the Bible. A priest will not be pounding on your door Monday if you missed Mass on Sunday. There are people who are returning to the Church after 10, 20 or more years away. God will not force you and the Church will not force you. God will not force you to love Him. What did Jesus say?

We are to be more like Christ and less like the world around us. Can you provide some examples of what kind of thinking or skeptical ideas you have?


Actually, the Catholic Church is pretty flexible on a lot of things in terms of creative arts.

From the outside looking in, yes this does seem to be the case.

It is counter-intuitive really. When I made the decision to follow the Church’s teaching with regards to faith and morals, the more I grow to be my own authentic self. I did a lot of thinking, critical thinking, and the more I was convinced that the Church held the fullness of faith and truth. This from someone who was raised atheist.

One good thing about being raised atheist is it afforded me the chance to examine the faith dispassionately without all the emotional baggage a lot of ex-Catholics seem to have.

I find that I am afforded the freedom to be myself by following the teachings of the Church.

As I said, it’s counterintuitive.

Yes absolutely! We can always be thinking, growing and maturing. At times that process involves questioning, sometimes even doubts and skepticism.

When those times of doubt come, one is to place it Gods feet, trust the church even though you disagree it doubt and try to understand.

It’s not conformity, but trust in the God given authority of the church.

I think you mix together Truth and the Church in your Question. God’s Truth does not change. And if you really meditate on that, your anxiety will become Peace. In this world where everything changes and everything has its end, God’s Truth does not end and does not change. The Church is God’s chosen vehicle by which His Truth is preserved by and communicated to mankind. Because of that, The Lord has graced His Church with special charisms by which He keeps her free from error in matters of faith and morals. If this were not so, mankind would be pitiful orphans.

Do you want with all your being to fully become what God intended for you to be when he, by his love, created you individual, placed you in this time and for His chosen purpose? Or do you want to do what you want to do when and how you want to do it based on what you think and want to be? Those are the real questions. The choice is either the Life and Light, or darkness and death. However, one must die to self if one truly wants to live. This is the mystery of the obedience of faith. How can you die to self if you are your own captain?? God has not abandoned us to ourselves. Nope. He lovingly gave us His commands for Life which the Church preserves for us. The Church’s teachings on faith and morals, aka The Truth, protected from error by the Holy Spirit, is that God given instrument and gift which is outside of you by which you might die to self and Live through grace. Thank The Lord His Truth does not change.
You might pray with St. Augustine, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” Understanding will not bring faith. Faith seeks understanding. At some point you will submit to something. Why not God’s Truth lovingly kept for you by His Church?

I see this issue of conformity vs individuality as like the transportation set-up in the US. We drive on roads and have many rules to follow on those roads. One might say this is oppressive, but the result of following the rules is that I am *more *free. If there were no rules, the roads would be useless: cluttered up with accidents, traffic jams resulting from each doing as he pleases, etc.

When it comes to Catholicism, oh, boy! Isn’t one *more *free as the result of know the truth? I cannot think of an area of life in which i am not more free with the truth of the Faith than without it. First, I know my Top Priority: God. I know in which direction my actions should be ordered: getting to Heaven.

In addition, I know what and when and how and with whom to do many things. Do you honestly think that those involved in the hook-up culture are more free to express themselves and their individuality?

(I want to write more, but I have to go do others stuff–thought-provoking question!

I have been on a journey and have asked my self questions like this. Briefly, what really stood out for me is that the greatest thinkers in history and biggest contributors to my catholic religion were catholic. It surprised me to learn that many moral and philosophical questions were answered over a thousand years ago. You see, we are looking for Truth and authority. The one who has the truth doesn’t hide, shy away, lie, try to keep their followers ignorant. For example, when I listen to the catholic answers radio show I’m just amazed at how smart and educated the people are. I had some how bought in to the belief that to be catholic you have to be all faith no brain. Plus, I realize now that the freedom I wanted was the freedom to sin.

As a Catholic, I see this differently. Rather than “making” moral rules, the Church proclaims the rules which exist independently of humanity. Sometimes the Church has to apply the rules of moralty to new situations, like IVF, but having a good understanding if the foundations of the rules allows a proper application, so it’s more of a discovery than a creating.

It’s one thing to standardize doctrinal positions, but it’s another thing to require that members must follow laws to attend mass on Sunday, fast on certain days, etc., under pain of mortal sin. Do catholics view these laws as man made or God made?

These “laws” are made for our benefit. I have to laugh about the Friday abstinence/light fast: now scientists are discovering that the occasional, like weekly, light fast is good for us, and the environmentalists are proposing “Meatless Mondays.”

In our society, vegans are admired for their prinicipled actions while Catholics derided for mindless following for doing very similar things: giving up eating whatever whenever we want.

But these things the Church gives us to do are not simply pulled out of the air to control us. They are instructions in *how to love God. *If we love Christ, we will be moved to do some of the things He did. Yes, it would be nice if that thing were going about performing miracles, but in reality, fasting and the other “rules” are much better for us: we are not tempted by pride, and we grow in holiness. As Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must **deny himself **and take up his cross daily and follow me."

There are protestant denominations who also profess specific doctrinal positions and believe that these are the only correct positions. If someone shares these positions, I see nothing wrong with joining these denominations, including the catholic church, although I believe they are limiting themselves with regard to studying and interpreting scripture to it’s fullest.

Christ said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Light.” How can there be more than one truth? And yet Protestant interpretation tosses up many contradictory interpretations.

You have just narrated part of my journey to the Catholic Church.

It was through Tolkien and reading his books that I became curious about this church.

Plus if one were truly conformist, they would be following popular culture’s ideals which often include license not true freedom.

Truly following Christ is radically counter culture.

On another forum, I disagreed with the church’s teaching on contraception. I’m not going into that now, since that is not the topic, and I’m a bit sick of arguing the toss anyway.

However on that particular issue, it is obvious that a lot of other Catholics think the way I do, but simply ignore the church’s teaching and say nothing.

But if I were a priest or bishop, I would hardly be able to say so publicly, as I’d be expected to toe the doctrinal line (not that I’m likely to be a priest or bishop, mind you).

In that respect, the church could possibly appear totalitarian to outsiders. Yet the first thing that is obvious to anyone who actually talks to a bunch of Catholics is that they are a bunch of individuals, all different, even chalk and cheese in some cases. Just ask a bunch of Catholics what they think of their local priest for example - there will be differences even there.

As an aside, I remember my old (Protestant) pastor once commenting during a sermon that he rarely accepted invitations to dinner from parishioners after the service. He said on those occasions when he did accept, the main course was usually Roast Parson.

As with a political party for example, you’'ll find any number of conflicting views, all held within a overall framework. So at all times, there is a certain tension between what might called the constitutional ideal, and the practical reality.

For myself, I think its “closest” to the Truth. Right now for example, the church preaches charity for refugees. Yet I’ve heard a few practising Catholics express less than perfect charity towards what we call “boat people”.

The Catholic Church is an imperfect outfit, trying her imperfect best, to work with an imperfect Pope, magisterium, priesthood and laity, to point towards Christ’s perfection.

To do that she works within certain guidelines, which she struggles to discern, but there is, and always will be, a certain tension within her ranks,** BECAUSE Cathoiics are (fallen) individuals.**

When you converted did you go through RCIA and convert officially into the Church through the Rite of Conformation? I am surprised that someone would go through the trouble and work of the process of formation and the formal rites and oaths and still not be converted when protestant denominations like Anglican and Lutheran are so much more easy. My question is why bother converting if your not going to embrace Catholicism. My thoughts are you are either someone who converted because of marriage or you have not gone through the Church’s process of RCIA.

I don’t know about you, but as a revert I had to actually sign an official document acknowledging that The Church is the authority concerning faith and morals. The document made stated that the Church has the sole of the deposit of the one True faith which is free from errors. It did not say the closest to the truth. And I had to give my official consent. Didn’t any other converts have to agree and sign that with witnesses? If you did sign that she document, how can you say what you’ve said in your previous post and have a clear conscience? Did you enter the Church under a false pretense?

Your thoughts are wrong.

I went through RCIA. I embrace most of Catholicism, and I reserve the right to think for myself. God’s given me a brain and expects me to use it.

My wife is Baptist, and we were both Protestant when we married. I had no intention of becoming Catholic when we married, and in fact it causes a little bit of stress even now, since we don’t go to the same church, as we did when we first married. I go to her church once a month on average for family reasons, but I’m committed to staying Catholic, despite the sense some Catholics seem to be unable to accept anything outside the box.

I felt a spiritual push to become Catholic, and I resisted for a while. Then I had an argument with a Protestant pastor, and took the plunge.

Before I married however, my old pastor thought I’d become Catholic. My father was Catholic, but lost his faith. He had me baptised Presbyterian as an act of rebellion, so I did not have a strong religious background or a strong reformed background. Fortunately my pastor was Methodist trained, and therefore Arminian in background.

The conversation went like this -

Pastor - “I think you might become Catholic”.

Me - “It seems to me that God’s taken me out of the Catholic Church via my father”.

Pastor - “I think the Lord might want you to go back there. I think He might use you to bring the churches together somehow… It will probably destroy you. There’s still a lot of tension between the Catholics and Protestants.”

Now that wasn’t particularly encouraging, but I can tell you this much. If the Church insists on “Papal Infallibility” (brought in by a bunch of ultra-Montanists in Vatican I in questionable circumstances) and the banning of contraceptives, the chance of the churches reuniting is negligible. It won’t happen. You can forget about it. Not a hope in hell.

Protestants have been doing their own thinking for 500 years, and they’re not going to give it up either. Nor are they stupid. I’d like to see any Catholic dignitary argue with my old pastor. They’d have had a battle.

Like it or lump it. And if you want to see the result in social terms, compare England and the USA to Mexico and some other Latin American countries.

And if other people don’t like the fact I have a couple of reservations, well, I’m sorry. It’s pretty clear a lot of practising Catholics use the pill, and regard the bedroom as their preserve, not the church’s.

Maybe Jesus was just kidding when He said “If you desire to be perfect,” replied Jesus, “go and sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have wealth in Heaven; and come, follow me.” Mat 19:21

Jesus wants the whole of us, everything that God has given us returned to Him, our will conformed to His will. Being in the Church is just a step along the way, God wants more of us that just following the “rules” of the Catholic faith, to Him that is minimalism.

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