Consequences of believing in the Catholic faith but not converting


I may be wrong, but it seems I recall there being consequences for a person who believes in the faith but doesn’t do anything about it. Am I wrong, or is there something similar to that? I ask because I have an elderly cousin who seems to believe in everything Catholic, but she won’t convert. She goes to a Lutheran church and says she’s perfectly happy there, been going there for a long time, friends with the people, etc. Thank you for any replies.


The problem is you don’t get valid sacraments. You’re not absolved at confession, you’re not receiving Christ in communion. I mean, you’re on the right track with believing, but certainly not all the way there.

Vatican II teaches:

[T]hey could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it (LG 14; cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5).

But I doubt your elderly cousin really understands the faith or the Church … if she did, why would she go anywhere besides the Catholic Church? – unless she’s lying to herself for some reason. But most people I’ve encountered in her situation don’t realize the implications of what they are doing, or what they’re missing out on.

Looks like she is damned. Bit of a bummer. For your own peace of mind I would question her until I found a dogma she doesn’t believe in. Start with the Marian doctrines. That way it puts her in the same boat as all the other good Protestants we have to put before the mercy of our loving God. (Between you and me I think she may find an excellent advocate in Jesus.)

How sure are you this family member believes what the Church believes? Many devout Lutherans are very, very close to the Catholic Church in their beliefs. At least, that’s been my experience with the Lutherans here.

What does she say she believes that makes you think she “believes in everything Catholic”?

As for the general question, if you think something true, something that requires action, but you don’t act, you will suffer for it. If you think you have an addiction, but don’t get help, your addiction will continue to fester. If you think you eat too much and are obese, but don’t get help or stop, you will continue to get bigger and bigger.

So if you see you are not in full communion with God on account of you do not follow the Holy Father, or the Catholic Church, and do nothing, your soul will suffer.

You have neither the ability nor the right to say “She is damned,” in so doing you are committing a grave violation on the sovereignty of God, claiming the right to pass judgment on someone, which is HIS prerogative alone.

To the OP, we can never really know what is in someone’s heart, so it’s hard to answer this question. I would do as others have suggested and see ask her what is holding her back. Then see if you can help her get past it.

In this time of pentecost it might be a good idea to reflect on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and remind her of this; that the spirit is moving in her live right about now. It is a signal to action. Your posting here and the answers you’re getting are part of this, and I would definitely act on the advice; especially with gently trying to get past the issues holding her back.

Furthermore, I have come across lots of people who cite friends; etc.

I don’t see there is a problem with going to Catholic mass and still seeing these people, as long as one can remain strong in their Catholic conviction and meet their Sunday obligation. Once she has experienced the mass, in all likelihood this bond with Jesus will overcome the desire to keep attending Lutheran services. If these people are true friends, then they should accept her and socialise with her outside of Church, too.


It’s one thing to be a protestant and accept Catholic teachings. For example, the Communion of Saints is pretty easy for many protestants to accept. That’s not the same thing as accepting the authority of the Catholic Church.

My cousin’s in Michigan; I’m in Oklahoma. So there is no taking her to mass with me. I have given her the web link to her home diocese, so that she can find her local parish.

Our communication is through Facebook. I always post Catholic things. Most of the time, she types “amen” in the comments. I’ve asked her about converting since she believes in all these Catholic things, such as Real Presence, etc. Her answer is that she’s been going to her church for a long time and she’s friends with everybody there. It seems to be a sentimental or emotional connection to the people of her church, not specifically a belief in the Lutheran faith or disbelief in the Catholic faith.

I’ve told her how the Lutherans don’t believe in transubstantiation like Catholics. The only thing she had a difficult time with was confession, but I explained it to her. She never questioned it again. I think she understands where we’re coming from. Not sure if she likes the idea of confessing her sins to “a man.” Outside of confession, though, she seems to be all in, to borrow a poker term.

Any ideas about what to say to reel her in to a faith she already seems to believe in? (Yes, I know, it’s the Holy Spirit that would bring her to conversion, but I’d still like ideas I could use. I’m not going to tell her she’s going to hell if she doesn’t convert.)

It may be helpful to draw attention to what Jesus actually did and said, as and when the opportunity arises.

**St Matthew, 28:16-20: **
[16] And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. [17] And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. [18] And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. [19] Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.

The Sacred Scriptures point clearly to Christ’s Church established through and with St Peter and the Apostles:
Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours." (2 Thess 2:15).

“Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.” (2 Tim 1:13-14). Again St Paul writes: “And what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well.” (2 Tim 2:2).

In Colossians 2: 4-23, St Paul calls on his flock to follow Christ “as you were taught” and warns against merely “human precepts and teachings.”

1 Cor 1:10: I urge you brothers, in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.

We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1Jn 4:6).

“That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive.” (Eph 4:14). Further, “For there will come a time when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but having itching ears, will heap up to themselves teachers according to their lusts. And they will turn away their hearing from the truth and turn aside rather to fables.” (2 Tim 4:3)

Those teachings to which Jesus referred covered “all things” and this was ensured by His mandate to St Peter:
Christ established His Church, which defined what books are the inspired Word of God.
All four promises to Peter alone:
“You are Peter and on this rock I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18)
“The gates of hell will not prevail against it.”(Mt 16:18)
I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of heaven.” ( Mt 16:19)
“Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.” (Mt 16:19) {Later also to the Twelve].

Sole authority:
“Strengthen your brethren.” (Lk 22:32)
“Feed My sheep.”(Jn 21:17).

To whom else did Jesus give that supreme authority? The NT was written within a few decades of Christ’s death by Catholics and His Church told us what books form the Sacred Scriptures as the Word of God and carefully copied them for over 1500 years so they would be available for all.

Then what she means by “believing” seems to mean something different from what you are seeing perhaps?

Some Lutherans are more Catholic than many Catholics. Since you cannot invite her to attend Mass with you, you might suggest that she attend a Catholic Mass in her own community - just once (wink, wink). Catholics have Mass when Lutherans do not have services (such as Saturday Vigil), so nothing prevents her from doing both.

Have her arrive a bit early and sit in the back (so she won’t feel self-conscious if she does not know the responses or postures/gestures). Explain how she can process for Eucharist and fold her arms for a blessing (so that she won’t feel self-conscious remaining in the pew). Tell her that, despite these preparations, there will be people who suspect that she is not Catholic, and she will be welcomed (not shunned).

Lutheran pastors do not hold a valid priesthood and she therefore is not receiving the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. If she wants to receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of of our Lord, I would start there. And Catholics have all seven sacraments and not just two as means of receiving Gods grace.

As Vatican II put it “Hence, those cannot be saved, who knowing that the Catholic Church was founded through Jesus Christ, by God, as something necessary, still refuse to enter it or remain in it” (Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity no. 7)

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