Conversion problems

(Also posted in Liturgy & Sacraments)

I’m 12 weeks away from being baptized (and just 6 weeks away from completing the Rite of Election). My main motivation for joining RCIA originally was my boyfriend, but I’ve really committed to it and learning more about the Catholic Church in general – I go to class every week, I go to Mass every Sunday – I’ve even gone on my lunch break on weekdays a few times when I was going through personal problems – and I’ve read a bunch of extra books (“Rome sweet home,” “Choosing to be Catholic,” etc.)

My problem is that, despite all this, I still don’t feel Catholic. I disagree with the Church on a lot of social issues in sort of a “if the Church is right, then God is wrong” kind of way. I feel no connection to Mary or the saints. To some extent, delving so deeply into Christian history/philosophy etc. has raised MORE doubts for me about whether any of it is even true. And today I referred to myself as a Methodist and then had to catch myself and say “well…not for much longer…”

Shouldn’t God meet me halfway on this? If the Church is the true Church and I’m actively trying to embrace it, shouldn’t it work? And is it alright to go ahead with baptism even if I still have doubts?

I’d suggest not going through with the baptism if you’re not 100% in. I don’t have much advice, but if I were you I’d probably give it more time to think things through.

Babies get baptized all the time though, and they’re obviously not 100% in. They don’t even know there’s something to be in to begin with.

Grace takes a while, and patience with yourself is needed. It takes some people a few years to feel at home even tho you are at home. Which brings up an important issue.

Feelings and emotions are over valued in religion. God does give us nice warm feelings from time to time to encourage us. Then he will withdraw them. If we live our faith on the feelings or consolations that God sends us, then He is doing all the work and we are just taking it in. Eventually we will be weened off of our feelings, usually gradually, until we are walking by sheer faith. Faith means we believe not because we feel it or because we see it but because Jesus and his church said it. This may get dry for us. But then that is what St. Paul said, that infants are fed on soft baby food, but adults get the big tough meat. And this is what he is doing right now.

So please don’t get discouraged if at first your emotions seem cold. It happens to everyone, and if it dosen’t then those that it dosen’t happen to have said their goodbys.

So live by your faith in what Jesus has said, and get to know Jesus by your faith, and try not to count on the good feelings because that is not what is dependable.

I know this might be a new concept with you, so this too will take time to be comfortable with.

God love you and may God bless and keep you. May God’s face shine on you. May God be kind to you and give you peace.

I’m in RCIA class too. I recommend Catholicism for Dummies to help you search for things you aren’t sure about and see what the Church has to say. Also you might consider talking with someone there at the church such as a priest or a sister. If your class has a question/answer time maybe you could ask for clarification on things you aren’t sure about.

Hope things work out for you.

Thanks, I’ve read that already, too. (That’s actually where I started, before I even signed up for RCIA). It’s not a problem with finding out what the Church has to say at this point. It’s a problem with not necessarily agreeing with what the church has to say. Which is sort of why the whole things raises a lot of doubts for me. Something like:

  1. I enjoy Mass and have found attending church helpful in times of personal stress
  2. I’ve also read solid arguments for Catholicism being the true form of Christianity, which I’m beginning to believe.
    but 3) Some portions of church teachings are such anathema to my own sense of truth/justice/whatever that I cannot believe God – as the presumed source of all truth/justice – would support them
    which leaves me with 4) if Catholicism is the true form of Christianity, and some of its teachings seem to fly in the face of what I would expect from a benevolent god, then is Christianity really the true religion?
    but then 5) if it isn’t, what is? because nothing else seems much better

That’s what I’m struggling with right now.

I think part of my problem is that RCIA is very dry and tutorial-like: this is what a saint is, this is how you say the rosary, etc.

I need to have a more philosophical discussion. And that’s not how our class works.

Maybe make an appointment to speak with your priest?

I suspect that 3) and 4) are going to be continual issues that arise from a kind of natural bias that we have towards our own opinions on matters that are important. When anything is at stake we will hold steadfastly to what we perceive to be the alternatives that most favour us.

The question you need to ask yourself is whether you are open enough to fully unpack and understand the Church’s reasoning on those issues in a fair minded and complete way or whether your views are indefatigable and under no conditions alterable.

My suspicion is that God is asking you to open yourself beyond your deeply held convictions to at least try to fully grasp what his counterpoint involves.

Speaking for myself, this has been a constant challenge for me. A challenge that continually makes me reassess what I think, what the Church teaches and where the truth on the matter is to be found. Church teaching has prevailed every time I have had the courage to put my ideas to the test. The important thing is not to give up the quest for the truth and to have the courage not to settle for half-truths or falsehoods because the truth is challenging or difficult to take at times.

I think you need to stop worrying about “feelings”. You should become Catholic if (and only if) the Catholic Faith is True. It doesn’t matter if it “feels” right, it matters if it is true. Some of the greatest saints, St. Therese of Lisieux (have you read her book?) and Mother Teresa, had long dry spells where they didn’t “feel” God. Remember, we are to love God, not the feelings we get when worshiping God. And remember feelings aren’t trustworthy, they can be thrown off by stress, sickness, etc, they are not entirely under our control, and they too have been wounded by original sin.

I’d recommend reading *“The Fulfillment of All Desire” *by Ralph Martin. It isn’t the same kind of book as the one’s you’ve mentioned (all of which are great, btw). It is about the Spiritual Life. About our life, as Catholics, with God. That might be a great help for you.

And I wouldn’t get baptized and become Catholic if I wasn’t able to 100% agree with the Church’s teachings, for that is what entering the Church is publicly declaring - that you profess and believe all the Catholic Church professes and believes. Of course, as Cardinal Newman said, 100 difficulties don’t equal a doubt. You don’t have to fully understand everything the Church teaches, but you have to at least not out and out disagree with her teachings.

As for feeling (that word again!) close to Mary and the Saints, that comes with time. It’s like any other relationship. I’m sure there was a time when you didn’t feel that close to your boyfriend either, but after spending time with them and getting to know them, you’ll grow closer to them. The Church does not require you to have any certain feelings toward any of the saints.

Out of curiosity, what teachings do you think the Church is wrong on?

God bless. I’ll offer a prayer for you.

If you had more philosophical discussions in class do you think it would change your mind on Church teachings you disagree with?

Before I joined the Church I was a deep blue, dyed in the wool liberal. My grant mother worked on both John and Bobby Kennedy’s campaigns and was tagged as a state presidential elector if the Democrats had carried the state in 1968. That is the kind of environment I was raised in. When I started to look into the Church I disagreed with just about every position on gay right, abortion, birth control, you name it.

The turning point for me was a matter of humble submission. Instead of thinking the Church is wrong and I’m right, I had to submit to the fact that perhaps I was wrong. :eek: All the sudden I was able to ask “why does the Church teach X” instead of “they are wrong” and never being open to any other possibility or reasoning.

Personally I would not join the Church if I would be willingly opposing it. As you say if either the Church is wrong or God is, then you are in for a heap of issues. If you are not open to accepting that the Church is right then how can you openly proclaim acceptance that she is the one True Church?

I think you are making a logical misstep with #4. There is another possibility which you aren’t considering, your own sense of “truth/justice/whatever” could be wrong. Ask yourself what is more likely that the one Church founded by God and guaranteed to never error is wrong or your inner sense of justice is wrong. I had to cross that bridge myself on my road to Rome. It’s hard, but it’s humbling and freeing.

I think that is one of the hardest steps for many of us; admitting that we are not the ultimate arbiters of the truth, but rather God and the Church He established on earth.

I am sorry to hear about these problems you have been having. I am glad to hear you have been attending Mass. I suggest you keep attending Mass and working on these issues, with a prayerful spirit and with the help of a good preist. However, if it really comes down to the time of your baptism and you do not believe in all the Church teaches, I would strongly recommend you delay it to a later time. As an adult in Baptism, you would be professing your belief in all that the Church teaches.

The thing that I am sure everyone is interested to know, however, is about #3 and #4. What are these very hard teachings for you? Perhaps there is a misunderstanding involving some of them. Nobody here might be able to help you. But some might, some people here have a very advanced degree of learning and may be able to help you out a bit. So, please, I invite you to speak about some of these issues and share them with us.

But how can we ever know that it’s true other than through our own feelings?

I’ll check out the book you recommended.

I think its stance on contraceptives is flawed – not just in that it is inconvenient (which it is) or out of sync with the demands of modern life (which is is), but as in the logic the church uses to explain its decision (at least in any explanation I’ve seen) is weak and doesn’t hold up under pressure in light of some of its other teachings.

I also have a real problem with its stance on homosexuality. I understand it on the level of the church doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages and therefore homosexual sex falls in the same category as pre-marital sex since it, by definition, outside of marriage. I have a problem with it on the points of 1) There is WAY more energy put in to protesting homosexuality than there is to reminding people not to have pre-marital sex. I see this as sort of a political maneuver. 2) It just seems unfair of God to set people up like that. and 3) The only new testament reference against homosexuality is from Paul, who was writing to a group of prostitutes who were having sex with guys for money, not out of love or necessarily even actual attraction. I feel like there is some interpretive wiggle-room there to say his statement to them might not apply to all situations.

I’ve also been a little disturbed by reading the Bible – which I’ll admit I’ve never done in any depth before. God is mean. Like really mean, and sort of cruel and crazy.

Like if you read Exodus – the pharaoh was originally willing to let the Israelites go right without any problems. But God hardened his heart so that he could show off his powers. And rained pestilence and plagues and the death of all the first-borns down on these people to prove a point when he could have gotten what he wanted without hurting anyone.

That’s weird. And it doesn’t really jive with the “God loves everybody” message. I don’t know to reconcile that.

I read something somewhere that said if you add up all the deaths in the Bible, God is responsible for about 1 million, and the devil is responsible for about 10.

Hi QuasiCatholic,
I think a lot of us have been where you are now. I started RCIA a couple of time, before the 3rd time was the charm (8 years after I started my first RCIA class).
I struggled with certain parts of church teaching as well, and I just didn’t understand the church’s view.
What helped me A LOT was listening to Catholic radio. Hearing the “controversial” topics explained several times from different angles, made me understand the church’s teachings much better. At a certain point, I felt like, the Church is right on all these other things, maybe she is right on these other things, although it may not seem obvious to me right now. You might try asking a strong Catholic (if you know one), or maybe talk to your RCIA teacher outside class. Or call Catholic Answers! : ) I think the process of asking, and discussing these topics can be really meaningful to the person asking.
Good luck on your journey, my best advice would be to ask honest questions, not just to debate or argue, but to listen and really try to understand the Church’s teaching. God bless!

Some parts of the Old Testament are a struggle for a lot of us, I bet.
I heard a wonderful monk (a Jewish convert) who had a program on Catholic radio (of course) who would tell Old Testament stories, and discuss the meanings. He called the O.T. the “family stories of the Jewish people”. I think that helped me to accept and understand it better. I think it’s useful to ask what is the underlying meaning of a particular story. :slight_smile:

Have you read any of Peter Kreeft’s books?! He is excellent for logically answering your more philosophical questions. As a convert (raised Methodist) I knew much of the Catholic Church’s teaching and knew I wanted to convert but still had some things I didn’t understand. I trusted that God would eventually help me understand when I was ready (and He has!) I am so very blessed to have become Catholic and you will too. I strongly recommend the CD of Peter Kreeft’s 7 reasons to become Catholic (or were there 10 reasons…can’t remember?!)

My prayers for you on your journey,

After posting and reading what I wrote, please don’t take this post as a criticism of your questions and comments. I think everyone runs into the same impressions you have taken away when reading Scripture.

Read my comments as a “suggestion” to go beyond those impressions.

The problem with this interpretation is that you begin with a concept of a “personalist” deity and interpret or read your impressions about such a deity into the Old Testament. It is your presumptions concerning who or what God is that brings to your reading the impressions you have.

God doesn’t “harden” Pharaoh’s heart so much as he allows Pharaoh’s heart to become hardened by the very responses he has to Moses’ requests. The idea is that when we sin or do evil we actually change the nature of who we are. We become less human, have hearts that are not hearts of flesh but, rather, hearts of stone. We become less sensitive or attuned to goodness (God Himself) precisely because we choose not to do the good.

It is in the very act of refusing to choose the good that we become hardened. Pharaoh’s heart became hardened by his own refusal to choose the good set before him. Indeed, God “allowed” Pharaoh’s heart to harden, but it was Pharaoh’s choice and action against goodness itself that was the direct cause of the “hardening.” This is a lesson on the nature of evil and its power to effect moral change within the person who chooses it

I suggest you not subscribe to cursory or “off the cuff” interpretations of Scripture without questioning the premises behind them. Jeff Cavins’ Great Adventure Bible study provides a substantial ground for reading Scripture.

It is, I would suggest, dangerous to approach Scripture looking for problems and issues because without an adequate ground in understanding the point of Scripture a proper perspective from which to interpret what is going on will be missing.

If we go looking for “a mean god,” we’ll look for instances that confirm what we are looking for. That just might be one of the “false gods” we ought to avoid.

Consider how, for example, the loyalties that “skewed” the views of soldiers fighting on opposite sides in WWII. Those loyal to Nazi or Imperial Japanese command viewed themselves as the “right” side and no matter what happened the actions of the opposing side would always be colored by their loyalties. Similarly, the Allied soldiers viewed their enemies as inhuman monsters. On both sides there fought ordinary human beings caught up in the social, political and moral forces that held captive their allegiance.

I suggest that reading Scripture is much like seeing beyond the social, moral and political views of the day (today) in order to see the more basic more integral truth that is being pointed at, sometimes in very hidden ways.

Think of it as an exercise in deep thinking (secrets of the kingdom) where the first ideas you have about Scripture are very likely incorrect and will leave you disturbed. That sense of perturbation is precisely what is intended because you will either seek the truth and not give up until it is found or use it as an excuse to walk away.

Then the disciples came and asked him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered, “To you it has been given to know the **secrets of the kingdom **of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. The reason I speak to them in parables is that ‘seeing they do not perceive, and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.’ With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah that says:

‘You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and their ears are hard of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes;
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and listen with their ears
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.’ (Matt 13:10-14)

Recall the hardness (dullness) of Pharaoh’s heart.

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