I have been studying the Catholic Church for some time now, as many of you know. I had even entered the RCIA program, back in September. However, due to a heavy training schedule (I’m in the Army), I missed many classes. I had also been looking into Eastern Orthodoxy at the same time. As such, I determined that, even if the priest was able to work out some way for me to enter the Church, despite my numerous missed classes, I simply was not ready.
I ended up in a sort of spiritual stalemate for a while. I knew I could not remain Protestant, but I was simply unable to make a decision between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. However, while I was traveling home on leave and back, I finished reading Stephen K. Ray’s book Crossing the Tiber, most particularly the section at the end which gave significant testimony to the Church’s teachings on Baptism and the Eucharist. I had believed it for some time, but the traditional Christian position on these issues was reinforced, and I knew I belonged in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. To continue to remain outside it due to indecision was something I could not do.
A choice still has to be made, however, and this is where I am today. I feel the draw of the Catholic Church, in a way that goes beyond the intellectual strength of its arguments. Without spending paragraphs (or pages) on all my thoughts and comparisons, I’ll simply say this: I feel that I ought to be Catholic.
However, there is an obstacle of sorts, and while it is not sufficient to keep me away, it is still troubling. The issue is the apparently widespread dissent within the Church. Whether the dissenters are agitating for gay marriage, abortion rights, more “permissive” rules on sexual behavior, female priests, etc. or saying that the Novus Ordo Mass is invalid and the recent popes have no authority, their activities are very distressing for a prospective convert. I am particularly concerned by the fact that the Church, at least in America, seems to be doing very little about this. By contrast, I do not hear about such things in the Orthodox Church, though perhaps they just do not get as much press coverage.
The Catholicism presented on Catholic Answers, EWTN, and the books by converts such as Scott Hahn, Steve Ray, and others is very attractive. However, I am concerned that the Catholicism in the real world is something very different. As I start looking at other Catholic perspectives beyond the orthodox center, I am reminded of the old stereotypes of my Protestant youth. Namely that Catholics live exactly like non-Christians and then just go to Confession (or not, as the case may be).
I guess I fear being disillusioned. I know that even if 99% of those in the Church were openly dissenting, that this would not be a reason to stay away. And I applaud the latest efforts by Catholic Answers to answer the dissenters, as well as Pope Benedict XVI’s guidelines for bringing the liturgy back in line. I’m just a bit concerned by the state of the Church.
Does anyone have any advice for me on this? Any idea why the Orthodox Church seems to have been spared this flood of dissent, while the Catholic Church has not?
Finally, I ask for and would deeply appreciate your prayers.