Drawn to Catholicism...but have reservations.


#1

Hey, everybody. I’m new to this forum, and I have a LOT of questions about Catholicism, so I hope you can help me out :slight_smile: . I was raised an Episcopalian, and I still attend that church with my family when I go home, but over the last few months I have begun to yearn for a return to the “ancient” church. I’m attracted to Catholicism because of the sense of unity that it promotes, as well as the idea of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. I attend a Catholic Church here at school (UNC-Chapel Hill…go Tarheels!) that I absolutely love; partly becuase it is so similar to an Episcopal service, partly becuase it is a service that is geared towards college students, and partly because the priest is an awesome guy.

 That said, there are several issues that I have with the Church that make me hesitant to embrace it more fully.  One of these issues is the immense amount of power that the Pope wields.  I just have a hard time believe that Jesus ever intended Peter to function as an infallible spiritual monarch who has the power to bind the conscience of all of his followers.  Such an idea diminishes the roles of the other Apostles, and even the idea of Jesus as the Head of the Church.  Peter wasn't exactly a model of wisdom; Jesus calls him "Satan" after granting him the 'keys to the kingdom of heaven.'  And Peter was married, which certainly isn't bad, but is interesting in light of the whole priestly celibacy deal.  
 
 So my question is:  was Peter meant to be the universal head of the Church?  After reading on a few Orthodox forums, I'm under the impression that the centuries after Jesus' death were a time in which the Roman bishop sought to consolidate increasing amounts of power.  This "grab for power" culminated in the split in 1054.  Orthodox Christians lead one to believe that the *original* Church was comprised of 5 different churches in Antioch, Rome, Syria, and two other places.  Each church was headed by a bishop, but they all cooperated on matters of doctrine and administration.  The Roman church split from the others becuase it wanted more power, which leads some Orthodox to call the Pope at that time "the first Protestant.'
 
 Another point of contention is the idea that new doctrine is "revealed' to the Church throughout history as an expansion of the 'depositum fidei' or however you spell it.  Is this not merely a means by which the Pope can justify the implementation of new doctrine on a whim by claiming that it was revealed to him by God?  What if something is revealed that contradicts previous doctrine?  Is the previous doctrine no longer valid?  Orthodox Christians claim that they do not add or subtract new doctrine, but have maintained the original principles of faith as granted to the Apostles by Jesus.  This seems to be a more solid base upon which to build one's faith.  There are lots of things that I don't understand about Orthodox Christianity either, however; the idea that the Father is more important than the Son and Holy Spirit makes no sense.  Neither does the idea that God, Mary, or the saints are somehow incarnate in icons, man-made pieces of wood before which one bows and kisses and prays.

 Please don't think that I'm bashing the Catholic Church or supporting the EOC.  I'm inexplicably drawn to Catholicism, but part of my journey of faith involves questioning.  I'm just grateful that God has planted within me the desire to know more about Him and the ways in which we seek to know Him.  Any thoughts that you have on any of these subjects are greatly appreciated!
                        Peace,
                               Chris

#2

[quote=Thepeug]I just have a hard time believe that Jesus ever intended Peter to function as an infallible spiritual monarch who has the power to bind the conscience of all of his followers. Such an idea diminishes the roles of the other Apostles, and even the idea of Jesus as the Head of the Church.
[/quote]

If you haven’t done so already, consider reading Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, Chapter III (no. 18-29).


#3

I have printed your concerns and will work on a reply. Your questions are valid. I want to reply fully. I am in Raleigh. Have you asked this wonderful priest about your concerns? He may be happy to help. But they are usually very busy. Have you thought about attending RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults)? A new class begins each fall as an educational process for adults who are interested in becoming Catholic. Visit the parish office to get more local information.


#4

I have printed your concerns and will work on a reply. Your questions are valid. I want to reply fully. I am in Raleigh. Have you asked this wonderful priest about your concerns? He may be happy to help. But they are usually very busy. Have you thought about attending RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults)? A new class begins each fall as an educational process for adults who are interested in becoming Catholic. Visit the parish office to get more local information.


#5

[quote=Thepeug]Please don’t think that I’m bashing the Catholic Church or supporting the EOC. I’m inexplicably drawn to Catholicism, but part of my journey of faith involves questioning. I’m just grateful that God has planted within me the desire to know more about Him and the ways in which we seek to know Him. Any thoughts that you have on any of these subjects are greatly appreciated!
Peace,
Chris
[/quote]

Chris, I am a cradle Catholic, and I am still questioning my Faith.
It is wonderful to be exploring it in my 30’s.
You have asked some really wonderful questions, they show that you truly love God and are motivated to be fully united with Him.
I just wanted to congratulate you on being so inquisitive. All the people on this forum will give you great feedback.

The issue of the Pope having power is something a lot of non Catholics are concerned about, and also, why a lot of Catholics leave the church.

I think “power” is the wrong word.

Jesus told us that Peter was the rock He was building His church upon.

As humans, I think we all need a single person “in charge” which is the progression from Peter to the Pope.

But it isnt the Popes “power” that “binds our conscience”.
It is our belief in Jesus, our belief in God, and our belief in the Holy Spirit, that we know the Pope is working on behalf of and making decisions with their Blessings.

We still recognize the Pope as a human who sins.

There are some wonderful threads in this forum on the infallibility of the Pope that will explain it better.

The tracts on the Catholic Answers site will help you greatly.

Celibacy of our priests is a discipline, introduced to help the priests serve God better, by allowing them to concentrate more on their service of all the people.

It does not mean that it was wrong that Peter was married.

Other disciplines can be introduced throughout the centuries, but does not mean they go against Gods Word.

I will let the more knowledgable of the members answer you with quotes and web sites, but I hope this has helped a bit.

Love Kellie


#6

[quote=Thepeug]Another point of contention is the idea that new doctrine is "revealed’ to the Church throughout history as an expansion of the ‘depositum fidei’ or however you spell it. Is this not merely a means by which the Pope can justify the implementation of new doctrine on a whim by claiming that it was revealed to him by God? What if something is revealed that contradicts previous doctrine? Is the previous doctrine no longer valid?
[/quote]

Chris, the Catholic Church teaches that public revelation was completed with the death of the last apostle. The depositum fidei was finished around 95 A.D. The Church can grow in understanding of the depositum fidei, and can articulate its meaning in ever more precise ways, but can never add to it.


#7

An Anglican service was held in Jamestown in 1607. The Protestant Episcopal Church – sort of Anglican light, Anglicanism without the British royalty – was born in 1789, founded by Thomas Seabury. You prolly know this, and I mention it only to keep the historical perspective – the Episcopal liturgy is patterned after the Catholic Mass – not the other way around.:slight_smile:

Ongoing revelation is claimed by the LDS church, where new doctrines, sometimes reversing old ones, are quite regularly received from God by the “president.” This is not at all the case with Catholicism, as Hananiah has said so well.

The Catholic Church has the authority to change any disciplines she herself has imposed, such as priestly celibacy or Friday abstinence from meat, but never doctrines. But there is nothing new under the Catholic sun. The Church teaches what the Apostles taught.

I’m sure you’ll get all your questions answered here. There are some excellent Catholic apologists on this forum.

Nice to meet you, Chris. I’m a former Southern Baptist, agnostic, and atheist. I love this Church, and I hope you will come to love it too.


#8

[quote=Thepeug]There are lots of things that I don’t understand about Orthodox Christianity either, however; the idea that the Father is more important than the Son and Holy Spirit makes no sense. Neither does the idea that God, Mary, or the saints are somehow incarnate in icons, man-made pieces of wood before which one bows and kisses and prays.
[/quote]

Dear Chris,
You seem to have picked up some incorrect ideas as to what Orthodox christians believe. Orthodox do not believe that the Father is more important than the Son or the Holy Spirit, except in the sense that the Father is the cause of the other two, the Son being eternally begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeding from the Father (there was never a time when either the Son or the Holy Spirit were not). Apart from that clarification, all three persons of the Holy Trinity are considered equal in every respect. Orthodox believe that the Catholic dogma regarding the dual procession of the Holy Spirit actually subordinates the Holy Spirit, but that is a topic for another thread :wink:

Orthodox do not believe that God, or the saints are somehow incarnate in icons. Orthodox do believe that veneration of the icon is passed on to the prototype depicted in the icon and this is no different to the Catholic church’s use of statues. Orthodox prefer icons to statues for a number of reasons, but I think basically it is because it is very difficult to depict the saints glorified nature in a three dimensional statue. Icons are theology in color and transcend the physical realm whereas statues seem firmly planted in the physical.

BTW, internet forums are not necessarily the best places to gain accurate knowledge. A lot of people presume to teach who have absolutely no business doing so since they still have much to learn themselves (and I place myself firmly in this category). If at all possible, it is much better for you to talk directly to a priest since he has received the grace of God to teach through the sacrament of his ordination, and at the very least should have a solid grounding in all aspects of the faith.

John (an Orthodox christian).


#9

Dear Thepeug, i will tell you what i think, not the catholic point of view.

I think that Jesus is the rock and he only is the head of the church and i think that the pope has no spiritual authority whatsoever. Jesus did not differentiate between his students and you certainly know what was his response when they were fighting over who is the best between them. I do not deny that there should be some sort of authority pyramid in the church but only for organizing the church and absolutly not a spiritual authority. Our only leader is Jesus Christ and i can’t understand how a single human being that is choosed by other human beings, only he can represent Jesus Christ on earth.

Another point is the following: of course you do know that at some time there existed more than one pope and also a lot of time happened that desicions made by one pope were canceled by a following pope because they were considered wrong. I do not have the list now but if you will like to know these fact i will be glad to post them. The point is that if the pope represents Jesus on earth, there should be one pope at any time and his decision has always to be true and not corrected later on since he represents Jesus on earth.

As a conclusion, Jesus is the rock and the head of the church.
Well after all this my own point of view. Thank you.


#10

Homer,

I feel obliged to offer you a couple corrections.

  1. There was never a time when there was more than one pope. There was a time when more than one man “claimed” to be pope, but that is quite a different matter altogether.

  2. Jesus Christ is the head of the Catholic Church…“and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” The pope is His vicar here on earth. He, along with the Magisterium, has the authority to change disciplines and practices, but he does not change doctrine or dogma.

Kate
J+M+J


#11

I agree with prodromos that few if any of us participating in this forum are definitive authorities on the topics discussed. Yet I do find the discussions to be quite helpful in framing questions in the proper context and directing me to do further reading from truly authoratative documents. Thepeug raises many legitimate questions worthy of exploration. I few thoughts on some of the questions you raised…

[quote=Thepeug] Orthodox Christians lead one to believe that the original Church was comprised of 5 different churches in Antioch, Rome, Syria, and two other places. Each church was headed by a bishop, but they all cooperated on matters of doctrine and administration. The Roman church split from the others becuase it wanted more power, which leads some Orthodox to call the Pope at that time "the first Protestant.’
[/quote]

If you read through an accurate history of the early Church, you will indeed find that there were different “churches” headed by different bishops, but still only one Church. The concept of the supremacy of Peter, who eventually became the first bishop of Rome, can be understood as a belief that Peter (and subsequent Popes) are “first among equals”. This is evident from the earliest recorded documents. This can be seen clearly in the council of Jerusalem (ACTS 15) in which Paul brings the issue of what to require of the gentile converts to Peter who makes the final decision. Frequently, when disputes arose in the local churches, an appeal was made to Rome to resolve the matter. The Roman church did not split away from the other churches because of a desire for more power. It always held its primacy among the other churches. A good book to read more on this is “Saints and Sinners; A history of the Popes” by Patrick Duffy. I’m sure that there are many others as good or better than this book.

The Catholic Church does not invent new doctrines. Yet, doctrines can and do develop. Our understanding of doctrine grows over time. Most often, what is perceived as invention of new doctine is merely an explicit statement of what has always been held to be true by the Church. An official statement is made only after others question the belief. A contemporary secular example of this could be the current discussion on the definition of marriage and proposed constitutional amendment. Until the concept of marriage being between one man and one woman was challenged, there was no need for this ammendment. However, the truth of what marriage is has always been present. Marriage is not now being invented.

Hope this helps.My prayers are with you Thepeug on your spititual journey.


#12

Hi, and welcome! As a former Episcopalian who joined the catholic church 8 years ago, I can sympathize with your concerns. My advice is to discard everything non-catholics have told you about the catholic church and see for yourself what is the truth. And fortunately, this is easy to do - get a copy of “The Catechism of the Catholic Church” and read it slowly and prayerfully. It is also available for free on the internet.


#13

Remember the first step in understanding is to ask the questions. Always one of the difficulties in understanding is accepting the way Christ left his authority since He was not going to be here physically on Earth. We do not submit to the man but to the authority of the man since Christ did pass the keys to Peter and ours is an apostolic church (Peter and the others passed on this authority). The Pope’s authority is Christ’s authority. Christ is and always will be the Head of the Church( it is His mystical body) but the Catholic Church is made up of the Church Triumphant (those in Heaven), the Church Suffering (those in purgatory) and the Church Militant (us on Earth). The pope guides us as members of the Church Militant. Like some of the other posters read the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it explains this mystery in great detail.


#14

[quote=Thepeug]I just have a hard time believe that Jesus ever intended Peter to function as an infallible spiritual monarch who has the power to bind the conscience of all of his followers.
[/quote]

Hi Thepeug,

First off, I am a former Roman Catholic, now a reformed Protestant, that’s my disclaimer.

Anyway, I’d recommend reading how the early church fathers interpreted Matthew 16:18–the great prooftext of the Papacy. Check it out at:

christiantruth.com/mt16.html

A book from the Catholic perspective that is usually recommended is Jesus, Peter, and the Keys by Scott Butler, Norman Dahlgren, and David Hess.

And then I would follow that by reading:

The Matthew 16 Controversy: Peter and the Rock by William Webster.

christiantruth.com/matthew16.html

When you study this important issue, make sure you check it out from both sides. Sounds like you’re trying to do that, so I commend you for that.

God bless,
c0ach


#15

Thepeug you can find the Catechism to the Catholic Church at: scborromeo.org/ccc/ccc_toc.htm

May I suggest that when reading the catechism also have your Bible handy. The two go hand and hand. You will find many references to Scripture in the footnotes also references to the Early Fathers of the Church and their teachings. The New American Bible used in the Liturgy in the U.S. can be found at: nccbuscc.org/nab/bible/index.htm

Some other sites that may be helpful in your study is:

Early Church Fathers:
newadvent.org/fathers/

Early Christian Writings: earlychristianwritings.com/melito.html

The use of the Catechism is also helpful in Bible Study. In the back of the Catechism you will find an Index of Citations which is a list of all the Books of the Bible and the cross-references to the Catechism. It is helpful in understanding the Scripture and what the Church teaches in light of the Scripture.

If you will email me at DigitalDeacon@earthlink.net and give me you mailing address I would like to send you a book that might be helpful in you search for truth in the Catholic Church.

:blessyou: Prayers and Blessings
DigitalDeacon


#16

[quote=Thepeug]Hey, everybody. I’m new to this forum, and I have a LOT of questions about Catholicism, so I hope you can help me out :slight_smile: . I was raised an Episcopalian, and I still attend that church with my family when I go home, but over the last few months I have begun to yearn for a return to the “ancient” church. I’m attracted to Catholicism because of the sense of unity that it promotes, as well as the idea of the Real Presence in the Eucharist.
Peace,
Chris
[/quote]

Hi, Chris,

Praise the LORD for giving you this hunger, this desire for truth. Yes, the Catechism of the Catholic Church should help you in your questions.

I’ll pray for you in your journey.


#17

[quote=Thepeug] Please don’t think that I’m bashing the Catholic Church or supporting the EOC. I’m inexplicably drawn to Catholicism, but part of my journey of faith involves questioning. I’m just grateful that God has planted within me the desire to know more about Him and the ways in which we seek to know Him. Any thoughts that you have on any of these subjects are greatly appreciated!
Peace,
Chris
[/quote]

A couple of things from someone in the same position as you:

  1. I find too that I am inexplicably drawn, i.e. some of it we can put into words but beyond that there is just this compelling interest or curiousity to go further. I believe it is the Holy Spirit who calls us on. I don’t understand it all and still have difficulties with some stuff, but keep looking and keep asking God to lead you to the Truth.

  2. I agree with someone’s comment that these forums can give you good answers and encouragement but not always sound teaching. There is good teaching in these posts but how do we, as newcomers to the faith, discern what is and isn’t? Sometimes it can get a little confusing! Here you do have to go back to the Catechism, the Bible and the authoritative teachings and history of the church.

  3. Other converts like Scott Hahn, Steve Ray and others will each give you the perspective of one who has taken a similar journey and who has been scrupulous in their search for Truth and finding flaws in the Faith. They ‘converted’. At this point I wish to recommend Scott Hahn’s teaching on Peter and the Keys. It establishes the Old Testament Principle of the Keys, and how and why Papal authority has been given to each Pope.

  4. Homer, in an earlier post, has disputed that anyone of us Christians should or could be given authority over another. As a woman - and from a strident Feminist background - I would like to assert here that YES there is given to certain Christians spiritual authority, and that starts with the home and that of the husband over the wife. This actually brings to each great freedom and a carrying of the right burden and yoke for each person. Gets way too heavy otherwise! Neither then is the Church simply a pyramid organisation which demands to be efficiently run by bosses placed at different strata. Now that to me would be a nightmare of authority!! No, it is the family of God, which, like a family in the home must have a head (NOT a ‘BOSS’) to guide and lead as did Jesus, out of love. This is the Pope’s vocation as I understand it - to be our authoritative and loving Church Father on earth. And how else would he guide but by God’s own authority which must be given to him, for the purposes of infallibility, or we are left to continually decide every single issue again and again for ourselves. We don’t do that to our kids. God won’t do that to us.

This society really does not like authority. I would say that if anyone is interpreting the Bible and the Church’s teachings and concluding that there is no spiritual authority given to some Christians over others, that they are infused more with the culture than Truth.

Having said all that Chris, please check out what I say for yourself! :thumbsup:


#18

Some really good advice. I, too, would say go get a catichism of the CC for yourself (you can get them for about $9). I have read things posted by Catholics that do not reflect the teachings of the Church. I certainly try not to post anything I know is wrong, but I am not a church scholar and can make mistakes.

And just a personal observation about Peter. I feel Christ picked Peter as the first leader of the Church for several reasons. First, God frequently works through the weak to show His greatness. He could have picked John who stood firm through the crucifixion and lived a long time. But He picked weak Peter. So God’s glory could be seen not someone like John and John’s strength.

I also think God did this to help us understand that there would be weak and sinning leaders of the church. The point is that no matter how good or bad a pope they are, it is God’s church. His power that holds it together.

God bless you on your journey.


#19

Hello! I’m a cradle Catholic, a fledgling apologetic, and an admirer of converts to the Catholic faith. Just yesterday I listened to a wonderful tape by Dr. Scott Hahn entitled “Peter and the Papacy”. The explanations are solid and understandable. Just as an example, Dr. Hahn starts off by explaining what infallibility means and what it does not mean. This alone clears up a lot of confusion. He also uses biblical passages in both the old and new testaments to explain this teaching. I would love to tell you all about the tape, but I don’t think I would do it justice. As a former anti-Catholic and a convert himself, he if very empathetic with the struggles of non-Catholics with Catholic doctrines.
I live right here in Raleigh (go Wolfpack!), and I wouldn’t mind a bit if you wanted to borrow the tape. God bless you in your search for truth. :slight_smile:


#20

Chris:

It sounds as if everyone has given you a resource to find the answers.

I just want to give my insight…I too was raised in the Episcopal church but recently ( this past Easter ) was confirmed in the Catholic Church…and I am glad to be home. :slight_smile:

I attended mass for 4 years and started the RCIA process twice before I quit fighting the feeling in my heart and soul. I suggest that you start with RCIA…it’s amazing how many questions you will find the answers to…without even having to ask.

Good Luck on your faith journey…you’ll be home soon!

Bronwyn


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