I am a 20 year old philosophy student and have been a practicing Catholic since my conversion from Protestantism about 4 years ago. Up until the past few months, I’ve been very happy in the Church, but recently I’ve been having real difficulty with a few aspects of it, to the point that I am considering leaving. I wonder if I could discuss briefly the problems, and ask you all for your prayers and any advice or comments you may have?
The first issue is with the Church’s teaching on mortal and venial sin. I understand that mortal sin is sin against the dignity of God, and as God’s dignity is infinite then the sin is infinitely great so deserves eternal punishment in hell. I get this, and have not struggled with it until recently. However, I can’t help but feel that the idea that someone who skips Mass once and someone who, say, murders or rapes another are deserving of the same punishment is (I mean no disrespect) absurd. It seems to me to be intuitively wrong… it just doesn’t feel right at all. I can understand that a person who causes serious harm to others or who wilfully and explicitly rejects God could justly go to hell, but if someone commits a “mortal” act with no negative externalities (so no one else is hurt) and the act is not done as an affront to God but for some other reason (i.e. they didn’t use contraception for the motive of disrespecting God, but to prevent a child they couldn’t cope with)… well, I can’t see why such a person is deserving of hell.
My thoughts on the nature of God seem to be drifting from those of the Church. I still believe in Christ, but I think the way God is presented in Church is too anthropomorphic. This issue is harder to pin down and very difficult to express in writing, but in short I think we over-humanise and over-analyse that which we cannot hope to understand.
I must admit, I feel very oppressed and repressed. It feels like the Church attempts to legislate on even the most intimate aspects of our lives. The whole organisation of the Church seems geared towards top-down control of every aspect of the believer’s existence, down to when he can have sex, whom he can marry, etc. - things which are very personal and intimate. Things like the Mass used to be a pleasure but are now a chore. Frankly it just feels like I’m trying to live by two lists, the first a list of things I don’t really want to do but have to and the second a list of things I really want to do but can’t, under pain of hellfire. Which brings me nicely onto the fourth point…
My only motivation for staying in the Church at this point is fear of damnation should I leave. I read an open letter to lapsed Catholics today, and it was loaded with the implicit threat of hell. Would a loving God really want people to stay in His Church purely because of fear? I know if I leave I will be committing a mortal sin, which apparently means I’m worthy of the same punishment as a genocide, but really I seem to be at breaking point.
I’ve asked the Lord to guide me to whatever is the truth and to help me live up to it, whatever it may be. I have also asked him for a concrete sign of what I should do, something I can definitely tell is from him. I love God and believe in Jesus Christ, and whatever I do it will not be motivated by a conscious desire to reject Him. Please pray for me.