Feel unable to stay in the Church - prayer and advice needed


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?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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…

  4. 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.


I’ll provide some prayer.
Others will hopefully provide you with some good advice soon.

Praying for you with bits and pieces of today’s
Liturgy of the Hours:


God of power and mercy, through your Son’s passion and resurrection you have freed us from the bonds of death and the anguish of separation from you. Be ever with us on our pilgrimage; then we shall sing rather than weep. Keep our feet from stumbling, so that we may be able to follow you until we come to eternal rest.

Ant. Lord, keep my soul from death, never let me stumble.

Ant. 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.


Lord Jesus Christ, you have prepared a quiet place for us in your Father’s eternal home. Watch over our welfare on this perilous journey, shade us from the burning heat of day, and keep our lives free of evil until the end.

Ant. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Ant. 3 King of all the ages, your ways are perfect and true.

Concluding Prayer

we pray, almighty God,
that, purifying us by the sacred practice of penance,
you may lead us in sincerity of heart
to attain the holy things to come.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
– Amen.


May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.
– Amen.

Your first question is about whether it’s just to equate missing mass with murder or rape. The fact that both can take your soul out of a state of grace doesn’t mean that they are equally serious in the eyes of God.

First, while it may be true that willfully missing Sunday Mass will take your soul out of a state of grace, you can’t say that such a person is always lost. We invoke the Blessed Virgin to pray for us “now and at the hour of our death.” For one of her children who prays the Rosary every day and/or wears her scapular, she can and often does gain for that person the grace of repentance at the moment of death. (And this, by the way, shows the mistake of Catholics who minimize the importance of devotion to Our Lady.) It may simply be the case that the less serious the sin the more likely a soul is to gain the grace of repentance at the hour of death.

Second, the fact that both can take your soul out of a state of grace doesn’t mean that they’re deserving of the same punishment in the afterlife. Just as there are various levels of Heaven, there are various levels of hell. God’s justice dictates that a person’s punishment in the afterlife is determined by and uniquely tailored to his sins:

That they might know that by what things a man sinneth, by the same also he is tormented. (Wis 11:17)

So a great sinner will find himself in the worst parts of Hell with a punishment commensurate with his sins.

Your third issue concerns what you refer to as the Church’s “top down control.” The Church is guided by the Holy Spirit to clarify what constitutes a violation of God’s Commandments and what doesn’t, but the Commandments come from God not the Church. If you object to the idea that marrying a divorced woman is adultery, remember it’s not an arbitrary rule that the Church made up. It comes from God. (Mt 5:32) The same is true of sex outside of marriage. (Eph 5:3) The Church is a gift from God so that we can avoid confusion on these types of issues.

On your last point, fear of damnation is hardly the ideal reason for staying in the Church but it’s a sufficient one for the time being. Pray that over time your love for God, for his Commandments, and for his Church will grow.

God bless.


Any direct disobedience against the Ten Commandments is regarded as a mortal sin. Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath day To make a sin mortal 1-serious matter, 2-full knowledge, 3- full consent. This is not our decision or rule, it is Gods’ The fifth commandment, “thou shalt not kill”, the same rule applies, if all three conditions are met it is mortal. Only God can truly judge. We can’t let our subjective reasoning be our guide (the way we think or feel) Some churches are run in a way that is a matter of convenience to the faithful. Catholicism is not a matter of convenience, but a matter of remaining faithful to Gods’ commands. They are not intended to hurt or dominate, but to guide us to our spiritual, and physical well-being. Jesus came to save us from Hell, Hell is a privation of the Vision of God, eternal escasy. We must prove that we truly love God more than anything else, especially ourselves to be worthy of Him. We submit no matter how it goes against our human desires or subjective thinking. If we are truly converted we are committed. We have made a covenant with God, and God with us.

As strange as this might sound coming from me, I can actually answer all of these.

It will take some time but I’m willing to hash it out with you if you are willing to take the time.

I have the intellectual answers. What I have to say might not make you “feel” any better but you’ll find the logic and reason undeniable.

I’m about to go to leave but I’ll be back tomorrow and I’ll start covering this stuff for you.

The short answer to this is that there are a certain number of rules that society must abide by in order to maintain civilization. The more that people abandon these rules, the closer we edge toward the collapse of civilization.

For example, you complain about the sexual ethics of the Church. When societies don’t maintain a certain sexual ethic, it winds up completely destroying that society. This is not based upon just some conjecture. This is based upon the last 3000 years or more of recorded history of civilization.

To kind of give you a clue, the Catholic Church is the only institution that has been around since the first century. Every other nation, monarchy, institution, etc, has fallen by the way side. The reason for this is because the Catholic Church is the only institution that has followed the “right set of rules” without compromise."

Anyway, again, I’ll be back on tomorrow and we’ll hash it out. I have a lot of knowledge on this. Ignore my emotional rants on other threads. They are just that. I have bipolar and Asperger’s Syndrome. My right brain doesn’t communicate well with my left brain and so my emotions don’t communicate well with my intellect.

You’ll be talking to my intellect. I’ll keep my own emotional nonsense out of this.

Praying to the Holy Spirit to give yoy strength, fortitude, guidance & direction to remain with the Church.

As a Convert myself from the Jewish faith, I have been thinking and praying what you have said, well naturally I feel sad for you in that you feel that way, but to get to the nitty gritty from one Convert to another I will ask you, have you gotten your prayer life in with your everyday life, what I mean is have you prayed the Rosary, have you sat with the Lord for an Hour at Eucharistic Adoration, because its not all done and dusted when we finish RCIA, that is only the introduction we then have to move forward ourselves by living the Faith. I say this with the greatest of respect to you and my former religion, if you have those some of small differences with the Catholic Church you would never make it as a Jew, who even tell you how to cut your toe nails from what foot and what toe to start first , second etc. , plus there are other religions stricter than us also, I think maybe as a Convert your trying to hard to learn to quick and hitting things in spots, slow down, take your time, relax , what is the expression Rome was not built in a day, I came from Christianity at a more difficult stage being a non Christian, learn a bit daily, read a bit every day, pray every day (not all 24 hrs) short prayers to the Lord during the day you don’t have to go to a thesis. every day .
No religion allows one to have sex outside of marriage, Now you and I know that if one misses Mass on a Sunday is not the same as a murderer/rapist, that is not even logical, to think one would get the same punishment. If you missed Mass because you could not be bothered which is a sin, which is quite different if you missed Mass because your ill in bed and cannot do anything, the Church is being a good Mother in directing us to do the right thing, I know my mum was always telling me do this, don’t do that, that is right, that is wrong, its the same as the Church trying to lead her children to do the right thing…

Pray, did you ever think of going on a Retreat for a week-end to a Monastery. The Lord
has shown you the way before you say No to the Lord pray real hard.

God Bless and walk with the Lord.

Rules, Rules, and more Rules.
I have no qualifications to advise you in this matter, other than the fact that I’ve been where you are. (for twenty years). My experience is that if you focus on the ‘rules’, you will continue to be frustrated, no matter what church you go to.
Try thinking about the positives. Instead of thinking, “I have to go to Mass or I’ll be in violation”, think about how much better your week goes after you do.
Instead of feeling slighted for not being able to choose your relationships at will, try realizing that your Church’s care for you might save you from jumping off a cliff into a hole full of grief.
Try considering these things as boundaries rather than whipping posts.
And believe me, it gets easier to have that perspective with age.
Hang in there.

This is an angle I hadn’t really considered but know to be true. Very interesting.
Those who are anti-Christian say that the Roman Empire was destroyed by Christians, and insist it was not because of the moral depravity of the society.

Anyway, I haven’t much input for the OP, except this. I have struggled since entering the Catholic Church, yet some of my struggles are a battle of my own desires, some scrupulosity, and some mindsets that came from OSAS (I mean no disrespect, just saying those teachings did have a terrible effect on me and are in direct conflict with Catholic teaching). Still, once grasping the faith, there is no looking back really.
I may have trouble attending, understanding, etc,… but can’t imagine going to a different denomination that is all ‘feel good’ and ‘don’t worry about it gospel’.
Sorry if that sounds offensive, it isn’t meant to be, just the way I word it in my own mind when I consider the struggles I myself have been through and am still going through.
I have to agree though, sometimes it is only fear of damnation that keeps me going, yet, there is also a desire to love God fully. And I pray for that every time I pray. Perhaps you could to?

God bless.

The Church teaches us to be like Christ who is the Son of God and the way, the truth and the life. We must think like Jesus, not as man and the world thinks. Through Jesus, God showed us how to live while on earth to be forever with Him in heaven. Confession is a gift, we can get right again with God when we have offended Him. I pray you will fill your heart with the love of God. God bless you on your faith journey.

You’ll find that those same people don’t really know their history well at all. To give you a clue, it was Christianity that survived the fall of the Roman empire and it was a number of Christian kingdoms and nations that arose from it’s ashes.

These same people will often claim that it was the RCC that held up scientific progress for 1000 years. No, just the opposite is true. It was the RCC that was the primary force of scientific innovation during those years. They all site the same incident, the Galileo incident, as their example because that is the only one. It was an anomaly.

Anyway, I haven’t much input for the OP, except this. I have struggled since entering the Catholic Church, yet some of my struggles are a battle of my own desires, some scrupulosity, and some mindsets that came from OSAS (I mean no disrespect, just saying those teachings did have a terrible effect on me and are in direct conflict with Catholic teaching). Still, once grasping the faith, there is no looking back really.
I may have trouble attending, understanding, etc,… but can’t imagine going to a different denomination that is all ‘feel good’ and ‘don’t worry about it gospel’.

Sorry if that sounds offensive, it isn’t meant to be, just the way I word it in my own mind when I consider the struggles I myself have been through and am still going through.
I have to agree though, sometimes it is only fear of damnation that keeps me going, yet, there is also a desire to love God fully. And I pray for that every time I pray. Perhaps you could to?

God bless.

Don’t worry about being offensive. I view it the same way. I could never be a protestant again because it’s nonsensical garbage and I know it is.

Truth is, a great deal of the time, I hate being a Christian and even believing in God because I greatly fear that God is going to continue to force me to live out the most horrible of nightmares. But facts are the facts and truth is the truth, regardless of how I feel about it.


Were we able to sit down over some lunch we could begin to tease apart and address some of these points or concerns that you have formed. None are unreasonable but I think some unnecessary exaggeration and “compounding” are underway.

I will only say that the most important thing to begin to do…isn’t to untangle these points…they will untangle themselves almost imperceptibly.

Instead the most important thing is to begin tomorrow morning to “use the Catholic Church” to develop a no-kidding LOVE AFFAIR with God. The Catholic Church provides many ‘means’ to help you do this. Holy Mass, Confession, examination of conscience, The Stations, the Holy Rosary, the lives of the saints, etc.

You should not focus on the dividing lines between this type of sin and that one. Let the theologians worry about that…you have a ‘date with God’!

Develop a “lively interior life” with God, family chatter that continues throughout the day. Make a good morning offering offer all your work, setbacks, annoyances, and joys to God. Read a little bit of scripture every day…5 min. Don’t worry about all the esoteric meanings and translations you might be able to pull out of this or that phrase…just insert yourself into the scene of the Gospel…and turn some points around on your own life…applying some little point.

Be little. We are nothing but awkward children of God, who get dirty and need to be cleaned up by Our Father.

Bottom line. A love affair. the Church isn’t trying to constrain you…it’s trying to “fully and completely” unite you to God in a great life long love affair.

I am 53 but my soul feels like I am 14 and in love.

A few years ago my father was dieing of cancer. He was in his last days, was in bed, no longer talking, reduced to a skeleton with skin on. He was hardly recognizable from the man I knew as robust and active. In those last few days and hours, nothing else on the planet mattered. I sat there praying, holding his hand, telling him how much I loved him. Maybe he could still hear me, maybe not, but there was nothing that would have pulled me away from that bedside. What an honor and a privilege to escort a loved one to the very door of eternity.

Why do I tell you this? When I kneel before Mass, I come again to the door of eternity. There is my heavenly father, silently waiting there for me his daughter. I have tears because of this separation we have right now, this quiet time of love. I can imagine holding his hand and saying the same things, thank you for being my father, for being so good to me, so kind. Thank you for loving and forgiving me and I wasn’t lovable or wanted forgiveness. Gratitude has a way of making it easy to be in God’s presence. Maybe this Lent, try to be conscious of the blessings you are enjoying. Try to be grateful. It will change your focus from the things you don’t like to what a privilege it is to be sitting there at the door of eternity with your father. If we understood how much he loves us, we would weep with joy. May that joy come into your heart this Lent.

Wonderful points to dwell on and take to our own prayer. Thank you.

Funny you should say this, it’s actually the Rosary I credit with my conversion. While a Protestant, I got a strong urge to pray it for reasons I couldn’t explain, and so I began to say it every day. Pretty soon I found myself drifting towards Catholicism until eventually I just out-and-out “made the jump”. Our Lady promises devotes won’t die without the sacraments, and now she’s been proven right as I’ve had all the Sacraments I’m eligible for thus far (save ordination).

I’m not sure about the point re. the Church being the most enduring institution. Aren’t there other faiths that have endured longer? Judaism predates our religion, Islam is a comparable age and Hinduism is twice as old. Surely the preservation argument can be applied even more validly to these? Hinduism also leaves room for belief in Jesus Christ as an incarnation of Krishna (which is a very different version of Him from ours, but still).

Thank you all for some very wise words and for taking the time to answer me. I will continue to put myself in God’s hands, asking for his guidance in the knowledge that he will not misdirect me.

Thank you all!

Re: enduring institution. I think that point refers to the single hierarchical authoritative aspect. Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Protestantism have no single “endpoint” where decisions and interpretations are made definitively.

But a growing lively hourly friendship with God, fueled by the sacraments is the most essential help. Develop an influential presence of God, propped up with well spread “telephone poles” of prayer through out the day…a morning offering, short spiritual reading, the Angelus perhaps at Noon, the Rosary, a brief exam at night, short Gospel reading. This encourages the constant chatter with God. A love affair.

Pray always, rejoice always, as we hear in Scripture.

Here is a useful point on the Interior Life from St Josemaria Escriva:

“Here is a point for your daily examination. Have I allowed an hour to pass, without talking with my Father God? Have I talked to him with the love of a son? You can! (Furrow, #657)”

Other good practical points here: escrivaworks.org/

When a person can kneel before the Blessed Sacrament, during a Liturgy or a visit during the day, they can offer to God the infinite merit of Christ to atone for their sins and the sins of the world. This is how we open the flood gates of grace upon ourselves, our families, and the whole world. This is the corridor of power. You can be sure that the enemy of souls will use every kind of strategy to distract us from this task.

…draw your strength from the Lord and his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. Our battle is not against human forces but against the principalities and powers, the rulers of this world of darkness, the evil spirits in regions above. You must put on the armor of god if you are to resist on the evil day; do all that your duty requires and hold your ground. Eph6: 10-13

Whenever we don’t understand something the Church teaches, know there always is a reason, a very good reason, why She instructs us in such a way. A lot of the things we struggle with now will be clear when we are on the other side. Today we gain great merit if we say “Jesus, I trust in You” and continue with our duties, putting first the salvation of souls, which is why Jesus came in the first place. The saints also struggled, and now it’s our turn. They are praying and cheering us on ‘up in the stadium’ while we fight the good fight during our turn here.

We need you in this battle. May God strengthen and guide you today.

I feel like this at times too where I am at the minute. I am kind of at that road where you don’t want to go out of gods will and do something he doesn’t want you to do, but people try to influence your decision on what you think god wants you to do and then make things harder because you end up confused, worried and like your lost. I will pray I hope you have found peace of mind through gods guidance :slight_smile: But I will pray for you and ask if it’s okay that maybe you pray for me also :).

God bless

In response to why you think missing one mass is equal to murder or rape:

St. Padre Pio, stigmatic priest

“The Mass is infinite like Jesus. . .Ask an angel what the Mass is, and he will reply to you in truth,“I understand what it is and why it is offered, but I do not, however, understand how much value it has.” One angel, a thousand angels, all of Heaven know this and think like this.”

St. Padre Pio, stigmatic priest

“If we only knew how God regards this Sacrifice,** we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass.”**

Saint Jean Vianney

“The celebration of Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.”

Saint Thomas Aquinas

“It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.”

It includes many, many benefits that people just aren’t aware of… The number of masses you attend will plead for your case in the afterlife, the largest amount of souls in purgatory are released through mass, you will be given the comfort of a saint at death for each mass you attend.

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