Frustrated with the Church, not with Jesus Christ


I feel sometimes that Catholics get so distratcted by the Church, the technicalities of its teachings, and all its happenings that they sometimes forget the whole point: exhibiting Christ's love and loving him with all our hearts.

Example: I hear all the time from the overly "pious" Catholics (the ones who I guess never saw the biblical passage about removing a certain beam from one's eye first) that under no conditions should we be "cafeteria Catholics", picking and choosing what we want to believe. That's fine, I would have no problem with that.'s not that simple. Last Saturday at Confession a priest told me that if I commit a mortal sin between Confession and mass the next day, I should still receive the Eucharist as long as I resolve with all my heart to go to Confession the next week. He said: "Christ wants you to receive him." Okay, well that statement undoes 10 years of what I thought I knew about Communion and mortal sin.

Another example: I have struggled with the habit of masturbation, as many others do but don't admit (and yet they still receive Communion every Sunday without Confession). Anyway, I have brought this topic up with five priests and four of them said that since it was habitual it is not a mortal sin, that I should just keep trying to stop. One of the priests told me that it is always mortal. Whom do I believe?

Another example: I told my priest that I have been guilty of having sex in an invalid marriage (my wife and I were married in the Presbyterian Church under almost the exact same form as the Cathoilc form during a time when I was not practicing my faith in the Catholic church). I am soon getting my marriage convalidated in the RC church. Anyway, I told the priest that since my wife and I were married in a very holy and Christian ceremony, and since she agreed (and participated in) my son's Catholic baptism, I don't feel that having marital relations with her is a mortal sin while I wait for my convalidation date. But I also told him that it is not my prerogative to determine what is mortal or not, and so I confessed the sin and asked for forgiveness. He said: "if you don't understand why it is a mortal sin, then you did not commit a mortal sin." Oh, okay (???!!!!)

So I have different priests telling me different things on BASIC DOCTRINE. So here's what the "pious" Catholics will tell me in true Philistine fashion: read your CCC and you will know what is mortal and what is not. But wait a minute, I thought we weren't supposed to determine of our own accord -- and with our limited understanding -- what doctrine is implied in the CCC? We are supposed to consult the Church (i.e. our priests who presumably have sound theological training). See what I mean?


To summarize the above post in one sentence: if I receive conflicting advice from two priests and consult the CCC to get resolution, I am forced to rely on my own judgment and understanding of the CCC. And yet, wouldn't that make a "cafeteria Catholic"?


I agree with alot of what you said. I never forget about common sense and my conscience. That, along with church teachings, is what I use for confession/morality.

I totally agree that the so many Catholics are hung up on technicalities, dogma, and the like. Who cares though? That is there problem, not mine.


[quote="copeland45, post:2, topic:239610"]
To summarize the above post in one sentence: ...


Could I summarize it differently? You are frustrated with human beings and not God. You find it difficult when two priests give you conflicting advice in the Confessional. You may or maynot agree with the Church, but you aren't sure because you don't know if it's what the Church really teaches or not on the matter in question since the priests seem to disagree. We human beings are pretty frustrating, aren't we? :)

Priests are human. Sometimes they may offer different advice in the Confessional, based on their own understanding of God's will and Church teachings. Do your best to discern what the Church really teaches on this matter, and pray for your priests that they may give you wise counsel.


[quote="gardenswithkids, post:4, topic:239610"]
Do your best to discern what the Church really teaches on this matter


Okay, but that makes you a cafeteria Catholic too. Welcome aboard


Realize that everyone of the church's rules, ordinances, laws, etc. are there to help the faithful live holy lives. Some people do get hung on them - that's for sure. They are the kind of people who actually read the rules to Monopoly rather than play by "street" rules.

From what you have said, I don't see any conflict with church teaching. If you commit a mortal sin, then feel remorse, and offer "perfect contrition", you can receive the Eucharist as long as you avail yourself of confession ASAP. If you are uncomfortable with that, then wait until after confession. You are not being forced to receive.

Remember, for a sin to be mortal, three elements must be present. The sin must be of grave matter, done with full knowledge, and done with full consent. In your case, if you did not have full knowledge that your actions were morally sinful you would not be held accountable at that level. If you did know, then you would have to confess the sin specifically. The priest was correct when he said "If you don't understand..." What he may not have said it that if you DID understand, then it was a mortal sin.

Lastly, the CCC is a great resource. However, it cannot address every sinful act specifically with all the nuances and details. My philosophy is that if I think an act is a mortal sin, then I take it to confession. That is the "safe play" and it keeps me humble. Based on the advice of the priest, I will know to avoid certain activities or if they are not as serious as I thought. Going to confession monthly helps keep me on my toes and from straying too far out there.

Hope this helps.


[quote="copeland45, post:5, topic:239610"]
Okay, but that makes you a cafeteria Catholic too. Welcome aboard


Don't be hung up with the "Cafeteria Catholic" slogan. Let people call you what you want (and if you call yourself that, fine). Who cares?

Do your best to live the Catholic lifestyle. That's all anyone can ask. If you see something different, have an honest disagreement or something, keep it quiet, and take it up between you and God.


[quote="copeland45, post:1, topic:239610"]
I feel sometimes that Catholics get so distratcted by the Church, the technicalities of its teachings, and all its happenings that they sometimes forget the whole point: exhibiting Christ's love and loving him with all our hearts.


Hello Copeland, I am glad that you came here to share your frustrations!

What a blessing that you are concerned so deeply about your faith!

Of course there are distracted Catholics that are overly-concerned about technicalities and forget Christ's love!

May I also add that there are Catholics that don't attend Mass, those that attend Mass several times each day, those that go to confession every week and those that don't go for years! There are those that think abortion is okay and others that worry it is a sin to genuflect improperly...I could go on forever with details of the "wrong" things that Catholics do!!!

The Catholic church is full of imperfect sinners and will continue to be so. Praise God that you have received the beautiful gift of faith that you have! Kindly remember that others have not been so blessed by God's beautiful Grace as you have. I find it helpful instead of letting others frustrate pray for them because we are all lacking in so many ways.

When you receive conflicting information from priests, or odd advice from friends. Pray for them. This has helped me so much! Take your frustration that you feel and tell Jesus "Jesus, right now this individual is frustrating me to see that I too, frustrate you and help me to love them as you love me."


WOW! What a great prayer! May I use it? Like…NOW? :slight_smile:


[quote="copeland45, post:5, topic:239610"]
Okay, but that makes you a cafeteria Catholic too. Welcome aboard


Some pious Catholics might call me that... I don't cover my head in Church, I wear pants, and sometimes I even expose my shoulders. :eek: But not too many people would call me that. I accept some of those very difficult Church teachings--and I've got eight biological children to prove it. :D

As Rascalking wrote, don't get hung up with what people call you. But as a point of reference, the term "cafeteria Catholic" usually applies to people who pick and choose what they want to believe, even when they know the Church teaches something else. Anyone throwing out that term to descibe someone who sincerely seeks to follow the Church teaching is probalby missing the reference to how people often behave in cafeteria lines. In a cafeteria, people pick and choose what they want, they don't seek to discover what they need. If someone sincerely seeks to learn and follow what the Church teaches, but they slip up and commit sin, (followed by the Sacrament of Confession), I wouldn't use the term "cafeteria Catholic" to describe such a person. I wouldn't even use the term for a Catholic who doesn't know what the Church teaches, (unless perhaps that person intentially remains ingnorant.) In order to qualify as a "Cafeteria Catholic" in my "dictionary" of terms, the person has to specifically know what the Church teaches but reject the Church teaching.


By the way, it’s off topic, but welcome back to the Catholic Church and congratulations on your up-coming convalidation ceremony. :slight_smile:


[quote="gardenswithkids, post:10, topic:239610"]
But as a point of reference, the term "cafeteria Catholic" usually applies to people who pick and choose what they want to believe, even when they know the Church teaches something else.


When priests contradict each other it is impossible to "know" what the church teaches. And if you do think you "know," it means that you have used your own judgment to form a conclusion based upon your understanding of Church teaching.

If the CCC was composed only of dogma on which every priest agreed and universally taught, the CCC would be one page long and composed only of John 3:16.

Welcome to my world.


Maybe the Protestants were on to something when they coined "Justification by Faith"

After all, faith is all we have in the end. We have to have faith that we are doing God's will. If you rely on someone or something else to confirm to you whether or not you are doing the right thing (for instance the CCC, "feelings", other people, contradicting priests, etc...), you may end up confused and chasing your tail like I am.


Welcome to my world. :slight_smile: It’s not impossible to know what the Church teaches, just more difficult. Truth be told, priests are human and sometimes they get things wrong. And sometimes they sin and mess things up. Sometimes they reject what the Church teaches. Martin Luther was a Catholic priest. When he got excommunicated, it was a pretty clear sign that what he taught wasn’t Catholic doctrine. Sometimes it’s very clear, but until you know the faith well, (or at least better than you do now) I recognize that it’s difficult to recieve conflicting advice from different priests.

Priests have a responsibility before God for the souls entrusted to them. If they mislead you, they bear some of the responsibility for your sins. But we also have responsibility for our own souls. If what a priest tells you is in direct contradiction with something you read in the Catechism and there are no other places in the Catechism to support what he tells you, then ask him about it further or seek the counsel of another priest. I don’t mean pick and choose priests until you find one that tells you what you want to hear. I mean recognize that priests are human, and humans sometimes sin and make mistakes.

Trust in Jesus. Even if a priest gives bad advice in the Confessional, as long as he’s really a priest and he has authority from the bishop to hear confessions, he has the power of absolution. Jesus designed the Sacrament to dispense grace regardless of the personal holiness or wisdom of the priest who hears your confession.


I don’t think reading the CCC and discerning what is right when you’ve been given conflicting advice makes you a ‘cafeteria Catholic’ (not that I would ever call someone that - not my place to judge quite frankly). What are we supposed to do if not consult the materials the Church gives us to find those answers?

Where the priest said “if you don’t understand why it is a mortal sin, then you did not commit a mortal sin.”, one of the conditions for mortal sin is that you have full knowledge of the gravity of the offense. So if you don’t realise something has grave matter, then it can’t be a mortal sin. Which is a little convoluted perhaps but I think it’s fair.

The priest at my old parish used to warn us about becoming what he called ‘professional Catholics’ - those who are quick to correct and pass judgement on others and act like they are superior to others.


I have done this. Why do you think I asked five different priests about the sin of masturbation.

My main point is this: sometimes we have to discern on our own what is God’s will, and that includes when we consult the catechism for clarity.

Now here’s the problem, and I have seen this on this forum numerous times: laity read the CCC and say “this is the way it is and if you don’t believe it you are dooming your soul.” And then when I ask a priest, he says something else.

As to your comment that I don’t know the faith well enough, if you met me you would take that comment back.


You are missing the bigger picture here. Being a Catholic is not about following the "rules" of the Catholic Church. Those rules, or really, doctrines, are there to guide you to Jesus, not as an end in and of themselves.

We must follow the Ten Commandments, We must worship no God other than the Lord and we must love each other as we love ourselves. The rest is really there to support these "rules" - which truly are the hard and fast rules.

Notice that the Church has no one "path to salvation" or guarantee for salvation as Protestant churches do. The fact of the matter is that we do not know who will and will not go to heaven. It is God's decision. We must humble ourselves to this fact and strive as best we can to be closer to Him.

All of the inconsistencies you are pointing out - I don't believe any of these involve you saying "God, I know this is wrong and against your will, but I'm going to do it anyway." Because, as you know, that would be sinful, and in the case of a grave action, mortally sinful.

Priests try to guide you away from sin, but they are still human and can take the wrong approach sometimes, or just be ignorant of something. The basic fact remains though - did you do something that you knew was wrong and defied God intentionally? If you did, you sinned and you need to confess it. Mortal/venial/whatever - confess it and do your best to not do it again.

I think the term "cafeteria Catholic" more refers to a person who ignores major chunks of the faith, such as not feeling the need to attend Mass or being pro-choice. In reality, each one of us has our own relationship with God and we need to live it in the context of the Church - but as individual humans, we are all going to have slightly different experiences. That does not mean that we are all "cafeteria" Catholics.


there is a big difference between "picking and choosing what you want to believe" and "believing but habitually sinning." people who flat out refuse to accept the church's teaching about x,y,z and continue to live their life contrary to what the doctrine subscribes are in a *totally *different category than people who are honestly struggling to understand why the teaching is what it is but try their best to follow, or people who accept the teaching but continue to struggle with their sin in that particular area.

catholics are responsible for knowing what the church teaches, just like how as a driver you are responsible for knowing the rules of wherever you're driving. maybe god won't judge as harshly if someone wasn't aware, but it's not a complete excuse because we should be aware.

priests are fallible humans as well, and while in theory they would never give any advice that was misleading or flat out incorrect, some do. and as someone else pointed out, the ccc can never hope to cover every possible scenario! when in doubt, I'd go with the "stricter, less fun" sounding advice.. we're always looking for someone to validate our actions but that's why we have consciences.. ;) I totally can understand your frustration with receiving conflicting advice, though!

yes, nearly everyone receives. yes, many of those people are (for a popular example) using contraception or looking at porn. and yes, it's probably safe to assume they are aware the church considers both to be sinful. so there's a very high chance a large percentage of those people filing up are in a state of sin and receive anyway. but, if they're not aware of how serious an offense it is (notice I said not aware, not just choosing to ignore), then it's not a mortal sin. on the other hand, it's their responsibility to figure it out. :shrug: that's between them and god.

obviously in a perfect world every single one of us would accept the teachings and try our best to follow them. there's this thing called free will, though..


[quote="PerfectTiming, post:15, topic:239610"]
"if you don't understand why it is a mortal sin, then you did not commit a mortal sin.", one of the conditions for mortal sin is that you have full knowledge of the gravity of the offense. So if you don't realise something has grave matter, then it can't be a mortal sin.


This comment doesn't make sense. So if I was a woman and I know abortion is a mortal sin, but I don't understand why it is a mortal sin, I can get an abortion and not commit a mortal sin. That's what you just said, and that is exactly the type of issue I discussed with the priest: I knew it was a mortal sin to have sex with my wife in an invalid marriage (I read it in the CCC), but I didn't understand why. So he told me I did not commit a mortal sin.


Copeland, in your OP you sum up perfectly why I do not believe the RCC is who "she" claims to be. And your conclusion about justification by grace* alone through faith** alone is precisely the answer.

  • God's unmerited favor

** trust-belief

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