How can the RCC be THE church if so many Catholics have lukewarm faith


I haven’t been to these forums in ages but now am preparing to be received into the RCC at Easter Vigil. A close protestant friend is sincerely trying to understand our decision to become Catholic. Most of the Roman Catholics she has encountered have had little to no bible knowledge. Some claim they had to leave the Catholic church to “find” Jesus. One told her that although official Church teaching may say one thing, the reality may be very different. She can’t comprehend how the Catholic Church could be THE church if it is failing (just as she readily admits many protestant churches are) to teach its members well. She perceives similar deficiencies in both the protestant and Catholic churches and therefore can’t understand how we could believe the Catholic Church to be the one true church. How should I respond to her?



Ask her to name the twelve Apostles.

Subtract the one, the Prince of the Apostles, who denied Christ three times.

Then ask her to subtract the one who betrayed Him.

Then ask her to subtract the rest who abandoned Christ in His Hour.


St. John was the only one remaining faithful to Christ. If our holy Faith is built on such an ediface of abandonment of Christ, how can we expect to do much better?


The Church is the seed of the Kingdom of God, already present but not yet fully present. In this life, there is always human weakness and sin even among the members of the Church. In the end, though, the Church will be triumphant in Heaven and we won’t have to worry about sin anymore.

In the meantime, the Church militant has divine and human elements. God meets humanity where it is in his Son and makes salvation possible for us, but he can’t force us to accept the truth. The Church is guaranteed to have what she needs to accomplish her mission, guaranteed to stay faithful to Christ, guaranteed to endure through the ages and teach the truth, but there are no guarantees for the members of the Church because each of us can make free choices to remain in full communion with the Body of Christ or to damage that communion through sin, apostasy, etc.


How can we evaluate the true Church? By the faith of it’s members? By it’s number of members? By it’s geographic size? Look for what is defined as the marks of the true church and that is how you will know. As a former Methodist and later Atheist, I researched these and can tell you it’s good to feel like I found home finally. Why do so many Catholics (and Christians) seem to have “lukewarm” faith? Well, I think the answer is simply that being a Christian is not easy when you are a human being, prone to sin and the needs of the flesh. Following Jesus’ message is not easy, and if you do not learn to give him control of your life so he can live through you, it gets harder. It is easy to get into judging yourself and letting your faith slip. I’ll let you guess who wants that to happen. We all have periods or waning and swelling faith, so everyone has these feelings. Christ is the anchor in this storm, and without the waves we would never know the value of the anchor.


It is imppossible to refute such broad generalizations as “so many lukewarm” members. A Church with about a billion members world wide will have people who are on fire, steady and true, luke warm and verything in between on every day of the week. So does the evangelical church on the corner.

One difference is that the evengelical hurch on the corner can fracture and split for doctrinal reasons, charismatic differences or just about any cause under heaven today tomorrow or the next. Protestantism has been graced with great believers and a love of our Lord and of the Scriptures. However, it is be deviled with a fractous spirit that can not rest. The plethora of vaious churches and beleifs is the result.

And as for us not knowing scripture…Catholics may not consider themselves [even though we use it extensively even the most inattentive] to be scriptural experts but Catholic liturgy and spirituality is rooted in the “Good Book” and ALL CHRISTIANS owe a debt of graitude to the Church for preserving the writings of the first Christians, compiling those same writings, discerning the books to be read during worship and to be “divinely inspired” and then carefully handing them on, trranslating them and making them available to us today. The “Bible” we treasure today is an out growth of Catholic faith and Tradition.


Jesus explains this in his parables. There are those who believe but when worldly desires fill their minds, they turn away from God. The Church is filled with believers, and sinners. We will at times fall into sin.

We can only pray that they will change their ways and return to God.


If she asked this, then some non-Christians might say the same thing to Jesus “How come Jesus said He was God and He failed to help people to live in peace instead of fighting all the time, live in poverty, etc”.

Ask her that and see how she would respond to.
After she responds, you can give her your reasonings like others have answered in your thread.


Jesus said it wouldn’t be easy (but it’s worth it).

Matthew 7:13-14
13 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.
14 How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.


The thing is, the question of the “true church” isn’t answered by such fuzzy concepts as “most of the Catholics I’ve met” and “some claim” etc. Such criteria only hold sway when one perceives that more objective criteria will not help the cause. As is the case in Protestantism. However, this is not the case with Catholicism. We have more objective criteria that do not undermine our church, but rather support it. Such as: Jesus sent the apostles. The apostles, in the NT, delegated their authority to others. Those people, in other 1st century church documents, delegated their authority to others. One of the people given such authority well within the lifetimes of several apostles (Ignatius) claims to be a part of the Catholic Church (AD 107). And the beliefs of those people are totally consonant with what we believe now. Christ said he would found a church. And that that church would not fail. Consequently, whatever church was founded is still the Church. The only issue to then settle is whether Christ founded only an invisible church, or if the church he founded has both visible and invisible components.


Ask you friend to read chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. There she will get a snapshot of seven local Catholic Churches. The strengths and weaknesses of each local Church are described. Lukewarmness was common in the Church back then too, especially where Christians were relatively rich and secure, like Laodicea (Rev 3:14-22).


Don’t forget the parable of the wheat and the tares. There will always be ‘weeds’ in the church.
Also, I think many of the claims of Protestants about Catholics being lukewarm could apply to Protestants as well. When I was a kid I occasionally attended Methodist churches, usually when we were visiting my grandmother. My impression at the time was that it was more of a social club for her than a religious experience- sing some songs, listen to the preacher tell some boring stories, than chat with her friends for a while. It certainly didn’t make me want to learn more about Christ. Now, would it be fair for me to judge all Methodists or the Methodist denomination as a whole that way?


Great answer!


I’m reminded of the film Bad Lieutenant starring Harvey Keitel.

This movie depicts a NYPD cop who is corrupt to the bone; he shakes down crooks for money, he steals drug evidence to use himself, and he endebts himself to a mob bookie to the tune of about $60K.

At one point in the film, the bookie’s representative catches up with the cop at his child’s First Communion (I think). The thug warns the cop about getting in too deep, and what’ll happen if he can’t repay his gambling debts, to which the cop replies (in the church, mind you) that nothing’ll happen to him because “I’m a f—ing Catholic!”

This is an extreme example, especially since this film is extraordinarily hard to watch and has been reviewed as “morally reprehensible” by some Catholic film group (I forget where I saw that review). My point, though, is that many Catholics seem to view membership in the Church as all that is required of us – like paying dues at a country club entitles you to all the perks the club provides.

Clearly, this is a misguided view. But so it is when one asks, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” – a question which presupposes that God should actively shield His flock from every bad thing that can happen, rewarding them in this life for their faith as though a heavenly reward weren’t enough.


EDIT: By the way, as vile as Bad Lieutenant is, and as repugnant as the cop’s actions are, and as vulgar and blasphemous as some of the content is, I believe the film has a very Christian moral. :slight_smile:


Ask her why she’s not knowledgeable. Can she not read? Are there no libraries or book stores?

The rest of us study our religion constantly.

Ask her why “the Church” doesn’t teach. Can she not volunteer to teach catechism to the children?

The rest of us volunteer to teach.


The Church does not fail to teach, members fail to learn.

The Truth of the Church does not depend upon her members. Christ established the Church, not men. Therefore, he perfects it, protects it, and perpetuates it.

The members of the Church do not make her One-- Christ does, see: John 10:16; Eph 4:3-6; John 17:17-23.

The members of the Church do not make her Holy-- Christ does. But, sinners will still be in the Church, see:Mt 13:24-30

The members of the Church do not make her Catholic-- Christ does via it’s Universal Mission given in Matthew 27:19-20.

The members of the Church do not make her Apostolic-- Christ does via Holy Orders established in Matthew 16:18-20, Matthew 18:18, and John 20:21-23.


This is a gross oversimplification.

True, the Magisterium does not fail to teach, in the sense that it is clear what the faith is. However, in my experience, a frightfully large number of religion/theology teachers and CCD instructors are not very well-versed in the Church’s teachings, let alone in successful pedagogical methods.

Is the average 7-year-old responsible for teaching him/herself about the Eucharist?

Sadly, the truth is that, though the Church provides the Catechism, and though Catholic publishers provide textbooks, and though diocese provide schools, there’s every bit the shortage of adequate teachers of religion that there is of priests.

This issue hits home for me, as a teacher and one whose own sister’s religious education was nearly mangled by apparently incompetent CCD teachers.



No, but the average 27-year old is!

The fault lies in two places – first with those who teach badly (see the Epistle of James on this subject) and on the rest of us, for not continuing our religious education and volunteering to teach.


Volunteer is the key problem. With the exception of one teacher, all of my CCD teachers were woefully inadequate. They also happened to be all volunteers. Back when nuns were teachers, religious instruction was good. Nowadays, parishes usually have volunteers teaching CCD and paid professional teachers for the parish school. Many parishes cannot afford to pay teachers and have to close the school. Not many people wish to teach in Catholic schools either, because the pay is much less than in the public schools. In many cases, the teachers in the Catholic schools are young and inexperienced (take the job as their first teaching job), then they work a couple of years to get experience and leave for a higher paying job in the public schools. Without an increase in vocations to the religious life, religious education is not going to get any better.


I might point out that the teaching materials are also very poor.

I just finished “Protecting God’s Children” – a mandatory series in this diocese. We had a video to watch, books to read and so on. I looked at the kids and said, “Did you understand what that video was all about?” I got a unanimous “no.”

“It’s about sex, and how some evil adults might try to take advantage of you.”

If I hadn’t come straight out like that, the kids would have never known what the program was all about.

I think we need leadership. I’d love to see our bishops commit to Catholic schools – come right out and tell us there will be a second collection once a month, in every church, even if you don’t have a Catholic school in your parish. And you are expected to put real money in that collection plate.


That just wouldn’t work. In my parish, they are lucky to get $600 a month for the diocesan assessments. The weekly donation to the parish is around $12,500. Tuition for the school is $3000 for parishoners and $4000 for non-parishoners. I don’t know how much CCD costs. Second collections are ignored by most people in my parish. I know this because the amount of the collections is always in the bulletin. Besides, after being bombarded with second collections almost every week, people get sick of them.

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