How to revert? Just confess?

Hi, as some of you know I’ve been through a crisis of faith lately. I was reading my Bible and I ran into the topic of apostasy. This brought back memories of being told that this was an unforgivable sin. I might be confusing my theology, but can someone clarify?

If you were once Catholic (not just in name only) and at some point completely loose your faith, stop believing in the Church, stop believing in Jesus, basically become atheist… and then you regain that faith at some point… do you just go to confession and pick up where you left off? Or is there something more to it? Was it formally apostasy and is confessing to a priest not enough?


Yes, you must have things mixed up. The only “unforgiveable sin” is final impenitence, and that is only unforgiveable because the person refuses to repent.

Yes, that is what you should do. If there is any more to do the priest will tell you.

That’s right, few minutes in the confessional and either a feeling of remorse or a fear of hell (the former is more valuable, but the latter suffices) and you’re back in the fold.

The only exception to this might be someone who never made first confession, someone perhaps who left the church before the age of reason. Other than that I can’t think of any other circumstances where this would be different.

Hmm… I must not be ready then LOL

I don’t really fear Hell. I mean, I don’t really view it very literally, and if God does exist, then there is nothing that I desire more than to love Him and serve Him, and provided that He is indeed a merciful God, I don’t fear I’ll end up in Hell. I was never the kind of atheist that hated religion or wanted God not to exist. On the contrary, I desperately want Him to be real. I had just lost my conviction.

I also don’t feel remorse…at least I don’t think I do? Because I didn’t leave in an attempt to sin or hurt God in anyway, I left because I lost my conviction. I researched my doubts and the evidence pointed towards atheism. I had no choice. I couldn’t pretend I believed.

So, I haven’t sorted out all my issues, but I do know one thing. I now believe in God. And Jesus. I’m not sure whether I believe in Catholicism per se, but it is the only Church I’ve belonged to and it is my conduit to spirituality, to any kind of communion with God and the Body of Christ. Through the Catholic Church I can be Christian. I can’t believe in Jesus outside of the Church, with no communion, no fellowship, no guidance whatsoever… unless I convert to another denomination. But I highly doubt there is anything out there that will seem more true or better than Catholicism, because they all have their problems. I’m sure I’ll have a disagreement with all of them. So what am I supposed to do? Just not belong to any church? That seems silly. So, I figured, just because I don’t agree with everything doesn’t mean I should stay away.

The one and only thing I do know is that I greatly desire to be reconciled with God - to be brought back into a community of believers to worship Him. I figured confession was a good first step.

Well, when I say remorse I don’t mean it as blubbering “I’m so sorry” and anguish :), there certainly are some scrupulous souls like that but a willingness to attend confession suggests a willingness to re-commune, regretting the separation. From the Catholic perspective certaily, and most Christian perspectives one really that would be enough.

Only you can decide that for yourself. (Yes Catholics, I know you wont like this part…) I know some Christians who operate entirely independently of any denomination and manage to maintain a strong faith, some do this with ease, others find power and solace in the companionship of other Christians. Really depends on the individual.

You do highlight a point about “Church shopping”. It’s true, while I think I do agree with Lutheranism more than Catholicism there are points that I find hard to swallow (in my case there just aren’t quite so many but that is probably just me) for which other groups, Catholics included but not alone (again, to me) have a more satisfying answer. If you’ve got an inquisitive mind and aren’t one to accept tradition simply because it’s tradition you’ll come into this wherever you go.

It’s a big first step indeed, goodness most of the regular church attenders I know don’t even attend confession so I’m sure the priest will welcome someone utilizing all of the sacraments.

I wish you luck on your journey D0ubtfire and pray that you find peace of mind. :slight_smile:

If you have not made a “formal act of defection” (such as sending a letter to your Bishop renouncing your Faith) then all you need to do is confess.

If you formally defected, you probably excommunicated yourself, and you may need your Bishops assent to start participating again in the Sacramental life of the Church. Many Bishops delegate this authority to their priests. But I don’t think this would apply to you.

Welcome home, I hope.

I also have another question… More just out of curiosity. If one does leave Catholicism and goes to some other Christian denomination, is that considered apostasy by the Church?

I ask because when I was much younger I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and they considered that apostasy. They viewed their organization as God’s organization and to them leaving God’s organization was apostasy - it didn’t matter if one continued to believe in God.

By the Catholic Church? No that would be considered “Schism”; that is a Schismatic is someone who has defected from Catholicism widening the divide within Christianity. A Schismatic is a heretic in the eyes of Catholics, but they’re still Christian (and thus can’t be apostates) if they retain faith in Christ.

Rather like the Mormons. Catholics don’t see it this way, I don’t actually think the Catholic Church considers Jehovah’s Witnesses to be Christians because their beliefs are so divergent from mainstream/historical Christianity.

K thanks for the clarification. I know most don’t consider them Christian but to me they are. I don’t agree with their theology but they strive to follow the Gospel to the best of their understanding. They’re phenomenal people and sometimes I miss them so badly… They took the idea of Christian brotherhood to such a level that it is quite beautiful how no matter where in the world you go, if you are one of their brothers or sisters - you might be a complete stranger - but they treat you like family.

Having that background and seeing the sincerity with which they worshipped - and having seen that sincerity in others who’ve I met from other denominations is actually one of the things that makes it so difficult for me to embrace any one religion as the ultimately only right one. People claim that if we use our ability to think and we read and research history and theology and read this quote and that quote , that we can clearly see that insert their religion of choice is the correct one. But I don’t trust my reasoning to be infallible, I don’t trust that I can come to a conclusion like that without possibly being mistaken or led astray by a person or a book or some thought process. Besides, if you read the Bible it really does seem to be a very simple message - it should be easy enough for a child to understand. But all the religious differences among the denominations and the theology and the laws… All this seems to take away from the simplicity of it. Coming to Jesus shouldn’t take so much thinking. So I’m done thinking about it. My choosing to stay with Catholicism isn’t because I think they’re right or better or whatever in contrast to other Christian denominations. It has more to do with the simplicity of this is where I find my self, and that I honestly don’t believe that God requires me to find all the answers or the right or “true” church in order to come to Him.

Sorry, that was a rant!

It may not be much advice but here’s my 2 cents.

Come back to the Church, Confess and start partaking in the sacraments regularly. The Church rejoices when a lost soul makes it’s way home and attempts to get closer to God.

It’s OK to have questions, It’s OK to think, It’s OK to have doubts…as long as you do something about them.

Got a question? Ask a Priest or look in the catechism for the answer or a learned Catholic.

Got doubts? Try and find the route cause of that doubt. What is causing your doubt? and then try to act on it…Prayer, fasting, research etc works for me.

Let the Holy Spirit be your guide, think of all your questions as a path that the Holy Spirit is guiding you on because with each answer it will bring you closer to the truth.

Above all…Pray!

Hope that helps.

Another exception would be if the Catholic lost his faith, married outside the Church, and then came back to his senses and desired to return to the Church. In this case, confession would be the first step, but the Catholic would need to have his marriage convalidated before being readmitted to Communion. (speaking from experience :wink: ).

Schismatics are not always heretics, the Eastern Orthodox being the stock example.

The ONLY reason to stay with Catholicism is that it is true. If it is not, no amount of reasoning can make something untrue or truth mix with untruths, worthy of perpetual spiritual membership. Hope to see you back.

Said perfectly. :thumbsup:

To be honest, I feel the need to caution you (and someone correct me if I am wrong, since I am just a new convert myself) but I would be hesitant to tell you to ‘ok just go to confession’ if you still hold views opposing the Church’s teachings. Knowingly denying any Dogma of the Church is heresy (sorry to be blunt) and I am pretty sure that you can in no way receive valid absolution while knowingly maintaining heretical beliefs. So, this would mean that instead of improving your situation, you would only be committing sacrilege (and would not be absolved). You cannot receive valid absolution without some kind of contrition and the firm resolution of not committing mortal sin (heresy is grave matter, and if the other two conditions are met is a mortal sin).

Furthermore, from my understanding (which could be wrong) certain things incur automatic excommunication, and heresy, schism or apostasy, under certain conditions at least, are some of those things. I think it requires special jurisdiction to lift excommunication (from the Bishop, though he can delegate this to priests), but the priest would be able to tell you this in confession if necessary.

You need to sort out your issues. Some may disagree with me on this, but you can’t really be Catholic, except in name, if you don’t even believe in Catholicism (I am excluding Invincible Ignorance here). I mean, if Jesus is who He says He is, and if He really instituted an authoritative Church then you really can’t pick and choose which defined dogmas that you want to believe in. Catholicism is basically ‘all or nothing.’ For my part, I could not be Catholic if I were convinced that the Church wasn’t what she claims to be, and frankly I have no idea what I would be.

I would recommend finding a priest and making an appointment. Sit down with him and go over your situation; he would be able to tell you what you need to do and would be able to help you with the things that you struggle with.

By all means, come back to the Church! Don’t take this in any way as a discouragement (I do not mean it as such), I am merely saying that you need to be ready to come back before you do.

Maybe that’s the only reason to you. I have made my peace with the fact that I don’t currently fully agree with everything that ANY church teaches. I don’t see why throw the baby out with the bath water. What would you suggest I do? Just not go to any church ever?

Don’t say find one that I fully agree with because there isn’t one. Don’t tell me to “just accept” all and everything Catholicism teaches because I can’t just turn off my brain and my disagreement sure isn’t because of lack of research, so suggesting more research isn’t helpful either.

Honestly, what do you recommend? (Besides the things I’ve mentioned)

I honestly appreciate your concern, your effort to be helpful and your sincerity. Oh, and your caution to use a tone that is kind despite the straight forwardness of your opinions is welcomed as well - please don’t ever loose that - so many posters on this forum forget how easily tone can be misconstrued via this technology and sometimes come off in ways that are well, uncharitable.

That said, I know where you’re coming from. I too converted to Catholicism as an adult with a black and white view of it. Long story short, I simply don’t view it that way anymore. I’ve been weighing this for a while and I’ve been torn on what to do about it. I believe in God, I believe in Jesus. I believe in most of what Catholicism teaches. There is no church that I am in complete agreement with. I’ve researched so much my brain wants to implode - in fact I feel that researching is an impediment to faith for me - the more I research the more I doubt the little bit of faith that I’ve managed to hold on to. So I’m done researching. As for maybe just turning my brain off and just accepting everything the Church teaches - I could see me doing that if I had no doubt about their teaching on infallibility and the idea that they are in fact established by Christ but I doubt those specific teachings too much to use them as my foundation on which to base all my other beliefs that I have trouble with. Does that make some sense?

So many here feel inclined to tell me then to just leave. I suppose I could - but that would only make sense if there was some other church that I was more in agreement with. But there isn’t. So, it seems to me, this is where God has me, this is where He wants me. Maybe someday I’ll be in full agreement with the Church on everything. Maybe I won’t. But should I really wait until that happens? What if it never happens? Taking into account all I’ve told you, what exactly would you recommend I do?

Like I said, I made my peace with it. I don’t believe God expects me to find a church that I agree with fully or just blindly accept all of the teachings of one specific church in order to worship Him. I honestly believe the Gospel is way simpler than most make it out to be. And if I’m wrong, then I trust God will forgive me and show me the way towards truth. But I don’t think the right choice is to never go to any church. What do you think?

Hell is separation from God. If you choose to be separated from God in this life, with no repentance, then you would be separated from God in the afterlife due to His respect for your free will. I don’t personally view hell as a lake of fire and brimstone, but wouldn’t being separated from God- the sole source of all Good in the Universe- feel like that? Isn’t that kind of what it feels like when someone we loves dies, or when they leave us? Isn’t it really painful? I often think the “fire and brimstone” thing is a metaphor for the pain we will feel and being completely and permanently separated from God.

Yeah, I can see it being like that.

Thing is, the love of God was so instilled in me as a child (with the Jehovah’s Witnesses) and I was taught at a young age that Hell didn’t exist (again, the JWs), so I never feared Hell, all my motivation to find truth has always been out of love of God. So, in theory, yes, it sounds like something to be afraid of - even if you conceptualize it as you just did - but still, it isn’t what my motivation is.
So regarding confession… I’m not thinking about fear of anything, I’m simply thinking I want to draw closer to God.

In my last confession, I asked Father “If you struggle with a teaching of the Church, but do not act against it, is it still a sin?” My struggle is with the ban on all birth control. He said that provided that I am not out there arguing for birth control and placing myself in opposition to the Church, it’s not a sin. And then he said, “I think we will all have 5 or 10 questions that we will want to ask God when we get to Heaven.”

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