Hypothetical Q regarding converts


Hypothetical question:

A person is taught P about the Catholic Church, but it turns out that P is either not true at all or is distored, and the teaching is really 2P or perhaps actually Q!

Now suppose that person joins the Catholic Church thinking that the Church teaches P, when in fact it doesn’t, so their profession of faith in what the Church teaches is of a teaching that it doesn’t actually teach.

Now suppose that years later this person learns what the teaching actually is, and does not accept the teaching as is. What becomes of this persons relationship with the church?

Is he/she: 1) not Catholic and never was Catholic, 2) not Catholic, but once was Catholic, 3) a Catholic and in good standing with the Church, or 4) a Catholic and in poor standing with the Church (possible heresy)?

Considering the poor catechesis today, I don’t think this is an unlikely scenario.


2P or not 2P. That is the Q. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer…
(-- Bill Shakespeare…) :slight_smile:

To tell the truth, I can’t answer your question, but I wrote down the first thought that came to mind anyway. Hope it helps!


Thanks. Perhaps I should have used different letters.

“2P or not 2P” :bounce:

If I say too much, I’ll start sounding like a 6th grader… :rolleyes:


Your scenario is my worst nightmare, and the very worst part of it is that nobody seems to care - it seems as though everyone but me is of the mindset, “Do whatever it takes to get them in the door; promise them the moon, or anything, and then they can figure the hard stuff out later.”

I say, challenge them with the hard stuff, and let them know that this is the deal. Yes, it will take them longer to convert. But at least when they do, they will know what it is that they are promising.

Our Bishop said something at a Rite of Election ceremony that has stuck with me, though - he said (speaking to the Elect), “Don’t be lukewarm, ignorant Catholics. We’ve already got enough of those kind. Be on fire for the faith, and be willing to actually learn it.”


I assisted at RCIA and have found exactly the opposite. RCIA does not do whatever it takes to get them in the door. RCIA takes place over a long period of time. There is a lot of material covered. The candidates are interviewed regularly to see where they are at. And they don’t have to be baptised or confirmed when the time comes.


That’s exactly how it should be. To be fair, I know that our RCIA leaders are doing their best, but some of them do crazy things from time to time that make me wonder whether they know what’s supposed to be going on. :mad:


My first thought is that is was an inauthentic conversion, and if it was a marriage could be anulled (spelling?) so the person actually never converted. I have ABSOLUTELY NO idea what the Church says about this though. Just my initial thought. It’s a very good question!

Speaking of RCIA, what do you all think about using “Catholicism for Dummies” as the book all the RCIA people get? My parish uses it, even passes it out to all the incoming RCIA participants, and is told to read it, study it, etc. I find it a bit repulsive, but then that’s just me.


And in mine as well. Ask questions. Take your time.


his status is that of a great majority of Catholics–uncatechized, imperfectly catechized, or incompletely catechized. His responsibility is to continue his life-long learning in the faith, to seek out the truth, to continue his questioning and study until such time as he can accept, if not the entire teaching, at least accept that the Church has authority to so teach. He has the concurrent obligation to correctly form his conscience in line with Church teaching, to continue worship, sacraments, prayer, scripture reading and Catholic practices, works of mercy etc. No human can perfectly understand doctrine because it is God’s revelation, but it is the proper matter for lifetime study and contemplation.


Doesn’t Catholicism have a doctrine of implicit faith? You believe what the Church teaches even if you don’t know every detail. That means that when you discovers that the Church teaches X, you are obligated to believe it. If you don’t believe it at that point, then you are a heretic.



Yes, that’s true. But fairness demands that people be at least aware of this fact, if nothing else.


That’s right. But even so, I think the dilemma is a bit more complicated.

Now, suppose that during the RCIA process, a person asks about contraception, and they are assured that they Church does not condemn contraception, and that such condemnation is the opinion of just a few church leaders, albeit some major ones such as the pope. Suppose further that this person saw no reason to doubt the Church’s authority EXCEPT for that particular issue, and if they realized that the Church DOES formally condemn contraception, they WOULD NOT accept the authority of the Church and therefore would not enter the Church. Again, suppose further that this person has read as much as he could about the issue and studied it well, and has pointed out any legitimate logical or reasoning errors that gives one sufficient reason to reject that particular argument, and they themselves have consistently argued in favor of contraception (so, in other words, they are not in what could be deemed “obstinate denial” of truth). This persons profession of faith is thereby conditional upon his mistaken belief that the Church does not condemn contraception. I do not see how this person ever was actually Catholic.

The best analogy I can think of is if a man thinks he is marrying a drag queen but finds out after the fact that this “man in drag” is actually a woman! (Sadly, the most fanciful thing about this scenario is believing that he didn’t know that already!) I don’t see how such a marriage could be valid since he was actually giving his consent to a same-sex marriage.

This seems like a serious problem to me if it is true, or at least possible. But if I’m being ridiculous, please show me where!


The problem, or the part that’s causing me trouble, anyway, is that I don’t think a Baptism or Confirmation can ever be declared “null” in the way that a marriage can be.


I don’t see why not. Suppose a new priest was baptizing and got nervous and said “I Baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son. Amen” forgetting the Holy Spirit, or suppose a priest got some Pentecostal ideas into his head and baptized in the name of Jesus only…wouldn’t these sacraments be invalid and thus able to be nullified?


In a case like that, it would be obvious to the whole congregation that no Baptism had occurred.

In the case of someone who thinks he is entering a different Church, I have no idea, other than that the Sacrament opens the way for the Holy Spirit to act, and perhaps it is then up to Him to rectify the damage. I have seen it happen. I do know a woman who was Catholic for years and years before she found out that ABC was against Church teachings. At first, she had the usual reaction of “how dare the Church interfere with my sex life,” but it was amazingly quick how fast she converted, and that could only have been the Holy Spirit at work through the graces of the Sacrament of Confirmation - which she had received years earlier without knowing what was going on - but right now she is one of the most pro-life people I know, and has rescued many children.


When I was in the process, I made myself responsible for learning the faith, and I spead my sources around. Fortunately, almost everything I used was a good, orthodox source.

And how is Catholicism for Dummies repulsive? It is a good, orthodox book written by a pair of good, orthodox priests. It was one of my sources, and our RCIA director said she wished she could make all the members of our parish read it.



This question interests me personally. I am in an RCIA (for those baptised in other christian faith) class now. We will be confirmed on pentacost. The class was, or will be when it is complete,12 one hour sessions and one half day retreat. This really doesn’t seem like enough time, even for those already baptised.

I am less concerned about learning something incorrectly, because it is within my power to go read up on the things they dicuss in class and I do if it wasn’t something I already understood. I am more concerned that there is some doctrine or teaching that I haven’t learned about at all and thus don’t know to read up on.

Though its tough being deprived of the sacrements once you understand and believe in them what the church teaches about them. Particularly reconcilliation. Luckily, I only have about a month to go.

Although it shouldn’t have been such a big suprise, I have found its much easier to resolve what few lingering doubts I have about converting that it is to really live the faith. My thoughts on conversion were primiarly can I really give my assent to these proposition, rather can I actually live a christian live day by day hour by hour.

I guess I never was a very good protestant. lol.


Wouldn’t it be kind of a big red flag to hear that the Pope supposedly teaches something (contraception is wrong) but the Church (according to the friendly RCIA director) doesn’t?

It certainly would be a red flag for me if I heard that! And heaven knows there is enough ‘authentic material’ out there (the Catechism, this site, EWTN, etc.) that very quickly one would find out that, hey, the Church DOES teach that contraception is wrong, from the Pope on down. . .it’s just that a lot of people are sure that ‘wrong’ is a relative term. . .it’s ‘wrong’ but only for other people, or in a particular situation, or if I ‘think’ it’s wrong, etc. etc.


A really good book (other than the Catechism, of course) is This is the Faith, by Canon Francis Ripley. It was originally written in the 1950s, so it doesn’t beat about any bushes of ecumenical or political correctness, but it has recently been updated. I’ve found it extremely valuable, both for its straightforwardness and for its thoroughness. :thumbsup:


My experience has been that it has been tough to get “into” the Catholic Church. I tried before, and having come from a protestant background where everyone welcomes you in and if you don’t show the following Sunday, they’re at your doorstep or on the phone checking to see if you’re “alright” I felt like the Catholic Church didn’t want me.

But the priests I encountered were right – I wasn’t ready at the times I inquired previously. I truthfully had absolutely no clue as to the differences – I just thought the Churches were beautiful and many of my friends were Catholic.

But I stuck it out, dove into the RCIA classes (even though they weren’t starting for months after my inquiry) and just kept going to Mass every Sunday. Finally I got it – the Holy Spirit does work magic – I went from a left-wing ACTIVIST to a confirmed Catholic who understands and supports the Church’s teachings (including birth control and abortion). Now THAT is a miracle.

Maybe I’m so dedicated and studied so much material (outside RCIA), so hard, for the past two years because it was so tough to fight my way “in.” Even though I resented it at the time, and thought how “bad for business” that attitude was, now I “get it.” I think it should be tough to break in – but more welcoming and encouraging to those who knock on our door.

And I think the quality of the RCIA instruction varies widely – our instructor was a convert and was really not prepared to teach the class (in my opinion) but the entire RCIA process was saved by the presence of our Deacons who are absolute masters of the Church doctrine and who have a gift for explaining the most complext issue clearly. Bless those people who attend these classes to “help” … they must know that the RCIA instructors need help and that we potential converts might be deterred if there were not competent answers at the ready.

And as encouragement, in a small, rural area of Texas, we had a class of about 40 in our RCIA class, and most of them were converts (almost all of them from the Baptist Church). How nice it was to have them in class – we all demanded (again and again) to know “where is that in the Bible” and the Deacons answered our questions.

Now, if only we can get more apologists out there working their magic! :slight_smile:

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