Interested in the Church, but cannot accept some of their beliefs

The Catholic Church has been a topic of fascination for me for some time now. I have studied their doctrines, and I have been interested in converting at various times (I was raised Southern Baptist, FYI), and keep coming back to that interest no matter how hard I try to push it away. I am fascinated by the tradition, the ritual, the crucifixes, the statues, the rosary, you name it. However, there are a few doctrines I am having trouble with.

I cannot and most likely will never accept papal infallibility (and yes, I know infallibility is not the same as impeccability). I would accept the pope as the leader of the Church, but would not blindly follow everything he says.

I see nothing wrong with birth control, as long as no abortion is involved. I am mostly against abortion, but believe it may be a necessary evil in a some cases (e.g. mother’s life in danger).

I believe the church should allow priests to marry, and ordain women as well. I also believe communion should be offered to all baptized Christians and not just Catholics.

In short, I am more likely to follow the dictates of my conscience than those of Rome, in the cases where they conflict. My beliefs would probably not be too dissimilar from those of Hans Kung. I apologize if this offends anyone, but I am trying to be honest.

From what I’ve read, I would fit right in with a sizable majority of American Catholics, but then again most of them grew up in it, as opposed to converting.

I am not interested in debating or arguing with anyone regarding the topics I mentioned. What I want to know is this: Would you advise that I enroll in RCIA and seek conversion anyways? Or would you tell me to go find another church (perhaps Episcopalian)?

Another way to phrase the question: Which would be the greater sin, to convert without total acceptance, or to never convert at all?

Thanks for any advice you can give!

NeedingTruth: I’m glad you are considering conversion, but not accepting a set of very important and fundamental beliefs for the Catholic faith is a problem. I would advise you to enroll in RCIA only if you are willing to consider accepting these doctrines. If you are set on never accepting them as truth, then it wouldn’t be fair or honest to convert. Converting to Catholicism without accepting all of its doctrines and traditions is detrimental to you and to our faith. Also, I am sure that they would not let you complete RCIA if it was known that you did not accept these truths.

Have you considered seeking out anyone to help you understand these doctrines better? Speaking to an apologist might help you understand the truth of these beliefs. Continue to pray about your situation. God is calling you, but sometimes the journey home is a long one. If the church’s doctrine sometimes seem difficult to accept, remember that “to whom much is given, much will be required.”

NeedingTruth,

MargeretMarina1 gave you some very wise advice.

In Catholicism one must submit religious mind and will to the Roman Pontiff even when he is not speaking Ex Cathedra. A faithful Catholic accepts and submits to all the teachings of the Church.

Peace and blessings to you in your journey,
Anna

You lose nothing by enrolling in RCIA. Go to Church. Pray. Continue to ask questions and accept what you can as you can until you satisfy yourself that your Will is aligned with the Will of God…I suggest you read Veritatis Splendor, written by that Polish Pope we had awhile back… You may want to weigh your morality against what Karol Józef Wojtyła has to say…:slight_smile:

vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor_en.html

As a convert and also a former Southern Baptist I’d say you should attend RCIA if you have the belief that God may be leading you to the Catholic Church. The first phase of RCIA is a discernment period where the only qualification is that one is interested in learning more about what Catholics believe.

Some of the doctrine that you mentioned having problems with are some of the same things I thought about before beginning RCIA. It is actually quite normal because having been one, I can easily see that many of your opinions are simply those formed by anyone who has been a part of the Southern Baptist tradition. As an example, I didn’t have a problem with birth control because Southern Baptist doctrine doesn’t say there is anything wrong with it. I too once felt that while abortions for convenience were wrong, that perhaps under some circumstances they should be allowed. Of course I have since changed my opinion on both those things because I understand and accept what the Church teaches about it. That resulted in part from my RCIA classes. I wasn’t brain washed or anything, I just gained a different and I submit more accurate perspective.

A few of things you mentioned like feeling that ordination of women should be allowed and that any Christian should be allowed to receive communion are simply evidence of how little you now know about Catholicism. There is good reason why neither of those things occur and why it is most unlikely that they every will. Again, RCIA is the place to learn why.

Honestly, having been through RCIA I now have a much better though imperfect understanding of the Catholic faith but I certainly learned enough that I can say without equivocation that I fully accept all that the Church teaches and I have never felt closer to God or more at home in the faith than I do now.

So, yes, give RCIA a try. There is no obligation. If you go and can’t reconcile the issues you expressed then perhaps God isn’t leading you in that direction. But my guess is that you will resolve them much easier than you can possibly imagine. One thing you should be cautious about however is don’t ever rely on a faulty idea like “From what I’ve read, I would fit right in with a sizable majority of American Catholics.” If you take the time to read these forums you will discover very quickly from the questions posed and opinions offered by so many of those “majority of American Catholics” that many of them are very insufficiently catechized.

PAX

Oh, God Bless you, NeedingTruth! Honest questions always deserve honest answers.:heaven:

I was in an “evangelical” church for years. May I offer something that helped me after much searching?

When we are outside of something, looking in, it is often hard to understand it in its entirety.

Years ago, before my conversion to The Church, I was posting questions on another website, where a kind monk would email answers. I was angry about so many things I did not understand. Where did this tradition and that tradition come from? On and on I went my angry way! One day, (and I sensed he was grinning from ear to ear awaiting my reply) he emailed this:

"Kathryn, you do know that there WAS no other Church for over 1500 years?":highprayer::signofcross::gopray2:

That did it for me. I replied

“Ohhhh…”

Not long afterward, I humbled myself, studying Church history a bit, but one day, walking into a Catholic Church and hearing the Rosary prayed aloud by the women gathered there before the early Mass, I became awestruck by the sheer beauty of what I saw and heard. I stayed on for the Mass, and returned again and again. Then I signed up for RCIA, the ancient “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.”

I later read the works of Dr. Scott Hahn, an ordained Presbyterian minister who also walked into a Catholic Mass and immediately saw that every scripture he’d studied pointed to the reality of the Mass. He converted, as did his wife. Some of their protestant friends thought they’d lost their minds. On the contrary, they had discovered the Mind of Christ and the Church Christ founded! Dr. Hahn’s books are profoundly moving. The Lamb’s Supper, The Mass as Heaven on Earth is astounding theologically. Rome, Sweet Home, (if I have that correctly) is wonderful.

For me, the Divine Continuity of the Church Christ founded is truly One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. He handed the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter, and said “Thou art Peter, and Upon this Rock I shall build my Church and the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Christ knew we would need a tangible, physical Church. We are the Church of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. We stand for the dignity of life from conception, cradle, to grave. We stand staunchly against abortion while others allow it.

So, back to the light I spoke of: I learned that by standing inside the illumination of the Church’s instruction that I was bathed in the light of Christ’s compassion and Divine Mercy.

I saw a link recently called "How old is your church? Basically, it points to Christ as our Founder, while the countless denominations offered outside of The Church were founded by humans.

The Divine Continuity of Christ’s Holy Church truly can immerse us with Her light from above, within and all around us. Standing outside of Her instruction, I could not possibly know of the majesty and beauty of being part of Her, The Bride of Christ.

Yes. others may enter Heaven. Only God shall judge. But oh what a beautiful and gracious place is within the arms of The Church Christ founded, Our Spouse is Christ Himself. Our Mother, The Blessed Virgin, Our Church, the Sacraments and all the saints, (whom we venerate, *not *whom we worship!) All these and more are ours. So many common misunderstandings abound, but we must be instructed to know the Truth.

I am so happy to see you here inquiring! Often, that small still voice of God speaking to us will lead us to others who have converted from darkness into light.

Be under and surrounded by that light! Draw closer. Welcome to the journey of inquiry. :angel1:

Please come back and tell us how you are and what your questions are. And in the autumn, there is the renewal of RCIA classes. In the meantime, there may be someone at the parish nearest you who will encourage you to attend the Mass. God’s House is a House of prayer, and to observe the Mass and pray while discerning things, is a true blessing.

May God Our Father honor all your innermost yearnings!:getholy:
Kathryn Ann:heaven:

Try RCIA. It’s not a formal process. Some people can’t accept certain things and stay in it for years until they finally accept them.

first of all, no one EVER asks a Catholic to “blindly accept” anything. sometimes we have to agree to submit to something we do not (yet) understand… but ONLY if its doctrine! (Ex Cathedra) teaching.

i would advise you to read some of the better apologetics… if you were raised Protestant you might like Scott Hahn, as his writing is from the same perspective.

i converted FROM the Episcopal church… plus a nice detour through agnostic, pagan, etc. i was raised in a ministers family.
trust me, there are some VERY good reasons not to have married priests, but THAT isnt doctrine. not having women priests is doctrine!!! but married priests are actually a “tradition” and “practice” because the converted Anglican priests often are married.
note: they are now married Roman Catholic Priests.

i didnt see anything wrong with BC until i really started looking into it… and that was well after i converted. (btw, there are forms of BC that are allowed, the improved natural family planning methods, for example)

but i know a bunch of people who basically said "i think its silly, but i guess i just have to put up with it as “part of the package”.
mind you… given how poor the Catechises in my RCIA was its lucky i even knew that some forms of BC were not allowed

The infallibility question.
It’s basis is biblical, according to Jesus word and promise.

When in Matthew 16 verse 15, Jesus ashed the apostles:“Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, PETER means ROCK]
and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven;
whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church is available in full online
Giving you a link to the index, as one means of helping you in your inquiries, though not the only means:

vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/ccc_toc.htm

May God continue to bless you

Joining the RCIA program does not necessarily mean that you intend to convert. The first stage of RCIA is the inquirer stage. If you feel drawn to Catholicism, you should do the inquiry phase and learn as much as you can about the reasoning behind some of those teachings you struggle with. If you find you can’t embrace the Church AND her teachings, you have lost nothing and gained a little knowledge. If, on the other hand, you find you can embrace the Church, you can proceed to the next step.

I agree with the others. You are on the outside looking in, and you don’t have all the information yet. But the Holy Spirit is leading you. Trust the process. Go where your heart is calling.

My advice would be to enroll in RCIA not necessarily as a convert, but simply to continue learning.

I would NOT suggest you convert just yet. God is calling you to the Church - that seems pretty obvious, but you just don’t seem quite ready yet. Reeeaally close, but just not quite…That is why I suggest going ahead and taking the RCIA.

As to the specific objections:

  1. Papal infallibility - If you are willing to accept Church teaching because the Church teaches is (power to bind and loose) then that should be sufficient…that is what I do.

  2. The issue of contraception - That’s a little tougher…but I think the Holy spirit will get you there.

  3. Abortion - very little problem here…your one objection is a common one. The Church simply requires that everything reasonable be done to save BOTH the mother and child. Thus it is not an abortion.

  4. Priestly marriage - that is a discipline that could change, but isn’t likely to in the Latin rite Church. Other Catholic rites do have married clergy.

  5. Ordaining women - sorry - can’t help you there. Jesus has said no through the Church. The Holy Father has said that He has not the authority to ordain women. that pretty much settles it.
    But I hope that this one issue would not be a deal breaker. After all the faculties unique to a priest are so limited as to be inconsequential as compared to every other aspect of church life - and that women are entirely welcome to participate in.

Hope you are able to come home soon.

Peace
James

I would suggest attending RCIA classes. Attending these classes doesn’t mean you’re definitely going to become Catholic if you choose not to, but they do allow you to really understand the Catholic faith more fully. They help to explain why we believe the way we do, why this or that is the way it is, etc., and allow you to ask questions (they LOVE questions in RCIA classes! ;)) From my own personal experience, before I attended RCIA class, I didn’t understand why priests could not marry, either. I thought it was unfair. But it was explained why that is the way it was, and I understood it and could then accept it. A lot of times people have a hard time accepting what they don’t understand. So yes, I would strongly suggest RCIA classes! It is an incredible faith journey!

I will gladly address these point by point.

I cannot and most likely will never accept papal infallibility (and yes, I know infallibility is not the same as impeccability). I would accept the pope as the leader of the Church, but would not blindly follow everything he says.

This is a commonly misunderstood doctrine. The pope’s infallibility is limited explicitly to matters of faith (such as “Jesus is God.”) and morals (such as “worshipping Mary is forbidden.”) However, even in these areas, he cannot contradict established Church dogma. Furthermore, it is rarely ever used. In fact, the need to invoke papal infallibility has only occured a handful of times in the Church’s history. It is used to affirm and protect the preexisting truths found in the tradition of the Church from heretical or dissident theology. This doctrine is the manifestation of Christ’s promise to lead the Church into “the fullness of truth” and to be with us until “the end of the age.” In other words, Christ, through Peter and his successors, will not allow the Church fall into error.

As far as having to follow everything the pope says, that is simply untrue. Individual Catholics are free to disagree with the pope on most things. Even St. Paul argued with our first pope.

I see nothing wrong with birth control, as long as no abortion is involved. I am mostly against abortion, but believe it may be a necessary evil in a some cases (e.g. mother’s life in danger).

This is a complex issue. To sum it up, the acceptance of birth control has led to a multitude of ill effects upon society, including the proliferation of extramarital sex, pornography, divorce, and the legalization of abortion itself. For a good overview of this doctrine, it would help to read Pope Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae”. You can find it for free online. His predictions are incredibly accurate. In short, the effects of artificial birth control extend beyond the individual and effect society as a whole in a very negative way. Beyond that, even such things as the “withdrawal” method or other forms of fruitless sex promote the use of one’s spouse for one’s own pleasure and devalues the meaning of the act and the relationship itself.

I believe the church should allow priests to marry, and ordain women as well. I also believe communion should be offered to all baptized Christians and not just Catholics.

Women cannot be ordained because the priest acts as an icon of Christ, upon the altar and in the confessional. Christ, himself, chose only men to be his apostles, who in turn became the first bishops. Their successors were, also, all male. The New Testament also explicitly teaches against the ordination of women into priestly roles. It’s not our decision. This is the way Jesus set the Church up. As for the discipline of celibacy, it’s a multifaceted one. Other rites of the Catholic Church (there are 23, I believe) DO allow marriage. The Latin Rite does not. The reason is that the priest is married to the Church, and in addition is expected to be available for his people much of the time to provide sacraments, counsel, etc. This discipline was instituted in the Latin rite in following the example of St. Paul.

In short, I am more likely to follow the dictates of my conscience than those of Rome, in the cases where they conflict. My beliefs would probably not be too dissimilar from those of Hans Kung. I apologize if this offends anyone, but I am trying to be honest.

The Church provides a wealth of material to help individual Catholics form their conscience, in the form of theology, papal encyclicals, etc. There are many levels to Catholic morality that the average person, present author included, would never consider or even fathom on their own. You may find, as I did, that as your understanding of Church teachings expands, your conscience will become more open to its precepts accordingly. Many of the Church’s teachings are hard, but Christ never said following him would be easy. (Narrow is the gate, remember?)

The bottom line is if you are truly Catholic, you believe that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus himself established, and that the doctrines it teaches are the very teaching he handed down to his apostles, and that he guards his Church from error and keeps it in the fullness of truth (“on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it”.)

If you don’t believe that, well… honestly, you should be somewhere else.

makes things a little harder to accept when one pushes against them.

This manner of communion can any member of the laity consecrate the host?
If not how does the person who does the consecration recieve the aurthority to do so?

If you had more of an understanding of just what communion is to Catholics, that would make it easier for you to understand the need of an visable authority.

Basically one can not truly acept anything the church teaches without accepting all the church teaches. In my opinion it would the greater sin to join yet not beleive. Yet knowing the truth and leaving it would greater yet.

I think most non-Catholics think our doctrine of papal infallibility means that we believe every word spoken by the Pope is as though God is speaking it! They don’t understand that on a day to day basis, that doctrine is not even used. And the Pope would only use it if it were truly necessary. I mean, the Pope cannot make DOCTRINAL errors, either, and that is also partly because of the Magisterium and partly because he is Peter’s successor. Do I have that right?

And because Protestant preachers have great leeway with their congregations, maybe Protestants think the Pope can just speak on whatever, whenever and it has to be done. That is SO NOT the Catholic Church! Not with 2,000 years of history behind her!

I was just baptized this Easter Vigil and only have a few more post-Easter classes left in RCIA. If you have a zeal for learning like I do, it will not be enough for you to just attend RCIA. I recommend listening to as much of Bishop Fulton Sheen as you can and as much Scott Hahn as you can. You can find their mp3 lectures and discussions at the link below and they are free. I especially recommend

Answering Common Objections by Scott Hahn
Life is Worth Living by Bishop Fulton Sheen

Answering Common Objections explains the Papacy, Purgatory, and Mary, while Life is Worth Living Covers basically the entire Catholic faith in 50 thirty minute talks. Believe me, once you start listening to these you will be hooked.

catholicaudio.us/

And yet right after that…

I would accept the pope as the leader of the Church, but would not blindly follow everything he says.

The Church is very careful about this and is in line with St Paul who admonished the Corinthians in the matter of “receiving worthily” and with “proper discernment” of the body and blood lest they eat and drink “judgement on themselves”.
Being raised Baptist, you were probably taught that the “Lords Supper” is symbolic. That the bread and wine are just bread and wine. Bring that belief into a Catholic Church and try to receive and you are receiving “unworthily”. You have not properly discerned the Body and Blood.
For this reason - that is to protect those who do not understand - the Church holds to a closed communion. It is out of Love that she does so.

In short, I am more likely to follow the dictates of my conscience than those of Rome, in the cases where they conflict.

This is actually addressed in the Catechism. See HERE
Of course this passage must not be taken in isolation. One needs to see this in the context of “proper formation of the conscience” and all the other teachings contained in the Catechism.

Peace
James

Yes, but only if you are willing to allow God to change your mind on these matters.

When entering the Church, one takes an oath that he believes EVERYTHING proposed by the Church as binding on all believers. If you can’t take the oath without it being a lie, then you shouldn’t take it at all.

Remember, though, that it’s not necessary that one understands the teaching or the reasons behind it, likes it, or can wrap one’s head around it. Those are all good things, but it’s more than sufficient to accept the teaching merely because “the Church says so”. In fact, that’s a supreme demonstration of faith in God: to be obedient to the teachings of His Church for no other reason than that He said that He would protect it from teaching false doctrine.

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