My ex-Catholic friends - escaping from guilt?

So I was at the gym with my friend this morning and had an interesting conversation. My friend was raised Catholic, went to Catholic schools all the way through high school, but is now Pentecostal. Her husband is also a former Catholic but is now Lutheran. My friend seems to have very little understanding of true Catholicism and espouses the typical Protestant beliefs, such as “Catholics are into idolatry,” “all we need is the Bible,” “just me and Jesus”, etc. As I probed a little further, she told me that the bottom line for her in leaving was how guilty she was made to feel when she would go to confession when she was young, and how she felt like she never really fit in at her all-girls high school.

After a few minutes of this conversation an older lady joined us in our conversation. Turns out she is also a former Catholic, now Baptist. She agreed wholeheartedly with my friend’s assessment of being made to feel guilty as a child in the Church.

My son’s assistant soccer coach says he left the church 25 years ago for basically the same reason. He’s now an ELCA Lutheran.

Questions I’m pondering right now:
*]What’s up with all these guilt trips?
*]Is this something that was common in the past but now not so much?
*]Do you think that this is the main reason adults who were cradle Catholics leave the church? [/LIST]
Just some honest questions I’m asking on my journey home.

Your friend was made to feel guilty when she went to Confession? That sounds very strange. Confession is for the forgiveness of sins and to place us in a right relationship with God. It’s there so we can leave our guilt behind.

I always feel a heavy weight lift from me when I go to Confession, so I have no idea what’s up with all these guilt trips. And it’s been that way for me all my life (I’m almost 60).

I think IMHO that the main reason people leave the Church is because they do not want to submit to her authority.

Like Kay Cee, Confession takes away the heaviness of guilt for me – guilt that I rightly felt because I had sinned.

I would guess that the former “guilt ridden” Catholics you’ve referred to had a problem with some serious sin when they were young. (Probably problems connected with sex which many, or most, of us had). Or it could be sins or a sinful state that is current.
The sense of guilt is uncomfortable … disturbing. And because of that, it helps us recognize we’ve done something wrong and spurs us to seek forgiveness. It is a gift.

Guilt is improper only when it continues after we have sincerely repented and confessed.

Ah, very well stated. Shame can be a very powerful force in people’s lives. I guess it’s just hard for me to understand why anyone would be willing to leave the Church and exchange the True Presence for a mere symbol. It’s the True Presence that is drawing me in. :signofcross:

good post, just to add to this

perhaps the guilt comes from confession itself? or so they think, yes it’s for our forgiveness and our benefit, but a lot of people really just don’t get that

i mean think about it, especially for a little kid if you parents tell you to go to confession to tell your priests your sins that can easily be taken as a guilt trip.

i would know, i was that person before, i would find all kinds of reasons not to go, to try and make myself feel better, convince myself that i wasn’t that bad or that sinful.

maybe that’s the crux of the problem, we don’t want to feel sinful, we’d rather carry on with our lives thinking we are good people and not doing anything wrong. the whole concept of confession itself, kind of negates that type of mentality if you know what i mean

then you meet nonbelievers or other protestants and you get the whole “oh it’s not big deal” or “we don’t need to confess to a priest because he’s a sinful man too, we can just tell God and we’re automaticlaly forgiven”

telling God inside your head, is not at all the same as going before a physical person and laying it all out, it’s so easy to just convince that no one else really knows because god doesn’t relaly give you a concrete answer when you’re just conversing to him in silence. it’s definitely a good exercise for himulity anyways

just some thoughts

:amen: and Alleluia
Perhaps they never had a full understanding and/or relationship to Our Lord in the Eucharist.

The vast majority of that is between their own ears.

Is this something that was common in the past but now not so much?

Oh, I’m sure it happened in some places, but most of the time it was more because we knew full well we weren’t really even trying…

Do you think that this is the main reason adults who were cradle Catholics leave the church?
Just some honest questions I’m asking on my journey home.

Naw…mostly…as you have already mentioned, we didn’t pay attention to our faith and left because we were already messed up and when someone came along with a Bible in hand and talked a good game we fell for it. :shrug:

As the saying goes, some ignorant people will believe anything. (of whom I was one)

I’m sure if these apply in this particular situation, but I wanted to answer as follows as…more of a thinking exercise on this point.

Do you think that this is the main reason adults who were cradle Catholics leave the church?

A lot of people leave the Church for selfish reasons and make excuses to do so. The “best” part (figuratively speaking) is when they think no one else can see through to their real reasons why.

One common excuse is that the Church isn’t “modern” enough to keep with fads such as changing the marriage laws or allowing the killing of the unborn.

Others, I think, are obsessed with sex and/or money.

If you keep your mind open, you can detect these folks. It would be a good skill to have because some of them may try and pull you away from your faith, as it’s apparently not enough for them to push God aside.

I agree with Church Militant 100 %

Wonderful! It’s truly a force for good in the world.

I was just researching the Early Church Fathers, as my daughter has been influenced in some very negative ways towards the Church by a friend she feels is her angel sent by God. He is not baptized, nor raised as a Christian. He just reads the Bible, mostly the OT and some NT and also reads websites that must be anti Catholic.

So I took out my book on the ECF’s trying to find answers from the beginning of the Church, although my daughter is bi-polar, so once she become obsessed with a notion she searches the web and finds sites that apparently are also anti Catholic. It is difficult to reason with her and felt the need to show her how the early Christians believed.

When it came to sin and confession, the Church was very hard on the sinner and from my understanding those who had sinned, although confessed, were denied to be part of the community for up to many years and had to prove that they were truly repentant. Compared to what was expected then, Confession and penance is really very not any reason to leave the Church.

To be blunt, I feel those who leave because the Church made them feel guilty, is because most denominations feel that you are saved no matter what, some would expect you to confess to God, however, not to a priest and receive absolution. They are kidding themselves, as God knows their hearts. At least to me it is easier being Catholic than being protestant, we know what is right and are expected to live a Christian life and not make up excuses because we feel shame for what we have done and want to keep it to ourselves or maybe some think it is not really a sin.

Who really knows what those that leave really think. Whether Catholic or protestant, I don’t know that there is much difference in those who actually know their faith or the history of the Church.

Yours in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary


I’m going to stir the pot a little bit because most who answered this thread tended to be dismissive of the people who left the Catholic Church. I do believe that some people were badly hurt not by the teachings of the church but in the way that well-meaning people taught them.

As a child I went to SSPX masses and the priest made me cry once because I hadn’t been to confession in 8 months. To me, that is being unnecessarily harsh. If you are in the confessional to repent you don’t need to rub it in.

I will also say, that while I never left the Church, I did go through a period where I was very self-righteous, judgmental and scrupulous. If I had not experienced priests/religious from the post Vatican II era (SSPX is very much pre Vatican II) I probably wouldn’t be Catholic today. Does that say a lot about my own lack of personal conviction, yes probably. But I also am willing to admit that I am in many ways dependent on good spiritual leaders within the Catholic church to model what true Christian charity really is. In the end, Christ’s message is about love and forgiveness more than being right. I think it is important to understand that some fallen away Catholics probably never had the benefit of the good role models that I have had.

I would also like to add that it took me years to get over the debilitating anxiety I felt every time I went to confession. Not because of what I had to confess but because I was afraid of how the priest would react.

Actually, I can relate to the people the OP was talking to. I am a cradle Catholic who was raised by devout Catholics in Catholic schools and still ended up poorly catechized. I really didn’t have a true understanding of my own faith until my late 30’s/early 40’s.

Sometimes a sense of guilt isn’t because of our own culpability or because we do not wish to submit to the authority of the Church. Sometimes the guilt we experience comes from well-meaning but poorly informed Catholics when we are too young to understand.

I’m sorry to say this and I do repent of it, however, when I was as young as five I truly believed it would be best if I died at the earliest opportunity. If I did not, the chances were that I would have committed too many sins to qualify for Heaven. I was being taught (whether intentional or not) that I was doomed due to my sinfulness. Therefore, my first reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation brought no comfort.

We really need - especially with children - to emphasize the message of God’s wondrous mercy. Not as an excuse for sin, but as an antidote. I sincerely wish that I could have had that.

Someone said the Second Largest religion in America is ex-Catholics. :eek:

I am from a large Catholic family, but I am the only Catholic left. :frowning: My mother and brothers and sisters all became born again, then drifted into various conveniently located Protestant churches.

I know everyone leaves for their own personal reasons, but their reasoning AT FIRST is never about doctrine. It is only later that they become experts in doctrine. Mostly, I believe, because they gravitate toward evangelical or non-denoms at first, which have a very shallow kind of doctrine, which is easily grasped. That gives them the confidence to start criticizing the Church on doctrinal matters, to justify their own choice. But it’s self-delusional, IMHO. :shrug:

Even Martin Luther left the Church, not because of doctrinal differences AT FIRST, but because of his outrage at the various clerical abuses that WERE real then. Only afterwards did he realize that he had doctrinal differences too. His doctrine, too, was simpler and less complex than Catholic teaching.

Arius, in the 4th century also left the Church initially because he was passed over for Bishop of Alexandria. Then, sick of the intricacies in defining the Trinity, he simplified the doctrine, and attracted many adherents.

Good thread.

I’ll chime in that many of the former-Catholics I know are now Eastern Orthodox. Out of them, most believe they have joined the “one true church”.

I was raised in a catholic family, went to catholic school up until 7th grade, after which I went to public school, (where all my neighborhood friends went), my parent pretty much made me go to church each week, but I did not enjoy it…and in all those years from 1st grade up until 7th grade, going to mass all those times, I never once felt anything…not once!

Even after I grew older, I have tried many times talking to God, praying for guidance, help, giving my life to him, etc and still felt absolutely nothing. I was and still am a bit confused as Ive heard many people (including family members) talk about how they get ‘filled up’ each week at mass, and truly feel better…I have never experienced that though, so I think this is one reason I kind of wonder about the religion.

Dont get me wrong though, I still believe wholeheartedly in God, and that he created the world and everything in it. I still love God and try to live my life right, but unlike many others, I do not feel anything from praying, or going to mass. I wish I would though, its definitely not for lack of trying, I cant count the number of times I have tried asking God for help or praying, but when nothing happens and I get no response time after time, it does wear me down a bit.

I wish I would though, its definitely not for lack of trying, I cant count the number of times I have tried asking God for help or praying, but when nothing happens and I get no response time after time, it does wear me down a bit.
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Try finding ways to thank God for what you DO have. Go to Mass to praise and worship God for his greatness, generosity (even to ungrateful sinners), and for forgiveness. Don’t worry or think about petitions (for now.) God knows your needs. God can’t resist a repentant sinner.

Thanks to everyone who shared their deeply personal experiences. I have another friend whose grandmother is the only Catholic left in her family (all her children left the church as adults). There are so many ex-Catholics here in St. Louis who need to be evangelized. In fact, the only Catholics I knew for a long time were ex-Catholics until I finally met some practicing Catholics whose kids play on my son’s soccer team. I pray that the New Evangelization will be very fruitful for the Church. Lord knows people need a safe haven in this crazy world we live in today.

That is a cross God is giving you to carry, mikekle. You have the opportunity to turn this negative - this suffering - into a positive. You can tell God you accept the sorrow you experience from the deprivation of any consolations and tell Him you wish to unite it to the sufferings of Our Lord for the salvation of souls. Then every time you experience that sorrow,** KNOW **that God is using it to save a soul. When you get to heaven you will have the joy of meeting souls whom you helped.Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,

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