Problems With Cradle Catholics

I have been studying Catholicism for several years and I am currently attending RCIA. I have encountered two or three “cradle Catholics” who became Protestants. Without fail, when I ask them why they became Protestants, I know more about Catholicism than they do. They had been Catholics for over twenty years and they now believe all the Protestant myths about Catholicism. I have to explain the pope to them. I have to explain purgatory to them. I have to explain the deuterocanonicals to them.

I’ve also come across “cradle Catholics” who became Protestants and are now running “ministries” to “save” Catholics. They attempt to counter Catholic doctrine with the “truth of salvation”.

Is this common? What is the cause of this? Why do I as a Protestant understand Catholicism better than they do? How did they attend mass for over twenty years and come out believe they “weren’t saved”? Why do they say they never heard anything about Jesus?

I noticed that almost every Catholic apologist I know of is a former Protestant. Is as if Protestants who become Catholics understand Catholicism better than cradle Catholics. Are cradle Catholics wrong or are we Protestants coming in with rose colored glasses?

Most of these cradle Catholic Protestant converts are now rabid anti-Catholics. Is there anything that can be done to help them? They will not listen to reason.

Thank you

A cradle Catholic is one who is born into a Catholic family.
A practicing Catholic is nurtured through the Church.
A Catholic by inertia or ethnicity or default are lapsed Catholics.
This link with answer most of your questions.

How Can Catholicism Be True When Catholics Are So Dead?

Make use of the material offered in this site. Don’t do anything if there is more than one. Sometimes we are at the edge of our limitations with such people and you have to let go and let God.

…yeah, it’s not a new phenomenon!

…these are latent Protestants who have encountered problems in the Church and they reason it out through apathy and loathing… one of my very first engagements on this forum was with a self-professed atheist… he ended up arguing from diametrically opposite points: the Church forces people to believe in God and the Church does not teach anything about God; claiming to not know God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity… that’s a huge scape goat–rather, these people should be honest enough to state that they reject Church Authority and refuse to submit themselves to God…

Instead of being truthful, they feign ignorance of Doctrine, Faith, and Theology. They become ravenous anti-Catholics whose main goal is not so much Saving Souls as fighting the Church with their whole being.

While “Catholics” they were closed off–rejecting anything dealing with Doctrine and Practice; they would surrender their meager cents on the collection baskets while murmuring against the Church’s “wealth”; they would abstain from Church activities (community and parish services, Bible study, prayer meetings, seminars…) and could not even offer God their undivided attention during the Lord’s Supper.

I remember one particular convert that was so bent on taking Mom and me out of the Church that he went as far as stating that “…you don’t need to join my ‘church’…” He was more interested in our exit from the Church than where we would end up… this, I fear, is both a generic and default trait–inflicting pain on the Body of Christ in a blinded rage to get even; Jesus spoke about these tendencies in St. John 161-4.

As a convert, you (and others as you) have been practicing your Faith and incorporating the Doctrine of the Church into your Faith base… the Holy Spirit is at work here: you (converts) must bind the splintering Body causing the “cradle Catholics” to reignite their Fellowship with Christ and return Home!

Thank you for your efforts in your Ministry (Witnessing to the sheep that have gone astray)!

Maran atha!


I’m a cradle Catholic and a revert, but I don’t know what you are so upset about. Were all the n-Cs that you knew in the past on the same page and at the same point in their spiritual life? I doubt it because in my 30+ years among them they proved again and again to be terribly ignorant of the scriptures and lacked the ability to explain and defend their beliefs. (see My Testimony)

Perhaps you should be busy about simply sharing your faith and giving them the truth so that they can grow as they should.

If their catechesis has been poor then get involved in your parish and help remedy the problem.

First of all, the cradle Catholic may not have been well catechized. Secondly, those parents and peers and even teachers surrounding him may not have been the greatest exemplars of the faith. And thirdly, and related to the other points, is the fact that Catholicism is at one and the same time a living presentation of the faith, and an ancient cultural/social phenomenon with all the trappings and ingrained practices and values that are expected to be followed by any particular culture, without much questioning-until they *are *questioned that is. And then a Catholic may think that something fresh and new is at hand when they hear the Protestant message, usually a simpler sounding message, and imagine themselves to have found, like Luther, a more direct and personal way of relating to God even though the CC has all that and more in her legacy and teachings. Additionally, people just plain like to think they’ve discovered a way to be holier, not a bad thing it itself but often a dead end once the path is thoroughly explored, over a period of time.

In any case, a person must ask, seek, and knock, for themselves, if they’re ever going to *find * to any degree of depth. For myself I left the CC as a teen, later rediscovered the Christian faith by seeking truth, mainly via the bible at first, became Protestant for a long stint with anti-Catholic leanings, and much later came to realize, to my own surprise, that the CC held the truest and fullest understanding of the faith than any of the many later variations of Christianity. Sometimes, like prodigals, we have to leave home for a while in order to find out how great it really was all along.

So i have noticed the same thing as the OP. Ignorant cradle Catholics actually kept me away from the Church even when i had arrived at the point of believing it contained more truth than protestantism.

My take is that protestantism is tailored perfectly towards our low attention span society in this era. The simplicity of Romans 10:9 and just saying a prayer is attractive to many people. Now unfortunately that is a truncated view of the gospel and protestants are missing out on the gem that Jesus left us in the entire deposit of the faith.

Biblically grounded Christians become Catholic and all of a sudden we start to see the pieces of the puzzle come together. Those scriptures that didnt make sense before now make perfect sense. It’s exciting and we become motivated to make up for lost time.

OTOH, cradle Catholics i think sometimes do not get the full message. They hear a lot of rules and not enough love and feel as though this is bondage. And so a well intended and compassionate protestant comes along and prays for them and it becomes extremely meaningful to them. People don’t care what you know until they know you care. So we have to do a better job of preaching the full gospel which is not only rules and warnings, but love and compassion for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Protestantism is, in a sense, simpler (how much more simple depends on the denomination). If a person isn’t well grounded in history and with good Catholic catechesis, they may find themselves unable to respond to Protestants they come in contact with and so be filled with doubts and led astray. Whatever else, I think an inability to speak to their faith when opposed can seriously undermine it. Scandal is also very hurtful. And no doubt it’s not just any one factor.

It should not surprise anyone that many US Catholics are very poorly catechized.

Cradle Catholic here. :stuck_out_tongue: Learning is a never ending process. Sometimes it’s a problem too when we thought that we know everything. Not being defensive though.

In all that, in living the faith I realize that I would always fall back to this, "“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Lk 11:28). It is in the hearing and the doing.

You have received several good answers. I hope to add a little to the conversation.

-As mentioned, Protestantism can seem easy to understand. Converts to Catholicism often indicate they realized they previously had a truncated view of bible and tradition.

-One can also align one’s personal or political beliefs with one of the thousands of denominations. If you believe in remarriage without annulment, abortion, etc., you can find a denomination that accepts your view. This attracts the increasing influence of liberal politics and secularism on society. Catholicism, in its fullness of truth, does less to attract secularism.

  • Protestantism seems to focus more on bible study, which is great. Catholics need more of that. At the same time, salvation is not completely an intellectual exercise. There is not a bible exam at the gates of heaven.

-Protestantism often places a higher premium on winning converts. While the Catholic Church has highlighted the New Evangelization, we tend to focus more on spreading the good news rather than winning converts. To me, this better reflects inherent credibility.

  • I was catechized during the 1980s and 1990s. I have heard others say that, at some point, catechesis was watered down. It focused more on God’s love, the basic prayers, morality, etc. and less so on doctrine, dogma, etc. This is more or less how I remember it. Some suspect this may have been a reaction to the secularization of society, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s. In other words, they tried to react to a reduction of interest. One can argue whether or not it was the right course of action.

  • In a 1994 presentation aired on EWTN, Mother Angelica said that liberals had been trying to change the church. She said it had been happening for many years and that Catholics had been quiet for far too long. That was over 20 years ago. Additionally, we now know through Wiki leaks that progressives have been trying to infiltrate the Catholic Church to further their causes. I have little doubt this had some degree of impact.

To summarize, there are a variety of forces that have watered down Catholic catechesis and which ultimately lured people away from the Church. We have lost people to atheism, Protestantism, etc. However, this does not make the Catholic Church any less true. We are imperfect people making imperfect decisions, but Christ will be with our Church until the end. As you noted, there are people still converting to Catholicism and for good reason.

I hope to see a more balanced approach to catechesis for all Catholics, including RCIA, Sunday school, the media, and Sunday sermons. I hope they do not lose the message of love and morality, but increase knowledge of history and doctrine. I have read the seminaries are reverting to a more traditional approach, and I think that is a good thing.

Pope St. John Paul II said it best. There are many Catholics who are Sacramentalized—but they aren’t Evangelized.

Clearly, catechesis is vitally important, but it is only one side of the coin. The other side is conversion, and the fact that this is missing from the catechetical process may be one reason why Protestant groups that do stress a conversion experience have such an influence on lapsed cradle Catholics.

At some point each child-catechumen must realize, “Wow, this stuff is important! I need to learn it and apply it in my life!” This is conversion. Without it, the process of catechesis can be nothing more than pouring water into a sieve. I firmly believe that this is why we see religious education classrooms populated by vacant-eyed kids that can’t wait for dismissal, so they can get on with something really important, like hunting pokemons. Come time for Confirmation, they walk into the ceremony as practicing sinners and walk out as confirmed practicing sinners.

That article was excellent, and thank you for presenting it.

What I particularly like about it is that it presented two sides: knowledge of Jesus and love of Jesus. And that one without the other can be crippling.

There isn’t one printed article that can explain everything, but this article did make a lot of sense.

Yes it happens. Many leave because for a long time being “born Catholic” was considered all that was needed, and they were poorly catechized. Since V2, that has changed, but change in the Church can be as slow as turning a battleship.

In the case of those not “born Catholic”, a better approach is to seek knowledge in catechesis rather than apologetics.

We can’t defend what we don’t understand.

In our profession of faith, we say, “I believe”, not “you don’t understand”.

Build your faith, live your faith, and others will take note and many of those will seek on their own.

This is far more effective than hitting them on top of the head with Scripture, the Catechism, Church Teachings, Church Documents, words of the Church Fathers is not an effective means of evangelizing non-believers, or those who stepped away from the faith (the New Evangelization).

If you get a chance, read the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, ***Evangelii Gaudium *** (The Joy of the Gospel).

Pax et bonum!

Well said.

Catholic children are generally just not taught very well today; not to mention the 1950’s when nuns ruled Catholic education, reigning hellfire down on children (no love at all).

Catholic children are generally taught the rules, rubrics, traditions, virtues etc. But they, for the most part, do not receive an understanding (full knowledge) of what they are being taught. It’s very easy to walk away from rules when the rules are thought to be arbitrary. The understanding (full knowledge) usually does not come until adulthood because it can be complex sometimes.

Catholic education has a gap between childrens education and adult understanding. This gap gets exploited by our culture. Many young adults do not make it through the gap to get to understanding.

This reflects my experience in the 90s and early 2000s… Lots of talk on values and general teachings, but not so much as the *why *for much of what the Church does, or *why *for the Church at all.

As a 65 year old cradle Catholic who was educated in Catholic schools through college I agree with those that suggest we were poorly cathechized. However, I would like to add that people in my age group also lived through a great transition in our church following Vatican II. I was almost out of gradeschool when the changes began and I would have to say that even though I went to Mass 6 days per week, I could say both the priest’s and the participants parts of the Mass in Latin, I still did not really know what was going on. Now as I read your post and reflect on what you have experienced I would have to say that there are probably so many reasons for what you have seen that we could never pinpoint it well enough to make any real difference. What I have been trying to do for years now is learn what I should know as someone who want to be a good Catholic in this secular world. And that is the place where I think we can do the most, in response to your question about what we can do to help them, we must know our faith as well as possible. When we are approached with questions we need to be solid in our knowledge of the CCC and show in our behavior how living by these truths bring peace into our lives. We can not ever control the choices or behaviors of other people but we can control ours.

I’m lapsed, but I have returned. I believe many who have chosen another path feel they must find as much fault as possible with their old faith…just human nature. Are there any who started catholic, turned protestant, then turned back? I would be interested in their views…

Me to. But I ended up in an Evangelical church at age 10 and not for the right reasons and not really as a conscious choice. I left the Evangelical church when I was 17 and turned my back completely. As a Catholic child attending school in the mid 1960-70s I was not catechised, yet with hindsight, I had living examples of people who genuinely followed their faith and I believe that (along with the prayers of the faithful) help light the way Home.

I thank God for the blessings of my brothers in helping me to grow in faith on so many different levels. One atheist and one Evangelical who is so poorly catechised, I have wondered if he is really a Christian (he basically rejected 90% of the Bible and the divinity of Jesus in less than 10 minutes).


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