I am a catholic who is struggling with his faith in the authority of the Church. First off I want to say that I am at the moment a catholic and I have a deep respect and appreciation for the intellectual tradition of the catholic church. Secondly, I truly mean no disprespect in what I am about to write. My doubts and fears are quite troubling to me and somehow I feel more comfortable turning to an anonymous forum for advice.
As I mentioned I am struggling with my faith in the authority of the catholic church. Some will suggest that I am poorly catechized. Possibly so, but I do have a basic understanding of the church’s logic behind her teachings and their root in scripture and sacred tradition. However, I am still having problems accepting them .
Take transubstantiation for an example. Try as I might (even after countless hours of prayer) I cannot fully embrace the idea of transubstantiation. Consubstantiation seems more acceptable I suppose to my finite mind (perhaps something along the lines of Lollardy). The idea that clergymen can literally make Christ manifest in the eucharist is just too much. Once I realized that I had never fully accepted the idea of transubstantiation I began to question the Church’s authority in other areas as well. Life experience has shown me that while there are definitely a plethora of saintly and holy catholic clergymen and laypersons, the catholic church doesn’t necessarily have a monopoly on holiness. There are numerous accounts of non-Catholics performing miracles, and living their lives as shining examples of faith, hope and charity all without the benefit of the magisterium. A few other things that I am struggling with are: The necessity of infant baptism (baptism of desire applies to adults who are ignorant of Christ so why not infants?), apostolic succession (not necessarily questioning the existence of it but it seems it is more of a prerequisite to join the church hierarchy than necessarily imbuing the clergyman with “teaching authority” or extraordinary holiness), papal authority (why is the bishop of Rome given preeminence? The orthodox churches reject this and the notion that Peter possessed extraordinary authority), papal infallibility (I feel it is completely man made, not traditional or scriptural). This is just a small sampling of the issues I’m struggling with and I want to be clear again that I mean no disrespect. These thoughts I am having are truly upsetting to me as I was taught never to question the authority of the church.
To compound my issues I have attended a couple of protestant services where I felt God’s presence very intimately in a way I had not experienced him before. As superficial and trivial as it may seem to some I felt God’s presence most keenly in the warmth I felt from the other congregants. I was blown away by how quick they were to embrace me and how the majority it seemed radiated a genuine love for God and a desire to worship Him. Additionally the quality of the “preaching” was profound and uplifting. I felt ready to go out and convert the world. Later, as I reflected upon this I realized that the only times I ever felt truly in tune with God while at mass was when I heard a homily that had some weight behind it (something positive and uplifting not just the generic “be nice” message) or on the very rare occasions that I felt genuine warmth and fellowship from my fellow parishioners . Unfortunately, I have never experienced the infusion of Grace that so many others have from receiving the sacraments.
Am I doomed? Should I continue to go to mass and “tough it out” ? Should I attend protestant services if the effect is I may possibly become a better ambassador for Christ? Are the feelings I receive at protestant services somehow false or can somehow be attributed to vanity, etc?