RCIA seems...strange

Some background: I am a graduate student who has been an atheist / agnostic for most of my adult life. Over the course of the past year or so, I have learned more about Catholicism and determined that I might want to enter the Church. I decided to attend RCIA in hopes that it would help me grow in faith and add some structure to my learning.

But we have only had two meetings so far, and I have come out of both feeling very confused. What we’re being taught / the spirit of the class does not seem to mesh with what I have read elsewhere. For instance:

  • One of the people in my class (not a baptized Catholic, if it matters) mentioned during our class discussion that he has been taking communion in the Catholic Church for a few months now. The lady in charge said nothing to him about it, but I thought that our taking communion before Easter was unacceptable. If this is the case, why didn’t she clarify for the benefit of anyone there who didn’t know?

  • Our one guest speaker so far talked to us about how “God is love” (this part was fine, I guess) and “God doesn’t judge anyone” (what?!). I had thought that God had a more multifaceted nature - that part of what defines God is that He does judge us, and that He loves us anyway.

Maybe these shouldn’t be big issues, but I’m doing RCIA because I want to learn Church doctrine. The class already feels very uncomfortable to me - like we’re just learning about how ‘nice’ God is, while glossing over the more difficult points.

Am I completely wrong to be worried about this? Should I assume it’s just because we’re early on in the learning process?

The fact that the individual is an unbaptized non-Catholic and is receiving communion is unacceptable. I doubt the priest would willingly give this person communion.

Secondly God is love but God is just and he will judge us all when it’s our time.

Revelation 19:2
2 Peter 2:9
1 Peter 4:17
Jude 1:6

From the Catechism…


678 Following in the steps of the prophets and John the Baptist, Jesus announced the judgment of the Last Day in his preaching.582 Then will the conduct of each one and the secrets of hearts be brought to light.583 Then will the culpable unbelief that counted the offer of God’s grace as nothing be condemned.584 Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.585 On the Last Day Jesus will say: "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me."586

679 Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son”.587 Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself.588 By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.589

I hope this helps!

There are a few things to consider here.

First of all, you are absolutely right about the holy sacraments being reserved to Catholics. Why the teacher omitted to correct the person I can’t say; maybe she did privately, but didn’t want to single him out or embarrass him.

Bear in mind, RCIA is not a course in upper level theology. It’s going to be basic, and if you’ve already done considerable study, it may quite possibly be all or mostly review for you (as was the case for me).

Another thing is that one RCIA program is not the same as the next. It all depends on the diocese, the parish, and the person in charge. Some programs are better than others. If this one stays at the “God is nice” level, you might consider looking for another one, but to be honest there are a lot of programs like that, a hold-over from the 1970s when everything was grooovy.

Do you have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

You might want to pick up a copy of this book…


And if you wished to study in more detail from the official teachings of the Catholic Church:

God bless and guide you.

Kind wishes,

from my own similar experience with RCIA i would suggest you continue to ask questions, speak with the director of the RCIA program, speak with the Pastor about specific questions, and continue reading and studying on your own…The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a must have resource you can take to each RCIA meeting and “fact Check” anything that sounds weird…then you can ask for clarification…the Catholicism for Dummies is a good resource as well, just stay away from the similarly titled “idiot’s guide”


the communion issue. If I heard that in RCIA I would talk to the person quietly rather than correct them in front of everyone.

Re: God doesn’t judge. At one level it’s true. And in RCIA many people are coming fropm all sorts of background, including very "irregular"relationships, or times of deep sin. What they need to know is that God doesn’t judge.

They also need to know that God does indeed judge, but possibly not in the first couple of meetings.

I think that it is safe to say that the quality of RCIA instruction varies widely. That is true of education or instruction in general, isn’t it?

You should be doing your own reading as well. Father Trigilio’s ‘Catholicism for Dummies’ is a great introductory work and you cannot beat the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ for thoroughness.


Please see RCIA all the way through. We need people like *you *to teach it next time!

And there are some people who are baptized in the RCC that receive first communion before confirmation in the United States. But that’s what I will very politely call a theological novelty with the biggest frown I can manage.

Hmmm, I have a somewhat different opinion.
If possible, could you consider switching to a different parish for RCIA? I bet any parish would be happy to have you. Maybe you could try a different parish, then see if it’s more substantial than your current one. I hate to advise you to “church hop”, but the pastor and RCIA leadership make a huge difference. These people know what they are doing, and once they know you’re “on to them”, they’re not going to like it.
I tried a couple of RCIA programs, and quit both of them, for different reasons. The third time was the charm!
Best wishes for your future study, and faith life.

In general I think the US Conference of Catholic Bishops needs to set better standards for teaching RCIA, the lady who does it at my church said to me one time she believes everyone goes to heaven and I said the Church doesn’t teach that and I believe she was spoken to afterwards because someone overheard her. too many times people teaching the class put their own opinion into it and we cannot have that, I know Protestant converts sometimes struggle with RCIA because their teacher will say something that is contrary to what they learned about the Church and it sends them into deeper confusion and they drop out and a lot of times their journey into the Church is a very painful one where they lose friends and they get family members who won’t speak to them anymore.

Hang in there. It is the beginning and there are people at different places in their journey into the Church. Plus there isn’t a standard RCIA curriculum so sometimes there can be wonky things said and done. Someone once quipped that it seemed that RCIA stood for Repelling Converts In-Advertantly. :smiley:

But seriously, hang in there.

“God is nice” hahah that pretty much sums it up for some people :rotfl:

I went through RCIA last year. I got most of my Catholic instruction from websites, Catholic Answers being one. My instructors weren’t really that bad, it was just so basic. I was just expecting a much deeper experience from a 7-8 month program.

From what I’ve read so far, I would wholeheartedly agree with the posters that say it highly depends on the pastor and the RCIA instructors. I converted Easter '06 in a university parish, and the quality of instruction was haphazard at best. Really it wasn’t RCIA per se but Scripture study (heavy on social justice, from what I remember) with catechesis scattered in. I was blessed to have amazing sponsors (they’re still two of my best friends even now), but I realize that not every parish has sponsors as friends afterwards… Looking back, I’m glad I converted when I did, but quality of instruction was really quite pathetic IMHO. I’m a reader anyways, so I did plenty of supplemental reading in addition. At the time I didn’t question it, but now I worry for the people coming up through the ranks wanting to be Catholic in that school, but not realizing there’s more to Catholic life than social justice (priest was and still is from what I heard very social justice oriented). In contrast, I’m going to be involved in the RCIA program as a sponsor at the parish I go to, and the pastor is on fire for the Lord. I’m actually excited to see how this program develops 'cause anything has to be better than what I went through as a convert.


Yep. Me too.

Re: God doesn’t judge. At one level it’s true. And in RCIA many people are coming fropm all sorts of background, including very "irregular"relationships, or times of deep sin. What they need to know is that God doesn’t judge.

They also need to know that God does indeed judge, but possibly not in the first couple of meetings.

And, as I read the OP’s description, I was thinking that the context was likely “in this life”, rather than “at the end of one’s life.” In other words, when we make mistakes and sin in this life, God doesn’t automatically judge us and condemn us. Instead, we always have a second chance, so that we can ask forgiveness and try to avoid that sin in the future. (Of course, there is a particular judgment and a final judgment, but that’s once we’ve already died…)

To add to my last post in this thread, we’re using YouCat in my parish’s RCIA program, whereas for my “program” (if you can call it that), we got The Bible (NRSV translation with Apocrypha). Significant improvement, I’d say.


I think this is a big problem also and has been for awhile. The Pope recently alluded to this…

“There are some priests who, when they read this Gospel passage, this and others, say: ‘But, Jesus healed a person with a mental illness’. They do not read this, no? It is true that at that time, they could confuse epilepsy with demonic possession; but it is also true that there was the devil! And we do not have the right to simplify the matter, as if to say: ‘All of these (people) were not possessed; they were mentally ill’. No! The presence of the devil is on the first page of the Bible, and the Bible ends as well with the presence of the devil, with the victory of God over the devil.”


We give all candidates and catechumens a copy of the CCC, a bible, and the British book Evangelium from the Catholic Truth society.

However much of the RCIA process is the individual journey of the catechmens/candidates as they get to know Christ personally

So we try and focus on prayer and the reading of scripture as well as knowledge of the faith.

BTW God is “nice” especially to those who seek Him…

see the parable of the “prodigal son” (Lk 15:11-32)

“But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”

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