I am a convert and I feel like I am struggling with my Catholicism.
I know why I converted, I know all about the Church being one, holy, Catholic and apostolic and being passed down from the apostles and all that jazz, and why I don’t believe in Bible alone, etc.
The thing I struggle with is inconsistency in the Catholic Church.
I feel like when I have to answer people’s objections to what the Catholic Church has done in history I am having to nitpick, backflip, and reason around reality rather than face it. The whole argument that the pope is only infallible on matters of faith and morals seems to kind of be a way of excusing everything that the church has ever done wrong. I start to feel like I am making excuses for the Church instead of actually defending it.
One example is the issue of slavery. I remember hearing someone argue that the Catholic Church once permitted human slavery. I turned to the apologists who vehemently disagreed and proudly declared that the Catholic Church had always opposed slavery. When I did actual research, I found that in fact while there were individual Catholics who did indeed oppose slavery all the way throughout history, the actual Holy See was very wishy washy on the subject, and it was only with great reluctance that the Church gradually began to accept teachings that were somewhat in line with the modern view of slavery, all the while making sure to make moral provisions for those who still wanted to own slaves, saying for example that it’s OK to own slaves as long as you treat them well, and even going so far as to excommunicate abolitionists. Only when abolitionism was common belief did the Holy See actually come out and condemn slavery altogether. I guess my point on this matter is that it is not impressive to hear a Catholic to say that the Holy See has the teaching authority of the Holy Spirit when really it seems to change its teachings all the time and generally go with the flow of whatever happens to be popular at the time and whoever happens to have the most power. And it’s equally unimpressive to point out the fervor of the abolitionist Catholics such as Bartolomeo de las Casas, and argue that the work of the holy spirit is in the Catholic faithful as much as the Holy See, as this might as well be the argument of a Protestant against having a Holy See in the first place.
Inconsistency seems to be rampant in Catholic teaching. When I read what the Catholic Church taught in the year 1300, versus what it teaches in the year 2015, it’s like comparing two different religions. For example, just take the “extra ecclasium nulla salus” thing. In 1302 Pope Boniface’s papal bull Unam Sanctam declares the following:
“We are compelled in virtue of our faith to believe and maintain that there is only one holy Catholic Church, and that one is apostolic. This we firmly believe and profess without qualification. Outside this Church there is no salvation and no remission of sins, the Spouse in the Canticle proclaiming: ‘One is my dove, my perfect one. One is she of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her’ (Canticle of Canticles 6:8); which represents the one mystical body whose head is Christ, of Christ indeed, as God. And in this, ‘one Lord, one faith, one baptism’ (Ephesians 4:5). Certainly Noah had one ark at the time of the flood, prefiguring one Church which perfect to one cubit having one ruler and guide, namely Noah, outside of which we read all living things were destroyed… We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff”
Then in 1962 Vatican II writes this:
“But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life.”
The intellectual backflips I have to do to reconcile this to people who have trouble understanding it…
The list goes on. There are so many inconsistencies. Not to mention legalisms. The Catholic Church is against birth control, I get that. I can understand that. But it supports NFP, which in all honesty is a form of birth control. It really seems sometimes like there is moral nitpicking involved in this.
Now at the same time my younger brother is an evangelical Protestant. He is in seminary. I know that his faith tradition is not rooted in history or tradition. But the difference between him and me is that his faith has actually made a difference in his life. He has a passion that I have never seen before. He really tries to live out the gospel. I strive to be a faithful Catholic and frequent the sacraments and follow the teaching authority of the Church. And I feel that I am lukewarm at best. Some days it is hard even to pray. I feel bogged down.
What are your thoughts?