For the last 4-5 years, I have been struggling with the Church. I have spent many hours in prayer and have come to the conclusion that I disagree with many of the Church’s teachings. Examples include those on the unique role of Jesus as savior, the primacy of the Church and of the Pope, the dogmas regarding Mary and same sex marriage to name a few. I do remain firmly anti-abortion. I do not disagree with these teachings publicly (well, I guess on here but there is a certain degree of anonymity here). I also feel that I could go before God at judgement with a clear concience on these issues. I accept that I might be wrong but, if I am, I made the mistakes honestly. My question is, if you were in my position would you remain in the Church or formally defect?
Do you have a spiritual director?
It seems that it’s not the Church that is the problem for you but Christianity.
Regarding your conscience, don’t be too quick to judge it clear. This article might be helpful in understanding why:
I do not have a spiritual director. I have been to three. They all have told me to go to confession weekly, pray the rosary daily and go to Mass daily and I shall be fine. I feel short-changed as it did not give me a means of exploring my spiritual life.
Regarding whether I have a problem with Christianity - it depends how you define being Christian. I believe that Jesus was the most complete revelation of God. I have read, re-read, meditated on and prayed with the Gospels. I have also studied, formally, the historical Jesus. I believe that Jesus came to show us a path of enlightenment. This path involves practising compassion and justice which is deeply rooted in God. This path is to be followed regardless of personal cost. Practise is more important than beliefs. That, in a nutshell, is my view of Christianity.
I would like to stress that this was not an easy process. My path has been a narrow way and I do not want to walk over other people’s views. However, this has now brought me great spiritual consolation.
Regarding concience, I read the article. However, I still feel at peace with my decision. I use this wording as I believe it is a better way of conveying my spiritual state.
Some of the greatest saints in the Church went through a period of doubt and questioning.
You might consider reading St. Augustine, as an example.
Make an appointment with your parish priest to discuss the doubts that plague you. You might consider making a retreat. It does not need to be a Cursillo, which stands for Little Course in Christianity. A Cursillo would give you an opportunity to learn more about the Faith, providing you with lifelong relationships to help you on your journey of faith.
Your parish priest, because of pastoral concerns may lack the time or expertise to answer the doubts about Catholic teaching with which you have difficulty. That is why I suggest making a retreat. While on retreat, you can take the opportunity to talk to a retreat director. A retreat director, used to dealing with the struggles and doubts of those seeking answers, can provide the necessary guidance that you seek.
But part of that path to enlightenment is to accept the fact that Jesus is God. He said so Himself on several occasions.
So either Christ is a liar, in which case his teachings are now to be disregarded, or He is telling the Truth, in which case one needs to accept the Whole Path that Christ taught, not just the parts we personally agree with.
And if Christ is the Divine Person He claimed to be, that truely is a unique role in Salvation, is it not?
If you are unsure about who the person of Jesus really is, I would recommend reading “Socrates meets Jesus” by Peter Kreeft. It is an examination of who Christ is using logic and reason.
As you already feel, the problem with picking only the doctrines and beliefs you like and being in tension with those you don’t puts you in no-man’s land. You won’t feel like you’re part of the Church and run the risk of falling into one of the New Age sort of beliefs that are formed around similar doctrines. They, too, pick and choose and toss all the things that require any kind of work or discipline.
Of all the things you listed as struggling with, the one that catches my eye is the lack of belief in Jesus as Savior. I have to ask - if Jesus is not our Savior, then who is He? Then I’d want to know why you see any need for any kind of church at all? If Jesus isn’t who He says He is, they why would we believe anything He said about the Father? I’m thinking of the verse spoken to Phillip; “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Carrying that forward into a non-Savior view, it appears to say “If I’m a sham, so is the Father.” I don’t see how you reconcile those views.
Rather than bounce off existing views and say “this I agree with” or “this I don’t,” I think it might be instructive for you to make an actual list of what you do believe. I’m not asking for you to post it, just make it for yourself, paper and pen. When you’ve done that, figure out how we go from this existence to an eternal life. Is it just by “being basically good people” that gets us there? Is work involved? How about worship? How do these beliefs inspire? Motivate?
Those are questions you might ask of yourself and what you do believe. It might help you define better what your views truly are.
Once you have that list, then compare it to Church teachings. I wouldn’t advise any kind of formal split from the Church until you can KNOW what you do believe, and why, and also why you reject each doctrine you reject. Otherwise you’ll not only be in no-man’s land, but you won’t have any way to find answers.
I would recommend the book Why I Am A Catholic by Gary Wills. He explains how people can disagree with the Church, but still be Catholic. He went to the seminary, but left and became a professor of Greek and History. He’s a true intellectual, and the book can help you see all of the reasons there are to stay in the Church. He compares the Church, at one point, to a grandparent who sometimes says crazy stuff… Who would leave their grandparent and try to find another? I’ll probably get blasted on here for mentioning him, but I would recommend the book to anyone who sees that all of the teachings of the Church don’t ALWAYS add up. They frequently do, but not ALWAYS.
I’ll also tell you what a nun told me in my RCIA class-- the only thing you MUST believe to be Catholic is what is in the Creed. If you do not buy what is in the Creed, then maybe you should find a church that suits what you do believe. Good luck!
Firstly, I need to clarify my view of the Gospels. The Gospels cannot be literal accounts of Jesus’ life as they differ in many areas. They are a product of the early Christian community and are an attempt to put Jesus into words. As such, they tell us about Jesus’ nature, his character and his compassion. Whether Jesus actually ever claimed to be God’s son, or whether this is an interpretation by the early Christians, we will never know. Having said that, I do accept the path that Jesus taught, the path that has become clear to me from reading the Gospels and praying with them. Living this path is giving me great peace and consolation.
Regarding Jesus as saviour, I cannot believe that Jesus’ crucifixion was meant in some way to justify us before God. A God that requires the death of His son to be merciful is a violent psycopath. Now, the path that Jesus shows us (the path that calls us to love others wastefully, the path that turns us from persecuting others, the path that calls us to raise the poor from poverty, to protect our planet, to nonviolently resist justice) brings true peace. We gain a great taste of salvation right now by living without regard for self. Granted, I am not perfect but the more I live this way the greater peace becomes. As for what happens after death, who knows? I feel comfortable that a God of love will not say: “Well, you did your absolute best to help others, but as you disagreed with parts of the catechism I will send you straight to hell.” If God were like that, God becomes a legalistic fundamentalist.
Regarding why we need a Church. Put simply, nobody “needs” a church. But it helps me to focus on this path.
To lovemyboys - you are very understanding. I can accept the articles of the Creed in a symbolic manner at least. I thank you greatly for your insight.
Peace be with all of you. May we live in a world of harmony where ego is destroyed and violence, hatred and poverty are no more.
Why exactly do you accept some parts of these early Christian writings ( that Jesus taught about a path that involved compassion) but reject others? If the writings are doubtful about Jesus’ life, teachings and sayings, they we have reason to doubt all of what they say. If you don’t believe that Christ said that He was the Son of God, how can you be certain he said that we should give alms to the poor. That could also just as easily be an invention of the Early Church.
Regarding Jesus as saviour, I cannot believe that Jesus’ crucifixion was meant in some way to justify us before God. A God that requires the death of His son to be merciful is a violent psycopath.
First of all, God, being omnipotent, could have chosen any possible means to achieve our Redemption. True, our sins, being an affront to an infinite being, are infinetly wrong. But any, I repeat ANY action of an infinite being is infinite in nature, and thus can rectify the wrong.
So it would be incorrect to say that the Catholic Church teaches that God REQUIRED Christ to die. What the Church teaches is that God DESIRED Christ to die that way.
Why? It is a demonstration of His complete and unending Love for us. It shows us that no matter what wrong we do to God, either via our sins, or to the flesh of His Incarnate Son, He loves us still and desires our salvation.
God desired to die as He did because no other means demonstrates to our mortal eyes and mortal understanding the complete depth of His Love. That is hardly the sign of a psycopath
I understand your problems with the Church. My main dilemma with Christianity (when I had a dilemma) was the fact that God required the death of His son to save the rest of us. I eventually came to the conclusion that the Crucifixion (and most importantly, the Resurrection) had to happen in order for Jesus to become the “Superstar” of World History that He became. If He had not died this horrible death, been placed in the tomb guarded by a legion of Roman soldiers, and found to be resurrected, His story and His message could not have kept going. Had he died a normal death, his message would not have taken root as it did.
Here are some other really concrete examples that have convinced me (personally) of the truth of Christianity:
-The fact that Emperer Constantine persecuted the Christians until he heard Jesus speak to him. Then of course, the entire Roman Empire was turned into the Holy Roman Empire. Pretty amazing turn around, I’d say.
-The incorruptables-- saints (some from the early middle ages) whose bodies have not deteriorated… How crazy is that?
–The apparitions of Mary-- reading these accounts made me become Catholic. She has appeared to so many people throughout the ages always telling them to repent and follow her son. There’s even news footage of Mary appearing on the top of a church in Egypt in the 70s. You can actually see it on YouTube (crazy). Note: the Catholic Church doesn’t require people to believe in the apparitions of Mary.
-All of the people who have been healed (too many stories to list here)
-Miracles happening to me
-Knowing a person who saw Mary at Medjugoria (Sp?)
-All of those crying statues of Mary
-Stories I’ve heard of people’s near-death experiences where they see Jesus and Heaven
-The famous medium/psychic Jon Edwards, is Catholic (although he does have a some problems with Church teaching) and actually wrote a book about the Rosary.
I think another perspective that might help you is thinking of the “Church” as the body of believers in this world instead of the Hierarchy putting out rules for people. The Magesterium of the Catholic Church is definitely legalistic. However, if you go and chat with *most *priests, you’ll find that they’re not so legalistic.
But again, good luck with your search. “Seek and you will find.” Your beliefs as they stand now sound sort of Unitarian to me. Have you been exposed to Unitarian teachings before?
thank for all your hard work,i see it,It is a demonstration of His complete and unending Love for us. It shows us that no matter what wrong we do to God, either via our sins, or to the flesh of His Incarnate Son, He loves us still and desires our salvation.
The OP puts forth an interesting point, that is the disunity in the synoptic Gospels. However, it is this lack of perfect cohesiveness that makes them credible documents. Had they been identical one would have to question whether they were planned or even plagiarized. The fact that they do not exactly match up tells us that the authors were writing from different experiences, different perspectives and using different sources and yet all arrive at the same conclusion, Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah.
Secondly, the Gospels were written to record the faith of the Church. Before they were written, the Church already believed that Jesus was the Messiah, that he had died and had risen from the dead. They was no doubt in the minds of the first generation Christians. They gave their lives for this. One has to step back and ask, why would an entire community of people endanger their lives, that of their children and their loved ones for a hoax, a myth or a lie? This is not the behavior of rational people. One has to conclude that either the first generation Christians were all mentally ill or they knew something that they could not deny. It is very difficult to find an entire community that grows from 12 into thousands who share the same psychosis. Therefore, the only other explanation is that they shared the same belief, because they shared the same experience. Something extraordinary did happen in Jerusalem that transformed their lives and gave them the courage to die and sacrifice even their families, something that they could not deny in good conscience.
Then we have to look at the mystery of the cross. The OP states in one post that the idea that God the Father would submit his son to the horrible death of the cross presents God as a sick god. We have to put this into another context. If the Father had planned from all eternity to have his son die and rise, regardless of man’s sins, then he is not sick. It is not man’s sin that takes Christ to the cross, but God’s love. God could have redeemed man from his sin without the cross, for nothing is impossible for God. But God pours out his love for humanity by assuming humanity and then giving up his humanity on a cross, only to raise it up on the third day. By doing so he unites our humanity to that of his son, thus raising us up to a whole new level of existence. We are no longer simply creatures, but we share something with the second person of the Trinity. We share birth, life and death. If Christ were not to have been conceived, born, died and risen, then we would continue to be creatures and not much more. But by his conception, life, death and resurrection, he shares in our mortal existence raising it up with him. Thus we become sons and daughters of the Father, not just spiritually, but in fact. Why in fact? Because it is humanity that is crucified, raised and glorified in the paschal mystery.
Finally, the moral questions regarding justice, same sex marriage and other such issues. The point here is that Christ is not a moral teacher as is Buddha or Socrates. Christ is MORALITY. He is all that is good. Therefore, all that is not good is not Christ. For us who embrace Christ as God and savior there is no choice but to embrace that which is moral. This is where Christ reveals himself as God and Savior. He is all that is Good. He not only teaches it, but he embodies it. When we make a fundamental option for what is good, we are making a fundamental option for Christ. Those who make a fundamental option for someone, are actually adoring that person. If the early Church adored this person whom we call Christ, they must have believed that he is God. The Jews did not take adoration lightly. Any adoration of man was a grave sin of idolatry to them. Therefore, if they took this great risk in the faith, it was because something in Christ moved them to make this leap and take this risk with faith that it was the right thing do to. They got their faith from the person of Jesus and they passed it on to those who came after them by writing it, by including it in their prayer and liturgy and by teaching what they couldn’t write. Hence they establish the three pillars of faith: tradition, scripture and teaching (Magisterium).
Br. JR, OSF
“The cross is foolishness in the eyes of the world.”
The idea that God the Father would allow his Son to die such the death of a slave is indeed a difficult concept to wrap the intellect around. It is the question raised during the Passion, “If you are the Son of God, Come down from the Cross.”
“He saved others, yet He cannot save himself.”
Is it the nails that held Christ to the cross, or was it it self-giving love and sacrifice? There is a painting of Jesus Condemned that I like. Even as He is stripped of his clothing, the painting portrays the dignity of Jesus. He never forgot who He was or why He came into this world, to die that we might find life.
I understand that if what I write seems overly pious, it may faill to get the point across. We do have in Jesus Christ an example of how we are to live. We are called to put into practice what He preached, not merely to sprout pious platitudes. “It is not the one who cries ‘Lord, Lord’ who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of the Father.” Throughout the Gospels, we find the Apostles disbelieving that Jesus would die such a death. When Peter confronts Jesus, when he says “Say it isn’t true,” Jesus replies “Get behind me, Satan.” The point has been made that the Gospels vary in details. This is true. How many of us tell a story about events in our lives that we shared with others in exactly the same way? Moreover, each of the Gospels was written for a different audience. They were passed orally before being written on paper.
The Apostles were grieved when Jesus told them He was going to the Father, when He said He had to go away. He also said He would send His Advocate to be with them always. The Apostles lacked the courage and conviction to preach Christ Crucified until Pentecost, until they were clothed from on high by the power of the Holy Spirit. For those of us who tend to be intellectual, it can be difficult to surrender our understanding, our questioning and our doubts, and to place them into the hands of a loving God. Jesus said, “I will not leave you orphans.” He also said “The Father will give His Holy Spirit to all who ask.” When you are ready, ask for this power, the power the Apostles received. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your life in a powerful way, to clothe you at He clothed the Apostles. For just a moment, set aside intellect and acting on faith alone, ask for the Release of the Power of the Holy Spirit that you have received by virtue of your Baptism and Confirmation.
In the meantime, consider the following prayer, “God, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
Parting thoughts. I don’t remember the pope who said the following in response to the heresies of the time. “If Jesus were not human, He could not stand in our place. If He were not God, He would have no power to save us.”
Yes, we are called to put into practice what Christ preached. We are not called to do so by our own efforts, but by the power of Him who dwells within each of us.
“I am the vine and you are the branches. Apart from me, you can do nothing. With God all things are possible”
When I was in the seminary I found that one of the best ways to prove the reality of Christ is to try to disprove it.
Br. JR, OSF
You and I were posting simultaneously. Your seminary training shows in your response as you more effectively stated what I was trying to say.
I thought about using the story of the ants, but I couldn’t find a way to work it in.
I guess I am allowing myself to get a little sidetracked into a debate regarding my beliefs here. My beliefs are the result of several years work and I am at peace with them. They are different to some of those that the Church teaches. I am at peace with that. Given that I am at peace with these beliefs (and I am not intending to impose these on anyone which is why I do not want to be drawn into a debate) - would it be appropriate from the Church’s point of view for me to remain a member?
Are you comfortable remaining a member of the Church? I’m surprised you haven’t already left. What has kept you coming back?
I say that if you get something out of Catholic Church, please keep coming.
Do you assent to the Church’s belief re the Eucharist? If you do not believe Christ is Who the Church teaches Him to be and, likewise, with the Eucharist, then to remain a participating member of His Body is a misrepresentation of yourself.
The problem is that you cannot receive either the Eucharist or Absolution if you do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist or in the power of the priest to absolve sins… You are always welcome to attend mass and participate in the life of the Church; but until you can profess faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, you cannot receive the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a sign of communion with the Church. This means that you believe what the Church believes about this sacrament.
The same applies to absolution. If you do not believe that it can come through the priest, then you have a problem.
Pray over these things.
Br. JR, OSF