Turning away from the Sacraments

Not sure if this is the right place for this, so mod’s please move as you see fit.

I am just seeking some advice on how to deal with a situation.

A long-time catechist/ Faith Formation coordinator (volunteer for 10+ years and paid for the last 15), in what has been a major shock to our community, has left her position and the Church. She celebrated these events by being baptized in her new faith community (Assemblies of God) a couple of weeks ago. It was no secret, as she invited many of her friends to come & celebrate with her.

I have been approached by many mutual friends who have asked me about this situation and how to respond to her when she talks about it/offers invitations.

No one wants to hurt her feelings, but many of us are so taken aback by the sudden-ness of the whole thing, and don’t understand how she can say, after a life-time of being Catholic & teaching the faith/Sacramental prep, that she has found “truth” somewhere else, and that she believes that God has lead her to this.

It doesn’t seen right to congratulate her, but I don’t want to push her away either.
The last few years have been difficult for her, as we have had a Bishop change, and there is a new leadership structure in the parish, and I know there are some personality conflicts, but I just can’t wrap my head around leaving the faith for a church that considers Catholics non-Christians. :shrug:

One thing she did tell me was how loved & accepted she felt by her new community, something she has not felt in a long time in the Catholic church. She said she thought we are too caught up in rules and that we don’t worry enough about a “personal relationship with Jesus”.

I know in the grand scheme of things, the only thing I (or anyone else) can do is pray for her, but does anyone have any idea of how to handle the questions, especially from the older kids who want to know what happened to her and from parents who are not too happy that the faith formation of their children was left to someone who had “no loyalty” to the faith. (not my words, but the words of a parent in an e-mail).

If she had herself rebaptized, it sounds like she didn’t have as firm a grip on Catholic teaching as everyone thought she did. She should know that baptism can only be done once–not as often as we decide we want to join some other ecclesial community. :eek:

I have been approached by many mutual friends who have asked me about this situation and how to respond to her when she talks about it/offers invitations.

I’d graciously turn down any such invitations. We cannot encourage anyone who leaves the Church as if it doesn’t matter what they now believe. Having once been a member of the Assemblies of God I know that this is her way of proselytizing her once fellow Catholics. She thinks by attending her new church she’ll win them away from Catholicism to her new beliefs. Avoid giving her such encouragements.

No one wants to hurt her feelings, but many of us are so taken aback by the sudden-ness of the whole thing, and don’t understand how she can say, after a life-time of being Catholic & teaching the faith/Sacramental prep, that she has found “truth” somewhere else, and that she believes that God has lead her to this.

Apparently she didn’t know the truths of her own faith all that well, even if she taught prep classes. No one who understands the Church’s teachings could do this unless there was something else going on here.

It doesn’t seen right to congratulate her, but I don’t want to push her away either.
The last few years have been difficult for her, as we have had a Bishop change, and there is a new leadership structure in the parish, and I know there are some personality conflicts, but I just can’t wrap my head around leaving the faith for a church that considers Catholics non-Christians. :shrug:

It seems this is all about personalities and hurt feelings rather than any search for “the truth.” She seems to be confused if she thinks feelings are good substitutes for truth. I wouldn’t be surprised if, after a few years of trying to whip up her feelings every Wednesday and twice on Sundays, she doesn’t get tired of it. You can’t congratulate her on abandoning the faith. You can tell her you’ll keep her in your prayers because that’s what she needs, not confirmation for her decision to leave the Church.

One thing she did tell me was how loved & accepted she felt by her new community, something she has not felt in a long time in the Catholic church. She said she thought we are too caught up in rules and that we don’t worry enough about a “personal relationship with Jesus”.

Another obvious lack of understanding of what the Church is and how we fit into it, on her part. I too am surprised she could go so many years understanding so little about her own Church. She seems to have been misinformed. Someone has been working on her, filling her head with all kinds of misinformation, which she apparently didn’t look into for herself. When people want to leave the Church they are easily persuaded–she must have had doubts and/or been predisposed to listen to someone who encouraged her doubts and/or played on her feelings. Pray that her journey will bring her back to the fullness of the truth in the Church.

I know in the grand scheme of things, the only thing I (or anyone else) can do is pray for her, but does anyone have any idea of how to handle the questions, especially from the older kids who want to know what happened to her and from parents who are not too happy that the faith formation of their children was left to someone who had “no loyalty” to the faith. (not my words, but the words of a parent in an e-mail).

I’d say she has to sort these things out for herself–that she obviously had a poor understanding of what it means to be a Catholic. I fault the gross lack of teaching that took place in the wake of Vatican II–nothing to do with the real documents of the Council, but people running off on odd tangents and abandoning solid teachings in favor of saying, like the Beatles, “all we need is love.” People can have some pretty strange misconceptions all the while thinking they know what the Church is and our place in it. Your parish needs to reexamine who they hire to teach/prepare the young people for confirmation. Simply because people volunteer doesn’t mean they are suitable.

Well it will be a good teaching moment for the children but unfortunately for sad reasons. It will be a good time to explain that the protestant notion of a personal relationship with Jesus is really just one seeking their own personal Jesus. That Catholics have the True personal relationship with Jesus as found in the Church He founded and the Sacraments He instituted for us especially the Eucharist ( I will be with you always). You can use the words of Pope Francis to illustrate…

It is an absurd dichotomy to love Christ without the Church; to listen to Christ, but not the Church; to be with Christ at the margins of the Church, One cannot do this. It is an absurd dichotomy.

Without the Church and her guidance, our relationship with Christ “would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods,

Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ” who lives among us and can be encountered inside the Church through her sacraments.

As for the unhappy parents…I would certainly be concerned myself. Does anyone know what was being taught by this person? Did this person have free reign with no oversight?

I think it would still be good to be a friend to this person while declining going to church with her. It sounds like she has experienced some hurt at church. As for the young people I agree with Johnny, use it as a teaching moment, sadly a lot of them will have this kind of experience with a friend or family member.

Keep praying.

Sorry to hear this.

This may sound bad, but I think she obviously didn’t have rock solid faith for sometime. People typically don’t just wake up one day and abandon who they are, it takes time. So perhaps she has been sorta just going through the motions for a while…and if that’s case it’s a good thing she left. We don’t need people weak in faith teaching our youth, or anyone else for that matter.

But it also sounds like maybe she was going through some hard times and needed love. :shrug: Maybe it can be a lesson to the whole parish to love another as Jesus has loved us.

You said it well, prayer is all you can do at this point.

Or she knew the “truths” of her own faith and did not lack understanding but simply reached the point of no longer believing in the Catholic faith or lost faith in the Catholic Church’s teaching authority. That may have been the “something else going on here”. Believe it or not, someone can know and understand what the Catholic Church teaches yet not, or come to not believe or have faith in it. There is some degree of faith and belief required no matter the religion.

True, but she taught the faith for 25 years, for goodness sake. And, from the OP’s description, it sounds like she became disenchanted with the leadership of her diocese and parish. It more likely that she was proselytized by someone in the AoG. Having once been a member of their community, I know the tactics they use to pull people out of their churches–yes even Protestant churches, into their own group.

People who disagree with Church teachings generally, especially these days, tend to move on to churches that are more in line with current social ideas. The AoG definitely isn’t on the liberal side of the spectrum. If anything, they are farther to the right than most hard right people tend to be. :wink:

I have come across adult faith formation teachers like that. ‘Good’ meaning people who love to ‘serve’ but do more harm than good. I would pray for her, and if she asks about joining her, tell her Christ is waiting for her in the Eucharist. Remind her of her cradle faith.

I’m sorry, but pain is far more often the culprit in these cases than is intellectual conversion.

Many people get “led astray” at least once in their lives, I know I have. All we can do, outside of loving encouragement to stay, is to pray that this person returns. She may very well. I can’t imagine she will experience the spiritual fulfillment that many of us have obtained in the Catholic Church, but maybe she never felt it. It is always possible this “venture” is just what she needs in order to come back and receive those graces.

Our part is to pray that she safely goes out and if it is God’s will, comes back or finds that peace which surpasses all understanding.

Was this about a personality conflict or was it about doctrinal conflict? Was she a catechist teaching the orthodox Catholic faith for these 15+ years?

The wife of one of my best friends left the Catholic Faith for pretty much the same reasons given. She went to Catholic school with us and she grew up at a house right next to the Church and Rectory. Her parents were strong Catholics and must be rolling over in their graves. Our reactions were the same questioning " Why she leave the Church " . Her husband continues to go to our Church alone and we feel bad for him.
The thing is she was never deeply involved in our church like volunteering for church events and fund raising so I can’t figure out what motivated her to leave our faith and get strongly involved in another church.

There has never been any questionable practices/issues that I know of. She was well-liked and respected by parents, students and the parish at large.

The conflicts were not doctrinal, of that I am sure. They are 100% personal, and have to do with leadership style/structure.

This is what is so strange to me. She never seemed to have any issues with Church teaching, in fact defended them when they were often brushed aside by some others in the parish. She is not one I would have ever called “conservative” but she was orthodox. So, the jump to this new church, which in my experience, is much more rigid and to “the extreme right of the right” is bizarre.

I’m very sorry to read this

The phenomenon is anything but unknown to me. What you describe parallels situations I’ve seen over the years

She indeed may have done a good job in her various roles in the parish but the conflict may have induced a crisis of faith, which would have been harder to resolve if it involved the bishop and the parish priest and if she was not being assisted pastorally herself by priests to whom she could go and in whom she had confidence. As a pastoral worker she may have suffered burnout as well. It sounds like she was not, herself, the recipient of pastoral accompaniment

But, of course, only someone who actually knows her and what she has lived – professionally and personally – can begin to make much of an assessment

This is a moment when it’s very important to emphasise how fragile people really are. As Saint Philip Neri said as a group of prisoners condemned to the gallows passed him, “there but for the grace of God go I”. This is a critical point to be internalised, actually. That people can reach a point of no return

When one has visited with victims of the abuse crisis, for example, one readily sees people who have suffered something that puts them into crisis…understandably. The victim, and often their family, is psychologically incapable of re-building any relationship with the Church because of the profound trauma they have suffered/witnessed

For me, given what I’ve lived, I’m always sad for those who have only a very narrow experience of the Church…predominantly one parish and one diocese. All the more so when it involves a lay person in some form of pastoral work – which can be very intense indeed, working with parishioners in need while interfacing with others working in the parish as well as with the diocese. They do so without the years of formation the clergy receive – academic as well as spiritual & human

That formation in my case spanned many years prior to ordination, residing in seminary, mentored by exceptional priests, and taught by some of the foremost academics of the day. All of which, as a priest, I am drawing from every day of my life…whether I was in an academic or teaching assignment, a pastoral assignment, chancery assignments, or other special assignments

My work took me around the world…to different parishes and dioceses, in a variety of countries and cultures, but also working with Religious and Consecrated as well as with the secular clergy. The monastic experience is radically different from a parish based one, as but one example. The situation in any one diocese, let alone parish, is so tiny in comparison with the Universal Church in all its breadth and depth

With those I had worked with, those who don’t have the broader exposure are in greater danger for just what you described

For the older children, I would suggest using this as a moment to tell them that very often in life, people will confront crises of faith. It can be from many sources, within the person or from without. The important thing in those moments is to reach out to people who are able to help – in this situation, she could have turned to the vicar forane, the vicar general or one of the more senior priests in her diocese not associated with the parish priest or the new bishop.

For the average Catholic, not working in a parish or otherwise in the employ of the Church, turning to a priest can bring the needed help and relief

Not seeking help, though, can result in finding help in another place…as this lady did. Ultimately, the problem, when it is causing a crisis, will need address…one way or another. And pastoral accompaniment is critical…as Pope Francis has been reiterating…above all for those who are in demanding situations as pastoral workers themselves

You are right that the best thing possible now is to pray for her…and I will remember her in my prayers, too

One question; When a church is ‘on the right’; does it mean it holds certain dogmas to be true & that it has the consequence of not being able to support certain political ideas? Such as abortion being murder or marriage being between a man & a woman? (Not a native English speaker)

If I was in this persons situation, I would love to have someone love me enough to try & talk me out of apostasy. Sure, one should pray, but doesn’t God work through humans as His instruments?

Sounds like she either needs someone to prove to her that Protestantism can not possibly be the Church founded by Jesus Christ or someone to explain in a charitable & friendly manner that it’s about God first, not us.

She could’ve just changed Catholic parish. I think she converted because she was convinced of Protestantism.

From what we know of her, from the OP’s posts, this woman knew Church teachings. I think, as Don Ruggero pointed out that she lacked emotional support in her parish. Doctrines are right and proper, but people need some kind of human contact and encouragement, as well. Many in leadership positions don’t get that. Everything is expected of them but no one ministers to them. Toss into that disagreements with her priest and/or bishop or others in leadership positions–developing feelings that they don’t care, people’s faith in the Church can fail. I’m not blaming anyone here; I’m just observing that this can happen.

I think this woman was at a low point in her life and thus ripe to be proselytized by someone who did offer her emotional support, and perhaps easy answers to her problems. It happens all the time, I’m afraid. And indeed, if we don’t care for our own spiritual and emotional needs, any of us can fall into the same kind of despair and lose our faith in Christ’s Church.

Della & Don Ruggero- thank you both! You have both given me much to ponder
I am confident that this situation was caused by a lack of “pastoral support”.
It is a problem where I am, as is “burn-out”.
I am in a position where I can bring some of this to the attention of parish leadership.
It has long been a problem that is not talked about, because no one what to be seen as a “complainer”. When we start to lose good people, because they feel unappreciated, IMHO, we have a very big problem.

That can be a hard thing to try to do. And it’s delicate–especially if people are blind to the need for such encouragement. You may want to bring some concrete ideas to the table rather than say we’ve got a big problem here. People can be defensive if they feel their efforts are being challenged. If you can get someone of influence to help you, that would be good, as well. Come at it that you have positive ways of helping those who are serving your parish. I think that would give you the best results. You know, honey instead of vinegar. :wink:

I agree.

How one Christian sect (denomination) can baptize a person already baptized is beyond me. It reveals either utter contempt for the sect in which the original baptism occurred, or alternatively the second ‘baptism’ ceremony is being used as a means to publicly (symbolically) renounce the Catholicism of the person concerned.

That one who taught the faith could undergo such a process is extraordinary - moreso than the change of denomination itself.

Perhaps the OP might talk with this person and enquire how / why she is pursuing a second baptism.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.