Why be Catholic at all?

I do get these points, and they are well made and true. Nevertheless, the Church has said that there are alternatives. Given that I am already predisposed at this point to the truth of Christ and His Church, I am not as bothered about the existence of alternatives as I could be. Yet, I wonder how one could justify becoming Catholic if there are simple alternatives that achieve the same end? I suppose one could counter that those alternatives only apply in circumstances such as are present, but then, is that not a concession to a reality in which the sacraments are non-essential (in other words, they are disposable if necessary)? If the body is given precedence over the soul, is not the soul considered inferior?

Pax in Christo

I am hesitant to comment on that, as someone who has an absolutely irrational fear or a mental illness that makes them obsess unhealthily over cleanliness could have some mitigating factors. However, Our Lord was quite clear: if you do not eat His flesh nor drink His blood, you have no life within you. The Sacrament may be thoughtlessly ignored at one’s own peril.

Baptism of Desire is not a substitute for the real thing. It is basically the worst case scenario. You must understand that the Sacraments are limited insofar as God has defined them by their matter and form. God can work however He likes outside of them, but we know that if you are baptized with water and the Trinitarian formula is recited, you are then baptized and your sins are washed away, etc. We know this because this is how God made the Sacrament to be and what He said it would do. But we don’t know how God works outside of the Sacraments. We entrust ourselves to God of course, and God is infinitely merciful and would never hold something out of our control against us, but we don’t know the exact “mechanics” as it were of Baptism of Desire. So we cannot then say it is a substitute or equal to Baptism. Does that make sense?

I agree with all of this. I suppose I would be more consoled in my questions if the sacraments were still accessable in some way. We are told that the Church is essential. The Sacraments are essential. Yet in this time, an essential reality is denied someone newly entering (such as myself in the RCIA) and said initiate is being told that actually there are alternatives that will do the job just fine, until said crisis ends. How then is the Church essential? I either need it to be saved or not (being in completely vincible ignorance as I am).

I understand how you feel. I also feel completely disconnected from the Church since they closed to parishioners. I’m not interested in any online or TV Masses or listening to any priest sermons. It’s through the Bible alone I’m maintaining my faith in Christ. I’m hoping this changes holy week and I’ll have interest in watching the various Masses.


I only suggested reading a scriptural passage I thought might bring you consolation and encouragement during this time. I’m sorry I offended you by not directly answering your question. May the peace of Christ be with you on your journey into the Church.

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I understand your line of thinking and it comes from a good place. I wish that you were in my diocese and could make the sacraments. I like to think of humanity as dying of the wounds of sin, that these intermediary measures are bandaids, whereas the Sacraments and the fullness of practicing our faith is the cure we constantly need to take. I will pray for you. You are in the right place. Might I suggest calling in to the Catholic Answers radio show? I’d really love to hear their take regarding your questions. The answers could benefit many more than just yourself!

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You are over analyzing everything. Would you prefer the Church to just leave you in the cold and offer nothing as consolation until you can have the true sacraments again? It’s pretty simple. At this time the bishops made a prudent decision to protect the flock. At this time the real sacraments are on pause and they offered some ways to stay spiritually connected in the meantime. Think of all of the saints that had to do without the various sacraments due to trying times. Should they have given up their Catholic faith?

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I think your concern and passion about the issue at hand will make for some excellent post-communion and post-reconciliation meditations as you proceed in the spiritual life. You don’t have to have a feeling of “case closed” and be decided 100% one way or the other about your question to have received some light in the matter. It can be helpful to be in a place of not knowing 100%. When I was going through RCIA I was sitting in adoration pondering His real presence in the Eucharist when He helped me understand that it’s not bread or dead human tissue, but His glorified body we receive (post-resurrection). I left adoration literally changed from the inside. But I had gone in willing to be changed.


Neither the church, nor the secular government, have said the sacraments are not essential. This is not about the sacraments. It’s about saving lives. You may have heard that the Catholic Church is pro-life?


I don’t think the church ever said that the alternatives are meant to replace or replicate anything in the sacraments. Spiritual communion is nice, but it isn’t the same as actually receiving the Eucharist. Like it or not, we are at least temporarily , cut off from these graces.

Also, you talk as if the Church was the one who is keeping McDonald’s and abortion clinics open. They aren’t, and have no power to close them. If McDonalds wishes to stay open during the virus that is their perogative - the church has no say.


It’s a fair question and a good one, one that will certainly be asked by non Catholics. How could the Church give up the sacraments, that they say were instituted by Christ, so easily? Many of them know we consider the Eucharist the Source and Summit of the Christian Life.

There are many others that share your concern. Here is an open letter to the Bishops that they do everything they can to make the Sacraments available to us…


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Bear with me here. Pandemics do not always occur somewhere else. Under “normal” circumstances, the Sacraments are a requirement - at least once yearly. Note that we are nowhere near the once yearly point. The pandemic has changed the rules for all mankind, not just Catholics. Continuing masses places everyone at a much greater risk of infection with this novel (unknown, never before seen) virus.

It kills by causing your immune system to essentially strangle your lungs, filling them with fluid. Almost like drowning, but slower. It is very easily transmissible. No one is immune, although most have mild forms. You cannot tell, in a substantial number of cases, whether you are infected or not.

If you do not know that you are infected, you will spread the virus. It will be fatal in probably 1:10 to which you spread it. Remember how may gray heads are at the mass? It is especially merciless on the elderly. There is no treatment. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. Only ventilators to force your breathing until you either recover or pass away - if ventilators are even available.

Remember also that ventilators are not used on many elders, as the risk of infection or other complications makes them a poor medical practice. So, some are doomed the moment they are infected.

You cannot receive the sacraments if you are dead. This stuff is that bad. We travel, it travels. It wants to kill us, and is demonstrating that it is pretty darned effective at that. Once healed, it can re-infect. Dig into it and you will soon see what is being talked about.

Consider: The priest who went down with the Titanic was unable to administer the sacraments to all. Did that make the sacraments less valid? Less necessary? No! The physical conditions - outside of his control, - caused that to occur. And so it is today…

I am not you, but if I were you, I would stop looking at what is not happening and focus on what is happening; shift your attention away from the ‘what’ and consider the ’why’.

The shepherds are caring for us since the evil one has targeted the human race, and specifically those who gather (at mass). I drag on, but two things to consider:

  1. https://www.kolotv.com/content/news/Dozens-of-choir-members-sickened-by-coronavirus-2-dead-after-early-March-rehearsal--569251721.html
  2. In the 1700s, the Catholic Church in Korea was founded based on Jesuit documents obtained from China. They had no priests for 12 years. When a Chinese priest sneaked into Korea, a dozen years later, he found 4,000 Catholics who had never seen a priest or received any sacrament! Within seven years, there were 10,000 Catholics.

Bottom line: Trust God.


Why do we need to receive the Eucharist in person if we can have a spiritual communion?

I would never say that about my loved one, who might be across the globe, who I might get to facetime once a week. Being with them in person, to hug and kiss them, is much more preferable. Ok, if they are across the globe, at least the facetime would be a treasure. Something to hang on to. That’s what a spiritual communion is.

What would you choose, to float on the ocean hanging on to a log, or to be on a ship with your own bed, all the food you can eat? to be warm and dry? Right now Catholics have been thrown off the boat and we are hanging on to a log, hoping to be rescued. If you don’t feel that loss, you love in only a very small amount. Good to know. You can ask to love Jesus more, and may you pester him for more! and may he grant it.


In the Old Testament we read about Moses approaching the burning bush. God speaks to him and reveals himself.
This is recorded so we Catholics can understand who is hidden in the blessed sacrament. He is there, and we get to approach him. It should be incredible to us.

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To be merely baptised does not absolutely ensure salvation – it must be fruitful – for which preparation for a proper disposition is done.

Rom. 11:22

See then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off

In baptism of desire (which a catechumen might have at death) and baptism of blood (of the martyr) there is salvation – it is from the heart. Catechism of the Catholic Church 1258 states that " This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism , brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament."

Salvation is not the only result sought, however, because there is temporal punishment to consider (and a Catholic may obtain indulgences) and also the degree of vision in heaven – “according to the diversity of merits, one more perfectly than another”.

Council of Florence (from Denzinger, Sources of Catholic Dogma)

693 [De novissimis] It has likewise defined, that, if those truly penitent have departed in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by the worthy fruits of penance for sins of commission and omission, the souls of these are cleansed after death by purgatorial punishments; and so that they may be released from punishments of this kind, the suffrages of the living faithful are of advantage to them, namely, the sacrifices of Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and other works of piety, which are customarily performed by the faithful for other faithful according to the institutions of the Church. And that the souls of those, who after the reception of baptism have incurred no stain of sin at all, and also those, who after the contraction of the stain of sin whether in their bodies, or when released from the same bodies, as we have said before, are purged, are immediately received into heaven, and see clearly the one and triune God Himself just as He is, yet according to the diversity of merits, one more perfectly than another. Moreover, the souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or in original sin only, descend immediately into hell but to undergo punishments of different kinds [see n.464].

Note: n. 464 is from the Council Of Lyons II

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The problem is the number of people assembling at one time. The answer is simply that God can override the need for His sacraments and provide grace any which way He wants-and the Church has the authority to act on this truth. The sick, for example, often cannot attend Mass but can still receive the Eucharist via ministers even though this is not technically fulfilling ones obligation as it’s meant to be fulfilled. But God doesn’t need the sacraments to begin with-they’'re simply a normative means of His that He uses to dispense grace for our benefit. And we’re only held responsible for that which we can do, not for that which we’re constrained from doing. So:
"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48

Right now we simply do not possess the freedom that we have to move about- both due to civil authorities and the constraints of common sense-that we would otherwise have when pandemic-free.


Christians have historically found themselves in unfortunate situations on many occasions where they don’t have access to some of the Sacraments. On a large scale Japanese Christians were born, baptized, lived their lives, and were given a Christian funeral, but they were completely cut off from the rest of the Christian world. They had no ability to celebrate Mass, celebrate Reconciliation, receive Anointing of the Sick, or to ordain ministers.

In extraordinary circumstances, God will provide. We have to trust in his omnipotence and his omnibenevolence. Right now, we have to follow the Great Commandment and think about our neighbor. That is what the bishops decided and when we obey our bishops we obey Jesus Christ.



Can you link me to any Bishop’s statement, or where you read this? That the Sacrements are not considered essential?

If we are able, the precepts of the Church say that we receive the Eucharist once per year.

There are/were times and places where a Catholic may not have access to the Sacraments for months, years, decades. These are some of the most devout people I’ve ever met, having known Catholics in Russia who were denied the Sacraments for so many decades.

There are times where a person could only confess one time in their entire lives, or at least for decades, months, etc. These Catholics must be strong in their faith and avoid sin.

We can see how we take for granted that the Eucharist is available to the laity every day. Some of us now see how blase we have been about sin “oh, I will just go to Confession”. These times ought serve to strengthen us in our faith, to require us to actively avoid sin.

Let me introduce you to some Catholics in Russia. The Mission has several videos:

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Any human being may validly baptize another human being. Your solidly atheist cousin may validly baptize you in an emergency.

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From someone who is not yet fully received into the Church either :

My parish priest, in his last live-streamed Mass, said this : that if he was consecrating the species in persona Christi, he was also communicating in persona Ecclesiae. Which means that even if individuals are not, right now, the Church as a whole is still receiving the Eucharist – through Her priests. And of course, that’s temporary.

It’s not that we do not need the sacraments – we do –, but the way I see it, it’s rather that the Catholic Church, by the way of its unity and communion in one body, does have means of withstanding a crisis other Christian denominations haven’t.

Why be Catholic at all, to quote your title ? Well, at least Catholics have the recourse of spiritual communion. I’m a (probably future ex-) Protestant pastor, and if you want to know what our denomination has to offer has a way to survive a crisis without access to sacraments, the answer is simple : nothing.

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