Why Do Protestants Stay in the Church?


There seem to be a lot of people who protest against the teachings of the Church, but choose to stay in the Church. Or at least, they dissent from Church teaching, but still continue to go to Catholic churches and call themselves Catholic. Why do they do this?


This is so-called “cafeteria Catholicism” – you know, take what you like from the selection, ignore (or discard) what you don’t like, and move on. Some of these people may have an ulterior motive to destroy the Church from within. (Even Pope Paul VI admitted that the smoke of Satan infiltrated the Church.) But I believe the bigger problem is ignorance.

Unfortunately, due to extremely poor catechism since the 1960s, the past several generations don’t know any better. They are unfamiliar with dogma. They subscribe to rationalism, empiricism, and all sorts of enlightenment and post-enlightenment secularist philosophy, because that is all they know. When confronted with religious orthodoxy, they view it as antiquated and incompatible with modern living… For example, “Abstinence? Who does that anymore? Get with the times!” “Why should I get married?” “We don’t want kids yet – we want to be able to travel for a few years first before we settle down.”

But that’s just one example. Indeed, this problem goes way beyond the sexual revolution.

Poor catechism and a cultural revolution within the Church itself has translated into loss of faith. (Lex orandi, lex credendi.) One quick example: Getting rid of Communion rails resulted in the need for processions; processions were easier and more fluid if people remained standing instead of genuflecting at the head of the line; with people standing, it was ergonomically more difficult for the priest to give Communion on the tongue; and so there is introduction of Communion in the hand. With the loss of genuflection, with the introduction of Communion in the hand, with the introduction of eucharistic ministers (some needed, most not; some good, many horrible), there gradually developed a loss of the appreciation of the sacredness of the Eucharist. The final blow was dealt by a near total absence of instruction regarding the reality of the Transubstantiation, on the pulpit, or even in Catholic schools or religious education classes. And thus, thousands upon thousands of “cafeteria Catholics” don’t believe in the Real Presence.

Lex orandi, lex credendi.

And given this state of disbelief, or at least misunderstanding, why should people change? Our dear Lord himself said that the path to Hell is wide (but comfortable); but the path to Heaven is narrow and demanding. If one doesn’t really believe in sin anymore (if it all boils down to “lifestyle choices” – some better, some poorer), then why should one choose the path that is uncomfortable? G.K. Chesterton once quipped, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

Things will change only when the Church itself is renewed. If even most priests fail to preach about sin or the four last things, why should people believe in “all that fire and brimstone stuff”? They don’t know any better.

Truly, the onus falls upon the Shepherds to tend their flock and to feed their sheep. We shouldn’t expect the average “cafeteria Catholic” to log onto the internet and download the Pope’s latest encyclical. Nor will he turn on EWTN when he could be vegging on the couch, watching Sex in the City or Will & Grace. Priests must (1) lead by example – i.e., by leading holy lives; (2) be “lions in the pulpit” and preach meaningful sermons that challenge people to “put on new clothes in Christ;” and (3) take advantage of every opportunity to teach about dogma, faith, morals, the sacraments, and rubrics of the Mass. (This goes doubly for during Confession.)

We lay orthodox Catholics can help by encouraging this type of renewal from our parish priests and by charitably teaching those around us.


Discussion of issues is far from "protest"ing. them. That is how the Church grows and matures through internal debate and discussion. It works best when all voices at all levels are taken into account.


I think most people who are Catholic but say pro-choice or pro-birth control honestly believe they are doing right by trying to change the Churches stance on the issue. I honestly don’t think they are trying to destroy the Church, they are trying to help it (in thier misguided opinion they mean well). I think they feel that this is thier Church as much as anyone elses so why not change the Church to the actual popular opinion? Because frankly if you look at the Church today better than 90% of the Church qualify as “cafeteria Catholics” or “Protestants”, maybe more, very few actually follow the Churches teaching on artificial birth control and a majority of Catholics feel abortion is right in some or even most circumstances.


John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice

John 15:10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love,


I am not sure yet, but it seems like the OP here may be saying that people should not remain in the church if they intend to protest against the teachings of the Catholic Church?

At any rate, I think the biggest reason that they stay, as in any church, is because of the people in the Church who love them and show genuine caring towards them. They also have a strong sense of obligation to please family members who agree with all the Church teachings.


This is true. But I reiterate my earlier point that this arises out of ignorance due to poor catechism.

We reap what we sow. If, as has happened in many places already, we end up with a generation of priests who no longer accept Catholic dogma, then we have a major problem.


**Could it be that some remain as they are worried about being an anathema and do not have the faith in the inspired Word of God? **

**Is Catholic dogma as important as the inspired scriptures? **


I would say no, because dogma is very dry and technical stuff. Scripture is alive and God can speak to us through scripture. I don’t think God speaks to us through dogma, at least not in the same way :slight_smile: On the other hand, dogma explains what scripture teaches us.

When I refer to protestants in the original question, I’m calling cafeteria catholics “protestants” because, essentially, they are protesting against the teachings of the church, like actual protestants do. Sorry for any confusion.


**I thought that the one who inspired scripture would teach us all things. **


While the word dogma has been subject to several interpretations (including mere “opinion”), I am using it in the most widely accepted sense that it is: “a truth appertaining to faith or morals, revealed by God, transmitted from the Apostles in the Scriptures or by tradition, and proposed by the Church for the acceptance of the faithful. … A dogma therefore implies a twofold relation: to Divine revelation and to the authoritative teaching of the Church.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia)

In this sense, Catholic dogma and Scripture are concordant, “symbiotic” and indivisible.


Whether it is this situation the OP referred to in the Catholic Church, or another situation, most people actually are seeking truth; and very few would just stay out of fear of “anathema.” Time after time it has been demonstrated that people do not always stay in a church because of doctrines. It’s more often because of the people.


I honestly think that here in the US, at least, many people get the impression that if enough people dissent against the Pope and the Magesterium, that they can change the church. Like a democracy. And I also get the impression that people think that if enough people believe the same way they do, it gives them license to sin and not follow the church’s teaching. I think sometimes people think that God can’t send everyone to hell for a certain sin, so why bother? IMO, many people will be suprised on judgement day.

I don’t know if it’s a uniquely American problem, but people think that the church is democratic and that they can decide for themselves.


Don’t think so. I voted for “catholic culture”, but also friends and family is usually a good reason as well.

As far as the fear from anathemas goes. They don’t have to formally leave the Church. They cut themselves from it by their own actions. They are already applied to them.

**Is Catholic dogma as important as the inspired scriptures? **

Are the Scriptures more important then the Truth handed down to the Church by the Apostles? :rolleyes:



In essence, then, the Scriptures and the Catholic Church’s teachings (dogma) are one and the same. Neither is more important than the other. Each contains identical infallible teachings. To believe in one requires the acceptance of the other.

“Cafeteria Catholics” (or “protestants”) don’t understand or accept this point.


no disrespect intended with this question, but would you provide us with your definition of “anathema?” In the context of your question, it seems you don’t have it “quite right.”

**Is Catholic dogma as important as the inspired scriptures? **

A better question: “Unless you eat my body and drink my blood you will have no life within you.”

Aren’t those who deny Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist questioning the same? Is incorrect dogma as important as the Inspired Scriptures?

Correct Dogma is the fruit of the Tradition that inspired both the Oral Tradition and the Written Tradition.

Returning to the OP: Jesus teaches us that the poor will always be with us. In the words of Peter Maurin, the poor give to the rich the opportunity to do good.

Might not better catechesis bring more of the “fence sitters” to correct understanding? If a student does not learn, sometimes it is the fault of the teacher.


The Holy Catholic Church teaches the full inspired teachings and full scripture of the BIBLE. These teachings can be found in the CCC, encyclicals and other writings of the Doctors or the Church and the many holy men and women that have come before us. To limit yourself to just the personal understanding that you come to is limiting God to one imperfect humans opinion.


Ask them :wink:

What has that to do with Protestants, though :confused: ?


I’m saying that people who “protest” church teaching are “protestants”. Not just as a word game, but that they actually remove themselves from the church automatically if they accept a heresy.

Why don’t I ask them… well… if its option 2 then they wouldn’t say it, woudl they? :wink: But i think it would come across as mean and arrogant anyway…

which begs the question, why is it OK to ask it on here if not in person… hmm :blush:


…but they are to follow Church teachings, even if they do not agree with them, as they are called to do. And it doesn’t necessarily make those opposing the Church correct either, does it?

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