Greetings. I am confused and looking for answers. Yes, I am Protestant, Bible believing, and consider myself a born again Christian. I have recently been reading many conversion stories of Protestants to Catholicism. Many answers seem to lie in reading the early church fathers, which I have been doing. I can better understand now why they would convert. But as a long time Protestant I see the Lord moving mightily in many peoples lives through evangelical Protestants all across the world. People are healed, saved, lives are radically transformed. Many are being martyred for their faith. So why is God using Protestants if we should all come back to Catholicism? Please, hear me, that I am asking an honest question. I really don’t know what to believe anymore. I see how incredibly God has used people like Corrie Ten Boom and countless others through the ages. Thank you for any insight you can give me.
God loves Protestants. He deliberately created each one of them and keeps them in existence as He has everyone else. He loves Catholics too-even when they are wrong about things or when they have sinned. But this isn’t to say that He loves their mistakes or their sins. He has given all of us free will which means that we can make bad choices as well as good ones. His intention in giving us such freedom is that we will, with His help, make more and more good choices so that at the end of our lives, we may love Him and each other very much. This makes for a lot of un-tidiness. So, each one of us is a very untidy mixture of sins and virtues.
The Catholic Church considers most non-Catholic Christians to be real Christians who are validly baptized and who hold to the teachings of Jesus in varying degrees as expressed through the New Testament. As a result, they have immeasurable spiritual advantages over non-Christians in that they believe that they have been redeemed by the blood of Christ who suffered, died and rose from the dead. They further believe in the Father and the Holy Spirit. But because of the unfortunate choices made by men in the sixteenth century, they have been robbed, through no fault of their own, of the fullness of the Church Jesus founded. In no way is Jesus going to hold them responsible for this. So it is possible for them to live virtuous lives and even to attain high degrees of holiness. Many have given their lives for their faith.
But this does not invalidate the Catholic Church’s contention that it alone was founded by Jesus and that Protestant Christianity rests on the Christianity that came before it. The first person that I ever received into the Catholic Church told me that she couldn’t get over that fact that the non-Catholic Churches all dropped the elements that remain in Catholicism—and that none of them ever really added anything. Each new interpretation left less and less of what the early Christians believed. Certainly, because there is no governing authority in Protestantism other than the private, individual interpretation of Scripture, there could never be a clarification of understanding of a particular Christian dogma that would apply to and be accepted by all Protestants. Jesus spoke of the Church being one. While there may be some factions within the Catholic Church that resist its teachings, the basic teachings of the Catholic Church remain one and apply to and are accepted by the vast majority of Catholics. The Catholic Church alone remains One (in it teachings), Holy (it has produced 2000 years of saints), Catholic (it reaches around the world and is not limited to just certain cultures and races) and Apostolic (it dates from the Apostles).
I don’t have room here to mention all the advantages of being a Catholic Christian, but just this one alone would be reason for my choosing to be a Catholic: the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. To have Him as my guest within my very person is the holiest communion I can imagine. And I have it every day!
Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.