Wrestling with conversion


#1

Need some constructive advice.

I am currently attending an Episcopal church - I am a baptized Christian (I was baptized into the Lutheran church).

First, on a practical note what is the process of conversion for Christians already baptized?

Second, on a more personal note I am absolutely agonizing over this. The biggest obstacle I see is infallibility. I just cannot get over it. Images of priests sitting on thrones getting their rings kissed swimming through my head, etc. I am honestly not trying to troll, this is just something I am really going through. When I say I am agonizing over this I am not kidding. I was brought up in a tradition that places huge emphasis on reading the bible for oneself, and I’ve done that - I’ve loved it, it has loved me and we are now more than friends. I feel like by converting I would almost be abandoning the primacy of the bible in my life somehow.

I am aware of all the apologetic arguments back and forth, so positive responses would be welcomed.


#2

I’ll let you know I am a non-Catholic. What is your main reason for desiring union with the Roman See? Mainly for clarification because of some of the difficulties you’ve alluded to.


#3

Best thing you can do is call your local parish and sign up for RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). That’s a class that’s held once a week for a few months, it covers and explains everything the Church teaches; the class is required in order to “join.” It’s taken by non-Catholics interested in learning about the Catholic Church, people interested in converting, and Catholics who want a “refresher.” It’s free, there’s no obligation, you can stop attending anytime you wish and nobody will pressure you to convert. If nothing else, you’ll end-up with a better understanding of Catholicism than most Catholics.


#4

I converted from Protestantism about two years ago. I’m not going to lie and say it was or is all sunshine and rainbows, but if you are guided to it, you know that it is worth whatever trials you may face.

I agree with the previous poster who recommended that you look into RCIA. This was a very soul-opening experience for me, and helped me not only to understand the Catholic Church, but also to understand the nature of my relationship with God and why I had been pulled in the direction of the Church in the first place. It is an absolutely singular experience. I almost wish I were still doing it, honestly.:slight_smile:


#5

Images of priests sitting on thrones getting their rings kissed swimming through my head, etc.

**Priests don’t wear rings, unless he’s an abbot.

The ring of a bishop is kissed as a sign of respect for the OFFICE–not the person.

And historically, a bishop’s ring was orignally the seal of the Diocese.

In Eastern churches the hands of the newly baptized and married (and especially the wedding rings) are kissed as a sign of respect for the sacraments they have received.**


#6

strictly speaking conversion is a work applied to someone who is changing from the pagan to the Christian life and world view. the baptized Christian is considering full reception into communion with the Catholic Church.

Everyone on this journey is likely to come at some time to a sticking point. It may be doctrine, like infallibility, perpetual virginity of Mary, transubstantiation. It may be a family issue–resolving an invalid marriage, opposition from parents or spouse, birth control. It may be a personality thing–with the RCIA director, the priest, the sponsor, members of the parish, scandalous example of Catholics in the public eye.

The reason the process takes as long as it does, and why we try to give a formal structured presentation of doctrine and issues, as well as to welcome the candidate into Catholic parish life, is precisely so these issues can be addressed as they arise. That is why “inquiry” is such an important part of the process. Do not expect to have an exact timeline. It takes as long as it takes. Work through this issue with help from the pastor, ask for reading on the issue, come here and join the apologetics discussion on your issue, read the CCC, the CA homepage and This Rock are excellent resources.

it is a matter of studying, yes, but also of prayer and reflection. For infallibility, prayer and meditation on the NT descriptions, stories and actions of Peter (even when he is being particularly obtuse). For doctrine on Mary, the same thing. and so forth.

take as long as you need, but don’t make it an excuse to back off completely. you are in our prayers, and welcome home.


#7

Hi Yab Yum,

My 2 cents for what it’s worth,
You, like all of us, are simply continuing on YOUR journey. I would suggest that you try and take this " pressure" or " agonizing " and place it in the backseat for a 2 week vacation.
The perspective I would offer you is that we Christian brethren are all broken people who desperatly need the grace, love, and saving that Jesus so willingly and lovingly provided for us. The " conversion" you speak of ( in the context of the big picture ) is really not a conversion but simply put, your consideration to call a different Church your home. ( obviously, being Catholic, I would strongly encourage you to atleast consider the value and wholeness that I believe is available in Catholism ). Having said that, I really do think you are already home, maybe just not under the roof some would insist on. :slight_smile:

God bless,
Carl


#8

Hello Yab Yum!

I just saw this is your first post. I just wanted to say hello.

And, its sort of comforting to read, that even christians struggle with decisions like you are. I’m not one, but I think I know what you mean about it being a struggle, just in a different way. Maybe its harder for you, because I am a “clean slate” lol.

I hope whatever is supposed to be for you will be.

Monica


#9

There are priests and nuns that do wear rings on left hand. We do not kiss the rings.


#10

Thanks for the compassionate replies everybody. As for my motivations, I am attracted primarily to the sacrament of confession, the doctrine of transubstantiation, and the worship/veneration surrounding Mary. Hope I wasn’t too offensive with the ring-kissing comment - shows what I know. Generally the things that I love about Protestantism are the things pushing me away from it - if everyone is a theologian all you get is “too many cooks”. Democratic - but anarchic. You end up either being an inerrantist (which to my thinking is just infallibility placed upon scripture instead of priesthood) or you end up in the mess the Anglican Communion is in currently. To add to the horrible mix (in my head) I also was seriously into Buddhism for a while back and I really can’t believe in a punishment that is eternal (at least without an eventual chance to be reborn and try again …) which is of course a problem I have with Christianity generally. I wonder if anyone here has ever discussed the similarities Catholicism has to Vajrayana Buddhism? Anyway obviously I am confused to say the least and hopefully I’ll resolve things eventually.


#11

Oh, I like the Catholic theology on eternal punishment, because of their doctrine on purgatory.:thumbsup:


#12

Welcome!

One thing to remember, infallibility is very limited. It only applies when the Pope or a Bishop speaks with the authority of the Magisterium, i.e., the continuous teaching of the Catholic Church, on a question of faith and morals.

A priest can never act infallibity. A Bishop can only act infallibility when he’s presenting the teaching of the Church (ordinary Magisterium). The Pope only acts infallibly when he teaches on faith and morals in conformity with the bishops and the tradition of the Church.

Inafllibity is very rarely invoked.

God Bless


#13

Yab Yum,

The way I find it helpful to think about infallibility in the Church is to ask, did Christ really intend his Church to have a brief “Golden Era” when the apostles taught no error, a single generation of infallibility, to be followed by century upon century of ever-increasing doubt and error? Would you set up a Church that way? :slight_smile:

The Catholic view makes so much more sense, IMHO. The protection the Church receives from teaching error didn’t end with the apostles (why in the world should it?). Rather, this protection is a permanent feature of the relationship between Christ and his Church. It began with the apostles (and the prophets before them), but it will not end until the end of time, because that’s really the only way that makes sense. Seem reasonable?


#14

Welcome to the forum, YAB YUM!

Have you sought guidance from your Episcopal priest? How active are you in your church? This is the time of year when Christian Formation classes start, have you considered signing up at your Episcopal Church for a class?

God Bless!


#15

If you enter RCIA you will have a chance to have a lot of questions answered. I had plenty to think about and pray over and finally the logic of the Catholic Church had held up to every test I could bring to it.
Priests aren’t infallible, and infallible doesn’t mean sinless. Popes are infallible when they make certian authoritative statements. In 2000 years they have never contradicted each other in such statements, which I think strongly supports the idea that God can and does protect them from teaching error in regard to faith and morals.
I had no trouble seeing the reason for confession, but in my old church it was different. Confession wasn’t called that and it was undefined who needed it and who heard it, and it wasn’t private never mind secret though the music was there to keep us from hearing each other too clearly. It never seemed really complete and over with. I liked the idea of people pairing up to hear each other’s confessions; it seemed more reasonable than expecting one or two men to know how to respond to the sins of hundreds. But God has anointed them to do this and they pray first and it really is within a priest’s ability with God’s help and grace.
I know how you feel about the Bible; I remember when I saw light glowing in every word in it. We read and treasure the Bible. You hear readings from the OT and NT at every Mass, and you can go daily or weekly or in between amounts of time, and attend Bible studies as well as your own reading at home. Catholics actually don’t disregard the Bible, but we do take the NT at least as literally as the OT because it was written in a less poetry-oriented, more history-and-science-oriented culture and therefore is probably meant as much or more word-for-word-literally. Thus we take Jesus at His word when He says His Body is real food, and His Blood is real drink. We are free to interpret certain details of the OT however we wish as long as we get the gist, but some details there too are necessarily literal.
The NT says, as you are aware, that the Church will never be conquered by the gates of Hell, the Church is the arbiter of truth, and the Church was established by Jesus. Not the Bible. The Bible is a sacred document, good for teaching, indispensible as a source of truth. But it doesn’t interpret itself, the Church does that.
I appreciate the work you’re putting into learning all you can. Not everyone is so wise.


#16

Thanks again to all on all sides for all your kind replies.


#17

Yab Yum,

I have some limited experience with Buddhism, Vajrayana and otherwise. Were you really “into” Vajrayana, or did you sort of hover around the edges? I ask because I see Catholicism as the Western Christian version of Vajrayana. If you were really into Vajrayana, and took the Tantric vows, you may have encountered the Tantric practice of total faith in the Guru, whose represents the Buddha Himself. For people of Protestant mind-set, that’s a hard idea to get around. But Catholicism’s doctrine of papal infallibility is, in a sense, similar to the Tantric Guru principle, in my opinion: both the Catholic and the Tantric position require, to some degree or other, the surrender and submission of one’s self-directed individualistic egoic desires and wishes. Indeed, I would suggest that any true religion will necessarily offend one’s egoic desires and wishes, and challenge one to go beyond them. The practice of Catholicism is a very powerful way to do that, within a Western Christian milieu.

Regarding eternal hell: as a Catholic you are certainly free to hope for the salvation of all. What is forbidden is to assume that the salvation of all will happen no matter what. (Also, if you know Vajrayana Buddhism, you also know that it teaches that some hells are impossible to get out of, unless someone from outside goes in and helps out. Indeed, in Theravada Buddhism, it’s an open question whether everyone will become enlightened or not.)


#18

I will soon be reading The Gift of Infallibility: The Official Relatio on Infallibility of Bishop Vincent Ferrer Gasser at Vatican Council I translated by James O’ Connor. I bet you would find it to be a helpful read as well. It seems to be regarded as one of the best clarifications on infallibility.

Regarding the formal motions you mentioned, I would re-state what bpbasilphx said. Kissing of a ring or other item is humble recognition of an office, not the same utter and complete humbling of oneself that we strive toward for our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Did you know that for several centuries the Popes have washed the feet of 12 deacons/priests on Maundy Thursday? On Maundy Thursday of 2006, Pope Benedict XVI chose to wash the feet of laymen. In Church history, bishops and priests have also been directed to do the same for those that they lead at certain times.


#19

You cited “worship/veneration” of Mary as an attraction.

To clarify, we Catholics only worship GOD!

We respect and venerate Mary as the mother of Jesus, but we do not worship her. That is a misconception used by many to try to confuse those considering the Catholic faith.

Mark


#20

In no way does a Catholic believe the Pope is infallible in the same way as a Tantric guru. This would be a gross misrepresentation.

A Catholic submits oneself to God, not to a man, even one who we love and have great confidence in, such as the Pope.


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