I’ve been prompted to write about myself from two different perspectives. I’m not really shy about telling “my story,” and I’ve done so briefly, in the context of my church, and also here, a bit:
I’m a former Catholic — I was born in 1960 and raised in the Catholic Church by a devout family. But by the time I was in high school, I had also heard the Gospel from some friends — and I just could not comprehend why this “Gospel” was not what “the one true Church” was teaching, especially not if it was in the Bible. Needless to say, it created a great deal of turmoil in my spirit, and it set off a struggle that would consume me for a long time. In fact, that question — an overwhelming desire to find “the reason why,” motivates me today. But the issues I investigated in leaving Roman Catholicism continued to tug at my heart and mind. How could such a big, authoritative and seemingly wonderful thing have gone so wrong?
But there were two recent episodes that prompted me to go a bit deeper with this. First, in some comments at a blog where someone picked up some of the things I was writing about the early papacy, an individual questioned whether I was genuinely Catholic. Or at least, he suggested that I had only nominally been Catholic.
Here’s a quote from a commenter named Leo:
What I said, was “The catechesis you received must have been awful.”
I was giving you the benefit of the doubt, since there are two viable options:
1. You left because you did not really and truly understand what the Catholic Church really is, believing it to be something of your own misunderstanding.
2. You know darn well and believe that the Church was founded by Christ Himself and has been protected from teaching error on Faith and Morals yet you decided to leave anyway. That would be apostasy.
You also said, “And yes, I had a very clear understanding of the “Eucharist”.”
Well, that’s nice, but it does not negate what I said. My comment was, “Well, you certainly never came to believe in the Eucharist or you never would have left.”
Notice that my observation was that you would never have left if you had come to believe in the Euchrarist. You may have had a clear understanding of the Eucharist, but your actions display a complete lack of faith in the Eucharist.
So there you have it. This individual, who had never met me, imitates Christ (from the pericope of the woman at the well from John 4), and he tells me everything about myself, without ever having met me!
This is the sort of thing that’s prompted by a statement by Archbishop Fulton Sheen, to the effect that, “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.” But Sheen here was speaking with a typical Roman Catholic style of exaggeration. Lots of people know what the Roman Catholic Church is.
So I qualified Leo’s statement:
There is a third viable option. I really and truly knew and understood everything the Roman Catholic Church said about itself; after a careful reading of Scripture, I decided to reject it as false. I was devout; I considered becoming a priest, and I attended Opus Dei “evenings of recollection” for two years. And I assure you, “the catechesis I received” through Opus Dei was only in the sense that it was purely Roman Catholic.
Nevertheless, I confess Jesus Christ as Lord — I am saved by grace alone through faith alone by Christ alone, and Soli Deo Gloria.
And then there have just been some of the individuals who have asked me privately to expand on this.
Regarding your Catholic experience, I think I am most interested in the events or influences in your life that moved your heart toward Jesus Christ, especially in such a way as to move you seriously toward studying for the priesthood. I find that fascinating, and I expect it would be quite moving.
So in what follows in the next few posts, I will try to give a little bit about that sort of thing.