Why am I not Catholic? Because I still have theological issues to work out. I refuse to enter into Catholicism unless I can accept what it fully teaches…On a more personal level, I am terrified, and thus in a stalemate…Yet, what am I to do? I cannot lie to any Church if I were to join half-heatedly, nor can I lie to myself and convert without full acceptance of doctrine, practice, etc.
I am of like mind and spirit with G.K Chesterton – no surprises there – when he demanded that our religion be a little less theory and a little more love affair. Our Church should be joined as a woman is married, with the insane idea of total, complete commitment. So Tim! I commend you on your desire to convert only with a whole heart, and with full acceptance of doctrine; it displays a maturity and intentionality often lacking in our culture’s “let’s-find-a-church-we-like!” mentality.
But when dating a girl, no amount of time dating her will ever tell you everything it is to be married to her. It’s an obvious statement to make: Only your marriage will tell you what your marriage will be like. Indecision will simply tire the relationship. So what to do? You can’t know if your marriage will be sound, and yet the only way to find out is to get married! You don’t know if you agree with her rules about _____, but you won’t be able to test them unless you are married and following those rules! You’re stuck!
Here’s what I do believe – though I may very well be wrong – God tells us. What’s important is the answer to the following two questions: Do I love her? And can I trust her? For if the answer is yes! then worries – how she’ll respond to criticism, what kind of mother she’ll be, what kind of wife she’ll be – all these can be answered by stepping back and saying, “I love her. I trust her. I trust what mother she will become, the wife she will be to me, I trust the rules she makes as for the best.”
So it is with the Church, the most beautiful bride any of us will betroth. You cannot know whether you will fully believe in the claims of Holy Communion unless you are Catholic and receiving Holy Communion. You cannot know whether confession will be life-saving or just awkward and weird until you are Catholic and receive your first Reconciliation. You cannot truly understand the doctrines of priestly celibacy until you are under the care of a priest. So what to do?
You asks yourself the same two questions: Do I love Her? Do I trust Her? This really amounts to reading the words of Christ:
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
And then going here. Now, this is the answer – for me personally – to whether I trust Her. I believe that God founded a Church on Peter, I believe he gave that Church the power to speak the Truth, and I believe that that line of apostolic succession – though shaky, tested, and often just plain reckless – remains unbroken. So I trust that what she teaches is true. Sometimes this is tough: I was shocked when I learnt of a demand my Church made – that you were not to receive the Holy Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. In truth, I disagreed with Her. But the words of scripture remained, Peter was still the rock, and I trusted that – though I couldn’t understand why – the Church was correct in Her teaching, because Jesus Christ said She would be. And now, a little older, a little wiser, I not only agree with Her, but I absolutely love that particularly difficult teaching of the Church. This trust takes courage!
What am I saying? There are thousands of doctrines, hundreds of thousands of teachings and practices, a few good ol’ dogmas and more theology than the world has paper to put down, and it’s all probably poorly recorded (though the important stuff is in the Catechism). A man would die in the attempt to examine each one until none were left. Luckily, a man’s answer to all of those, and to everything to come, relies on his answer to that one question. Do you trust Her? Is Peter the rock? Then everything else, everything else is being immersed in that one crazy decision to trust. As to whether you love, that’s something only you can answer, but may I tell you Tim – without sounding too much like a salesman – that the Bride of Christ is all the more gorgeous, all the greater from within then without.