Catholics: why aren’t you Protestant?

This week Andrew Sullivan posted two things from Catholics who oppose the hierarchy but aren’t leaving the church, explaining why not. One was a video from Sister Jeannine Gramick, the nun who founded an organization that advocates for gay Catholics. The other is a column in TIME by one Tim Padgett, who admits the Catholic hierarchy has a “penchant for misogynistic, homophobic and otherwise archaic doctrine.”

Gramick says she stays with the Catholic Church because it “nourishes” her, while Padgett says:

Neither the hierarchy’s criminality nor its absurdity makes me want to leave Roman Catholicism. It just makes me all the more determined to remind the world that this dysfunctional institution that claims to speak for Catholicism in fact does not speak for Catholicism. That so many of that institution’s codes don’t represent the Christ-inspired exercise of human compassion, hope and reason that the Catholic faith most Catholics practice is based upon. As a citizen, I’m a committed American: I didn’t leave the U.S. when Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush were presidents. Likewise, as a person of faith, I didn’t join the Catholic church 30 years ago because of the hierarchy, and I’m not going to leave it now because of the hierarchy.

Regular readers of this blog shouldn’t be surprised to hear that I don’t think these are terribly compelling reasons for staying any type of Christian. But it’s an especially shitty justification for staying a member of an organization that has done the downright evil things the Catholic Church has done, because they reasons would be just as good as reasons for being Protestant.

In Padgett’s case, I don’t think Jesus was a great dude, but if you did, couldn’t you engage in a “Christ-inspired exercise of human compassion, hope and reason” in a Protestant church? And in Gramick’s case, why does she find Catholicism any more nourishing than anything she could find in any of the many flavors of Protestantism out there? I know these aren’t the only cases where Catholics answer the question “why are you Catholic?” with reasons for being Christian. It’s pretty clear that for these people, the choice of particular church is a matter of habit.

This is important to emphasize, because when atheists ask Catholics “why are you still Catholic?” they’re likely to be heard as telling Catholics to become atheists. Which is understandable. I’d be perfectly happy if all the Catholics in the world became atheists tomorrow. But I also think the most obvious, should-be-a-no-brainer reasons for ditching the Catholic Church aren’t, by themselves, reasons for ditching God or even Christianity altogether. They’re reasons for ditching a specific, deeply corrupt organization.

  • advancedatheist

    If Protestants evolved from Catholics, why do Catholics still exist?

    • Zinc Avenger

      I inhaled cream soda.

      • Reginald Selkirk

        Inhaling cream soda is not a good justification for remaining Catholic.

        • mikespeir

          Good as anything I’ve seen.

  • LeftSidePositive

    But I also think the most obvious, should-be-a-no-brainer reasons for ditching the Catholic Church aren’t, by themselves, reasons for ditching God or even Christianity altogether.

    To a point I agree, but as a lifelong atheist at a certain level I guess I just don’t GET the idea that there’s supposed to be this omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being that allowed the Catholic Church to flourish for nearly over 1000+ years in its present highly-corrupt form. I mean, if someone believes in a god, wouldn’t one expect him to do something about all the witch-burning and child-raping?! And if he exists but didn’t do something about it, doesn’t that make him a bit of a motherfucking douchebag?!

    It would be one thing if one were Muslim–the answer would be simple: “that ‘church’ is possessed of Satan and this just shows their depraved nature” (assuming one adheres to a brand of Islam that actually frowns on torturing dissidents and raping children). But I don’t see how you can square “These people believe in largely the same God and Trinity I do and sincerely try to serve him” with “While seeking a relationship with the same God that I believe touches each of us in our hearts, a decidedly nonzero percentage of the higher-ups in this Church tortured & burned people and/or raped children.”

    • Annatar

      Since God HASN’T destroyed the Catholic Church, clearly it isn’t that corrupt! *wink wink nudge nudge*

      • silverbuttons

        “We’ve been around for more than 2000 years! Therefore, God!”

  • qbsmd

    I think that anyone who would seriously consider converting from Catholic to Protestant (or Protestant to Catholic) would be a person of whom you could just as easily ask “why do you even call yourself Christian”.

    Despite believing in the same deity, there are significant enough differences between Catholic and Protestant theology that conservatives in both groups deny that the others are even Christian. As I understand it, Catholics believe that their church is the official one endorsed by Jesus; their bishops are supposed to have been ordained by other bishops such that the first bishops were appointed by Jesus. Catholics are of course encouraged to talk to their god, but if they get an answer, it doesn’t count unless it’s the same answer the pope got; he’s the only one who can get reliable revelations.

    Protestants reject that, believing that it’s not only possible, but necessary for each individual to have a personal relationship with Jesus, which I can only assume means that they are able to trust any messages they think they get from their god. In this case, any disagreement with someone else’s message from their god results in a new sect, since there’s no way to verify who’s right.

    So it follows that if a Protestant sect has a scandal in its leadership, the followers can jump ship and find a new sect. Catholics however, have to believe that it’s just a few bad individuals, but that the church itself is still the only true version of Christianity, and its leaders still the only way to have any relationship with Jesus.

    • Slow Learner

      Except that the apostolic succession is important to some Protestant churches, some non-Roman but still Catholic churches, and I believe the Orthodox Church as well.
      So if you’re looking for legitimate bishops in (allegedly) unbroken succession from Jesus, there are other churches who practice it – and if you’re not a hardline Roman Catholic, you’re likely to accept the validity of e.g. an Orthodox ordination.

      • qbsmd

        “Except that the apostolic succession is important to some Protestant churches”

        I was not aware of that; which ones?

        “and if you’re not a hardline Roman Catholic, you’re likely to accept the validity of e.g. an Orthodox ordination.”

        Actually, I think even fairly hardline Roman Catholics still accept the validity of some Orthodox sacraments. I believe Catholics are officially allowed by the Catholic church to take communion at Orthodox churches if a Catholic one is unavailable, for instance. So the argument “Catholics: why aren’t you Orthodox” would be an interesting one.

        • Slow Learner

          Primarily I was thinking of the middling-high Anglican Church in which I was brought up, though I believe it applies more broadly across Anglicanism/Episcopalianism.
          Indeed, part of the current fight over ordaining women as bishops within the CofE is that the conservative faction would not view any ordination performed by a woman as valid transmission of the apostolic succession – and so in their view that succession would be broken. At least, if I understand the argument correctly.

  • Michelle

    Why does she find Catholicism any more nourishing? One word: Transubstantiation. Look it up. Catholics, unlike any protestant denomination, actually believe they eat Jesus when they receive communion. He is the Word made flesh. Someone that understands this nourishment would never part with it.

    • irenedelse

      True, Michelle, but some Protestant denominations do believe also in the real presence of Christ’s flesh and blood during the eucharisty. Google “consubstanciation”: the difference with the Catholic belief in transsubstanciation is IIRC that the host is the Christ’s flesh only while the faithful are assembled and turns back into bread afterwards, but for the RCC, the consecrated host stays that way.

  • plutosdad

    Sorry but this argument doesn’t make any more sense than “why don’t you leave the US then”. We’re not talking about a club people join because they like it, but because they believe. The leadership and evil the leaders do has little to do with the theology and ethics the people believe in and practice. You can’t just *choose* what to believe, after all I did not choose to be an atheist, I became one through research and mental struggles. But belief is not a choice, doing the research or not was the choice.

    A better question would be “why aren’t you trying to change the Church into something you can be proud of?” which at least these two are doing.

    • Chris Hallquist

      Though it’s not clear that either of the two people I cite in the post believe much in the way of Catholic doctrine either (which I probably should have stressed in the OP.) Even Leah Libresco may like a lot of Catholic philosophers, but it’s not clear she has any beliefs that would logically entail she ought to give the creepy old men a say in who she dates (which she’s said she will do). As far as I can tell, she’s just doing that because it’s what a lot of her friends are doing.

    • kevhito

      No. They don’t even believe, really. I grew up Catholic. My mother is/was pretty die-hard catholic, and a lay minister and everything. I somehow got through that without ever having heard of the concept of “transubstantiation”. It was just habit, you didn’t question it. Really, its just culture and selfishness, I think. They keep alive an evil organization just so they can feel a little personal spiritual comfort.

      Really, I think a lot of people are afraid of change, afraid of disappointing someone, or disappointing god, even if they don’t really believe in god at all. Its an abusive relationship, really. Victims are good at rationalizing. It takes a long time of healing to internalize the idea that you aren’t a bad person for leaving.

    • Reginald Selkirk

      plutosdad: Sorry but this argument doesn’t make any more sense than “why don’t you leave the US then”. We’re not talking about a club people join because they like it, but because they believe. The leadership and evil the leaders do has little to do with the theology and ethics the people believe in and practice….

      The comparison to democratic government does not hold up well. The Holy Roman Catholic Church is adamantly not a democracy. Its doctrine comes from the hierarchy, not the general membership. This is tied up in their theology. Jesus told Peter:

      (Matt 16:18-19)
      And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
      And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

      The official doctrine of the Holy Roman Catholic Church is that this power granted to Peter (traditionally considered the first bishop of Rome, i.e. pope) passes to subsequent popes. Nonacceptance of this doctrine has led to schisms and excommunication.

    • anteprepro

      Your analogy between Catholic church membership and U.S. citizenship doesn’t work, due to major discrepancies between the two.

      1. Leaving the United States necessarily entails moving into a different country that may not necessarily be any better. Leaving Catholicism does not necessarily mean one needs to join a different religion. In fact, leaving the Catholic Church does not necessarily mean that one needs to change one’s beliefs.
      2. The movement out of the United States costs money, requires leaving one’s jobs, and separating oneself from extended family and friends. It also requires undergoing the headaches of becoming a citizen of a different country. Leaving the Church requires one not going to church and separates oneself from the members of the church community that you do not know outside of the context of church. It doesn’t cost money, it doesn’t require forfeiting a job, it doesn’t require making it virtually impossible to see those you love who are outside of your immediate family. It is nowhere near the amount of sacrifice and does not require financial stability in the same way.

      So, a church is far more analogous to a “club people join because they like it” than to a country. The distinction that church is joined due to “belief” as well is irrelevant when you consider the following astounding fact: One can still believe in Catholicism without attending and supporting a Catholic church. I really don’t see what is hard to understand about that.

    • plutosdad

      4. anteprepro “. Leaving Catholicism does not necessarily mean one needs to join a different religion”

      Do you really think Catholics and Lutherans think their religion is the same?

      I don’t think you understand people that have gone to church all their lives at all.

      • anteprepro

        I do understand that. I also understand that they are immoral if they agree that the church is corrupt but are too lazy to give it up.

        What I don’t understand: How you think your first sentence is at all a reply to what you quoted.


        • qbsmd

          I’d suggest a step back from even that: You do not have to change your beliefs or stop going to church in order to stop giving the church money. I wouldn’t consider someone immoral who thinks the church hierarchy is corrupt, but still feels religiously obligated to go to mass, and just refuses to financially support the hierarchy.

          • anteprepro

            This is a good point. I think still attending church continues to lend that church and its authorities too much credibility, but at least they aren’t being directly, financially supported.

  • jonathangray

    Most conservative Catholics would dearly love dissenting liberal Catholics to leave the Church. Dissenting liberal Catholics will never leave the Church because a.) they know they would be impotent outside it; b.) if they’re priests they’re probably gay and don’t want to forgo the opportunities for sexual predation that come with their position; and c.) like all liberals, they cannot endure an illiberal institution existing in the same world as themselves. “Make it go awaaaaaay!!!” So they try to co-opt the Church and remake it in their image. Solve et coagula.

    • Iamcuriousblue

      “b.) if they’re priests they’re probably gay and don’t want to forgo the opportunities for sexual predation that come with their position”

      I’m really hoping you didn’t mean to imply that gay = pedophile.

    • anteprepro

      b.) if they’re priests they’re probably gay and don’t want to forgo the opportunities for sexual predation that come with their position;

      Fuck. Off. Slimeball.

  • jonathangray

    BTW, shouldn’t it be ‘Uncredulous’ (“not credulous”) as opposed to ‘Uncredible’ (“not credible”) …?

    • Chris Hallquist

      The name is a joke that I thought was funny when I was 18. Or you can think of it as a reminder to be skeptical of everything you read, even here!

  • irenedelse

    Something else to ponder: in addition to the Roman Catholic Church and the various Protestant denominations (some of whom stayed quite close to Carholicism in liturgy and core beliefs, like the Anglicans and Episcopalians), there is the movement that calls itself the Old Catholic Church, or Confession of Utrecht.

    Their name refers not to conservatism, but to a desire to build a church upon what can be considered common Christian beliefs, before the Reformation, before the Council of Lateran in the 13th Century (which formalized much of what the RCC today says is the “true” Christian way) and even before the Great Schism between Eastern and Western Christianity.

    These Old Catholics are not very numerous, not very high profile, but I understand that they are pretty much one of the more inclusive and open minded Christian groups there is (no ban on gay people, no strict, regressive gender roles, and generally, a more democratic and bottom-up way of organizing the Church) while believing in a lot of what the Catholics believe, including apostolic continuity (an unbroken tradition from the time of Christ) and the real presence of God in the Host.

    As an ex-Catholic myself, I know I’d be tempted to join them if I still had any faith in God.

    • mnb0

      Exactly. The Old Catholic Church is quite young. The schism dates from 1870. It rejects the papal infallibility.
      Switching to a Protestant Church seems a too radical step.

  • Bruce Gorton

    a: actually by leaving the church liberals would be taking their money, and numbers with them, thus depriving the church of the power it has, thus forcing the church to change its positions in order to try and woo them back.

    b: gay =/= pedophile, you fucking bigotted piece of crap, and it was the conservative bishops who covered it up, you fucking bigotted piece of crap.

    • Bruce Gorton

      @ jonathangray

    • jonathangray

      Bruce Gorton:

      actually by leaving the church liberals would be taking their money, and numbers with them, thus depriving the church of the power it has, thus forcing the church to change its positions in order to try and woo them back.

      I doubt very much that ever occurred to them. The cognitive dissonance involved in being a “liberal Catholic” most likely turned their brains to mush.

      It would never work anyway. The liberal faction in the Church is rapidly aging and their numbers aren’t being replaced, whereas traditionalist parishes and seminaries are booming. Compare the congregation at a traditional Latin Tridentine Mass (lots of young families) with that at an uber-liberal, uber-gay post-Vatican II Novus Ordo Mass (grey hair and bald heads). We just have to wait until all the old hippies who have infested the Church since the Sixties have died out. Tomorrow belongs to us.

      gay =/= pedophile, you fucking bigotted [sic] piece of crap

      I never suggested that homosexual was synonymous with paedophile. Clearly it is not. However, the vast majority of clerical sex abuse cases did not involve prepubescent children of either sex but adolescent boys. So we’re not dealing with paedophiles but ephebophiles, specifically pederasts. There’s a difference between molesting small children and lusting after teenagers.

      Obviously, it would be grotesque to suggest that all or even most male homosexuals are pederasts, but like it or not, pederasty is a type of homosexuality and ‘man-boy love’ definitely occupies a niche in homosexual culture. A number of high-profile gay men have defended or spoken favourably of pederasty – for example, Edmund White, Michel Foucault, Joe Orton, Stephen Fry and Peter Tatchell. Pederastic themes are prominent in the work of gay novelist William Burroughs and gay illustrator Oliver Frey. Nor can one forget that NAMBLA emerged from the gay subculture and was supported by the gay subculture until it became too hot to handle.

      and it was the conservative bishops who covered it up, you fucking bigotted [sic] piece of crap.

      Yeah, notorious conservatives like Weakland, Bernadin, Gumbleton, Wuerl, Untener, Mahony …

  • One Brow

    The central idea seems to be that there are protestant churches that are less corrupt, less archaic, and less evil. It seems to me this is only true for a lack of influence and size.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Catholic vs. Protestant are not the only choices. There are also the Orthodox churches.

    • anteprepro

      There’s also the option of not going to church at all, but still retaining belief in all of Catholicism’s bullshit. That way they don’t have to deal with the Ick! factor of going to a church that doesn’t have the exact same beliefs as they do.

  • revaaron

    At least leave the Catholics for the Episcopalian church. As someone raised Catholic, I would have done so in a heartbeat- better then supporting this diseased, evil, and corrupt organization.

  • John

    Sorry haters, the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded in Matthew 16:18, and the “gates of hell” have not “prevailed against it.” In fact, the Catholic Faith is surging now, not because of anything Catholics are doing, but because the Holy Spirit is active in a special way. Vocations are up, particularly in orders that are traditional and fully Catholic. The only reasons the Catholic continues to exist is because the Catholic Faith is real. It certainly does make many uncomfortable. The Church does indeed “convict” people of their wounded, sinful nature (but does not hold them “totally depraved” or doubly predestined like Luther and Calvin) and is unyielding in its timeless teachings. If you’ve never been to a traditional Latin High Mass, please go. It is the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven. Viva Cristo Rey!

    • anteprepro

      Here, the only rebuttal you deserve: Read Chris’s link . It’s here, if you’re too lazy to find it yourself.

      So, what is your excuse for supporting child rape and/or the covering-up of child rape?

      • John

        Your question assumes facts not in evidence, i.e., “When did you stop beating your wife?” I do not support child rape or the covering up of child rape. Take a gander at the book “Good-bye, Good Men” and you will see the pernicious way American seminaries in particular have “screened out” people with genuinely God-centered vocations and allowed in people with questionable motives and backgrounds. This has occurred in earnest since the late 1960′s. The Church has been attacked from within and without for its entire history. The attacks from within are generally accomplished through infiltration. Moreover, no one claims that the Church is free of corruption, only that it is the true Church established by God through Christ. Regarding corruption in the Church, one would expect it given that of the 12 apostles, one sold Christ out for money (Judas), another wouldn’t believe in the resurrection until he could see it for himself (Thomas), yet another denied Christ three times (Peter), and still others fell down in fear when challenged about their faith. And yet, the Church endures because it is real. I would respectfully invite you to judge it equally by those who actually practice(d) the faith, people like St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa, Pope Pius the X, the countless humble priests, nuns and faithful in your community who die to themselves every day and live in service to God and to others for the love of God…Pax vobiscum.

        • anteprepro

          Your question assumes facts not in evidence,

          I’m sorry for assuming that your support of the Catholic Church and complete inability to criticize the Church’s actions was support for the actions of the church. How ever could I have made such a grievous error!

          But seriously: Your defense is basically that it was a big, giant conspiracy that the Church is in no way culpable for? Implausible. But I assume you are a Catholic, so you believe six implausible things before breakfast. And I’ll also note that it isn’t one of the excuses listed in Chris’s article. Probably because it seems like it would be insulting to assume more than a handful of people believed it. Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can never be to insulting towards believers, and can never expect too little of them.

          • John

            Dear Anteprepro,

            The Church, and individual members who committed criminal and sinful acts, are culpable. They will be punished here on earth in many cases, and may face eternal separation from God hereafter. I denounce all criminal and corrupt acts committed by members of the Catholic Church. However, this does not make false the nature of the Catholic Faith, the founding of the Catholic Church or its ultimate purpose on earth, which is to lead people to God. This doesn’t mean that each member is always holy. Jesus said there would be both good and bad members in the Church (John 6:70), and not all the members would go to heaven (Matt. 7:21–23).

            This is the best I can do for you. If Jesus Christ didn’t exist or the Church is a fraud, then I’m wrong and the whole thing is a farce. However, my experience and belief is that there is “something to it,” that it is in fact what it purports to be, and that despite its imperfections, it is the Church founded by God to endure until the end of time. I choose not to stand apart from it even if I don’t like it all the time. I don’t judge it the way I judge the United States, a college, a sports team, or any other man-made institution. It is a supernatural society, with a divine founding. Otherwise, it would’ve been gone long ago and surely the sexual abuse scandals should be killing it. Instead, the opposite is happening. I invite you to go to a Traditional Latin Mass in your area (preferably a High Mass), and to perhaps stop judging the Church and the Faith by people who are obviously not practicing it. Peace, Johnny C.

    • joaomauricio

      Sorry haters, the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded in Matthew 16:18[...]

      And a bunch of other churches splintered off from it afterwards because they thought the Catholic church was wrong. The origin for all these churches is the same, so why is the Catholic church supposed to be the “true” one?

      • John

        Here’s a link to Catholic Answers which covers it in more detail than I could here.

        • John

          I will, however, post the conclusion of the much longer essay from Catholic Answers, because I think it best addresses both the “one true Church” question and the question posed by the “Uncredible Hallq” (Thanks for providing us this forum on your blog, by the way, Hallq.)

          “All the alternatives to Catholicism are showing themselves to be inadequate: the worn-out secularism that is everywhere around us and that no one any longer finds satisfying, the odd cults and movements that offer temporary community but no permanent home, even the other, incomplete brands of Christianity. As our tired world becomes ever more desperate, people are turning to the one alternative they never really had considered: the Catholic Church. They are coming upon truth in the last place they expected to find it.

          How can this be? Why are so many people seriously looking at the Catholic Church for the first time? Something is pulling them toward it. That something is truth.

          This much we know: They are not considering the claims of the Church out of a desire to win public favor. Catholicism, at least nowadays, is never popular. You cannot win a popularity contest by being a faithful Catholic. Our fallen world rewards the clever, not the good. If a Catholic is praised, it is for the worldly skills he demonstrates, not for his Christian virtues.

          Although people try to avoid the hard doctrinal and moral truths the Catholic Church offers them (because hard truths demand that lives be changed), they nevertheless are attracted to the Church. When they listen to the pope and the bishops in union with him, they hear words with the ring of truth—even if they find that truth hard to live by.

          When they contemplate the history of the Catholic Church and the lives of its saints, they realize there must be something special, maybe something supernatural, about an institution that can produce holy people such as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Mother Teresa.

          When they step off a busy street and into the aisles of an apparently empty Catholic church, they sense not a complete emptiness, but a presence. They sense that Someone resides inside, waiting to comfort them.

          They realize that the persistent opposition that confronts the Catholic Church—whether from non-believers or “Bible Christians” or even from people who insist on calling themselves Catholics—is a sign of the Church’s divine origin (John 15:18–21). And they come to suspect that the Catholic Church, of all things, is the wave of the future.

          Incomplete Christianity Is Not Enough

          Over the last few decades many Catholics have left the Church, many dropping out of religion entirely, many joining other churches. But the traffic has not been in only one direction.

          The traffic toward Rome has increased rapidly. Today we are seeing more than a hundred and fifty thousand converts enter the Catholic Church each year in the United States, and in some other places, like the continent of Africa, there are more than a million converts to the Catholic faith each year. People of no religion, lapsed or inactive Catholics, and members of other Christian churches are “coming home to Rome.”

          They are attracted to the Church for a variety of reasons, but the chief reason they convert is the chief reason you should be Catholic: The solid truth of the Catholic faith.

          Our separated brethren hold much Christian truth, but not all of it. We might compare their religion to a stained glass window in which some of the original panes were lost and have been replaced by opaque glass: Something that was present at the beginning is now gone, and something that does not fit has been inserted to fill up the empty space. The unity of the original window has been marred.

          When, centuries ago, they split away from the Catholic Church, the theological ancestors of these Christians eliminated some authentic beliefs and added new ones of their own making. The forms of Christianity they established are really incomplete Christianity.

          Only the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus, and only it has been able to preserve all Christian truth without any error—and great numbers of people are coming to see this.”

          • Myoo

            All that text and you didn’t answer my question adequately. The Catholic church has changed its position on several issues numerous times, it has supported slavery and it has condemned slavery, it has supported dictatorships and it has condemned dictatorships, it has supported wars and it has condemned war. How then, it said babies go to Limbo and it said there is no such thing as Limbo.
            Is the Catholic church any different from the other denominations with common origins? Why are the churches that separated from the Catholic church over a difference of interpretation in religious texts less “true” than a church that constantly changes its doctrines, and contradicts itself on many issues?

          • Myoo

            By the way, I’m joaomauricio, the commenter that asked the question originally, I just changed the name that I use.

    • jonathangray

      Viva Cristo Rey!


      Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat

  • Improbable Joe

    Catholics like commenter “John” run into a basic contradiction when they claim that they accept that human beings, and specifically individual members of the Catholic hierarchy, can be completely wrong. The problem is that they are looking to the same flawed, fallible humans to give them some sort of “absolute truth,” especially since said truth can change every time a new pope is chosen by the same fallible humans.

    • jonathangray

      And also Myoo above:

      The Catholic church has changed its position on several issues numerous times, it has supported slavery and it has condemned slavery, it has supported dictatorships and it has condemned dictatorships, it has supported wars and it has condemned war. How then, it said babies go to Limbo and it said there is no such thing as Limbo. (…) [The Church] constantly changes its doctrines, and contradicts itself on many issues

      You’re both making the mistake of assuming that Catholic doctrine is monolithic, all of the same infallible type and of equal authority. This is false.

      Roughly speaking, Catholic teaching can be classified into four types. First we have the ‘dogmas’, unchanging divinely revealed truths. Eg: There is one God; Who is also a Trinity; Whose Second Person was historically incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ; Who was born of a virgin, died and rose from the dead. Dogmas are proclaimed either through the declarations of an Oecumenical Council or through a particular type of papal pronouncement called ‘ex cathedra’. They are binding all all Catholics – you must believe them to be a Catholic. (More precisely, you cannot knowingly dissent from them and be a Catholic.)

      We believe the Holy Ghost protects the Church from error in her dogmatic definitions. No dogmatic pronouncement has ever been changed by the Catholic Church. Dogma can ‘develop’ in the limited sense that subsequent pronouncements of the Magisterium can clarify or draw out the implications of earlier pronouncements, but there can be no contradictions. If the Church were to unambiguously contradict herself in matters of dogma, then clearly we would have a problem. If, for example, a pope made an ex cathedra declaration that God wasn’t a Trinity after all, then we would either have to conclude that Catholicism was false or that the pope in question didn’t actually possess true papal authority, ie that he was an antipope.

      Second, we have theological speculations. These are of varying weight. As I understand it, a unanimous opinion of the Church Fathers is regarded as infallible even if it hasn’t been formally defined as dogma. The opinion of a post-patristic theologian of exceptional sanctity and intellect (like St Thomas Aquinas) is accorded considerable weight, but is not infallible. The utterance of a modern liberal ideologue (like Hans Kung) is a private opinion of zero authority.

      Limbo is a good example of this second class of doctrine. It is a theological opinion hallowed by tradition, but it is not binding on Catholics and never was. Lately, ecclesiastical authorities have distanced themselves from it, but it is important to understand that this distancing itself is a non-binding theological opinion. Catholics are still free to believe in Limbo and many do.

      Thirdly, we have matters of Church discipline. They are not set in stone and can be changed if the Church deems it necessary. An example would be the discipline of clerical celibacy, which could in theory be revoked tomorrow. (As it happens, clerical celibacy mainly applies to the Latin Rite; Eastern Rite priests are free to marry.) Another example would be the requirement for Catholics to abstain from red meat on Fridays. This was relaxed in the 1980s and is now being reasserted.

      Finally we have what may be termed prudential decisions and positions taken by the Church authorities with regard to social issues and developments – eg warfare, slavery, torture, usury, the rights of non-Catholics, censorship, scientific discoveries, forms of political government, etc. These can and do change over time and are not infallible, although the general underlying principles of Catholic social teaching have remained pretty consistent, with shifts of emphasis according to circumstance.

  • Katelyn

    Well, for one, protesants came from Roman Catholics.

    Second, if you really think all of us Catholics should convert, then what should we convert to? There’s thousands of christian churches based off OUR church, the FIRST christian church.

    Besides, it seems to me that all the other christian churches are just jealous of us. Why else would they spend so much time wrighting hate mail?

  • Lux Veritas

    We stay Catholic because it is the only faith established by Christ himself. We believe in the 7 sacraments. In order for sacraments to be valid they must be celebrated by a priest who has been VALIDLY ordained. Validly meaning that his ordination must be conferred by a Bishop which is in full communion with the see of Rome and himself ordained through the laying on of hands by one who remains in the apostolic succession. (All validly ordained bishops of the world are able to trace the laying on of hands in ordination from one bishop to the next all the way back to the apostles them selves when those men alon were given that authority when the received the Holy Spirit in the upper room at Pentecost. All Faiths which call them selves Christian are pseudo churches and referred to as extra ecclesial communions as they have no authority, no valid sacraments, have removed books from the holy bible, and spread false doctrines which are contrary to the faith of Christ. Ignorance of history is why people remain or become protestants. The greeks are in partial communion, but the russians have no valid apostolic succession and since they didn’t come out of the Catholic Pentarchy they have no valid sacraments but Bapstism. Some protestant baptisms are considered valid as long as they are performed with the Trinitarian formula, but that only makes all recipients of valid baptism members of the catholic body of christ. Look up and read the Didache- it was written by our church Fathers before the new testament was even put on paper. That makes the mass and all od the other Catholic sacraments older than our own written scriptures and that is a fact whether the Protestants like it or not.

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