There Really Are No Guarantees…

… Did you know the Salvation Army doesn’t sell donated Bibles? Nope. They give them away instead. I learned this yesterday when I was there looking for picture frames to refurbish. The nice lady at the register gave my son a children’s bible which naturally led into a conversation about religion. And like most conversations about religion here in the southern fried South, she told me …

“I used to be Catholic. My parents were real into it too. We went to church on feasts day & every Sunday. Momma made all us kids pray the rosary every Saturday after dinner. But when I grew up I decided I wanted to be Christian instead.”

I think she saw the disbelief in my face because she quickly added that she still goes with momma to mass on important days like Christmas and Easter. Because this exchange happened at her register there was no time to tell her to “go home to Rome” or call her Mother or even ask her how she came to believe being a Catholic was not the same thing as being a Christian. That was why I looked so dumbfounded. Not that she wasn’t Catholic anymore, but that she was obviously raised by very devout parents and never learned, not once, that Catholicism is Christianity. In fact, the very first form of Christianity.

How does that happen? I ask sincerely because this is one of my worst fears as a parent.

At a quick glance it sounded as if her parents did everything right. Weekly mass, celebration of feast days. Family rosary. I mean, goodness. When I compare that to what I do, or more honestly don’t do, you realize there really is no guarantee that your kids won’t stray from The Church. But to be raised in The Faith and grow up believing it’s not even Christian? It breaks the heart and makes me want to pray for my son that much harder.

If you reading this as a lapsed Catholic I’d love to hear what happened. How was your faith practiced as a child living with your parents? When did you decide to stop practicing?

Related Link: 5 Questions Before You Leave The Catholic Church

About Katrina Fernandez

Mackerel Snapping Papist

  • AMoniqueOcampo

    Pray for her reversion. I have a friend who’s Protestant, and yet is fascinated by Catholics such as Chesterton and Augustine. It kind of confounds me. (Especially because said person is Calvinist!)

  • Kristen

    I have encountered this rampant in our little corner of the South (southeastern NC) from Protestants en masse. My husband even believed til he met me that Catholics were not Christian and so I’ve taught it with fevered anxiety to my boys. In fact, we spoke in the car the other day about that they and I and my parents and brothers are Catholic-Christians and their father and other grandparents are Christian but not Catholic and what that means. Our priest ALWAYS uses the phrase “Catholic-Christian” in homilies and writing etc. I have no idea what happened in this woman you encountered’s situation, but I could see how, in some corners of the world, particularly when inundated with Baptists and Presbyterians (yeah, I’m generalizing here because these are the people I hear it the most from), a child could become very confused particularly if friends in the neighborhood or at school are not Catholic and have been taught that Catholics are not Christians.

  • DeaconsBench

    Reminds me of a conversation I had in the rectory one morning, with a woman who came in to inquire about having her child baptized. After going through the preliminaries, I told her that one godparent had to be Catholic, but that the other could be a Christian. Long pause. Then she asked me: “What’s the difference?”

    • Dale

      I dunno, I think I would be confused as well. After all, the dichotomy between Catholic and Christian suggests that Catholics are not Christian. We are, of course. However, as Katrina points out, there are a sizable number of Protestants who make the distinction between Catholic and Christian precisely because they do not include us in the fold.

      I apologize if I am nitpicking about the exact words you used. If you said something such as “One godparent needs to be Catholic, but the other could be of any faith, so long as they are Christian” then I agree that she shouldn’t have been confused.

    • michicatholic

      Here in the North Central states we also run into Catholics who object to being called Christians. They think Christians are protestants.
      We also have Catholics here who object to any talk of a relationship with Jesus because they think that’s protestant too.

      There are a bunch of reasons why a Catholic might be confused like this:
      a) The emphasis among Catholics is often on cultural items and practices, and very frequently it’s fairly self-congratulatory. As in, “we are special because we were born into this tribe.” The emphasis on clothing and architecture and “stuff” is particularly prominent with some Catholics because they need to fill a void with something and for some, this is it.
      b) No one really seems to talk about the words and works of Jesus Christ very often, even in Church, let alone personally. And no one ever makes a point of talking about their decision to follow Jesus Christ personally & unconditionally. Catholics seem almost embarrassed by the holy name of Jesus and seem to be only tolerating the person of Christ at times. This is what ex-Catholics are referring to when they say, “They never met Christ in the Catholic Church.” It’s a reality for a great many ex-Catholics; they’re not kidding you or trying to provoke you when they say that.
      c) In fact, most Catholics don’t talk to each other much at all unless they work for the Church and have to do so. We have our own “code of silence.” A good half of all the Catholics who leave do so when they can’t take it anymore. This is what prompts them to claim that “their spiritual needs aren’t being met.” [Quoted from Pew Reports.]
      d) Catholics have a whole bunch of things they tend to avoid in many parishes, including serious bible study and active working fellowship. It’s not part of the American Catholic paradigm to have these things. There are very deep-seated fears that things such as this look Protestant and therefore have the power to make you Protestant. [Before jumping on the bible reading idea, I can tell you that you hear less than half of scripture in the entire 3 years. Fact. If you haven't read it outside of mass, you've never heard half of it.]

      • Suburbanbanshee

        We don’t have personal relationships with Christ. We have mystical relationships with Christ. We have personal devotion, and piety, and all that good stuff. We don’t have a friend in Jesus; we have an amicus. A very dulcis sort of amicus. :)

        Ah, terminology. Very useful for pinpointing religious traditions; but often used to confuse Catholics.

        • michicatholic

          Most of them are confused all right.

  • Mary Rose Maguire

    I blame my leaving the Catholic Church on a poor catechesis. There was so much confusion in Catholic grade schools during the late sixties/early seventies. In college, I joined Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and it was there that I learned that somehow I didn’t have Jesus Christ as “my Lord and Savior.” When my Bible study leader asked why I should be allowed to enter heaven after I died, I responded, “Well… I’m basically a good person… and I haven’t murdered anyone.” Yeah. Good stuff, right?

    However, I will stress the one thing that drew me back to Catholicism and it was something I missed when attending the non-denominational churches: the Holy Eucharist. So many churches don’t even celebrate communion and none look at it as the true Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    To any parent out there, I’d emphasize this more than anything else. It is real. It is tangible. It also reminds us that of course we are Christian and followers of Christ. He is the Bread of Life. And as for me, it helped lead me home.

    • Kristen

      A seminarian candidate we had a few years ago in our parish (now a priest) converted from Southern Baptist to Catholic because of the Eucharist. And I was discussing with him the “Are Catholics Christians?” question and he said the only reason his family was publicly bemoaning his conversion (and becoming a priest) was because he was already, in their minds, “saved” (he even did air quotes when he said saved) and had accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior. When I asked my mom as a kid why I hadn’t done that, she turned it back on the Eucharist. When I received the Body and Blood of Christ I was “asking Him into my heart” and “accepting Him as my personal savior.” I had forgotten that until I read your comment. Thank you for reminding me as I am sure I will use that more as my sons get older.

      • Mary Rose Maguire

        Thank you, Kristen, for sharing the words of your mother. That was a profound and wise answer! God bless you richly.

    • oeb25

      Amen. Well said. It’s the Eucharist.

  • oeb25

    My guess would be that the woman in question did not ever go to a parochial school. If she is over 40 when and grew up in the south chances are excellent to outstanding there weren’t any around within miles. Until just a few decades ago in most states in the south fewer than 5% of people were Catholics. Having spent 2.5 years in SW Virginia I can attest to that. there were 2 catholic churches in a fairly large town of about 100,000 people, and believe me there were maybe 10 kids in our whole neighborhood of a few hundred houses who went to Catholic school, which was a longish bus ride every day. We ALL knew each other. 1-7th grade I went to parochial schools and had a good Catholic mom (dad was a Convert.) 8th grade i went to public school, and *started* CCD. After a few times I seldom went because most of the kids in the class were complete morons as far as the faith went. the parents “assumed” CCD was enough, but realistically CCD is one hour a week. Seriously, a lot of kids at 13-14 knew what the average 8 year old did who went to parochial school. I quit going after a few times because it was a BIG FAT WASTE OF MY TIME.

    They ALSO WAY DUMBED DOWN catechism in the mid 60s. Mickey Mouse compared to the old Baltimore Catechism books. Even though I went to Catholic school, I picked up a LOT from my uncle’s Balt. Catechism books. (He was 9 years older than I was.) I went to Catholic HS 10-12 and also took an Intro to Philosophy which I found most useful. A lot of the HS courses are “soft.” But not that one. When I was 19 I started teaching CCD. And I brought in a lot of extra instruction materials that the books didn’t cover. I did 3rd grade for 3 years then 6th for 3 years. You can only get so much in. So parents need to be VERY diligent and not “assume” they are getting it in CCD or even Catholic schools. And God help mom/dad if they themselves are ignorant of the faith.

    • Christian LeBlanc

      Re: the effectiveness of the BC, most of my religious instruction was via the Baltimore Catechism. It was an excellent system to keep one
      Catholic in a culture that was already Catholic. It worked just fine in
      the South Louisiana of my childhood; it was a disaster in Upstate South

  • Christian LeBlanc

    Weekly mass, celebration of feast days, and family rosary do not prepare anyone to explain or defend their Catholic faith. And thus being raised with no defense, most Catholics in the South are easy pickings for the Fundiegelicals.

    • alwr

      This. And the people who converted this woman probably taught her that Catholics are not Christian whether she believed that prior or not. I worked in a fundagelical school where not only Catholics but also mainline Protestant denominations were not considered to be Christians by the majority of the churches the students came from.

  • Laura Lowder

    Go back. Invite her out for coffee. TALK TO HER. Find some simple book to take along – maybe Scott Hahn? I might have something here at the house I can send you.

    We see this all the time, down here. For a convert like me, it might show up as, “But I thought you were a Christian!” –

    Challenge her, next time she goes to Mass, to see how much Scripture she can identify during the course of the Mass — apart from the Readings of the day.

  • kenofken

    I was raised Catholic as the result of the bargain driven by the Church when a Catholic married a non-Catholic, at least in the late 60s. The kids had to be raised Catholic. My dad’s side were the Catholics, second generation Poles and Romanians, kinda devout. My dad was, and still is, as far as I can tell a “stay out of Hell” sorta Catholic. Mom’ side, Lutherans who were essentially secular. Never once saw my mom or her mom do any actual “Luthering”! It was baptism, confirmation and funerals, at most, though my grandma read the Bible every day.

    So they kept their word, put me through Catholic grade schools and even high school. I had a very good education in theology and a good education in general, and was, in my own way, pretty devout. Became an alter boy, and at one time, was considered by some to have a priestly vocation. I certainly knew the phylogenetics of Christianity well enough to know that Catholicism was squarely within the genus of Christian faiths!

    So what “went wrong”? Why did I lapse? Well, I didn’t “lapse”. I discerned that I didn’t believe in the core doctrines of the Church or of Christianity generally. I did the work of a serious spiritual journey and found in my heart and soul that I was pagan and had been from the moment I became self aware in this world, if not before. I did in fact have a priestly vocation and have come to realize it.

    I know that Catholic doctrine and Christianity in its main forms cannot accept that answer, but I stand by it. Nobody “failed” me personally or through some defect of catechism. My soul was called elsewhere and I have found a peace and happiness there that I can only hope and assume Katrina has within the Catholic faith.

    Kids will become adults who make their own choices. The best you can do is to encourage them to make a spiritual journey, to do the real work of self-discovery, and to aspire to excellence as people. Those who have the tools and will to discern WILL end up where they’re supposed to. If they are meant to be Catholic, nothing will tear them from that path as no force could stop my own homecoming. If they are not, no magic words or clever catechism or evangelizing or threats or bribery will make them Catholic in any real sense.

    • oregon catholic

      Plenty of people talk themselves into and out of various religious traditions and even out of any belief at all. I think a lot of times there is no call and no mystery, just a human seeking after that which is comfortable and makes them happy.

      • kenofken

        People do get talked, hustled, cajoled and even bribed into religions, or participate out of habit or cultural inertia or parental expectation or even social standing, but only those called to it will live it and own it.

        • Suburbanbanshee

          That’s a dangerous way to think. Plenty of Scientologists live it and own it. Heck, Nazis lived it and owned it. They were enthusiastic, sure. That doesn’t mean they weren’t deceived by a bad religion.

          • kenofken

            If someone is a competent adult and the practice of their beliefs doesn’t violate any laws, it’s their right to believe or be deceived, by anything according to their deep conscience or even whim. As dangerous as that sounds, the alternative, of presuming to save others from “bad religion” is far, far worse. The horrors of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, the depradations of the Taliban, and every other ideology-based genocide were premised on the idea of “helping” others to see the light….

  • DaysofGraceandStumbling

    What confuses me is that many people who leave the Church end up attending Mass sometime afterwards. What do they hear at Mass that makes them think ‘non-Christian’? Don’t they hear the words of the Gloria, the Creed, and the Scriptures read aloud? What do they think when we stand to hear the Gospel or ask for God’s intercession together? I can’t help but believe that they tune it out rather than confront that they might be mistaken.

    • alwr

      The fundagelicals I worked with taught that words of the mass were “vain repetitions” and that the people had no idea what it all meant. The greatest ‘get’ for these people, also, is to convert a Catholic and haul them out to give their testimony about how they had never heard of Jesus prior to “getting saved”. Interestingly, I have often discovered that the former “Catholics” giving those testimonies were from families where they attended mass once or twice a year and in two cases had not even been confirmed. So there you go.

    • michicatholic

      Holiness doesn’t happen in 45 minutes a week.

  • Nan

    My mom left the Church when I was 7, taking the whole family with her. We simply didn’t go to church as she doesn’t believe in God. I’ve encountered many who believe that to accept Jesus Christ is to be saved and even when I wasn’t going to Church, mocked them with a guy going to the Unitarian church; we knew we were saved 2000 years ago, when Christ died for our sins. But it was still a few years before I began attending Mass. So yeah, feral Catholic.

  • Catholicthinker

    I wonder if this helps. I am Catholic, I was in a protestant church for along time, This is why i think. I was invited out to it. The protestants are very strong on doing this and they really push evangelizing, they also teach that we are not saved, so they need to save us (Catholics and others) by bringing us into their church to be saved. Then they teach you must be born again and other things. Not knowing the differences in their teaching and ours can be the problem. Even going or accepting their invitation is a problem. Catholics don’t realize their agenda is to convert us and we go thinking we are just going to church, it is church after all we think. It is dangerous and i remember reading a sin to participate in non Catholic worship. I knew when i went there that it was wrong. Why i didn’t go home and never go back i don’t know. I kept it a secret from the parish i went to i feared excommunication. Also once you are in the protestant churches you will hear from others many anti-Catholic things, comments and stuff against our church, against Mother Mary and the saints, and they use scripture to try to back it up.Our children need to know that these things, that they will encounter these things and to not go there or accept invitations to their services because it will cause doctrinal confusion and other things. Also be aware of the names of Protestant authors so that they will not unknowingly pick up a book by one and be learning their doctrine without realizing it. Joel Osteen being a very popular one. Why read protestant books when we have such a library of wonderful works by the Saints and other Catholic authors. Why drink from a puddle when the ocean is right at your feet? Why not teach your kids to evangelize back and to handle such an encounter with an return invite to learn more about the Catholic faith. I was just approached by one of my friends from my former protestant prayer group on Facebook today with a quick bible verse and advice not to pray to “dead saints”, I returned her comment with a firm response that i am not interested in the opinion of their preachers that i trust the teachings of our church and that if she had questions about the Catholic church i would be happy to direct her to sites that would answer her questions on our doctrine and teaching, opening the door for her to learn from us rather than from her pastor.
    I hope this is helpful.

    • alwr

      Evangelicals are very active on college campuses and dedicated to converting Catholic students. We need to do more to equip our teens to defend their faith. Often, those groups are the only one on smaller campuses where students find others who have strong values and then they get sucked into the denomination as well.

      • Christian LeBlanc

        Yes. Catholics need a new catechetical paradigm such that they may flourish and even evangelize in a religiously-competitive culture.

  • Gail Finke

    I went through many years where I was not practicing, but I never joined any other “church.” It always seemed to me that it was the Catholic Church or nothing — and I was not at all well catechized. It just seemed obvious that the other churches had all left the Church, so why bother with them? Also, I did not (and still don’t) understand how people would go back and forth between denominations. I thought that if a person was a Lutheran, it would only be because they thought the Lutherans were right and everyone else was wrong. So why would a Lutheran move to another town and become a Presbyterian? Wasn’t there a difference?

    Why I picked “nothing” I really can’t say… A lack of clear thinking, certainly. But anyway, I was away from the Church for a long time, despite never doubting that there was something special about the Eucharist (although I didn’t give it any more thought than that). So there is hope for everyone!

  • Rebecca Duncan

    My friend has heard this before from a protestant. The protestant lady was surprised that my friend was ‘christian’ even though she is ‘catholic’. I think a huge part of it (if not the whole reason) is because Catholics aren’t open about their faith and love for Jesus. Sure you can go to Mass, but if you don’t hear people there who talk about how much they love Jesus and what He’s done for them, then it can just seem like lip service and a sort of fake ritual. When I became Catholic I was pretty shocked about how people in my parish acted, especially priests. Nobody seemed to really care about anything they were doing at Mass. They weren’t enthusiastic or reverent or…anything. Just sort of there and most like they didn’t want to be there. That’s what it seemed like to me. I’m not saying that’s how they really were in their hearts, but outside appearances do matter. I was never a protestant, just raised with no faith. I never thought Catholics weren’t Christian. But…going to a lukewarm parish, you can understand how people might get the idea that Catholics don’t really care about Jesus per se, but only about their rituals. I can see why that happens. Their personal relationship with Jesus and their witness of that is very lacking. Plus, no emphasis on evangelization whatsoever. ( I once asked about evangelization in a meeting of the RCIA team and they looked at me like I was from Mars.) For a Protestant the personal relationship, the witness, the evangelization is what being a Christian is. If you don’t do those things or show that, then you’re not Christian. I’m speaking generally. I used to think that was silly and unfair, but I’ve changed my mind. I’m kind of in agreement with them that if you aren’t in love with Jesus and showing it, then how are you really Christian? Just going to Mass doesn’t make you a Christian. It’s like GK Chesteron said, going to church doesn’t make me a christian anymore than standing in a garage makes me a car.
    We learn that we shouldn’t showcase our faith because it’s like being a hypocrite and just wanting attention for how holy we are. But, I think it’s backfired in a lot of ways.
    I would say that if you really want to pass on the Faith to your kids, you have to really emphasize who Jesus is and what He’s done for you, how you pray, what your spiritual life is like and how theirs is and why you love Jesus and how you are telling other people about Jesus too and why they should. Not just pray the rosary or go to mass or teach them just facts. Sure, the catechism is very important, Mass is important, the Rosary is important, but without the relationship with Jesus that stuff can be pretty easy to leave behind. If being christian is just going to Mass and being a pretty good person, then what’s the point? Can’t you just be a pretty good person without going to Mass? Sure.
    If you read someone like St. Therese you can see that she was raised right. She was raised to love Jesus, to know who He is and what He means and that He’s her whole life and how to have a deep prayer life and to do works of charity, self sacrifice and why. She wasn’t just thrown into a CCD program or a Catholic school, learn the facts and expected to suddenly be Christian in her heart. That takes conversion which every person who is raised as a Christian has to go through, just like people who weren’t raised Christian.
    Read the book “Intentional Disciples” by Sherry Whedell (sp).

    • alwr

      I respectfully disagree. I am also a convert. I spent six years teaching in an evangelical/fundamentalist school. They firmly believe that Catholics are not Christian due to theological differences based on their rejection of hierarchy, the communion of saints, tradition and often the sacraments and the founding Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Mix all of that with the practice born of the Second Great Awakening of emphasizing the private and individual interpretation of scripture above all things and they have a long list of reasons to believe that the Catholic Church is not Christian (not to say that they are not entirely incorrect; they certainly are). The assumption is not based on “enthusiasm” or what we say. Many evangelicals believe that baptism is not even necessary. Most of their churches do not have communion even on a weekly basis. I know of one nearby evangelical mega church that has it once a year.

      • Rebecca Duncan

        I realize they teach anti catholic things alwr. I was just focusing on the interpersonal aspect since that seemed to me one that is often overlooked.

    • michicatholic

      A bigger part of it is that Catholics can coast along without ever really having any kind of relationship with Jesus, or without ever making a conscious choice to be one of his disciples. Recent research, in fact, shows that the great majority of Catholics are coasting and have never made a conscious choice. That’s the issue.
      This is, incidentally, also why Catholics tend to be so passive about their faith. Generally speaking, they don’t attend things because they’re not yet committed to Christ. Better than 80% of them don’t attend mass every week. If you ever notice, in most parishes, it’s the same 5% or so that show up for all the programs and do all the volunteer work. That’s the 5% or so that has a commitment. The rest are coasting.

      • Christine Hebert

        I would argue that the “same 5%…do all the volunteer work” may like it that way. I have been a member of my parish since 1986. I am still treated like an outsider by the “5%.” I gave up trying to volunteer for many things because I got sick of being pushed aside or ignored. I recently found out that when our former pastor “retired” due to ill health there was no priest who wanted to come to our parish because of the reputation of the people. I continue in the parish because I have prayed about it and attended Mass at other parishes and feel God has put me where I am. He must have His reasons.

        • alwr

          I worked in a parish that was like that. Horribly insular, unwelcoming, and tore up the priests. They also had an issue replacing a priest and the bishop essentially had to force someone to go there. We have moved and our current parish is so completely different and so refreshing to be part of. Hang in there.

        • michicatholic

          I hear you. That goes on too. It’s a different phenomenon when a parish is taken over by political cliques.

  • Kristen inDallas

    I left over stuff I disagreed with that it turns out the church never taught. The good news – leaving and coming back makes you fight to understand the things that didn’t (and sometimes still don’t) make sense. I firmly believe that anyone who leaves for the wrong reasons will come back for the right ones. Just make sure the hearts in the right place and eventually the questions will start producing more meaningful answers.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I’m curious- what did you disagree with that the church never taught?

      • Kristen inDallas

        oh just literal interpretations where literal interpretations didn’t make any sense. A stubborn PSR teacher who thought she was right and a stubborn teenager who thought the whole church was wrong…

  • michicatholic

    This is actually very, very common. It’s less common in the “bible belt” South because most people there are familiar with the Bible and some of the main themes of Christianity. But outside the bible belt, you can get major resistance to basic Christian themes from “practicing” Catholics. “Catholicism” is a cultural obsession without Gospel content for a great many people in some parts of the country.

  • michicatholic

    Also oeb25, it wasn’t the “dumbing down of catechesis” that caused this. Some of the most cultural-only Catholics are the old ones.

    • Christian LeBlanc

      Yes, the ones steeped in Baltimore Catechism memorization.

  • Cathy R.

    You are correct…there are no guarantees! Teach your children the faith and then pray that you have sown the seed in good soil! The Holy Spirit blows where it will. I pray that your children & mine will stay with our mother, the church.
    I grew up as one of 5 children (the original 4 had the Baltimore Catechism & went to Catholic school, the last one was raised in the 70′s when catechesis was really bad). The youngest fell away almost immediately, but so did the eldest! The second & third children go to church sometimes (not sure how often as we live in different cities). I was the 4th one, (I only went to Catholic school for 5 year). Yet I still attend church weekly and I am very interested in my faith (I am just drawn to it).
    That Catholic/Christian thing? yes I have heard that before. Some of the Protestant churches don’t think the Catholic church is “Christian”. Others just say you are “Catholic” or one of all those other “Christian” churches which lumps all the Protestants together (even though their teachings can be very different).

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I always knew Catholicism was Christian. But other Christians started turning me off to my faith in college. So I began to wander a bit. Not into other forms of Christianity- that was what had turned me off. Shamanism, Buddhism, atheism is what drew me. Nothing under 1500 years old seemed to have any truth in it at all to me.

    What brought me back was some adventures in unchastity that proved to me that Catholic teaching on chastity was correct.

  • Ellen

    I have a Baptist friend who respectfully disagrees that his denomination is “protestant.” He says that we were all one Christian family (in his beliefs) until Rome started to change things. Believes they still worship as the early Christians until now. Because our friendship exposes him to “good” Catholics, we don’t argue the point, we merely disagree. His wife even graduated from Belmont Abbey (then St Mary’s for her) in Special Education. So, I guess it’s possible she COULD have thought that way, and that Catholics broke off? Anyway, I had never known that any protestant denomination did not define ITSELF as protestant. I guess that’s one of the side benefits in staying in close touch with and discussing issues with those who AREN’T Catholic. I have learned a lot this way, but like another commenter, love my Church even when I’m having troubles being as good as I should, and I can’t fathom EVER going to another. Other than as a visitor with a friend or a wedding or such. And even then I feel the need to and understand that I still have to make it to mass somewhere. But that in itself is a witness sometimes, I think….

  • RJH

    Over the last 20 years I have been conducting my own completely unscientific poll on what baptized Catholics believe and how and if they practice. Cities I polled in range from: Chicago, St Louis, Phoenix, New York, Paris and Kalamazoo. I had the experience of working at a youth hostel in New York City for a year and a half where we had over 500 young adults staying each day and I had the opportunity to talk to thousands of them from literally every corner of the world. I would usually work religion into the conversation and many of the Europeans were from Catholic backgrounds. To answer your question based on thousands of conversations, people who grew up in the 70s-90s, were never told that the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ. That it is the One, True Church. That all other religions, sects, cults, what have you, are false. Most range from a belief that the Church is just one religion among many to the Church is special, but still just one among many. Some believe religion should be scraped altogether and others, that you pick one religion and stick to it, doesn’t matter which one, just pick one, or a type of pan-religion, where you blend beliefs and practices of many philosophies, religions and traditions. I could site many, many examples and obviously I am boiling this down, there are many contributing factors, but this ignorance of what the Church is, seems to be at the heart of the problem.

    • michicatholic

      It’s not ignorance of the Church that’s the problem. It’s ignorance of Jesus Christ who founded the Church for a purpose, which makes it different from all other organizations. Why is this important? Because of who Christ was and who he is! If people are to see this crucial distinction, they have to learn what happened in the Gospels: the WORDS & WORKS of Jesus Christ. And they have to be informed of his promises to us if we ask him to step into our lives and share them with him.

      And yes, I’m Catholic. But this is the piece most Catholics are missing and it’s why we’re losing people left and right. If you don’t know the basics about Jesus, there’s not a lot of reason to be very dedicated to your faith. Just cultural stuff that’s all, and just cultural stuff doesn’t really doesn’t motivate all that many people anymore.

  • Lydia

    Well, my folks left the church when I was 5 for a number of odd reasons, but we all came back en masse when I was 15. I was in a protestant school in Maryland, though, and heard a lot about the “Catholics aren’t Christians” thing. My friends often expressed surprise that I was a Christian, while also being a Catholic. One thing I’ve noticed, particularly since moving to the Bible Belt, is that a lot of the older generation mass every Sunday, never miss a holy day of obligation Catholics are, for whatever reason, not terribly well versed in living as Christians. The follow the rules, which is good, but leave religion at the church door for the rest of the week. It’s not that they don’t believe it, it’s that they haven’t internalized it in a transformatve way. Perhaps it’s because of a cultural thing (we live in Southern Irish Catholic Central)-evangelizing was never an issue as the Catholics were historically very separated from the Protestant majority. Maybe, if she’s a southern lady, there’s a distinction. Even some of the schoolgirls I’ve taught here don’t really know what to do with the term “Christian” Down south it does seem to mean Protestant.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I blame the seven precepts of the Church for that.

      What isn’t in there? The two greatest commandments aren’t in there. Belief in God isn’t in there (you can be an atheist and be a practical Catholic, though I have no idea why you would). Respect for life isn’t in there. Taking care of refugees and the homeless isn’t in there. Respect for God’s creation, whether internal to our bodies or external in the universe, isn’t in there.

      The new Catechism trimmed this down to five, but it really should be about 50.

      • kenofken

        I would suggest the problem is more fundamental than catechism. It goes to the most basic understanding of who the Church counts as Catholic. Being Catholic requires no belief, no practice, and in fact, no act of conscious choice whatsoever. All it requires at its bare minimum is that you were born to Catholic parents who had you baptized, insincerely or not. After that, you’re Catholic even if you renounce its beliefs and practices and join another religion. The Church actually had a defined process by which one could “defect” and be acknowledged as an ex-member (though not “un-baptized”. They abolished that process after it caught on in Europe and got a bit embarrassing. The apparent goal is to maximize cultural and political influence by claiming x number of billion Catholics, but it also means vast segments of Catholicism are populated by people who have no real interest or investment in being Catholic. It’s assigned almost as a function of one’s ethnicity, and often maintained only nominally to keep family peace etc. Is it any wonder that so many don’t bother to develop an understanding or leave it for ill-informed reasons?