On Former Catholics & Why They Left the Church

On Former Catholics & Why They Left the Church April 22, 2023

I received a letter from a man who was raised as a Catholic in the 1960s and who stated that the Catholic Church was “unable to meet” his “spiritual needs,” because, in his opinion, “it was all rules, doctrine and religion” without the “power to deliver or save.”  He found spiritual fulfillment in evangelicalism and specifically, in charismatic evangelicalism. The following is my response.


Thanks for taking the time to write an articulate letter.

The problem with your reasoning is that all Christian groups have doctrines (creeds / confessions) and rules, to more or less degrees. You may not like it in Catholicism, but nevertheless you’ll get the same thing, maybe less so in Protestantism. And it is because all human groups have belief-systems and laws and rules. It has to do with fundamental order and how human beings organize.

The majority of Protestants have sacraments, too. Virtually all believe in sacramental baptism. The ones who don’t, like Baptists, simply play word games and call it an “ordinance.” But it’s still believed to be virtually required and very important. I understand the Holy Spirit and the charismatic experience. I went to those churches as a Protestant (Assemblies of God), and there is much good in it (as well as a lot of harmful excesses too). In fact I attend a charismatic Catholic parish now, filled with wonderful, on-fire Christians.

As you noted, people come up with all sorts of reasons to leave Catholicism. Each case has to be examined on its own. No offense, but I think these particular reasons to leave the Catholic Church are woefully inadequate ones. The Catholic Church believes in just about everything that you say is good in evangelicalism, though I freely concede that often in practice evangelicals do a better job of meeting human needs. We can learn from them in that way, for sure. That’s why I am glad that I was an evangelical, and am very grateful for what I learned there. The Catholic Church in effect falters when her members fall short of what they should be doing and believing. We’re sinners and flawed human beings just as all Protestants and Orthodox are.

You say that you and “all” your Catholic friends got absolutely nothing out of Catholicism. That’s odd, because pretty much all of my Catholic friends think the Catholic Church is great, and they feel quite fulfilled, and the converts, like myself, feel more fulfilled in their lives of discipleship than they did as Protestants. So something isn’t adding up there. Why the difference in satisfaction and remembered experience is so huge would be a very interesting discussion to have. I think you need to meet examples of serious, on-fire Catholics who love Jesus as much as you do. And Catholics need to know their Protestant brethren better. We have so much in common.

Bottom line: we are Catholics because we believe that this Church teaches the fullness of Christian, biblical truth, and I have devoted my life to writing about and defending why we believe this to be the case, and how Catholicism is far more biblical than any Protestant denomination. I believe that with all my heart, and am totally convinced of it, and give the reasons why, in 4,200+ articles and 51 books. In the end, I appeal to the Bible. I say it points folks to the Catholic Church, and I give lengthy reasons for why I think so.

Certainly you would expect me to say that, knowing that I am a Catholic apologist! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to give a bit of our side, too.

May God bless you with all good things,



This person then detailed more graphically his own Catholic experience:

Catholicism taught us that Protestants were heretics going to hell. During adolescence and into our early 20s,  me and my friends, all my close friends, developed into drunks, drug users and licentious individuals.  Two of my best childhood friends died young due to drugs and alcohol.  Our Catholicism became nothing more that attending Catholic funerals, Catholic weddings and sometimes Mass on Easter and Christmas.  Our ‘culture’ was Catholic but we were never taught how to receive power to overcome the world, flesh and devil.

I replied a second time:


As I have alluded to, if you weren’t properly educated and catechized in the Catholic Church, that comes down to human failure, and possibly also your own lack of any enthusiasm for religious matters. Every person is responsible to learn for themselves as well, if they have crappy teachers. We stand alone in deciding what is true, just as we all will stand alone before God and give account, and He won’t allow the usual blame-shifting. He’ll be looking at us — you and I — right in the eye. It didn’t help that the 60s and 70s was a terrible time in the history of the Catholic Church, with the theological liberals running wild and rebelling against the Church (just as was happening in mainline Protestantism as well). So you were one of millions of victims of that.

I could say the same about myself from the opposite end. I grew up (first ten years: 1958-1968) in Methodism. I didn’t learn anything; had no religious interest, was dumber than a doornail about theology. I wound up getting into the occult and not going to church for 13 years. It was a failure of our church and of my parents. Then I became an evangelical Protestant in 1977 and everything opened up to me. I read the Bible, was filled with the Holy Spirit, became pro-life and a political conservative, started street witnessing and doing apologetics, figured out that premarital sex was gravely sinful: all within two years’ time.

Does that mean Methodism is crappy and lousy? No; it means that my particular church didn’t teach me; didn’t create a spark of interest. Same thing in your case. We don’t determine the truth of a system by looking at its most lousy practitioners. One can talk about sin and sinners all day long. That’s a different topic from “what is true in theology and how do we determine it?”

So I had a good, though not perfect, evangelical experience for 13 years (where it lacked it was due to people’s sin and shortcomings), then I felt that I moved up even higher spiritually and learned a ton more things as a Catholic.

People have all kinds of experiences. As an apologist, I defend what I believe to be truth and the fullness of truth in Christianity. And in that respect, I believe Catholicism is unique and is the one Church of Christ that He established. Protestants are part of that Church through baptism, but imperfectly so. They have a great deal of truth and good things, but lack the fullness of Christian truth and practice.

And they believe in various false doctrines and cave on moral teachings to various degrees, whereas Catholic teaching remains exactly the same: homosexual sex is gravely, intrinsically disordered. Meanwhile, more and more Protestant denominations think sodomy is fine and dandy, just as they think abortion is, and divorce and contraception and fornication. Catholicism continues to uphold apostolic and biblical teaching and oppose all of those things as grave sins. This is a major reason why I am a Catholic: it has the best and most biblical, apostolic moral theology of any Christian group.

No Christian group thought contraception was permissible until 1930, when the Anglicans first allowed it for hard cases only. Learning that caused me to change my opinion. It was the first thing I changed my mind on. Then I read about the so-called “Reformation” from both sides and learned about development of doctrine and it was over. I had to follow the fullness of Christian truth to where I came to believe it was located. I understood evangelicalism. I wasn’t ignorant. It was lacking when compared to Catholicism.  You can read several versions of my conversion story if you are interested.

God bless and have a great weekend,



Practical Matters: Perhaps some of my 4,200+ free online articles (the most comprehensive “one-stop” Catholic apologetics site) or fifty-one books have helped you (by God’s grace) to decide to become Catholic or to return to the Church, or better understand some doctrines and why we believe them.

Or you may believe my work is worthy to support for the purpose of apologetics and evangelism in general. If so, please seriously consider a much-needed financial contribution. I’m always in need of more funds: especially monthly support. “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18, NKJV). 1 December 2021 was my 20th anniversary as a full-time Catholic apologist, and February 2022 marked the 25th anniversary of my blog.

PayPal donations are the easiest: just send to my email address: apologistdave@gmail.com. You’ll see the term “Catholic Used Book Service”, which is my old side-business. To learn about the different methods of contributing, including 100% tax deduction, etc., see my page: About Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong / Donation InformationThanks a million from the bottom of my heart!

Photo credit: AgnosticPreachersKid: St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church located at 1419 V Street, NW in the U Street Corridor of Washington D.C. The Gothic Revival building was constructed in 1893 [Wikimedia Commons /  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license]


Summary: I respond to two letters from a former Catholic, in which he explained that he received no helpful instruction at all as a Catholic and indeed had a “hellish existence.”

Browse Our Archives