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Why I’m Not Returning To Catholicism

Time magazine asked me to write something for its website on Pope Francis. I tried to think of something nobody else had said. Is there anything by now? Probably not. What I settled on was writing something contrary to the meme going around that fallen-away Catholics are thinking of returning to the Church now that there’s a nice guy on the Petrine throne, not God’s Rottweiler. As an admirer and fellow traveler (though a fallen-away one) of Benedict, I think that’s a nonsense distinction, but anyway, I wanted to point out that the supposed heartless rigor of the John Paul/Benedict church was not only a mirage, but rather the lack of moral rigor and spiritual seriousness in the life of the Americna church was a contributing factor to the loss of my own Catholic faith.

Here’s the essay. [1]I want to add for readers of this blog something that I didn’t get into in the Time essay, because it was already too long: that the primary reason I’m not a candidate for returning to Rome is because I simply do not believe Catholic doctrine any longer. If I had the essay to write over, I would have added these lines:

To be sure, the primary reason I’m not for turning back to Rome is because I do not believe Catholic doctrine any longer. Even if I thought Francis was the second coming of John the Baptist, I couldn’t rejoin a church in whose ecclesiological claims I have ceased to believe. The point here is simply that the aspect of Francis’s papal ministry that the world sees as a feature is, for people like me, a bug.

Anyway, read the whole thing. [1] I’m happy to publish criticism in the comments thread, but not abuse.

135 Comments (Open | Close)

135 Comments To "Why I’m Not Returning To Catholicism"

#1 Comment By Animadversor On September 30, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

[Mr. Dreher, something happened to the line breaks in my previous submission. I’d be obliged if you disallowed it and allowed the following to be posted instead.]

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Papal infallibility plays a minor role in Catholicism. Since the First Vatican Councul defined it in 1870, it has been explicitly invoked only twice ,in the definitions of the Immaculate Conception and of the Assumption.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined in 1854, before the definition of papal infallibility in 1870 by the First Vatican Council. If, then, one accepts the definition of the Immaculate Conception

by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: “We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

as meeting the criteria for an infallible statement, as stated by Vatican I,

we teach and define as a divinely revealed dogma tha when the Roman pontiff speaks ex cathedra that is, when in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church, he possesses by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility which the divine Redeemer willed his church to enjoy in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals Therefore, such definitions of the Roman pontiff are of themselves, and not by the consent of the church, irreformable.

then that would suggest that the definition of papal infallibility by Vatican I was not seen as the “invention” of some novelty, but rather the definitive statement of something already part of the faith, for the benefit of those who may have been unclear about the matter. Now certainly the defintion of the dogma of the Assumption meets those criteria

by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.

However, it is a common error that holds that only those two defintions meet the criteria. Once could cite in addition the statement of John Paul II regarding the ordination of women

Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.

Granted, the language is a bit less imposing, but it meets the criteria for infallibility. Indeed, there are quite a few papal statements both before and after 1854 that meet the criteria, not just the two mention by Mr. Podles. One need not in fact believe in papal infallibility to see this.

#2 Comment By Tony On September 30, 2013 @ 10:50 pm

You missed my point earlier regarding the unity of east and west, my question was, is your lack of faith in the doctrine of infallibility unrecoverable, as I’m sure it would be for many orthodox if a unification ever did happen, many would probably not go along with

#3 Comment By Jordan On September 30, 2013 @ 10:55 pm

Why wouldn’t you join a traditionalist group such as the Society of Pope Pius X ?

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 30, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

Roland, your lengthy comment certainly exemplifies why I place little stock in doctrine or dogma. What does it matter how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. What do we know about the specific condition of Mary’s womb, soul, or anything else on a chronological graph from age A to age B? Its all a maze of pointless human preoccupation.

Although I’m not a Gnostic, nor a Cosimanian Orthodox, Charles Cosimano has this exactly right:

It is very hard, for me impossible, after contemplating the vastness and variety of the Cosmos, to think that the words of churches and councils and apostles matter very much and in the face of it, the conflicts over which Greek words would most accurately describe the relationship between Jesus and God becomes an exercise in absurdity.

#5 Comment By Chris 1 On October 1, 2013 @ 12:01 am

I suspect that there was some threshold amount that had to be disbelieved before you took the huge step of leaving Catholicism.

I think that’s probably overbroad. From what he’s written it seems Rod left the Roman Catholic Church because it betrayed his trust, and the doctrinal problems that were always there became clear post-facto.

My question for the faithful Catholics here is this: Do you accept the fullness of the Papal Claims: that the Pope is universally and unilaterally powerful within the Church; and that the Pope is uniquely protected from error by the Holy Spirit?

#6 Comment By Another Matt On October 1, 2013 @ 12:42 am

Rod:

I’d like to ask you, as a Protestant, to reflect on how you can trust the authority of the Church Fathers who canonized the Bible. How do you know they were right to choose the books they did, and to exclude the others?

There’s an utterly hilarious take on this here:

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Excerpt:

Among the books that Eusebius of Caesarea was considering were the Apocalypse of Peter and the Apocalypse of John. He had to have an apocalypse, the end of the world, because he’d started with the Gospel of John at “In Principio.” Nice symmetrical bookending. But he had several Apocalypses in his Disputed list and none in his Accepted list. What to do?

He had many objections to the Apocalypse of John, starting with What Was He Smoking, and moving on to Too Many Contemporary Political References and I’m Not 100% Sure John Was The Guy Who Wrote This. Eusebius preferred the Apocalypse of Peter, where Jesus takes Peter on a long tour of Heaven and Hell. And after Christ explains all the tortures of the damned, according to category (quite Dantesque), Peter says, “Hey, Josh. You and me go way back, went fishing together, been out drinking, talking philosophy ‘til dawn, and the whole time You’ve been all peace and love and forgiveness and mercy. Isn’t this a little dark for You?” And Jesus replies, “Yeah, Pete. I know. I’ve got to have a hell because it’s a logical necessity, but I never liked the place. Let me tell you a secret, just between you and me: I’m not going to actually put anyone in here. I’m going to save everyone.”

So Eusebius of Caesarea thought about this and said to himself, “If everyone gets saved why will anyone bother believing in Christ and being good and doing good works and loving their neighbor?” so he went with the Apocalypse of John with the seven seals and the great beast and 666 and all that instead.

#7 Comment By Another Matt On October 1, 2013 @ 12:52 am

Turmarion:

I had a spell as a teen in which I obsessed over the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Mark 3:29) that cannot be forgiven “in this world or the world to come” and kept thinking that if I said the wrong obscenity I would irremediably go to Hell. I developed all kinds of little ticks and phrases that I had to say mentally (which kept people from thinking I was crazy) in order to counteract this.

Sigh, yes, I had this spell, too, but it was from about age 4. I can remember at about age 8 the words “The Holy Spirit is a penis” flowing through my stream of consciousness (or maybe better my “stream of conscience”), and I worried over that — rehearsed that moment over and over, even — into my twenties. I can kind of laugh about it now. It’s always interesting to me how people with different temperaments latch on to different things.

#8 Comment By Another Matt On October 1, 2013 @ 1:29 am

The discussion of how our parents inform our view of God is really interesting. My dad was always pretty arbitrary in his discipline, in all the relevant ways — we were never sure what the rules were, which ones would be enforced, or how severe the punishment would be. Maybe it’s no wonder why I’ve always latched on to the actions of the seemingly real and present Lord of Genesis-Kings or Chronicles. Much of the time it’s hard to tell who the good guy is until God does some smiting. The rationale behind the punishment is often not given, and it often comes without warning. There’s also the whole “God talks directly to people” thing in the Hebrew Bible, with explicit commands (but often no rationale), where wickedness comes from disobeying, not because what the person did was right or wrong on the merits. That was a huge thing in my childhood — one was supposed to “hear God’s voice” as clearly as it is depicted when The Lord said to Moses, which meant you had a broken spirit if you didn’t hear, and you were wicked if you heard but didn’t obey (or if you didn’t obey what an older relative heard Him command).

The funny thing about the Evangelical small-f fundamentalism of my childhood is that we were taught that ever since Jesus there was always a congregation of Real True Believers who shared the Evangelical beliefs and literalist approach to scripture, and we always wondered how the Crazy Catholics could so willingly branch off from that and create all their wacky, evil traditions — clearly it was because they wanted to hide the truth of the Bible. I was relieved when I first started reading about church history how backwards this was, and that there were actually theologies that were not nearly as arbitrary as what I knew all my life as “Christian.” I settled in the Eastern Orthodox Church myself for a few years because it seemed like the most authentic Christianity, but after a while I just could not believe the supernatural claims any longer. I really loved our priest in NYC though – he taught me a lot. I kind of have a sore spot with fellow atheists whose knowledge of Christianity is only a superficial familiarity with YEC-literalists and Roman Catholicism, but I can understand why they think it would be a waste of time to put in the study effort — sometimes I think my time would have been better spent learning more music and more math. But, theology continues to be an interest for me even if I don’t believe.

#9 Comment By mohammad On October 1, 2013 @ 3:46 am

Bernie,

thanks so much for the links. I have bookmarked them to read them.

#10 Comment By Moses Law On October 1, 2013 @ 4:05 am

Excellent essay – and serendipitously stimulating dialogue as well!
As a slightly older, slightly earlier convert from other Christian opinions to canonical Orthodoxy, I must say that several of the commentators seem to see this movement as an academic or syllogistic reposturing. I speak particularly to Siarlys Jenkins, Connie and Surly; please do not take these words as insults, but the tectonic and visceral shift to the transformative (as in Rom. 12) therapy of the ancient faith as preserved in the Orthodox Christian faith and practice (in the best of examples anyway) is without peer in addressing all that fundamentally ails mankind.
If I resonate with you at all, Mr. Dreher, I affirm that your departure from Protestantism by way of the compromised Roman communion is in no way cosmetic or mere personal preference.
My own experience of that inner ache of busily participating in zealous campus ministry, edgy bus stop evangelizing, well-pleasing singles and kinship groups, temporarily pious retreats at the local Benedictine monastery, and as-sincere-as-possible happy, clappy worship that, in the end, NEVER CHALLENGED ME TO DIE TO MYSELF was excruciating.
I absolutely KNEW that my life was misaligned and unconformed to Christ’s life. And, from where I stood, I couldn’t do a damned thing about it!
It wasn’t until 1996 when I (together with a community of then Pentecostal seekers) was confronted by the living, breathing and incontestable reality of THE CHURCH, that I began to have hope and lay hold of Him (through repentance, confession and all manner of participation in the life of God through the accessible touch points HE DESIGNED – yes! the sacraments!) Who had laid hold of me 17 years earlier.
Those who have yet to immerse themselves in this life-bestowing therapy probably may not understand. But, the life in submission to the prescriptions of the ‘doctors’ of the church is a very happy one – full of bright sadness and crucified joy!

#11 Comment By reflectionephemeral On October 1, 2013 @ 7:28 am

Turmarion wrote, “I had a spell as a teen in which I obsessed over the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Mark 3:29) that cannot be forgiven”. Another Matt wrote, “The discussion of how our parents inform our view of God is really interesting.”

Seems like a mention of Kierkegaard is long overdue to this thread!

His life, too, was plagued by the fear of a blasphemy uttered in the past– that of his father, years before he was born. He was the youngest, and his father’s favorite. But he was estranged from him for a time after learning of his sins, only to reconcile later. (All from memory, am pleased to be corrected here if I’m oversimplifying).

Psychology precedes philosophy.

#12 Comment By Liam On October 1, 2013 @ 7:58 am

Today’s Pope Francis reading:

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#13 Comment By James C. On October 1, 2013 @ 8:12 am

I’ve arrived quite late to this discussion, and have yet to plow through all 100-odd comments, but I must say that the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus put it best:

Over on Beliefnet.com, Rod Dreher explains at length why he and his family have left the Catholic Church for Orthodoxy. It is painful reading, as it was undoubtedly painful for him to write. For those whom I have described as “ecclesial Christians,” Orthodoxy has to be very seriously considered. In ‘Catholic Matters’, I discuss some of those considerations and why I am convinced that an ecclesial Christianity is more fully realized in the Catholic Church.

Having said that, however, Dreher’s essay is important. Yes, his decision is in large part reactive. But he is reacting to very real corruptions in the Catholic Church. I hope every Catholic bishop and priest will read his essay, and especially those bishops and priests who are inclined to heave a sigh of relief that we have weathered the sex-abuse scandal. And every Catholic engaged in the standard intra-church quarrels, whether on the left or the right, should take to heart what he says about Catholics being more preoccupied with church battles than with following Jesus.

Dreher concludes his reflection with this: “Still, those of you more charitably inclined, please just pray for me and my family, that we always live in truth, and do the right thing, and be found pleasing to God, the Father of us all.” No Catholic should hesitate to join in that prayer.

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#14 Comment By James21345 On October 1, 2013 @ 8:20 am

All so very fascinating.

I’m sorry but I’ll ask the same question here I asked on the column that dealt with what is Francis saying to the right.

Rod, all of you: When we talk about church, be it Catholic, protestant, orthodox, name it, define success for those institutions. Again Saturday night the minister of the rather large church I attend gives a powerful sermon on salvation, the best I’ve ever heard in my life. In his closing prayer he tells those in the auditorium if you haven’t accepted Christ, pray the prayer of salvation with me. When he’s done with all eyes closed he says if you prayed that prayer raise your hand. A number did. He says in the room outside the auditorium we have a package for you to help you begin your walk as a Christian and courses for you to sign up.

Rod, the rest of you, I maintain the ONLY definition of success for ANY church for any church that calls themselves Christian is how many hands get raised. How many unbelievers accept Christ. It is the single most important thing churches do, it’s the single most important thing Christians do. Should we speak out against abortion? Sure. Should we do charitable acts? Absolutely. But as Christians our number one priority is and has to be sharing our faith with others. Christ made it oh so clear we are to be His disciples that we are as Acts 1:8 be witnesses for Him.

An earlier writer here talked about “revival” and said he doesn’t know what it is. Well look at D L Moody and see what he did. But honestly folks it’s simple. It means that pastors have to instill a sense of discipleship in the Christians who attend their churches. It means that Christians have to spend more time sharing their faith than talking about sports or politics.

I’m sorry but I’m going to keep saying this, the revivial starts today and it starts with each and every one of us who knows Christ as our savior. Have an unsaved friend? Ask politely “may I share this with you?” Polite and respectful at all times but do it. Don’t expect others to do it, you have to do it. Christ’s message on descipleship was a personal one aimed at every Christian, not just church leaders.

[NFR: And this is why you are an Evangelical. I don’t say that snarkily. Evangelicals are very good at evangelizing, and the rest of us could learn from y’all. But. What about what happens to those people the day after they have raised their hands? What about all the people in the congregation who raised their hands ages ago? Do they get the help they need in becoming disciples, not just converts? Conversion is the beginning of the church’s work, not the end. — RD]

#15 Comment By Fr. Jonathan On October 1, 2013 @ 8:22 am

My story is very different from yours, Rod. But I feel pretty much the same way now, including on the question of doctrine, which was not always the case. Thanks for capturing this so succinctly. I think you’re right that the danger is not that Francis is the secret liberal that the media and so many American Catholics want to make him out to be, but that he may be a tragic figure in that he does not get that the world will not smile at you and listen to what you have to say simply because you say it in a nicer way.

#16 Comment By Bernie On October 1, 2013 @ 8:42 am

@Chris 1:

In response to your questions, and as a faithful Catholic, I will simply offer this answer. Go to the *Catholic Answers* web site and read about the Pope and Catholic belief in his role and when he speaks ex-cathedra. Also, go to the *Catechism of the Catholic Church* and read that portion – it’s online.

Chris, I’m sure many Catholics share my feeling. I don’t like to debate this issue in this type of forum. There will be those waiting to disagree, etc. Everyone who belongs to a religion should try to find the one he thinks holds out the fullness of truth, as far as we poor humans can recognize truth. If you’re truly interested in this topic, please go and read at the two sites listed here. Thanks.

#17 Comment By Lee Podles On October 1, 2013 @ 9:32 am

I should have checked the date of the proclamation of the dogma of teh Immacualte Conception. It does proceed the 1870 Vatican I definition of papl infallibility.

Nonetheless, paal infallibility plays a small role in Catholic life; papal authroity plays a much larger role. Legal authority must be comgruent with moral authority to be convincing. An alcoholic judge may weigh in against the evils of drink; but if he continues guzzling, it will be hard to take him seriously.

#18 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On October 1, 2013 @ 9:44 am

Re: That is why all the great minds who decide to become Christian become Catholic. If the Catholic Church is done in by the priest/pedophile/homosexual scandal I think this will be the best argument/proof that Christianity is not true.

This kind of inane triumphalism (All the great minds? Really??) is just part of why I could never be Catholic, in spite of my respect for a lot of things about the Catholic church. Even if it was possible that Jesus intended there to be a single church hierarchy in the world (which I strongly disbelieve), I’m quite certain he didn’t intend for it to be a club of people slapping each other on the back about how much better there church was than the Protestant churches that the stupid folks attend.

If I ever leave Anglicanism it’s probably going to be ‘down’ the candle rather than up.

Rod, it’s interesting you say that about ‘history’: reading a bit about Christian history, and reading about all the alternative ‘Christianities’ that existed at one time or another is one of the things that inoculated me against the idea that Rome or Constantinople (or, really, anyone around today) was the One True Church.

#19 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On October 1, 2013 @ 9:47 am

Re: Eusebius preferred the Apocalypse of Peter, where Jesus takes Peter on a long tour of Heaven and Hell. And after Christ explains all the tortures of the damned, according to category (quite Dantesque), Peter says, “Hey, Josh. You and me go way back, went fishing together, been out drinking, talking philosophy ‘til dawn, and the whole time You’ve been all peace and love and forgiveness and mercy. Isn’t this a little dark for You?” And Jesus replies, “Yeah, Pete. I know. I’ve got to have a hell because it’s a logical necessity, but I never liked the place. Let me tell you a secret, just between you and me: I’m not going to actually put anyone in here. I’m going to save everyone.”

Hahaha. That’s hilarious. I’ve read the Apocalypse of Peter (everyone should: it’s one of the earliest texts, for one thing, that explicitly condemns abortion), and the end of it is indeed pretty interesting. I don’t think it makes the case for universalism as clearly as you suggest, it’s more that it *hints* at it.

#20 Comment By Michael On October 1, 2013 @ 10:48 am

I really appreciate this article, because it expresses so well how the “final leg” of my journey of exodus from RCC into Orthodoxy unfolded: heeding the call to repentance, a sine qua non of being a disciple of Jesus.

I also want to say a word about Pope Francis. I really love this man. I think his approach is dead on target. In an ER, the doctor does not waste time lecturing the gang member bleeding out from a gunshot wound about his bad choices and really messed up world view. He does what is necessary to save the punk’s life. Later, in the recovery room, in the rehab clinic, in the places where the man is conscious, breathing, and alive, the “change your life” stuff can be addressed.

Francis has said that he is a son of the church (and what evidence I have perused suggests this is the church of the first millennium, and what has survived of that church in RCC), meaning that he upholds Catholic doctrine concerning the sanctity of life, personal holiness, repentance (“I am a sinner”), etc. What shows this to be true in resplendent UltraHD clarity is that he consistently extends, first and foremost, the love and mercy of Christ to his fellow sinners, and calls all of us to do the same. That, my friends, is the dogma of all dogmas, demonstrated in action for us. It’s not the mere “God is love” platitude, but the authentic, “here’s how you do it,” bold proclamation that GOD IS LOVE. What RCCs and others who are excessively focused on this world that is passing away are not getting is that no person can say the entirety of church doctrine in a sound bite. Unless the Pope of Rome says that RC teaching is changed, or changing on a point of doctrine, then it is quite safe to assume that it is not changed or changing. Thus, his comments begin from that baseline.

Of course, the way that Pope Francis’s words have been received in various ideological quarters of RCC shows, in equally resplendent UltraHD, the way that most Catholics do not welcome the message of repentance. After the “surgery” of initial conversion and initiation into Christ, the “rehabilitative (physical) therapy” must begin. In terms of repentance, this true therapy (not the Extreme Makeover: Self-Esteem Edition variety) goes on for the entirety of life, which is something for which we, of course, pray at every Divine Liturgy.

I don’t know how this get’s fixed in the RCC. If I did, I might have remained in it, but I wasn’t going to experience the communal support necessary to sustain a life of repentance, because too many are involved in the game of “making it ok” to do whatever you want to do, as long as it doesn’t look too traditional or intolerant. I think the only way, frankly, that the RCC is going to be healed is by renouncing the “developments” of the last 1000 years (the problems started WAY before Vatican II – in fact, Vat II was an abortive attempt to get back to Orthodox Christianity), and affirming all that the One Holy [Orthodox] Catholic and Apostolic church holds to be true. There will be a massive exodus into the ECUSA at that point, but I think it must be better to be an honest, post-Jesus episcopalian than to remain dishonest “Catholic”.

#21 Comment By VikingLS On October 1, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

James, throughout most of history it would have been very unlikely that there would be any unbaptized people in a Christian community.

I used to wonder sometimes growing up as Baptist sometimes why we had an alter call some mornings when we knew perfectly well that everybody present was already saved, but in truth it was mostly to provide closure.

Orthodox Christianity tends to focus more one growing as a Christian.

We absolutely do need to do more outreach and I agree with the spirit of your post, but bear in mind most of the world’s Christians have never had an alter call as part of their service.

#22 Comment By James21345 On October 1, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

At Rod: Thank you for the kind comments, and I honestly mean that. And I get what you’re saying. Notice what I said, the church I attend we give them a package that provides more information, we offer courses that will help strengthen their faith. So far so good.

But I deal with a lot of homeless people with dimished capacity people I am likely never to see again. So yes, when they ask me for money I’m going to give it to them inside a New Testament a one page guide on how to become a Christian with three bullet points knowing full well that’s all they can handle. I’m responsible for sharing my faith with them, the Holy Spirit does the rest.

At traffic lights I see people all the time asking for money. Our hearts go out to them doesn’t it? We really feel for them don’t we? We can be them any time, the message of Job rings loud and clear sir. I have 30 seconds maybe before the light turns green. I give them the same New Testament, the same one page, the same amount of money, and pray to God that He will move in them.

When I talk to these people (if they let me) I don’t lie to them, no “prosperity religion” here just what happens later if you’re a Christian when all is made right.

I get your point about making them disciples afterwards and this church is embarking on a major program to do just that church wide. But sir our first and foremost goal is to try to get as many “home” as possible. It just has to be. When we are there God is going to look at us and ask us what we did for Him and I honestly think that first and foremost is going to be, how many lost did you witness to, how many did you share the faith with? We have to keep in mind that those people on the street, our friends, our co-workers, we may be the only person in their lives who may ever approach them and say, again respectfully “may I share this with you?” We may be the chance they get to make a real decision to choose heaven over hell. We just honestly have to give them that chance.

Sir the more I do this, the more I interact with the people I do, the more I feel the need to. I’m sorry if you feel I’m wasting your time but the only thing that is really going to change this country is a revival and sir it just has to start with each one of us.

Thank your sir for allowing me to express myself on this and I honestly wish you the best. And if I never meet you in person, I’ll see you in heaven. I look forward to it.

#23 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On October 1, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

Of course the Apocalypse of Peter only hints at universalism. Some people aren’t going to be saved unless they are afraid of hell. So the true universalist intention has to be only hinted at, because Jesus is going to save everybody.

There aren’t many churches left that teach hell like the Wisconsin Synod Lutherans, but I once heard a WELS pastor with a specialty in prison ministry recount how a woman asked him, “Do you really think Jeffrey Dahmer can be saved?” His immediate response was “Well, can you?” Lutherans my be sola grazia, but they are not the only ones who recognize that grace is essential.

#24 Comment By thomas tucker On October 1, 2013 @ 3:51 pm

Rod- I’m still waiting to hear how you answer Bob McMaster’s question from yesterday. I think fleshing that out would malke for very interesting reading.

#25 Comment By thomas tucker On October 1, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

I really need to take a keyboarding (i.e. typing, for you oldtimers) class.

#26 Comment By JonF On October 1, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

Re: James, throughout most of history it would have been very unlikely that there would be any unbaptized people in a Christian community.

Er, um, Jews? Maybe Gypsies too? Also, I believe that the children of prostitutes and other debauched characters were often denied the sacraments.

#27 Comment By liamj On October 29, 2014 @ 11:13 am

I think you’ve let your sinful nature come between you and the Church. You agree that God is love but went looking for the type of Love that best suited your person. I would be interested in which infallible dogma sent you away. Or was it simply sickly sweet homilies?

#28 Comment By Mac61 On November 11, 2014 @ 3:22 pm

Being Catholic can be challenging in many ways. I am probably one of the “moderate conservatives,” though I would rather see myself as traditional and loving in the way of St Peter Faver (sp?) — “Never close your heart to anyone.” I’m not sure I agree that the era of liberalism brought by post-Vatican II loose interpretations is responsible for the pedophilia crisis, unless you look at the link of the bishops’ readiness to accept “orthodox” psychological teachings of the 1970s regarding the rehabilitation of pedophiles. For me, that crisis is one of a secretive clerical culture in which bishops protected them not for liberal reasons but for traditional ones. Also, many allegations of abuse were from years before “the spirit of Vatican II” took over. To me, Pope John XXIII threw open the windows just in time to get hit with a tidal wave of a culture in crisis. But he needed to open those windows: two world wars and 6 million Jews burned in Christian Europe? We needed a council. I find Pope Francis less focused on what is necessary right now. We need to be loving and welcoming, yes. He has made that point. The real questions are more difficult than that.

#29 Comment By Keep the Faith On November 21, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

If you want CATHOLICISM, PLEASE come to a Traditional Latin Mass and parish. No nonsense, holy Priests, devout congregations, substantive sermons, TRUE catechisis, reverence and beauty in liturgy.
God IS love, but also justice.
Look beyond a teacher who is only on the natural plane and not on the supernatural……….

#30 Comment By Mark On February 19, 2015 @ 11:04 pm

How did rejecting Catholicism get to be a conservative American political issue ?

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#31 Comment By Hcat On February 28, 2015 @ 10:55 am

I’m not a Catholic, I decided, because I reject the idea that a priesthood can mediate grace; more precisely, that an ordained priesthood monopolizes Transubstantiation. Plus some Marian doctrines are over the top. If I knew the Orthodox or the Copts were better on this priesthood thing, I’d consider them.

#32 Comment By Anthony On June 30, 2016 @ 9:39 pm

Rod,
I will begin by stating that I am a practising Catholic … and I think I know where you’re coming from.

It might help you to realize that the present corruption in the Catholic Church is quite possibly a fulfilment of prophesy – i.e., the “falling away” or the “great apostasy” mentioned in 2Thessalonians 2:3.

The much-publicised problem of the altar boy-molesters represents just one symptom of a very sick Church. After Vatican II, mainstream Catholicism was quickly hi-jacked by political activists from the Loony Left. By the end of the 1970’s, Catholic life had been completely politicised and drained of authentic spirituality. To this day, mainstream Catholicism is little more than a religion of Cultural Marxism, dressed up to look like Christianity. It disgusts me.

To make matters worse, along came John Paul II with his demonic promotion of false religions. The fact that the Church saw fit to canonise this demented, Freemason Pope (the Patron Saint of Pantheism, I call him) is testament to just how corrupt the Church has become.

The only reason I remain with the Catholic Church is that I believe that it is the one, true Church that Jesus Christ founded. If it were for warning contained in the aforementioned 2Thessalonian 2 (and verses like it, I wouldn’t go anywhere near a Catholic Church!
I attend Mass every Sunday but I make my little protest by sitting outside the church building until it’s time for Communion. After receiving Communion I go back to my spot outside. Unfortunately, the Church has little to offer me but the Sacraments these days. The rest is pathetic rubbish.

I would estimate that less than 1% of priests and religious are actually true Catholics. They manage to fool and mislead many of the flock, but they don’t fool me.

And Pope Francis? – not a fan, I’m afraid. But what do you expect? He’s a Jesuit – a product of the most corrupt order in a very sick and corrupt Church.

#33 Comment By Laurence D On September 10, 2017 @ 12:16 pm

“If you know about the Catholic Church only from reading the papers, you are in for a shock once you come inside. The image of American Catholicism shown by the media is of a church preoccupied with sex and abortion. It’s not remotely true. I was a faithful Mass-going Catholic for 13 years, attending a number of parishes in five cities in different parts of the country. I could count on one hand the number of homilies I heard that addressed abortion or sexuality in any way. Rather, the homilies were wholly therapeutic, almost always some saccharine variation of God is love.”

Yes, the preoccupation is in the eye of the beholder (the media, for instance), but this is what we call a bad conscience, which is an intact conscience aware that it stands under adverse judgment. The fact that we don’t actively hear that judgment from the Church at the moment doesn’t mean that a sinner’s squirming is misplaced when he/she ascribes his/her sense of this judgment as coming from the Church. I mean, in this case the person knows the Church (of the ages) better than Church people do.

When things get to the point that bad consciences want to eliminate the people who still hang around that Church of the ages, there will be some true martyrs but also ones who died for the faith without meaning to. Those people might do well to make up their minds now, as Rod did, and disavow all association with it.

#34 Comment By Padre On August 1, 2018 @ 9:49 am

Remember Rod the blessedness of Light and Truth the Lord shares with us throughout Salvation History – the Lord never leaves us no matter our evils – He did not do so with adam and eve…then there is Hosea and his unfaithful spouse as an image of the Lord with His People continuously unfaithful… we must be attentive of falling for spiritual suicide because of the spiritual murders of others, I believe Francis de Sales once shared…

The reason for being in the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Spouse is because She/It is Jesus’ True and One Only Spouse. No one must let themselves partake in the leaven of knowing or living otherwise… one belongs to the Beloved only in His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Covenant Spouse because that is the Truth of what Jesus has done, established, gifted… Jesus has no other Spouse, not Pentecostal, Baptist, Calvinist, Methodist, etc – there is Only One Spouse through the One and Only Baptism into the One and Only Faith of the One and Only Lord, in the One and Only Spousal Body, since Christ in the Apostles 2000 yrs ago until now until He returns (cf 1 Cor 1; Eph 4).

Perhaps the link below is not the best article (please see link below), but it gives the reason why to remain – it is true, like Hosea, we return and remain, being faithful even, and especially, when the Judases are present and active; no different than the Beloved whom we must not claim to love but then do not follow or imitate His Love and Remaining with us despite our evils, and so do not love…the disciples who left for Emmaus came back for Jesus in His Spouse for the Liturgy of the Word and Eucharistic Word-Lamb: this is meant for our instruction and imitating the Holy Spirit says in Paul…satan is sneaky and clever, with Mary be sacramentally reconciled through the Blood and Water and Spirit of the Lamb for They testify to His wondrous mercy, wisdom and saving plan… Peace and mercies in the Beloved Lord Jesus Christ, Rod…may the One and True Spouse of the Beloved Christ appear before Him and all creation, white, spotless, without blemish, but glorious in Him! Padre

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#35 Comment By padre On August 1, 2018 @ 10:08 am

then there is this:

This Scandal is the Last Straw — Why Stay in the Catholic Church?

“We are not baptized into the hierarchy; do not receive the cardinals sacramentally; will not spend an eternity in the beatific vision of the pope. Christ is the point.” —Frank Sheed

from: [9]