Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The experience of converts who were Catholic and weren't enjoying it

However uncomfortable this video might make some of us feel, I think those of us who are converts to the Catholic Faith (at least most of us) will have to admit that there is some truth in it. Some have put the problem in terms of "false advertising," others in terms of a discrepancy between "word" and "deed."

I personally know, and doubtless many of you do as well, converts who made the arduous journey swimming upstream often at great personal cost, only to be disappointed by what they experienced in AmChurch. I personally sponsored some twenty individuals who were received into the Church via RCIA since my own conversion, and of these I know of three who have lapses or reverted to their erstwhile Protestant communions. And I know still others, often individuals of sound mind and theological substance who have also ceased to practice the Faith.

It would be easy to dismiss them by saying that they never really understood or believed the Catholic Faith, but I am acquainted with cases in which this could not possibly have been the case -- instances in which the convert wrestled with the issues, even producing pages and pages of written critical analyses critical of Protestant notions like justification by faith alone and sola fide, and working out their understanding of Catholic doctrines of Church authority, soteriology, Mariology, the intercession of saints, etc. I am still in contact (still "friends" with) several of these individuals, and it breaks my heart to see them where they are, and yet I also have to admit: there is a problem with what they encountered in today's Catholic Church.


Cruciform said...

What did they experience that caused such disappointment or discontentment with the Catholic Church?

Can we imagine that 1st-century believers who joined themselves to the *Apostolic Church* also experienced such "disappointments"? And what was the apostolic remedy for those instances when our experiences fail to reach our expectations?

JM said...

"Catholic and Not Enjoying It."

LOL. Maybe the perfect name for my non-existent blog, for several reasons. I would not place myself anywhere else, but many times there is no place I might wish less to be.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

It is impossible to know what to say about this because it is impossible to know exactly what it is thay they encountered in the Catholic Church that disappointed them. Every case is unique. But one thing does occur to me: cases like these do seem to collectively give the lie to the modernist urge to "protestantize," to soft-pedal and ecumenize away the profound differences between Catholicism and protestantism, truth and heresy. It is an unbridgable gap: converts who are not prepared to accept that are likely to be disappointed -- as are converts who ARE prepared to accept it -- who may in fact crave it -- only to find that there is almost as much heretical backsliding inside the Church as out of it.

Pertinacious Papist said...

In principle, Ralph is right and each case may differ according to the individual person in question. I can say, however, that the reasons I most commonly hear (among those who are serious about their faith) seem to cluster around the question of authority.

This is no surprise, really, when one realizes that the critical issue for many converts in accepting doctrines that would otherwise be stumbling blocks (often doctrines about Mary, intercession of the Saints, or transubstantiation) is acquiring confidence or trust in the Church as Mater et Magister. This, of course, is what it means to have faith in the Church, to "believe in the Holy Catholic Church," as an article of faith in the Apostles Creed, for example.

What seems to bolster that confidence is a sense of stability and consistency in what the Church teaches, particularly when seen over the long sweep of history, but also in the teaching of parish pastors, diocesan bishops and popes. What seems to give pause and sometimes feed doubts is the experience of hearing their pastors and bishops say or do things seemingly at odds with what they took for established magisterial teaching on faith and morals or established practice.

I know one woman, a former Evangelical and convert of some five or six years, who just a month or two ago shocked me by popping the question: "What would you think if I went back to my Baptist church?" When I asked her why on earth would she even consider such a thing, her reply was something like: "I'm just not sure how much more of this I can take. I believe in everything the Church teaches, but when I go to Mass and talk to the priest or to other people in the parish, that Church in which I believe seems like a remote dream, and I just don't know if I believe it's for real." Pray for her.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

There is at least one cradle Catholic who can approximately understand what that convert is saying. To emerge from a protestant fellowship cocoon only to encounter in the one true Church a half-hearted, sappy, "faith community" of romanticized, buffoonish bureaucracies has to be disheartening in the extreme.

There is a Gilbert & Sullivan quality of incompetence in modern Catholicism. I'm sure that modernists saw a similar quality in the pre-conciliar church. They wanted to heroically sweep it all away, throw open the windows -- all those cheesy V2 metaphors that the heroes of the council peddled back in the day -- and replace it with romantic zeal such as one might get a sense of reading Ivanhoe. Instead they perpetuated it by putting it in the service of novelty rather than truth. Incompetence in the service of truth is one thing; incompetence in the service of the insipid verges on self-nullification -- and unlike with the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta, sentimentality alone will not save you.

Montague said...

I'm not an RC convert, but I think I experience the same thing.

I tend to read "too much" GKC and Peter Kreeft and the like, and so I get, as it were, the cream of the intellectual crop.

My best friend went to a "catholic" school, where by his admission, the teachers are often flat out in contradiction with orthodoxy, to the point that any half-assed fool with a CCC in hand (that's me) can perceive they are heretical.

I tend to be the one that defends the RC against... well, their own "kind." I say, let's look at the theology, and he, let's look at experience.

There is definitely a discontinuity there (as there also is in Protestant circles. A friend of mine in college went homeless, and I was maybe the second person to actually give him any assistance at all... while he counted something like thirty people of various "religions" sinning against Christ by "saying 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,'" while doing nothing to effect that. He is thus rather distrustful of anyone who speaks of Christ, because his experience says they are all hypocrites and liars. Please pray for him too, for he is too fine a pagan to be lost by such fooling.)

JM said...

"...I believe in everything the Church teaches, but when I go to Mass..."

Yes, that about sums it up.

And I do not know how anyone with a sense of reverence could have much affection for serving stations and receiving lines versus altar rails. It feels like standing in line for concert tickets.