Why I Am the Catholic I Am

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What follows may be too personal to be of much interest, but I thought it might help better understand some of the attitudes and prejudices that are occasionally given air here. I wrote it in response to a correspondent, who, believe me didn't ask for anything of the sort. I guess the unfortunate soul just happened to be in the way when the cannon went off.

"Having come from a protestant faith that claimed that they had existed all along as a "shadow church" but only emerged to claim their own during the reformation, I find that there is a lot of convincing evidence that the Catholic Church may claim, and rightfully so, the title of the one True Church. Certainly, this is a subjective certainty, but I stand with Newman (I think it was) on the notion that I cannot belong to a Church whose creed has a pedigree that does not stem from Christ Himself. While I am not competent to argue the case to others, in my researches, I found sufficient evidence to convince me that one Church could lay claim to that reality. There was another that probably had equal claim, but whose teaching authority was so scattered and diffuse that I found it an untenable home. I've subsequently found that I was wrong in that estimation--but I believe that it was grace that blinded me to my error for the time.

"As a protestant, I was not satisfied and the protestant world view was a warped mirror. It took me a long time after converting to Catholicism to become "truly" Catholic, and I still exhibit a lot of tendencies that drive many of my Catholic compatriots insane. You wouldn't believe how many Catholics look askance and ask why scripture reading is a necessity. And of course my problem with the Rosary befuddles a great many. But apart from a few relict attitudes, I feel that I've become a pretty good Catholic. My chief problem now is that having emerged from error, I live in fear of reentering error. That is, I am deeply suspicious of a great many writers who may be perfectly fine, but who have been accused of being off-track in some way. For example, Karl Rahner is on
my list of "the suspect." Until some recent material by Paul Elie and Christopher Blosser, I had my reservations about Merton, although Merton was one of the figures whose writing convinced me that there was something to be found in the Catholic Church that could be found nowhere else."

So, now when I ask about so-and-so and his "orthodoxy," you will, at least, have some idea of why I am asking. I have emerged from the land of "utter depravity" into the land of "good but flawed and fallen" and I have no desire to return. On the other hand, I also don't want to enter the la-la land of the neo-Rousseauian noble savage who is redeemed in and of himself but corrupted by society. Ho-hum, Anyone who can cast his eye back over the twentieth century and come to that conclusion has and ignorance as invincible as it is ahistoric. I pray that God bless such a one--who will be doomed to wander Candide-like through this world looking for "the best of all possible worlds." Eventually, God's grace prevailing, he shall find it, but it won't be here.

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I feel exactly the same way although have gotten here by a different route. I especially like the point you make about being suspicious of some authors (and I have the same prejudices) because you are wary of reentering error. Perfectly expressed.

"There was another that probably had equal claim, but whose teaching authority was so scattered and diffuse that I found it an untenable home. I've subsequently found that I was wrong in that estimation--but I believe that it was grace that blinded me to my error for the time."

Just curious, what did you subsequently find out about the Orthodox Church? I'm trying to decide between the two and any information would be appreciated.

Dear Hannah,

I can only speak with prejudice, so I am probably not a good person to ask. I came down definitively on the Catholic side of the equation and largely on the issue of whether or not the Pope can speak with greater authority that any other bishop. This I believe from the passage in Matthew--"Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church." The Pope is not merely first among equals. He is the servant of the servants of God, the one who through apostolic succession sits in the see of Peter and can speak with authority and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

There is no such figure within the Orthodox Church. All of the Metropolitans are equals. None speaks with greater authority. If there is a disagreement among them then Antioch may differ from Alexandria.

But I suppose the issue I faced was how I was to take what was said to Peter and if I were to interpret it in a way other than my protestant colleagues taught me, what did it mean? If Jesus is building His church on more than the rock of Peter's faith, then I find compelling reason to believe in the faith that still honors a person who occupies the See of Peter.

I don't know if that is compelling or even of interest, but it weighed heavily in my mind as I was considering the Catholic Church. There is no other Church in which this most crucial of Apostolic successions is recognized and honored as such.



Thank you, Steve, for pointing this out because I didn't know that. I've gotten this far where I've narrowed it down to 2 churches and now I'm stuck because if I choose wrong I'll be in schism or worse be a heretic in the other church's eyes. The matters upon which they differ (that I know of) aren't things that I am qualified to make judgements on--they are things I'd basically be obedient to were I in that church. Do you know what I mean?


Dear Hannah,

I understand completely. Go as the Holy Spirit leads and do not worry about schism or heresy. The Catholic Church does not view the Orthodox this way, and my guess is only the most hardened Orthodox regard the Catholic Church in this way. But more importantly, it little matters which way people go, more important is the way God will have you go. Find wise advisors and talk (a lot) to good people who practice both faiths. The most important thing is to find your way to God as soon as humanly possible. But above all, don't worry. "Ask and it shall be answered, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened." Trust first and foremost in Jesus and His Holy Spirit will guide you--you need not fear.



I will take your advice, Steve, thank you because it is helping me feel better. I notice that if I want to be cautious and hedge my bets then I'm better off being Orthodox since Catholic view is more generous towards Orthodox than the other way around. But I hope the Holy Spirit guides me rather than me deciding in this way.


Dear Hannah,

You may find Philip Blosser's Scripture and Catholic Tradition blog of some help as you mull over your decision. He has a number of essays and references with regard to our Orthodox brethren that may cast a helpful light on matters.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 18, 2005 7:53 AM.

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