I’ve been flirting with the idea of converting to Catholicism. (Converting doesn’t seem like the right word though, since it is still Christianity, just not Protestantism.) The key point holding me back: I want to be a pastor, and the Roman Catholic Church does not allow married men to become priests. (A concept I understand their reasoning behind, but do not agree should be the only way.)
I grew up Protestant, but attended Catholic schools for grades 4-12. Our school wasn’t very different from the public one, it’s not like we wore uniforms or were taught by nuns. Everything was pretty much the same with the exception of Religion class and liturgies. Religion wasn’t an official class until high school, and even then there was only one 3-credit class per semester.
At school we had liturgies and assemblies. Assemblies are the same as public schools. Liturgies were usually precided over by the local Bishop and included various Catholic-type things like prayer and whatnot.
This past semester I started attending classes at a local Christian (Protestant) university, and took an Intro to the Bible, and History of Christianity. In these classes I really began to question the Protestant church. I mean, I know guys like Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli (among others) had their reasons for challenging the practices of the Roman Catholic (RC) Church, but their intention wasn’t to create an offshoot from Catholicism, but to attempt to fix the problems (Luther anyway, I’m not as studied on Calvin and Zwingli).
See I don’t think divisions within the church is God’s plan for the church. Verses like 1 Cor 1:10 and others speak specifically to this:
“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”
Now these verses can be interpreted in various ways, but to me they specifically speak to divisions in the church, ie. denominations. The more I study the Bible, and the more I learn about the history of the church and the history of Christianity, the more I feel that Protestantism has become a bastardization of what God intended for the Church. Now this isn’t to say that the RC Church has it right either, as is painfully obvious from this latest abuse scandal.
Part of my problem with the Protestant church is the fragmentation. While the Reformation challenged problems within the Church, they set Christianity on a slippery slope of fragmentation. Don’t like something your pastor taught you? Check the church down the road, they might have something a little more to your liking. Now I think personal interpretation is important, but when people start using the same passage to defend opposing views, there is a problem.
There is just something that speaks to me about the RC Church. Something about being part of the original Church. The Universal Church. This is something I mentioned on Twitter one day and received the response that the church in Rome has no more claim to the Universal Church than does the church in Geneva, Wittenberg, or Nashville. That the Universal Church is spiritual, and seen by its actions and not confined to any one place.
I gave this some serious thought, but haven’t come to a satisfactory conclusion. On one side I totally understand where he is coming from, and agree. But another side of me thinks that the physical church, the people, the Church with a capital “C”.
I would say my primary draw is the unity of a single Church, though this is far from the only reason.
A question that comes to mind is, “Is it better to be part of a church that you have (minor) theological difficulties with, then to be part of this fragmented church that is obviously not God’s intention?” Some would even call this fragmentation a sin, as it is not following God’s original plan. (I wouldn’t go this far though)
This question is where I get hung up. What constitutes a “minor” theological difference? There are a lot of things about Protestantism that I quite like, mostly because of the freedom to do as I choose, and the power of personal interpretation.
I’ve started making a list of likes and dislikes, and as I did so it got me thinking, quite a few of the dislikes aren’t specific to the RC Church, but more about Christianity in general. But as a Protestant it is okay, because I am allowed to pick and choose. Now this seems very elementary, but helps me see things on a larger scale.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and is dynamic, prone to additions and deletions as I learn and grow and change. And it is very preliminary. Many of these things I don’t know everything about and can’t rightly make an educated decision on. Nor can I always back up my choices with concrete reasons or scripture (something I believe to be important in the decision making process, especially when it comes to theology).
I’d also like to go into detail about each item on these lists as I learn more about them. To provide insight into where I am, and the conclusions I am drawing. This is to help me solidify things, and hopefully incite response, comments, advice, opinions in case I’ve missed something or to show another view.
- Reverence and Liturgy
- Unity of one physical church
- Veneration of Mary and the Saints (not worship)
- No loopholes; answer for almost everything (whether I agree with the answer or not, I appreciate having things laid out like this to avoid the wishy-washyness I see so often)
- Structured prayer (eg. Rosary)
- Importance of the Creeds
- Priests cannot marry
- Purgatory and Indulgences
- The ability to lose ones salvation
- The need to be absolved of sin by clergy
- literal interpretation of the Bible
- Complementarianism (that women can’t be members of clergy)
- Stance against the use of contraception
And I understand that many of both the likes and dislikes aren’t specific to either Protestantism or Catholicism and can be found elsewhere.
So this is a lot, I know. But it is where I am at right now. I’m making the slow transition to Pastor, but have encountered a slight bump in the road which I am now trying to navigate.