“I’m not Catholic because _________.”

Most of my writing deals with Catholic topics. And that makes sense because, after all, I am a Catholic.

But from the statistics and feedback I receive, I know my blog draws many non-Catholic readers. That’s probably a result of being a former non-Catholic myself, and it’s something I’m really happy about.

My problem, though, is that I do a poor job of listening to them. I’m often caught playing ‘inside baseball,’ writing and talking with people who believe exactly the same things I do while ignoring those who don’t.

So in the interest of venturing outside the Catholic bubble, this post is an invitation to all non-Catholics. Whether you’re atheist, agnostic, Mormon, Muslim, Evangelical, Reformed Calvinist, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, Eastern Orthodox, Zoroastrian, Baptist, or even Pastafarian, whatever you are, I want to hear from you.

More specifically, I’d love for you to fill in this blank:

“I’m not Catholic because __________.”

It’s easy for Catholics like me to assume we know the reasons why others reject Catholicism. But I don’t want to assume; I want to listen. I want to hear your own thoughts.

What’s the one thing that really bugs you about Catholicism? What teachings do you see as utterly irrational or morally bankrupt? What are the biggest barriers to you believing in God or in the Catholic Church?

This isn’t a debate. I won’t attempt to refute you. I just want to listen.

So share your answer below: “I’m not Catholic because ______.”

 

81 thoughts on ““I’m not Catholic because _________.”

  1. I am happy to see open and respectful discussion on this and thank you for asking. I am not Catholic because……

    After reading the bible and praying I see Jesus does not teach that there is any need for all the extra stuff that man adds to the bible and gets in the way of us talking with God directly.

    The link below is a list of 27 things Jesus said that we can look forward to.
    http://tinyurl.com/k7jdsts This is one of the 27.

    “That He would be the only way to heaven. Of all the things the records that Jesus said, notes Stieff, “this passage contains perhaps His most controversial words of all. They are especially controversial in our culture today. What are those words? Read them carefully: Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ What makes them so controversial is the sheer exclusiveness of His words. Jesus didn’t claim to be a way, He claimed to be THE way. He didn’t offer a truth, He said He was THE truth. He didn’t say He was a life, He had the audacity to say He was THE life. He tops it all off by saying that ‘no one comes to the Father except through Me.’ In our highly relativistic culture, those are fightin’ words! How can anyone claim to be the only way, the only truth, the only life? Are there not many paths to God? Are not all ways equally true and valid? Isn’t eternal life available through many different avenues? Jesus plainly states ‘no.’”

    Again I am just sharing what I have personally learned from growing up in the church all my life walking away from God and then finding Jesus. My life has changed because Jesus has changed me. I do not think or act the same as I did when I lost in my sin. I have been filled with the Holy Spirit and God talks to me now. I see everything that I have experienced written about in the new testament.

    I pray that everyone who reads this blog can come to a personal relationship with Jesus. He can and will change your life it you seek him and ask for truth to revealed.

    My God and savior Jesus is not limited by any work of man or institution or church he is God and works in mysterious ways.

    God Bless
    Kinu Grove
    Thank you for reading this and I welcome any questions.

  2. Hi Taj,

    As you might guess, I am opposed to killing two-year-olds. I am also opposed to giving them the same political rights as 18-year-olds, or even the same rights as 8-year-olds. Certainly by the age of two (I’d say by the time of birth), a child does indeed have a right to life. But I hesitate to extend that all the way back to the moment of conception.

    I’m opposed to abortion in that I’d prefer they didn’t happen. But there are important neurological differences between a fetus and a two-year-old (indeed between a “young” fetus and an “older” fetus), and I feel comfortable saying that ending the life of a just-fertilized embryo with, say, a morning-after pill is more humane (or, if you prefer, less inhumane) than killing a two year old. The embryo cannot feel pain; it literally does not have two neurons to rub together. I am not saying abortion isn’t tragic; I’m not even saying it isn’t immoral in most circumstances; I’m just saying that I don’t buy its moral equivalence to infanticide.

    I agree that the Catholic position on homosexuality is both well-intended and faithful to the Bible and tradition. It’s just that for most people it’s hard to catch the nuance of good intention. All the gay person can hear in it is “You are rejected of God.” All the anti-gay crusader can hear is “Right on bro!” The actual position doesn’t say either of these things, but it’s always going to be heard as saying one or the other. If I’ve got to err, I want to err on the side of acceptance, of mercy.

    I agree that homosexual relationships miss something important about the real, intended nature of human sexuality. For that matter my own technically “unchaste” marriage probably does, too. Am I in mortal sin? According to the Church, yes. But I don’t feel it. And without intending any offense to anyone reading this, I just don’t trust the Church (or my own capacity to reason!) far enough to bet my marriage on the apparent reasonableness of Humanae Vitae. Nor would I expect a gay person to bet his or her closest relationship on this.

    Hope that helps. Thanks for responding.

    • Thanks for the comment, RCR! It’s clear your wrestling with many of this issues which is definitely admirable. I’d like to respond to some of your points:

      1. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on why a two-year deserves the right to not be killed but a younger child, minutes from birth, doesn’t? Is he any less human?

      2. You do admit your personal opposition to abortion and in fact call it “tragic” which is worthy of respect. But why are you opposed to it? Why do you prefer they didn’t happen? Why is it tragic or “immoral in most circumstances”?

      3. You seem to suggest neurological development and the ability to feel pain are the main markers to determine whether something is human or not. Those arbitrary measures, of course, raise several problems for you, such as: Why those markers and not others? How do you decide what level of neurological development is enough for someone to be considered human? How do you know precisely when an unborn child is able to experience pain and therefore when they have human rights? These questions are meant to show that such positions are arbitrary and ad hoc. Developmental differences, whether between an embryo, a sixth-month year old unborn child, a two-year old, or a sixty-year old have no bearing on whether that life is human life.

      4. You’re right that many people unfortunately misunderstand the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality. That’s a sad and frustrating reality. But it has no bearing on whether that teaching is true. It only means the Church has done a door poor job clarifying her message, one that is ultimately full of mercy and love.

      5. You say “If I’ve got to err, I want to err on the side of acceptance, of mercy.” That sounds pleasant on the surface, but there are two problems. First, you assume you *have* to err. You don’t; you can find the truth. Second, you set up a false dichotomy pitting the merciless Catholic position against the opposite, more compassionate position. But you’re assuming what you’re trying to prove, namely that the Catholic position on homosexuality is inherently devoid of mercy. Just the opposite is true.

      6. Finally, you ask a rhetorical question: “Am I in mortal sin? According to the Church, yes. But I don’t feel it.” Are you convinced that mere “feeling” is the standard for morality? Are things sinful or immoral simply because one “feels” they are? If so, how can one say Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or Hitler were objectively wrong–they all “felt” like what they were doing was right.

      I know I made several responses and asked many more questions in reply, so I don’t expect you to respond to all of this (though I’d love that if possible). But I am sincerely interested in your response to any or all of the above if you have time. Grace and peace!

      • Brandon, thanks for responding. First, I’d like to apologize for derailing this thread into culture war issues (because the Internet needs another abortion debate, right?). In the course of this response I’ll try to bring things back to “I’m not Catholic because….”, and away from the tone of “The Catholic Church is wrong because…” The fact is I wouldn’t read your blog and others like it at all if I didn’t have a sneaking suspicion that y’all might be right about these things.

        To try to take your first three questions in a single lump, I’ll start out by saying that in my view humanity does indeed begin at the moment of conception, and I agree with you that an abortion takes an innocent human life. I think where the Church and I disagree is under what circumstances this taking of life should be legally punishable. You reference very late term abortions; I wouldn’t have a problem making such a thing criminal if done as birth control, but it’s a different matter if the mother’s life is at stake. Maybe it would be more virtuous for the woman to lay down her life for her child, but I wouldn’t want the law to punish her if she couldn’t bring herself to do such a thing.

        I’m not an Ob/Gyn or a lawyer, but it seems to me that at the extremes of development, at least, it’s easy to differentiate the relative heinousness of abortion. It seems unavoidably obvious to me that a “minutes from birth” abortion is far more cruel than a “morning after” chemical abortion. I do not make the morning-after abortion any less a taking of human life, but a less cruel taking of human life; and I find that my conscience approves not legally punishing the abortion at the early end, even though (aside from very special circumstances) I’d favor criminal punishment at the late end. (This is different from saying my conscience approves the abortion.) And you’re right to suggest that I do not know where to put the arbitrary line of legality, or how to fix the scale of cruelty-per-week-of-development, but I think something like that is going to be the right way of handling abortions politically/legally.

        You say “the Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality…is ultimately full of mercy and love.” It seems so to me, too. I don’t intend to characterize the Catholic position as “merciless.” But (a) I’m not sure how merciful it looks to a gay person, and (b) I can’t sell it any better than the Church has been able to. My liberal and/or gay friends tell me it’s just intolerance trying to feel better about itself, and begin to question my loyalty to them as people, as friends. So maybe you can chalk up my refusal to stand by the Catholic position as “fear of man”. I prefer to call it “loyalty” or “the best I can do under the circumstances.” Maybe God will teach me better in time.

        My wife posed a telling hypothetical question to me once when we were debating this issue. She asked me what I’d do if my daughter, a few years from now, brought home a friend who was struggling with homosexuality. This person has been insulted and harrassed, maybe thrown out of the house by her good Christian parents, and generally made to feel like a worthless freak. She wants to know: “Is it my fault? What should I do?” You can offer shelter and friendship in every way, of course, but in the end what will you say to this person? Is it enough to say “It’s not your fault but you must resist it”? Does that actually help? I’m not sure it would help me if I were in that position.

        Is mere “feeling” the standard of morality? Well, perhaps I’m using the wrong terms. “Conscience” or “light of nature” might be better. Did Stalin et. al. act with clear consciences? I don’t know for sure, but I would hope not. I think it’s somewhere in Mere Christianity that Lewis points out how the Third Reich and their collaborators must have known, at bottom, that they were in the wrong to act as they did; otherwise all the things the British said about them during the war was just so much hot air. (That’s not an exact quote, but I bet being a Lewis fan you’ll know where to find the actual words! ;-) ) In any case, I don’t see how one can avoid relying on conscience. If you accept the teachings of the Church, it’s ultimately because your own conscience (or maybe your reason? At any rate, something internal to you) approves them… right?

        So… to sum up, “I’m not Catholic because” my conscience does not unreservedly approve some of the Church’s significant teachings.

        • RCR, thanks again for the thoughtful reply. Some follow-up questions:

          1. You say, “in my view humanity does indeed begin at the moment of conception, and I agree with you that an abortion takes an innocent human life.” Assuming you agree that “murder” is properly defined as the taking of innocently life, you stated in no unclear terms that abortion, at any stage, is in fact murder.

          2. It seems from there you think abortion should be illegal in all cases except when the mother’s life is in jeopardy. But there’s a very important distinction I think you’re confused. If a mother’s life is in jeopardy, and the *only* possible way to save her life is through a procedure that would unintentionally kill the child—which by the way is an incredibly rare situation that should not drive the general legality of abortion–the Church is actually not opposed to this. This *may* be morally licit under the principle of “double-effect,” which states that an undesired effect, namely the death of the child, may not be immoral if 1) it was not the primary intention (the primary intention was to save the mother’s life, not kill the child) and 2) the undesired effect is not directly pursued (i.e. you can just ‘abort’ the baby, but you may morally perform a surgery that would indirectly result in the child’s death.)

          All of this to say that in that rare situation, a surgery to heal the mother that would unintentionally result in the baby’s death would not be properly called “abortion.” Abortion is the direct, intentional killing of a child, yet this situation would involve the indirect, unintentional death of a child.

          Recognizing that fact, would you agree then that abortion, properly defined, is always murder and therefore should never be legal?

          3. You argue that, “It seems unavoidably obvious to me that a “minutes from birth” abortion is far more cruel than a “morning after” chemical abortion.” It’s not unavoidably obvious. In fact millions of people avoid that claim as obviously untrue. If abortion is murder, then what you’re essentially proposing is that “murdering someone at a lesser stage of development is less cruel than murdering someone at a later stage of development.” If that were true, we should be far less outraged over someone stabbing a newborn infant in the head than someone stabbing a 45-year-old man. But that not true. At best, people are more outraged when younger people are killed. At worst, the outrage is equal–any murder of any human being is outrageous. Nowhere, though, does your argument resonate with human response.

          4. Regarding your wife’s hypothetical situation: if your daughter brought home a friend who was struggling with homosexuality, the proper response would be warmth and compassion, of course. You’re wrong to think the only message you could give her, however, is “it’s not your fault but you must resist it.” First of all, what “it” are you talking about? Her homosexual attractions or her desire to engage in sex with other women? The first one may be properly re-oriented in some situations, but it’s not something you can resists; attractions are not willed. But the second desire certainly can and should be resisted, just as must be for all people regardless of orientation. I’m sure you encourage your daughter to live a chaste life despite her unchaste desires. You and I must as well. Resisting sexual activity outside of marriage is a challenge for all people.

          5. You say “conscience” or “light of reason” are better descriptions of how you gauge morality. But how do either of those differ, in your mind, from “feelings”?

          • 1. OK, I’ll use your terminology. I guess I’m asserting that I find murder more or less heinous according to the suffering of the victim. I do not believe in the “morning-after” case that the victim suffers at all. Is that just-conceived person deprived of life? Yes. Do they suffer pain in the deprivation? No. Is it better for that person to have life than not? Yes. Should the punishment meted out for this murder be the same as that meted out for the murder of a 2-year-old? I think not. In fact, I’d suggest that the woman’s ordeal in coming to the point that she’s willing to have an abortion, and the soul-searching and regret she will almost certainly endure afterwards, are punishment enough.

            2. I appreciate this clarification of the Church’s position on “life-of-the-mother” situations. I was not aware of this. By these definitions, then, I suppose I am opposed to “later” abortions. But I am still not prepared to punish “earlier” abortions as murder under the law.

            3. Yes, I believe there are degrees of evil, in murder as in most other things. Many people say they would prefer to die in their sleep rather than, say, in a car accident. Why? Because it’s quick; you don’t have to dread it, or be aware of what’s happening. In that sense, then, I do think it’s more merciful to stab a newborn in the head than a 45-year-old man who can see it coming. (I hope it’s clear that I don’t think either of these things are good– I’m talking about relative levels of evil here, and “all else being equal”.)

            The utter repugnance one feels about the image of stabbing the newborn, I think, has to do with its utter helplessness and innocence: it could not possibly deserve this. You will say that this is true of the unborn child as well, of course. But do we therefore punish the desperate woman who sought the abortion? The doctor who provided what she believed she needed? Do you really want to jail these people as you would a crazed parent who stabbed an infant? I’m sorry, but I see a difference there, even if I’m not articulating it well. If it’s simply that I’ve been brainwashed by the “culture of death”, then, well, brainwashed I have been.

            4. To respond to this I would need to better understand the difference between “homosexual attractions” and “desire to engage in sex with” members of the same sex.

            5. So the short version is this: I try to “do how mama taught me to do.” My conscience is informed by my upbringing, the Bible, the teachings of the Church (believe it or not), and what science has been able to tell us about the human condition. But these inputs have to be balanced or reconciled in the places where they seem to contradict. I try to pick the clearest rationale, maybe, but in the end I think it does come down to “feelings” for all of us– some kind of gut check– something inside us that assents to, and is pleased by, truth. Or what we hope is truth.

          • Thanks again for this great message, RCR. I really appreciate your candor and kindness. Responding to each of your points:

            1. I’d of course agree that different forms of murder can be more or less heinous. But all murder, regardless of how heinous, is gravely evil and should be outlawed. If you consider abortion to be murder, yet still believe it should be legal in some cases, please fill in this blank: “Murder should be allowed when _____.”

            Also, the argument in the second half of this point is very problematic, especially when applied to other types of crime. Would you say that “the soul-searching and regret a rapist will almost certainly endure afterward are punishment enough”? What about a mother who intentionally drowns her three-year-old son? Would the inevitable guilt and regret be punishment enough or should she be tried for murder?

            2. I appreciate your openness to the Catholic position, and your admirable desire to follow the logical truth. But you belief that “later” abortions should be punished but not “earlier” ones is problematic for a couple reasons. First, there is no principled reason for such a claim. Why are “later” abortions more evil, and therefore worthy of more punishment, than “earlier” abortions? Second, those vague terms—“later” and “earlier”—are almost impossible to pinpoint, as you readily admit. So practically-speaking, they’re irrelevant for the purposes of law. Unless you’re able to draw a definitive line between “later” and “earlier” for some principled reason, this argument is just an arbitrary distinction made to avoid the reality that human life is human life, whether “earlier” or “later.”

            3. This has similar overtones to your first point. The question is not whether some murders are worse than others. We both agree they are. The question is whether all murder is grievously immoral, regardless of how heinous the act. The intentionally killing of an innocent human being is the worst possible evil one can perform.

            As for your question, I do believe that abortionists should be tried as murderers and then women who assent to the murder of their own children are, if nothing else, guilty of manslaughter—the unintentional killing of another human being. This reasoning is based on the fact that 1) the unborn child is a human being and 2) abortion takes the life of that human being.

            4. The distinction is this. “Attraction” is the natural, unwilled effect that bubbles up within. For example, I’m a happily and faithfully married man, and I love my wife. But when I turn a street corner, and a beautiful woman is standing in front of me, my immediate, unwilled reaction is, “Wow, she’s pretty.” Now I try not to act on that attraction by fantasizing about the women, nor turn it into physical action. The attraction though is natural and unavoidable and not something I desire.

            When I mentioned the other, “the desire to have sex with another,” I meant the desire which takes the unwilled attraction one step deeper into the realm of fantasy. This desire welcomes the attraction, invites it even, and then once received lusts over the source of the attraction, objectifying it along the way.
            The first, natural attraction, precisely because it is unwilled, cannot be suppressed. But the second, because it’s a willed extension of the natural attraction, can and must be tempered. Both of these facts hold true, by the way, for people of every sexual orientation.

            5. I appreciate your explanation, but unless I’m reading it wrong you agree that your morality essentially boils down to “feelings.” And if that’s the case, it suffers from the same flaws I mentioned before. How you feel changes day to day, so a feeling-based morality is necessarily relative and subjective. It also provides no basis for critiquing anyone else’s morality, which assumedly is based on *their* feelings.

          • Uncle! Uncle!

            Seriously– you make good points that I can’t really refute. I still “feel” (if you like) a moral difference between an early abortion and an infanticide (or a rape or what have you), but I lack the philosophical (or legal? or medical?) vocabulary to articulate the distinction. And I’m still repulsed by the idea of jailing desperate young women for trying (a little too late, perhaps) to live up to what they believe is expected of them.

            It’s not really news to me that the Catholic ethical system is more internally consistent and logical than my gut-directed hodgepodge. Either my gut is wrong, or I have to get better at defending its vagaries.

            Thanks a lot for taking the time to engage on this. I’ve enjoyed the exchange, and you’ve given me a lot to go away and think about.

  3. So glad someone finally asked (HHOS).

    I am not Catholic, to start with, because I was raised Baptist and not exposed to it. Even now I’m a little creeped out by visual representations of God and Jesus, though I have come to understand why the Catholic Church does not regard such things as sinful.

    I went on not being Catholic as I turned to a sort of liberal/universalist vision of Christianity as a teenager, influenced by a less-than-perfectly-attentive reading of C. S. Lewis. I married a woman whom I regard as absolutely wonderful, but she is an atheist-leaning agnostic from the cradle.

    After our extremely-well-planned first daughter was born nine years into our marriage, I began to have serious doubts about the worldview I was preparing to transmit to the next generation. I started looking more closely at the intellectual underpinnings of the Baptist faith in which I was raised… which led to an appreciation for the Reformed tradition… which necessarily further led to an examination of what was being nominally “reformed” there… which led to the Catholicism and Chesterton and the Catechism and Humanae Vitae and an inkling that I might have a LOT more to learn.

    But I’m still not Catholic. Here are some of my remaining objections:

    (1) The “abortion equals murder” mindset. I’m prepared to acknowledge that a fetus is human from the moment of conception, and I agree with the proposition that abortion is an outcome to be avoided; but I’m not convinced that the political right to life ought to start at conception. I’m more sympathetic with a “safe, legal & rare” philosophy, and I don’t think I can believe that and swear obedience to the Church’s teachings as I understand them.

    (2) I refuse to go around saying that homosexuality is a sin. I quite follow C. S. Lewis on this one, who wrote that he refused to “engage in philippics against an enemy I have never met in battle.” I’d rather let this one be between the servant and his own master. And in the meantime, I don’t mind overmuch if a practicing homosexual takes communion beside me (or even if he serves it).

    (3) Culture war aside, I’m generally concerned that the would-be “humility” of subjecting my own thinking to the teaching of the Church is actually an abdication of responsibility. What if the Church is wrong? It’s not as if it never reverses itself. To take a somewhat trivial example, it hasn’t been that long since the Church taught that cremation was wrong; but today the parish nearest my house has a Columbarium in which the ashes of the faithful may be interred. What changed? I’m guessing that the prohibition on cremation was never promulgated as infallible dogma; but can someone point me to a list of actual infallible dogmas thus far promulgated? I gather the CCC isn’t it…

    (4) Finally– and this is not so much an objection as a circumstance– my wife remains an agnostic. And as I learned during the time I tried to conform my thinking to Reformed/”biblical” theology, when I adopt a worldview that would call hers “wrong”, all hell breaks loose. She feels hurt, even while I can’t really carry it off because I don’t really feel any conviction that she *is* wrong, or at any rate that her wrongness is culpable. She’s a nice, very smart lady, trying to figure it all out while not hurting anybody and raising her daughters to be nice, smart ladies like herself (and I pray God she does just that!). She doesn’t wish to be married to a theologically-conservative Christian– certainly not one who wants to be “open to life”!– so I find that my (probably uninformed, probably broken) conscience tells me I must try to avoid being such a person. So even if all my other objections were overcome, it would still be no RCIA for me, I guess.

    Sorry this is so long… but you asked! :-)

    • Hi Rocket City Recusant,

      Can you give me an argument for abortion that doesn’t also justify killing a two year old? What is your opinion of killing a two year old?

      The Catholic position isn’t about denigrating homosexuals, it is about reality. What we call marriage, has something to do with continuing the human race. Homosexual relationships do not continue the human race.

  4. I guess I don’t technically belong here because I was “born” Catholic and never left by a formal act, but I did spend some years as an intellectual Atheist. At first I accepted Catholic Anthropology. Then I rejected Catholic Anthropology. Then I rejected my rejection of Catholic Anthropology. Then I accepted Catholic Anthropology. There was just no other way to explain what we experience (the meaning of the human person ala Edith Stein).

    As Chesterton points out, Atheism is not illogical; it is entirely too logical.

  5. I’m not sure if you really want my answers to this, but I’ve been putting them together for a while, and this is an interesting opportunity to write them out. I’ve been thinking about them because my kids are growing up, and they, my semi-Catholic wife and her Catholic family are sure to ask about them.

    I’m not a Catholic because I’m not a believer and any gods. I simply haven’t found any convincing reason to believe in any of them. The simple fact that there are so many different religions each one claiming to be the only true faith shows me that none have a convincing argument. And I’ve never seen any aspect of our world that needs a supernatural answer. There’s far more to this than a few sentences can express, but this covers the basics.

    And if I were a believer in some kind of deity, I don’t see that I’d be a believer in any of the Abrahamic faiths. The god of the old testament makes no logical sense taken literally, and taken allegorically, it’s still full of truly horrible moral teachings. And I can’t just cherry-pick the non-evil bits.

    And finally, I am not a Catholic because I don’t believe in much of the dogma or teachings of the church. I am not a Catholic because the concept of transubstantiation is downright silly. The eucharist remains in every sensible, measurable and testable way the same piece of bread it was before consecration. And symbolically, it could have some value, but just looks like canabalism.

    I am not a Catholic because so much of what the Catholic church has done over the centuries has been simply wrong or deeply evil. I cannot support a church that has demonized other religions, especially the Judaism from which it came, to the point of Inquisition and Holocaust.

    I am not a Catholic because I could not in good conscience give moral or financial support to an institution that has for centuries protected those who rape children.

    I am not a Catholic because the teachings on birth control and disease prevention are provably wrong and cause real suffering.

    I am not a Catholic because so few of the Catholics I know actually follow much of the Catholic dogma anyways, and I can’t respect hypocrisy.

    Much of what Jesus taught was good, but remains good even if he wasn’t supernatural, and so many teaching in the bible or in Catholism are wrong.

    • Eric,

      Those are not topics that can be addressed simply (as you know). But the fact that you felt compelled to express your mind shows that you believe in an object truth about the matter. But why? Why do you presume that objective truth exists and is knowable? If all we really are is a bag full of chemicals, why would any of the crimes you listed be “wrong”? If there is no God, how could we say anything is “wrong” if it is just the result of some chemical reaction in the brain?

      • That isn’t an really an answer or refutation of much of what I’ve said, but I’ll run with it anyway.

        You’re talking about two kinds of truth here, both a physical or similar fact, and a moral truth. And my reasons fall into both of those, so I suppose that’s tangentially a rebuttal to my points.

        A physical or scientific truth simply exists whether we believe it or not, or even whether we exist or not. Whether we correctly understand it, or can prove it, or how convincing the proof is can be another matter. Claims about the historical accuracy of the bible, like the flood or the age of the earth, are physical claims about something factual. I do realize that the literal accuracy of these is no longer the Catholic position. Transubstatiation is also a real-world claim. So is the effectiveness of prayer.

        Moral decisions are another matter, but they too should be supported by fact. Not being a philosopher I’m probably not the best one to discuss this. My view is that whatever creates the greatest overall health and hapiness is generally right. It really isn’t that simple, but that’s a start.

        Rather than discuss these in esoteric terms, why not look at specifics and get back to my reasons? Has allowing priests to rape children been right by any moral code that you’re willing to defend? It caused very real damage to real people.

        What about demonizing Jews, gays and others? Again, real consequences, although not as direct and provable a link.

        What about claiming that birth control leads to more abortions and even to Aids? We could certainly debate the morality of abortion, but when you espouse a position that leads to more death rather than less, you’re not even holding on to your own beliefs. And those are testable claims.

        I’m happy to discuss these, and even open to changing my mind, but let’s address specifics rather than discussing the source of morality. After all, I don’t think we’re actually disagreeing on what is moral in these examples.

        • Sure Eric, there are many different types of proof, and we can discuss all your points in as much detail as you wish, but surely you can’t expect me to answer everything in one sound bite, right? You pick one topic (at a time) and let me know which you would like to discuss first.

          In return, I’d like your thoughts on this: I know why I think rape is wrong, but if, as you say, there is no God–and all our thoughts are nothing more than chemical reactions in the brain–how can you say rape is wrong? How can a chemical robot be “wrong” for obeying its program?

          • I’ll reply in a little while, as I’ve got real world work to do first.

            I’ll do so as a reply to my original comment simply so this doesn’t become a really long but skinny comment.

    • Outdented from taj’s latest reply, to keep this from getting too long and skinny.

      First, this discussion about the source of morality really isn’t relevant to any of my reasons. But fair enough, I’ll trade issue for issue. And you may be walking into a rhetorical trap anyway.
      MORALITY:
      First, you say that rape is wrong, but what do you base that on? Are you backing that up with biblical or Catholic doctrine (often not the same)?
      I do find rape very much wrong. I find it so because it causes another person pain and suffering with no overriding reason. It violates someone’s right to their own autonomy. I mention the overriding reason because often moral decisions are a balance of principles. For example, it is generally wrong to deprive another of their freedom, but sometimes that is required if they would otherwise cause a greater harm to others.
      So why is it wrong to cause another person pain? Because I would not want that done to me, and neither would anyone else. That’s the golden rule that every religion has at least in principle agreed to. It can be justified as necessary for group cooperation, and may well be an evolutionary result.
      And we’re not unthinking chemical robots. We’re capable of thinking and caring.
      MY ORIGINAL POINTS:
      Since you’ve focused on the morality of rape, let’s look at that aspect of my own reasons. It’s more specific to my issues with the Catholic hierarchy rather than faith or the laity.
      Can you honestly say that the Vatican has acted morally in the whole child rape scandal? They have allowed priests to rape children. It has been going on for decades at least, and likely centuries. It has been pervasive, occurring throughout the world, and in some institutions was endemic. And the Vatican has continued to hide priests from secular justice, even at the expense of further rapes. And it can’t be excused as merely the actions of a few bad people. More on that if you’d like, but I’ll leave it for now.
      These are actions that go against basic human rights. It goes against vows of chastity. It arguably goes against church positions on homosexuality (no, I’m not equating pedophilia to adult homosexuality). And I cannot accept being told by an institution that is willing to abet child rape that my use of condoms is wrong. They are doing something that causes great harm to others, while condoms could only be argued to cause the most esoteric of harm. That level of hypocrisy leaves them in no position to make any moral decrees.

      So this ties together nicely. How do you judge the morality of rape, and how do you back that up? And how does church’s action fit into that?

      • Eric, you stated that no aspect of our world requires a supernatural answer. Why are you indignant that I am questioning that assertion?

        I would characterize your basis for morality as social necessity: we have rules so we can get along. That is true enough to a point. We have all sorts of rules for that very reason. We have rules at the zoo so that tourists don’t get eaten by alligators. But, if an alligator eats a tourist, we don’t think that the alligator did something “wrong”. If the Zookeeper eats the tourist, we do.

        If there is no God, man is nothing more than a complex animal, right? You are asserting a meta-category (morality) without any basis. Where does the standard you are applying come from? You can’t assert a metaphysical category onto a bunch of disconnected automatons.

        Clergy sex scandal:

        How would the clergy sex scandal differ from Sandusky/Penn State scandal? Sandusky is guilty of all the same crimes you stated. He was enabled by university staff over a lengthy timeframe. Would we then say that the concept of universities is intrinsically immoral? Would we call for the dismantling of all football programs across the nation? How is the fact that some Catholics commit crimes, and argument against the nature of the Catholic Church?

        • I’m not indignant about questioning that assertion. I didn’t realize that’s what you were questioning! Actually, we’re not quite talking about the same thing on that point. My reasoning on my first point was that no known physical aspect of the world requires a supernatural answer. The source of morality was your point.

          At least I’m going to assume that was a missundertanding of what I meant. Otherwise this is starting to look like misdirection. And considering you’re not really answering any of my points that might not be a bad assumption.

          We certainly are a complex animal. Why does that preclude morality? Social interaction is one good source of morality, but there does appear to be some innate common sense of right and wrong in people and in animals. That has been shown in various research. So far I don’t see any reason why our sense of right and wrong can’t come from our very complex brain. Just like we’ve evolved a distaste for poison, we’ve developed a distaste for people who hurt our family. But once we get into metaphysics, I’m really not equipped or trained to really answer that.

          Now if this is a dialog, try to answer the questions I’ve posed rather than going off on tangents. What is your basis for saying rape is wrong? I’ve given my answers, but you’ve avoided it. Is it from Catholic theology? Biblical reference? This is really central to what we’re talking about, both on my own reasons for not being Catholic, and on the related discussion of the source of morality.

          And as it applies to the clergy… you’ve again deflected the question. The whole Penn State scandal has no bearing on what has happened in the clergy. Was the Vatican acting morally in hiding the child rape while keeping the offenders in the pulpit? Answer that and we can move on.

          • My source of morality is God. What’s yours? Brain complexity doesn’t work.

            What evidence do you have that “the Vatican” hid child rape? If individuals committed crimes, how does that prove anything about the nature of the church?

          • And how do you know God’s directions? Again the question, and still not answered. Is it by what is written in the bible? Is it by what the clergy has told you? Is it a feeling you get? And let’s be specific about it, so that it’s not too easy to wave away with vague platitudes. We started with the morality of rape. Explain to me why you think it’s wrong, and with some support. And yes, this is the rhetorical trap I mentioned.

            If you want proof that the clergy hid abuses, there are several goverment reports, there have been trials, there are even reports from the US Council of Catholic Bishops. Or how about a letter from the current pope telling Bishops to keep it quite or face excommunication? If you want specific references, I can give them to you, but this looks like another deflection.

            And the problem is not with the actions of individuals. There are unfortunately bad people everywhere. But when an organization continues to hide these dangerous people and simply gives them more opportunities to rape, then it is an institutional problem. They have made a considered, ongoing and deliberate decision to abet rape. And when that institution claims to be the arbitor of morality, they have become hypocrites.

            So can you say they acted morally in their handling of this abuse? Or can you admit that they didn’t? Or can you come up with some other explanation or middle ground? Again asked, again avoided.

          • One way of knowing “God’s directions” is by the innate morality that we all experience. Has this not been my point all along? How can you not see this by now?

            I know that bishops and priests committed and covered up crimes. You said “the Vatican” did so. What is your evidence that “the Vatican” did so? What effect does this have on the nature of the church?

    • Outdented again.

      That we all feel something is both incorrect and not proof it comes from any god. There are many different views on a lot of moral issues. There are even many in and out of various religions that have deemed rape a man’s right. So there is no universal morality, even though we do share a lot.

      And even if there is, how does that prove it comes from a supernatural power? The evolution of social animals provides enough reason. Social organisation provides enough reason. And even if we can’t pin down a single source, why does that mean god?

      So one last time: What’s your indication that God deems rape to be immoral?

      And the problem does go all the way to the Vatican. One of the references I mentioned is a letter from Ratzinger when he was head of the Doctrine of the Faith ( I may not have the title correct), directing Bishops to keep abuse hidden. And the RCC has always been a top-down hierarchy. So now we’ve agreed the problem went at least as high as Bishops, and I’ve shown it goes higher.

      I’ve made my point on the relevance of this quite clear. An organization that abets rapists while claiming moral leadership is corrupt, hypocritical, and wholly unworthy of support. I could not associate myself with that, and this was my point from the beginning.

      So one last time on the clergy question: have the clergy (beyond the direct culprits) acted morally in hiding the actions of the culprits? I certainly have made my own views clear, but you’re still avoiding answering this.

      We could separate the actions of the hierarchy from faith in Jesus, and that in itself would be a valid point. But this is a new direction, since my point about the abuse was specific to the RCC, I think I’ve made my point quite clear. If this the only aspect, I’d be some form of Protestant.

      • If morality isn’t universal, you have no grounds for saying that the actions of pedophiles is “wrong”. I can’t keep going over this Eric.

        Provide evidence (not mere assertions) that Ratzinger told bishops to “keep abuse hidden”. I have affirmed repeatedly that some bishops and priests committed crimes. How would this be “avoiding” answering whether some clergy acted morally? How do you claim that every priest was involved? That is an absurdity Eric.

          • Sure Eric, that’s entirely reasonable.

            I would point out that setting a statute of limitations and establishing a just and equitable process for handling these types of accusations (i.e. ensuring a fair hearing and not trying the accused by media firestorm), would not qualify as “hiding child abuse”. Right? Civil courts do the same. Right?

        • First, I’ve got to say that I’m enjoying this conversation, even if we don’t agree. You’ve kept things clean and arguably relevant. We may not agree on the relevance of some points, but enough that I see where you’re coming from and why you think it’s relevant.

          This time, let’s start with the clergy aspect, since I think we can put that to bed.
          -we agree that raping children is bad, although not yet on why
          -we agree that some priests have raped, and that this itself may not reflect on the entire church. I don’t claim every priest was involved, and as you’ve said that would be an absurd claim. According to the USCCB’s own John Jay report, it’s about 4% that they know of.
          -We agree that Bishops at least have covered it up. There are enough reports out there to back that up. The John Jay report shows most diocese were involved. References if you want them.
          -I believe I’ve shown that even the Vatican was part of covering it up.

          So what’s left? I find that the RCC hierarchy acted immorally in keeping those crimes from the legal authorities and in failing to put a stop to them. It’s certainly illegal in many jurisdictions. That could be mitigated if they had done something else to correct the situation, but that clearly didn’t happen.
          So they clearly acted immorally, and I find I can’t support an organization that would do that while claiming moral authority. Where am I wrong in this?

          And to your point about ensuring a fair hearing; it’s absolutely correct to ensure a fair hearing. Avoiding a hearing is not ensuring a fair hearing.

          So back to the broader point of the source of morality. I’ve never said that morality is universal, nor do I need to. I’ve given good reasons why rape is wrong. (causing pain is bad, supported by the concept that any moral rule should be reciprocal, supported by the need for social cohesion…)

          If the immorallity of rape is universal then shouldn’t everyone agree that it’s wrong, aside from a few evil or damaged people? Clearly that isn’t the case.

          So what is your reasoning that rape is wrong? Is it because your god says so? So show me where that is said. And explain how you know the passages calling for rape (or genocide or murder) are wrong.

          • Eric, I hope you don’t mind if I jump in this conversation, which I agree is very fruitful.

            1. You began your last comment by refraining from implicating all priests in the sinful, detestable choices made by a few. But then you quickly made the exact same mistake of generalization by charging “most dioceses” and “the Vatican” as “part of the coverup.” This is simply not true. Did a few individual bishops make poor and egregious decisions? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean entire dioceses of the Vatican as a whole were part of “the coverup.”

            Also, even after reading this whole thread, I’m still unclear what you mean by “the Vatican.” Do you mean the Pope? Do you mean individual people in the Roman curia? Do you mean Church leaders living in Vatican City? Do you mean official Church teaching that has condoned child abuse? I think the biggest reason you’re facing such resistance with Taj is that you’re using broad generalizations which try to paint the entire Church in a negative light because of the bad decisions of an extremely small minority.

            2. You seem to believe that rape is wrong because “causing pain is bad.” But this is simply an arbitrary, ad hoc explanation. It’s based on two premises and the following conclusion:

            1. Rape causes pain.
            2. Pain is (always) bad (i.e. immoral.)
            3. Therefore rape is (always) bad–i.e. immoral.

            I don’t think anyone would disagree with the first premise, but what about the second one? Is pain a sure marker of immorality? If so, then what are the moral implications of getting a shot at the doctor’s office or having a surgical procedures? Both cause pain, but neither are immoral. If the immorality depends on the level of pain, who makes that measurement and how?

            3. You ask “If the immorality of rape is universal then shouldn’t everyone agree that it’s wrong, aside from a few evil or damaged people? Clearly that isn’t the case.” There are two answers. First, just because something is universally, objectively wrong doesn’t mean everyone recognizes that truth. People can intentionally blind themselves to moral truths. Second, contrary to your opinion, what you said *is* clearly the case. The vast majority of the world does believe rap is immoral save from a “few evil or damaged people.” If you disagree, I challenge you to prove that a sizable portion of any society agrees rape is moral.

            4. You ask why rape is wrong. The answer is that God, the source of objective morality, created the world with an inherent natural law, one that is knowable by any person apart from divine revelation. For instance, you don’t need to read the Bible or even believe in God to know that murder is wrong. We all intuit, unless our moral judgment is clouded or intentionally ignored, that all people have dignity and that no innocent person deserves to to be deliberately killed.

            The same is true with rape. All people are created with equal dignity–a fact we intuit from the natural law–and that dignity should never be violated through an act like rape.

            The only way for you to deny this truth is to deny one of these three premises:

            1. All people are created with equal dignity.
            2. Rape violates that dignity.
            3. Any act that intentionally violates another’s dignity is immoral.

          • Glad to have you jump in. I was starting to feel this might be unwelcome or just taking over your comments section.

            But I have to abstain from responding until later today. In part, your new points will take some time to think over and respond to correctly, but mostly because my meatspace work requires attention.

    • You make some fair points about my overgeneralizing, so I’ll try to clarify what I mean. My intention wasn’t to paint every priest as a rapist.

      1. The contention that it affects most parishes is not hyperbole. This is taken from the USCCB’s own John Jay report: “the problem was indeed widespread and affected more than 95 percent of the dioceses and approximately 60 percent of religious communities”. This isn’t slander from some anti-Catholic blog, but a report by the US Catholic leadership. If it affected that many dioceses it’s safe to assume many or most Bishops knew of at least some instances.

      This extends to the then-Cardinal Ratzinger. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith he told Bishops to keep things quiet. Again, no hyperbole, but from his own words (reference previously given). And now he is Pope. Can we believe previous popes, having come up through decades in the clergy, could be ignorant of these events?

      So in light of this, by “the Vatican” I mean the leadership of the RCC, specifically those who have made the decisions to abet rape. When these individuals collectively make decisions as the leadership of the organization and those decisions become its actions it can fairly be said to representative of that organization. Again, I don’t extend this in particular to the laity or the Catholic faith in general.

      2. I thought I explained that, but let me be clearer. Inflicting pain on another, without their consent, and without an overriding need, is wrong. I think we all agree on this. I did express the part about overriding need before, but not the point of consent. The surgery and shot are clearly covered by consent and overriding need. Rape is not, so this looks like misdirection.

      3. I’ll concede I’ve not shown any evidence of there being a lot of current public acceptance of rape. Frankly, I don’t know that I’d find much support for the claim that we wouldn’t both agree are fringe or misguided. And then we’d argue about how prevalent it is, and wouldn’t get anywhere. So I withdraw this.
      3.5 But I can show that there is a good deal of religious support for rape. And I know I’m being quite provocative in doing so, but it is a fair point. According to the Koran, Mohamed took a wife and consummated their marriage when she was 9. Can we call that anything but child rape? That has been used for centuries to justify child brides. Or we could look to the Christian Bible: Deuteronomy 20:13-15 13 When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies.
      Or we could look to Lot, the “one righteous man” in Sodom who offered his daughters up for rape. God didn’t seem to mind that.

      4. On this one, I’m going to throw it back to you to prove. You state three premises, which I agree with (other than “created”). But you’ve not shown that to be objective. “Objective” implies it is true outside of human opinion or feeling. I would argue that it even implies it should be provable or testable. I don’t see how any moral code, however universally agreed, can be objective. And considering Biblical and Koranic counterpoints, it’s hard to say God has given this as natural and objective law.

      And even if it is “objective” or universal, how does that prove a supernatural source, and specifically the Christian or Catholic god? As you’ve said, if we all feel this way even without faith in the Catholic or other or any God why assume it requires this or any god? There are enough natural explanations for why we feel this way, and they better explain why it frequently falls apart.
      So help lead me from something we generally agree on to to something intrinsic created by this specific God? Presupposing it or simply stating it won’t do.

      • Eric, thanks again for the thoughtful reply and for clarifying some of your earlier comments. This will be my last response because I have to move on, but here are some replies to each of your points:

        1. Of course the contention that “[the abuse crisis] affects most parishes” is not hyperbole, nor is it slander. I’d go further and say *all* parishes have been affected by it, more or less. What I disagree with, though, is your insinuation that “many dioceses” or “most bishops” or “the Vatican” was in fact *responsible* for the abuse—or even condoned it. That’s simply not true. You’re confusing “effect” with “responsibility.”

        As for your accusations against Cardinal Ratzinger, your claim that he “told Bishops to keep things quiet” is not true. Read Greg Erlandson’s book titled “Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis” (Our Sunday Visitor, 2010) for an authentic analysis of his role in the abuse crisis. There’s a whole section on the letter you’re referring to. The respected Vatican reporter John Allen Jr. has also written extensively on this letter, including this:

        “Here’s the key point about Ratzinger’s 2001 letter: Far from being seen as part of the problem, at the time it was widely hailed as a watershed moment towards a solution. It marked recognition in Rome, really for the first time, of how serious the problem of sex abuse really is, and it committed the Vatican to getting directly involved. Prior to that 2001 motu proprio and Ratzinger’s letter, it wasn’t clear that anyone in Rome acknowledged responsibility for managing the crisis; from that moment forward, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith would play the lead role.”

        Finally, nobody in the Vatican has “made decision to abet rape.” That’s pure slander and I believe you’re better than that.

        Finally, and this is the really important point, even if all of your accusations were true, that Cardinal Ratzinger and most bishops sinfully covered up abuse, what bearing would that have on the Catholic Church’s truth claims? It would be evidence, indeed, that the Church is full of sinners and hypocrites. But I could have told you that. As St. Paul described her, the Church is “treasure in earthern vessels.” That fact alone, however, says nothing about the much more important question: is Catholicism *true*?

        2. My “surgery” and “shot” analogies were based solely on the information in your previous comment. You’ve since clarified that “inflicting pain on another, without their consent, and without an overriding need, is wrong.” And I of course agree. The problem for you is that you’ve so far provided no principled reason why that belief is true. For instance, why is it that inflicting pain on another is wrong? I’ve provided my reason, which is that God created every human being with innate dignity, and since intentionally injuring someone violates that dignity, it is immoral. If you assume God does not exist, then human beings have no innate dignity—we’re simply slightly-more evolved primates. And as with other animals, there are no moral demands; there is no “right” or “wrong.”

        3. Thanks for being honest enough to withdraw this claim. That’s a sign of your high character.

        3.5. Even though it’s mostly irrelevant to my original point, that God is the only possible ground of objective morality, I disagree with your claim that “there is a good deal of religious support for rape.” There’s not and you’ve failed to provide any. First, you cite Mohamed’s marriage to a nine-year-old girl, which by our standards is admittedly disgusting and troubling. But it’s not necessarily rape. Yet even it was, that again is an isolate case of one individual raping another—it’s not blanket approval of rape among all Muslims. It would qualify as “religious support for rape” just as one atheist raping a young girl would not qualify as “atheist support of rape.” Second, you cite Deuteronomy 20 and the story of Lot in an attempt to prove that “God doesn’t seem to mind [rape.]” Besides revealing a profound ignorance about how Christians interpret the Bible, there is no historical evidence that Christianity has ever supported rape. Just the opposite is true: women have been treated better and been afforded more right as a result of Christianity than any other social revolution. If you’re sincerely interested about what the Bible says about rape, however, Jimmy Akin just wrapped up a series on this exact topic: http://bvogt.us/1189713.

        4. You say you agree with my premises, except the “created” part. If that’s the case, then you don’t really agree with the premises because the “created” part is precisely what gives people dignity. If you doubt that you doubt the whole argument. If we’re just randomly evolved collections of chemicals and space dust than we humans have no more dignity than a rock or an alligator and morality is meaningless. But neither of us actually believe that, therefore morality must find its meaning from somewhere.

        I don’t agree with your assumption that objective claims must be “provable” or “testable”, if by that you mean “empirically provable” or “empirically testable.” If that’s what you mean, then that definition itself face a major problem: it’s an objective claim that can’t be empirically provable. But also, why does objectivity demand empirical testing?

        Also, in your last comment you confuse “feelings” with “objective moral demands.” But feelings come and go and are quite subjective whereas “objective moral demands” exist no matter how we feel. You may be able to explain the chemical and biological processes by which you “feel” guilt. The question is, if there is no objective morality, who cares? Why not suppress that feeling or ignore it. If right and wrong are mere “feelings” then morality is as fluid as water.

        Finally, never once did I claim that objective morality proves a specifically Christian or Catholic god. You’re beating up a straw man here. What I do hold is that objective morality to exist requires a supernatural ground. From that fact you can arrive at God’s existence, but to know his other qualities requires more philosophical and metaphysical reasoning. With those, for instance, you can know that God is creative, unchanging, all-powerful, eternal, and more. But to know him as God the Father, and specifically as Trinity, we need Divine Revelation.

        Since this is my last comment here, may I suggest some books? For basic questions about God and objective morality, read any of J. Budziszewski many books on the natural law. If you’re looking for arguments for God’s existence, especially based on objective morality, I suggest any books by Peter Kreeft, or this comprehensive collection in one article: http://bvogt.us/RnPj71.

        • I too need to stop here, although I’ll throw in a few last words. Not really to “get in the last word”, but to summarize. Although it’s been interesting, life calls.

          On the abuse scandal, I don’t think we’re too far apart. We agree that a lot of terrible things were done by some of the clergy, and that covering it up was wrong. How much was covered up, by whom, and who had responsibility is a matter of detail. I still feel too much was done for too long by those who had a duty to do better. I do see that Ratzinger at least acknowledged the problem, although while still keeping it hidden. I don’t doubt that if I dug deeper I’d find his actions somewhat more nuanced than I first made out. You’re right that this doesn’t directly speak to the truth of the faith, but it has seriously called into question the integrity and morals of its leaders. The truth of Catholic belief would be several other conversations.

          On the source of morality and if/how that proves; I don’t think we’ll ever come to agreement. Our basic assumptions are too different. On the Biblical references, if the meaning is so different than a plain or even allegorical reading, then it starts to look like “angels on the head of a pin” arguments to me.

          Anyways, thanks Brandon and taj both for an interesting discussion.

      • Hello,

        I have greatly overstepped by bounds and I appreciate your indulgence Brandon. Thank you for your kind words Eric.

        I’m simple minded. To my thinking, if you (Eric) actually believed that morality is mere consensus, you would say that pedophilia is not “wrong”, it is only minority opinion. Also, there is no real reason to say that self-destruction shouldn’t just as easily be the object of “morality” as “the common good”. Without a God, all these things are arbitrary chemical reactions in each individual brain.

        Eric, you said you provided a reference for Ratzingers supposed attempts to suppress abuse cases. I read your link, and it did not provide such evidence. Please re-evaluate. Just so we’re straight on this, you need to provide documentation that shows that Ratzinger instructed his subordinates to suppress reporting these cases to civil authorities (not information about ecclesiastical courts). Since the man has gone to enormous length to implement processes that ensure compliance with civil authorities, I don’t think you will have any luck.

        Take care my friends!

  6. Brandon- this post is interesting in it’s timing for me- I’ve been thinking of posting the question on my facebook page asking “what is your biggest objection to becoming a Catholic?” I thought it would be cool to come up with 100 serious-minded objections and then farm them out to orthodox Catholic theologians and the like to answer for a book project. This is sort of in line with the recent book on the 7 biggest myths concerning the Catholic faith- but the book I have in mind would cover more territory and would be article length responses rather than whole chapters. I think along these lines because I have many friends and family who are not Catholic and I teach high school religion where teens are notoriously either jaded or highly skeptical or both- and I’m always looking for good materials to use in class that are relevant in contexts where there is a lot of doubt about Catholicism in the air. Maybe you are better positioned to take on this idea- what do you think?

    • I think it’s a great idea, Tim, and would really help a lot of people. There are several apologetics books that do something similar. At one time or another, every serious objection to Catholicism has been effectively handled in print.

      • agreed Brandon- it is not that there are new objections so much as it is necessary to come up with explanations that stay relevant to those who are asking the questions. We never stop updating and revising Catholic Answers to challenging questions- it is like how Peter Kreeft brought C.S. Lewis type writing and thinking into a contemporary American context and ran with it to great effect- not replacing the genius of Lewis but allowing his inspirational insights and style to spread about and continue on. The analogies always need updating- and even issues like in biotech developments crop up and need a Catholic response for the layman to better comprehend the formal teachings. And as well- studies are always being done which update us on things like very early child development and the adverse health affects of contraceptive pills. Anyway- in case you are interested in taking your blog entry and building upon the premise- I’m just encouraging you or someone who has more time, energy and contacts in the intellectual orthodox Catholic community than I have at the moment..

    • Well put. I would more than anything like to see a book that addresses, the most difficult, heart-felt, gut-wrenching, brutally honest questions that non-Catholics ask in their most raw form — straight from non-Catholics (not straw-man versions of the questions). There was a similar book I read several years ago — by Protestant Gregory Boyd titled “Letters from a Skeptic” in which he answers real questions from his own dad. .

    • Another similar book is “Questions of Truth: Fifty-one Responses to Questions about God, Science, and Belief” written by John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale — in which they take on real, honest questions, mostly from atheists.

  7. I am not Catholic because until now, God had not called me to the faith. But now he has and I stand at the door of the Church. He has called me through longing for the Eucharist. He has called me through the writings of his saints. He has called me to lay down my fears and move forward. Jesus himself is at the center of this, so I am trusting him to work out the very complicated details. Please pray for me.

  8. Thanks for the chance to express these Brandon – they’re causing a lot of angst since I feel like I’ve come up to the door of the church and may now have to turn away. The things holding me back from being Catholic all seem to hinge on points of history:
    - lack of historical evidence in patristic writings of the first 5 centuries that the Assumption of Mary was part of the apostolic deposit of faith
    - virginity of Mary in partu (that her hymen remained intact during and after giving birth to Jesus)
    - lack of good historical evidence that there was a mono-episcopal primacy of the Roman bishop over all other churches that was a conscious passing on of authority from Peter

    • Tim. On the last point about the mono-episcopacy, I just treated this in a book I just finished. Clement of Rome and the Didache: A New translation and Theological Commentary. Should be out by Christmas from CHResources, the publishing arm of the Coming Home Network International

  9. I’m terribly ashamed of my reason for not yet converting…it’s simply fear. I’m afraid of the fallout from our intensely reformed presbyterian family (I know firsthand of those who have been counseled to divorce their spouse in similar situations). I’m afraid of the toll it will take on our young family/marriage as my husband isn’t prepared to convert (although he’s supportive of my desire to). I can’t quite wrap my head around how our day to day family life would work in a divided household. Would we worship separately? Where would the children attend? How would this change our homeschool? Anyway, it’s all so lame but I’m positively paralyzed. There’s also this feeling that at the moment of acceptance into the church I must be prepared to defend the Church against all the objections I know I’ll face from family/friends and it’s overwhelming.

    • Ashley, I’m sure you’ve read his works, or at least have heard of him, but Scott Hahn faced a very similar situation. I will pray for you and your spiritual enrichment! It is so brave even to speak like you did in this comment!

      • Thanks so much Elizabeth! Scott Hahn has been extremely influential of course and an opportunity to hear him in person was very helpful for my husband. I’m so grateful for your prayers.

    • Ashley,
      As a revert after unknowingly leaving the Church in grade school due to poor catechises, I sympathize. I married my wife in her Presbyterian church and learned the faith I wasn’t taught, but saw something missing so I search privately for many years until I discovered that the Catholic Church is the True Church. I have said nothing to my wife for similar reasons to yours, plus I don’t want to add stress to my wife (our children are still young). But I can’t wait too much longer since I want my children to receive their first communion, and they can’t unless they have their baptisms blessed.

      As for the practicalities involved, the most important thing for my wife are prayer, Bible reading, living a Christian life, and loving God. All are compatible with the Catholic faith. I want to preserve family unity, so I would arrange with my wife that we would both go to both Churches. Assuming our children are brought up Catholic, my wife had plans for them to attend Bible camp and they would likely attend Sunday school in her Church in addition to the Catholic catechesis. The lessons in Sunday school are at the “mere Christianity” level so they don’t conflict with Catholic teaching…they’re just incomplete. As they grow up in both churches, the only thing that my children would have to abstain from in her church would be communion (which she doesn’t value since she is a low church Presbyterian) and Eldership (since one has to accept the Westminster Confession). So I don’t see any serious roadblocks to our children being Catholic in her eyes.

      Being Catholic in a Presbyterian environment will (and has) forced me to learn the faith much more than I would have otherwise. I can teach it and defend it much more effectively to our children, so they will not fall away as I did. This long wait has made me a lot more humble about my faith than I otherwise would have been.

      Have faith. God wants you to be Catholic….it may just take some time. Talk it out with your husband and and try to work something out. Find out what is truly important for him and see which parts are compatible with the Catholic faith and which parts are strengthened by the Catholic faith. There will probably be some parts of the faith you’ll have to tone down (in my case, deeper devotion to Mary), but you should be able to feel your way through it.

      • Presbyterian baptism is accepted by the Catholic Church as valid baptism. You just need to show proof of baptism. If you don’t have it, that’s another issue.

    • Ashley. Know of my prayers for you and your husband. I understand your fear. I was a Reformed Presbyterian minister (PCA) for 18 years before my conversion. It has never been easy but I have never regretted a day of being Catholic. Many reformed people are converting. For the theological issues, wwww.calledtocommunion.org is a good website.

    • Hi Ashley — I’m going through something similar. I am NOT YET a Catholic mostly because my wife is not — and appears to have NO intention to. And for me to so so now would seem to cause some big rifts. Secondly, my three kids generally follow my wife’s opinions! And I don’t want any visibile conflicts to cause our kids to become disullusioned with faith. My wife thinks I’ll eventually “get over my obsession” with Catholicism, like someone gets over an illness. Unfortunately, I’m finding it like the “good infection” (using C.S. Lewis’ phrase in regard to Christianity in general), of which I will never be cured of. I think the thing I’m learning right now — It will take some time. Secondly: try not to argue. I’m realizing that I may NOT be the one that will bring my wife and family into the church (although if my wife goes — my kids will no doubt follow!) Finally: It is ALL about having a living union with Christ — let his life work in you and let your gentless and patience be evident. I often point out books she can read — but I have stopped discussing our differences, and stopped trying to “narrative” every step of the way! I need to step back, and let Christ do his work. Don’t worry yet about trying to defend Catholicism (I made the mistake of doing too soon!) — simply let it soak into you for now.

  10. I am not Catholic for the same reason I’m not a follower of any other theistic religion: I’m unconvinced of the existence of any deity.

  11. I should start by mentioning that there are things that I adore about the Catholic church. There are many important lessons that Protestants can learn from the Catholic tradition.

    But, as much as I admire it, I know that I would never be Catholic because of some primary issues that center around the Eucharist. Now I might have a flawed understanding of all this, and if I do, please correct me.

    First, I think that sharing the Eucharist should not hinge on whether or not one is a transubstantiation-believing card-carrying Catholic. This should be shared across the board in the body of Christ. It is ironic because the greatest lesson I believe Protestants can learn from Catholics is on ecclesiology. Protestants have so often had a pitiful ecclesiology if one at all. Catholics show us that not every disagreement has to lead to a different denomination. But, it seems to me that Catholics have gone too far in asserting their primacy as the “real” church. Vatican II helped, of course. But it’s still there in the way they share the Eucharist.

    Second, and this is related to transubstantiation, I think there is too much of an emphasis on the “altar” as literal “altar” and “priest” as literal “priest.” The Lord’s supper is not a sacrifice. As a Protestant I prefer “table,” and “priest” works as long as we ascribe to the word a different meaning than what it carries in Leviticus, for example.

    Third, and related to the “priest” definition, there is the distinction between the clergy and laity that I perceive as being a little extreme. Functionally, of course, clergy and laity serve somewhat different roles in the church, but they are not intrinsically different kinds of people.

    I appreciate the chance to address this on your blog, Brandon!

    • Nathan,

      It was interesting to read your comments. I hope you don’t mind if I give my 2 cents.

      Vatican II was never meant to deny that the Church of Christ “subsists” in the visible, institutional Catholic Church. Rather, the reality of people being in a state of imperfect communion with the Catholic Church while being outside of its visible confines is something that has been emphasized as of late. But even given this, the Eucharist is a sign and source of unity, and should not be shared with those who have not yet entered into full unity with the visible Catholic Church. The inside of the cover of a Missal talks a little bit about reception of communion for non-Catholic Christians.

      As for the emphasis on the Lord’s table as an altar, would it interest you to know that the “table of the Lord” is a Jewish expression specifically referring to an altar? This is the case in Malachi 1, where “altar” and “table of the Lord” are entirely synonymous. After all, an altar is just a table atop of which sacrifices are offered. St. Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 10:16-21 is that the Eucharist is indeed a sacrifice offered upon an altar and that we participate in that Sacrifice by consuming that which is sacrificed. The whole force of his argument is a compare-and-contrast between the Eucharist and both Jewish and pagan sacrifice; a non-sacrificial interpretation does not make much sense out of verse 18: “Look at Israel according to the flesh; are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?” Paul’s point is that we participate in the Christian altar when we “eat the sacrifices” – specifically the Body and Blood of our Lord.

      Now, as a Protestant you may take issue with the Eucharist as sacrifice due to the view of the Crucifixion as Christ’s one-time and finished sacrifice. But if we compare the NT descriptions of Christ and His events to the OT sacrificial system, we see that not just Christ’s death, but many other things have typological referents back in the OT. Christ’s death was prefigured by the slaying of the Passover Lamb; Christ’s resurrection by the offering of the firstfruits; Christ’s Ascension by the burnt or ascension offering; Christ’s entrance into the “heavenly sanctuary” by what the High Priest did in the earthly sanctuary on Yom Kippur. All of those OT sacrifices are unified and made one in the One Sacrifice of Christ, which has not ended and will never end. And the Eucharist is the earthly “manifestation” of this ongoing heavenly event. It’s further worth noting that the term “remembrance” that Christ uses comes from “anamnesis” which in Numbers 10:10 refers not to the PEOPLE remembering something, but to GOD remembering THEM due to them offering a sacrifice to Him. This very easily could be the meaning of, “Do this in remembrance of me,” especially when the “Do this” in Greek is used over 70 times in the Greek Old Testament (LXX, the Septuagint) to mean “offer” as in “offer a sacrifice.”

      You make a good point in your last paragraph. Many people fell prey to the mistaken notion that “the Church” involves the Pope and the bishops and the priests and the deacons…and not the laity. There IS a clergy/laity distinction, but it is not one that bars us from meaning the entire People of God when we speak of “the Church.” There is still a way in which we can mean just the institutional leaders when we say “the Church” similar to how “the Jews” could refer at times to just the Jewish leaders within the Gospels. It’s not the case that the Church ever stopped teaching the priesthood of all believers or held to too sharp of a priest/laity distinction, it’s that the emphasis has shifted back and one could argue is in a better state of balance.

      Now, function is derived from identity. That is why, with biblical name changes, the new role assigned by God to a person comes from and hinges upon the meaning of the new name and the corresponding identity. Simon becomes Peter, the Rock, and that new identity is from whence he derives his new role as the foundation rock of the Church and ultimately the chief shepherd. So it’s not just the case that priests serve different roles. We don’t and can’t hold to Functionalism. The role of priest, as pastor, as shepherd, reflects, embodies and manifests the same role on the part of Christ. The priest reflects Christ’s headship over the rest of us, and this is extremely important, particularly when it comes to the Sacrifice of the Mass. Priests receive an indelible mark in sacramental Ordination just as we all receive an indelible mark in the sacrament of Baptism; they are not ontologically “above” us, as if they have a superior nature, for they are human just as we are. They are followers of Christ and members of the Church just as we are. But, analogous to the distinction between husband and wife, there is a clergy/laity distinction. Husbands are not superior to their wives, but they are the heads of their wives, and this reflects Christ’s headship over the Church. The priesthood reflects this as well. There is an intrinsic difference between being a man or woman, being a husband or wife, and being a priest or a layperson. The differences don’t make one group of people better than another, but they do have a specific role in the Church, analogous to the parts of the body performing specific functions because of what they are.

      So try to conceptualize things this way. God the Son offered Himself fully to the Father from all eternity. In the Incarnation He continues to do so and unites humanity to Himself in His sacrificial offering. His Headship over humanity reflects God the Father’s headship over Him, and His Headship over the Church reflects that as well. Those only united to His humanity (the non-justified) are going to be offered up to God but are not living sacrifices and are more like Cain’s sacrifice than Abel’s; those united to both His humanity and divinity are going to be offered up to God and be acceptable “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1) due to their incorporation into the body of Christ and thus His own sacrifice. And within the Church He has established the sacraments to initiate and intensify the extent to which we are united to Him in that sacrifice. The key in all of this is participation, and that word is, I think one of the most pivotal to recognize when it comes to Catholic-Protestant differences.

      Some things for you to consider, if and when you get the chance. I’d be more than happy to chit chat about any of this.

      Take care and God bless.

  12. Right now. It’s the rejection of marriage for the Priesthood. Historically, it hasn’t always been the case of celibate men only for the Priesthood and even now, the Eastern churches allow their Priests to be married. As a high church Anglo-Catholic and someone in the process of ordination within the Anglican church, I would move to join the Catholic church if this was allowed.

    • Thanks, Josh! That was a big hangup for me, even though I never considered the priesthood. I will note that the Catholic Church does not reject married priests. There are several married Catholic priests who converted from Anglicanism, Lutheranism, or Eastern Orthodoxy.

      For you that means that even after being confirmed Anglican, the Catholic priesthood is still a possibility, even if you have a wife.

  13. my husband and I are both ordained Protestant ministers (Salvation Army officers) and he would lose his job if I convert

    • That’s a real thing. My father was a pastor and the whole family came into the church. The question is: is the faith worth suffering for. He’s petitioned here there and everywhere, even sending letters to the Vatican, trying to hold onto a ministry that he thought God called him to. It appears he will never be a priest, and for the past few years he’s had to work his ass off (50-60 hour weeks and hardly taking time to eat to the point he’s almost diabetic) in retail just to support his family.

      If you asked him if it was worth it, he would say yes. It is absolutely worth it. He probably didn’t know it would be so hard, but he’s say yes. I would say that it was worth falling into poverty, never going back to school, and all the worry associated with it because we have Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. In my opinion it’s what has sustained us.

  14. Besides family and employment difficulties which would make such a move hard to even consider, my personal conversion would be made difficult due to the fact that the foundation for the early church does not seem to clearly favor east/west after the schism. This makes it difficult to know which branch is more representative of the ecumenical Church, even should one agree that it is the true Church.

    Further, I am not Roman Catholic because if I converted I would want to be a good Catholic, and one does not become a good Catholic by picking and choosing from among Rome’s dogmas like food in a cafeteria. And, while I affirm dogmas of the traditional church which Roman Catholicism (and Eastern Orthodoxy, and the majority of Protestantism) also affirms, I have not embraced some dogmas that only Roman Catholicism teaches. These include mostly elements of RC that seem very late in both genesis, development, and definition which, IMHO, should not be considered dogma (papal infallibility, for example). Since conversion requires that one affirm “all that the Church teaches” I simply could not honestly say that about some things at this point.

    Plus, that whole Whore of Babylon thing is a big negative. :)

    • Doug B,
      WRT papal infallibility, one can think of it as being a natural consequence of Matthew 16:18 . If the Pope could cause the Church to fall into heresy, then the gates of Hell have prevailed over the Church. One can look at it another way. The Pope can never change the faith, only add dogmas. What does that mean? It means that before the new dogma, a Catholic could be in good standing and hold that belief. In this sense, all the Pope can do is clarify the faith. If you investigate, you’ll notice that every one of the more recent doctrines of the Catholic Church are believed by many Eastern Orthodox….they just haven’t had a need to clarify the faith further as Catholics have (i.e. they had no Reformation to deal with).

    • This is about exactly where I was about 6 months ago. I wanted everything about Catholicism, except for Catholicism itself! I could imagine myself being high-church Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox — but was worried Catholicism went too far with things papal infallibility, or some more distinctive doctrines about Mary (immuculate conception) for example. Very recently, however — I’ve learned much more about papal infallability, and it’s historical roots. A couple helpful books: “The Fathers Know Best” by Jimmy Akin and “Roots of The Faith” by Mike Aquilina. The truth is there — but unfortunately has been deeply buried by my Protestant assumptions. There hasn’t been a single Catholic teaching that I haven’t found answers to after much digging. But it takes awhile.

  15. I’m not Catholic because I’m honoring my family’s wishes and allowing my grandfather to marry me in the Lutheran church before I convert.
    However, I still had a hard time believing in some of the teachings. I could not accept the contraception issue (which I have changed my mind on). I always had a difficult time accepting that I had to just sit there while others receive communion and I thought it was completely unfair. I see the issue now, but it still really makes me upset when I have completely gone through RCIA and believe in the teachings but yet still have to sit there each Sunday wishing I could join the table. I went to a Catholic high school and was extremely upset I was never able to participate in the Mass in any way. It really makes me upset when Catholics who never even go to Mass weekly receive communion the one Sunday a year they go and I still have to sit there. I will never understand why that is okay. Even though I know for a fact they should not be able to receive, they still do, and that makes me extremely upset.
    I’m done on my tangent now. But I am still converting.

      • As a raised Catholic who abstained from receiving communion, I realized that my respect, appreciation and love for the Eucharist grew. See yourself as someone who values the Eucharist. Many, many, people receive it and they shouldn’t. ( I just learned that a family member if attending Mass will receive communion because he likes the “taste” of it…. :’(

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