Skip to comments.5 Questions Before You Leave the Catholic Church
Posted on 06/07/2012 4:06:14 PM PDT by Salvation
The pedophilia scandals, the church's reaction to them, and their constant obsession with gynecology taken together at a certain point, it was probably two or three years ago, I said, 'Enough.' Every time I sit in the pew I ratify this behavior, and I'm not going to ratify it anymore.
I'm sure that Quindlen's words resonated with many. She's a gifted writer, and has undoubtedly put words to what others have thought when they make the decision to leave the Catholic Church. Like Quindlen, many people who abandon their Catholic faith still believe in God and still strive to be good, moral people; they choose to leave because they think that they will find these things they desire God, freedom, equality outside the walls of the Church. Such a move certainly fits in with popular cultural beliefs. Common wisdom states that the Catholic Church is a corrupt organization that places oppressive, unnecessary rules on its members. The way to find freedom, the thinking goes, is to ditch the institution and create a spirituality and moral code that works for you.
To modern ears, this all sounds right. But is it true?
As someone whose faith journey has gone in the opposite direction, I would encourage Quindlen, as well anyone else who has followed her path or is thinking of following it, to consider the following five questions before abandoning the Catholic faith:
1. Are you sure members of the Church hierarchy are worse than anyone else?
When people cite the pedophilia scandals as a key reason for abandoning the Church, I worry that they're setting themselves up for deep disappointment. The fact that priests abused children is an idea so horrific that one can hardly bear to think about it, and the fact that some bishops didn't take action to stop it is almost worse. But the chilling fact perhaps so chilling that we don't can't accept it is that this is not a problem with Catholic priests and bishops; it's a problem with human nature. A priest is no more likely to abuse a child than a male schoolteacher, and a bishop is no more likely to cover it up than a school administrator.
The problems may have seemed worse within the Church because it is a single, worldwide organization, so it's easy to link all the bad occurrences under one umbrella. But if, for example, all the nondenominational churches on the earth were part of a cohesive worldwide system, you would almost certainly see the same issues at the same rates. Instead of each instance being lost in the anonymity of disconnected communities, when they were all considered together it would seem epidemic.
Other organizations are no more safe for children than the Church in fact, based on personal experience, I believe they are now less safe. Thanks to the pervasive stereotypes about Catholicism, people are lured into a false sense of security when dealing with other organizations, and end up adopting the dangerous mentality that "it couldn't happen here."
2. Are you sure your faith life would be better outside of the Church?
Keep in mind that leaving the Catholic Church means leaving the sacraments sacraments with real power, which are not available outside of the Church that Jesus founded. If it brings you joy to commune with Jesus spiritually, how much better is it to commune with him physically as well? And how lucky are we to have the sacrament of confession, where you can unload all your burdens, hear the words "you are forgiven," and receive special grace to help you to be the morally upright person you strive to be?
Then, when I began to transform my life according to these teachings, I was completely convinced.
Now, those who are considering leaving the Church may struggle with believing in the supernatural power of the sacraments (in which case I'd recommend checking out these resources). But even if that's the case, within the two-thousand-year-old Church is an unfathomable treasure chest of spiritual wisdom. We have the Rosary as well as all the other time-tested prayers of the Church. Then there are the lives of the saints, countless stories that offer an inexhaustible supply of information and inspiration about how to have a rich spiritual life. And of course we have a worldwide network of monasteries and convents, and all the great religious orders. I suppose it's possible to utilize some of these spiritual resources without being a practicing Catholic, but if you believe that they're good and helpful, why sever them from the source of their wisdom?
3. Are you sure the Church's teachings are wrong?
There is a pervasive sense in modern culture that whatever spiritual tradition places the fewest moral restrictions on its adherents is most likely to be right. This idea might feel good since it appeals to our natural desire for autonomy, and certainly it is accepted as an immutable fact by modern society. And so if a person follows the path of least resistance carved out by our culture, it would be easy to drift away from all these "oppressive" teachings of the Church, without ever pausing to ask:
But are they true?
Let's take just one example: The Church's crazy-unpopular prohibition against contraception. The Church says that it's neither good for individuals nor for society for couples to use artificial birth control. It's understandable that someone's first reaction upon hearing that would be to reject this wildly counter-cultural teaching. I know that when I first heard it, I thought it was one of the most backwards, bizarre ideas I'd ever heard. But when I took a closer look, I was shocked by the wisdom behind this thinking: I realized that contraception doesn't solve the problems its proponents claim it will solve. I discovered that it makes women lose control over their bodies. I thought of the women I've known who have had abortions, and realized that almost every single one of them were using contraception when they conceived. They had been told that it would be just fine to engage in the act that creates babies, even if they were sure they couldn't have a baby. Then, when they saw the two lines on the pregnancy tests, they felt trapped and scared, believing that they had no choices outside of the walls of the local abortion facility.
Living without artificial contraception has its challenges, but it's the only system that gives women real freedom. As with so many other Catholic teachings that seemed crazy at first glance, once I took the time to understand the details of this view, I saw that there was a wealth of wisdom behind it beyond anything I could have imagined. It had seemed crazy simply because our culture has it so wrong, and the Church is the last institution left that's willing to proclaim what's right.
4. Are you sure the Church's doctrines aren't divinely inspired?
In my own conversion to Catholicism I faced serious challenges, including the fact that I was diagnosed with a Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clot in a major vein) which was caused by a genetic clotting disorder that's exacerbated by pregnancy. My doctors told me I absolutely had to use contraception. It threw me into a crisis where I had to discern how serious I was about this religion, and how much I was really willing to risk to follow it.
Then, when I began to transform my life according to these teachings, I was completely convinced.
Thanks to some wise advice, I realized that the situation was really quite simple: Is this Church guided by God in its teachings or not? If it's not, then there's no reason to listen to anything it says; if it is, then to say that I knew better than the Church was to say that I knew better than God.
When I looked at the unfathomable body of wisdom contained in this organization, considered that it has stood strong while empire after empire has fallen away around it, and saw that it has been unwavering in its core doctrines despite the imperfections of its hierarchy, I simply didn't think that humans could pull this off on their own. Then, when I began to transform my life according to these teachings, I was completely convinced. Following the "rules" of the Church brought an explosion of grace and peace and love into my life, and into my family's lives as well. I became convinced that these teachings are not human-made, but come from Someone who knows us better than we know ourselves.
5. Are you sure we don't need the Church?
At the end of the NPR interview, Quindlen says, "I've never really gotten past that quote from Anne Frank in her diary, where she says that people are really good at heart." I too have always been touched by that quote, and I think it's worth putting some serious thought into. Because if it's true that people are ultimately good at heart...then that means that the staff who worked at Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, lining up children in front of the gas chambers, overseeing Anne Frank and her family in slave labor, were good at heart too. How on earth, then, could normal, good people participate in something so evil?
The answer is chillingly simple: Through the power of human rationalization.
To look at the smiling faces of the employees in these pictures of an on-site staff retreat at Auschwitz is to understand that they had all rationalized their behavior. Nobody ever wakes up and says, "I'm going to do something evil today!", not even the staffers at Auschwitz. The only way evil ever works through us is when we convince ourselves that what we're doing is actually good. The most dangerous force in the world is the human capacity for rationalization.
I think that some folks reject the concept of the Church's divinely-inspired moral code because they don't see why it would even be necessary. Why would God even care to institute something like that? Why can't each person just get in touch with the spiritual realm and find what's good and true for him- or herself? The answer to that question can be found in the smiles on the Auschwitz's employees faces.
Though the individual members of the Catholic Church have made plenty of mistakes, sometimes gravely serious ones, its doctrines have always been a bulwark that protects human life. To a healthy American adult this may seem like an insignificant concept, since the only life that is devalued in our time and place is that of the severely disabled, the unborn, and others who literally do not have a voice. But that could change. The zeitgeist could shift, just as it did in Europe in the 1930s, and new groups of people may suddenly be seen as inconvenient and expendable. And one day the life that the Catholic Church stands up for may be your own.
This article is reprinted with permission from National Catholic Register.
Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer from Austin, Texas who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She's a columnist for Envoy magazine, a regular guest on the Relevant Radio and EWTN Radio networks, and a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion. She's also writing a book based on her personal blog, ConversionDiary.com.
I’m very certain that Anna Quindlen left the Church and Christianity long ago, if she ever really accepted them to begin with.
Anna is a classic CINO, she certainly isn’t a loss to the church. Perhaps she could convince Nancy Pelosi to leave with her?
My departure from the church came as a result of my disgust with the pervasive Socialist/Marxist teachings. The last straw was a homily on the virtues of “social justice” and the Catholic Churches adoption of that baloney. That was my “check please” moment.
Anna Quindlan; never met a Conservative she liked apparently. She was on Tavis Smiley the other day and was off on a tangent at how “intolerant” and anti-feminist Conservatives are. I gathered she actually didn’t know what she was talking about, even though Tavis stroked her ego with accolades like you never saw.
Nothing changes, does it?
Anna Quindlen has left the Church?
Great news! You have made my day!
You must have been in a strange church. What I get are sermons are reforming your life and preparing for an eternity with Christ — not an eternity in hell.
**It’s my experience that SO often people who leave the Church do so because they want to engage in behavior that is 100% contrary to Church (God’s) teaching.**
I am thinking specifically about people like Pelosi, Kerry, Kennedy, Biden, etc.
Why would God even care to institute something like that? Why can't each person just get in touch with the spiritual realm and find what's good and true for him- or herself? The answer to that question can be found in the smiles on the Auschwitz's employees faces.
Though the individual members of the Catholic Church have made plenty of mistakes, sometimes gravely serious ones, its doctrines have always been a bulwark that protects human life.
I just have to shake my head in awe. Seeking God outside of the Catholic Church leads to becoming a smiling Auschwitz employee - and disagreeing with this equation is rationalizing evil?
And the Church's doctrines have always "been a bulwark that protects human life."
Except, of course, for the how many people it doctrinally burned alive? Or doctrinally directed armies to put entire peoples to the sword? Or doctrinally protected the rape of? And exactly how much doctrinal money is in the Vatican bank, and what is it's doctrinal influence on the politics of nation-states?
Oh, sorry, I'm rationalizing again. Exactly how many Hail Mary's does it take to stop asking such questions? Or is it the Our Fathers that enable accepting the doctrinal answers? I forget.
I'd just pray to God for an answer, but that's the worst thing I could possibly do. What a violation of Church teachings - praying to God on my own! It makes me shudder to think I'm tempted so darkly. After all, even if He replied, his answer still wouldn't be doctrinally valid unless the Church approved of what He told me. So instead, I suppose I'll pray to the Church to let me experience God.
There, see? I'm finally getting it.
Yep, I got it, all right.
Loud and clear.
Those people are Catholics in Name Only. They left the church through their anti-church actions and votes.
“It’s my experience that SO often people who leave the Church do so because they want to engage in behavior that is 100% contrary to Church (God’s) teaching. “
I agree. Sometimes, it is sin. Other times, it is pursuit of a relationship with Christ, understood in a different way. I support the second, but not the first.
Have you ever been to Auschwitz?
I have. And I wept.
This killing was never condoned by the Catholic Church.
I don’t know Anna Quindlen. Never heard of her. But to blame everyone who leaves because they wish to engage in all kinds of sin precludes the possibility they may be leaving because of theological differences. Maybe they are uncomfortable how the priest is around their children or their priest is an alcoholic. There are all kinds of reasons to leave a church other than wanting to have a neighborhood orgy and loot and steal or break any other commandments.
The teachings of the Catholic Church are proper and good.
Catholic are taught to follow the life of Jesis Christ and if they do they will have lived a truly good life.
The Leaders of the Churbh took their EYES off Christ as the central theme of the Church and have lost their way.
They will be removed by attrition and will replaced by good Holy men of God, Please God.
In the meantime all the evil perverts must be removed to prevent the continuuing Scandal presently in our beloved church.
It’s never too late.
Check out that website and read the stories of others who have come back to the Church. We welcome you with open arms.
Call the nearest priest and sit down with him and get your questions answered.
I have. And I wept.
Jews who kept their faith to the end in Auschwitz go to hell forever, right?
A person who says this is not to be taken seriously about anything. I'm sorry for Ms. Quindlen, and I hope she gets the help she needs before it's too late.
Seriously, if the church were obsessed with gynecology, maybe there would be more than a handful of gynecologists who would treat women according to the dictates of Christian morality and honest concern for health. At least my "Doctor Something-Polish" and his staff know where I stand and are respectful, if somewhat flummoxed ;-).
What on earth are you talking about?
Jews don’t accept Jesus as their savior, so how do they make it into heaven?
These are not theological differences, but possible incidents of personal sin. There are procedures to report incorrect behavior - by anyone - with children. If a priest is obviously an alcoholic, that should be reported as well, since the diocese has an interest in seeing he gets help.
However, neither of these situations has a thing to do with the truth of the Catholic Faith, any more than that truth would be in question if I were a child abuser or an alcoholic (or a thief, an adulteress, a bad singer or a boring speaker).
Did not God speak of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to Moses?
Did not Elijah and Moses appear with Christ during the Transfiguration?
Was or wasn’t Elijah taken to heaven in a flaming chariot?
Was not Enoch walking with the Lord at the end of his life?
Did not the graves open up after the Resurrection of Jesus and those who were dead walk around Jerusalem, visible only to the believers?
Catholics believe that, indeed, these good people are in heaven with Christ.
Because we don't decree who gets to Heaven. God does. And He reaches people where they live.
A devout, believing Jew faithfully attempting to live by the Law can be saved by the Church even though he doesn't know that it is God's Church that is working in him. He may be prevented by his upbringing and teachings he has received about the evil nature of the Catholic Church (I have some Jewish friends in that category) from accepting the teachings of the Church directly. (This is called "invincible ignorance", technically speaking.) He may yet accept them indirectly.
Read the dialogue between Emeth and Aslan in C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle. He explains it better than I can.
(But of course it's better to consciously adhere to Mother Church with her teachings and leadership and Sacraments.)
Are there any other non-Christian religions beside Judaism in which good people make it into heaven?
I was raised Roman Catholic, but currently attend a conservative Southern Baptist church. What Ms Quindlin describes is not leaving the Catholic church, but Christianity as a whole, since she has a problem with repentance. Anna, Yeshua did not say “go and sin some more”.
I have no quarrel with the Catholic Church’s stand on protecting the sanctity of marraige and the sanctity of innocent human life from the assaults of infanticide and euthanasia. I applaud B16 on cleaning house to drive out the Marxist and humanist poisons of “liberation theology” (what about the Work done on the Cross, liberating us from sin and death?) and “social justice”, and bringing LCWR under denominational discipline (better to disband that one and fire those who continue the anti Christian Marxian spew, IMHO. Defrock and fire Bill Pfleger, a Marxist in a collar, while they are at it).
India has over 800M Hindus. Can they remain Hindu and still make it in to heaven along with the Jews, according to the Bible?
It's not a doctrine of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church teaches that we can sometimes know that someone is saved (e.g. canonization: these people are in heaven) but we can never say for sure that a person is lost. Thus the Church canonizes, but never demonizes. Never. No person has ever been proclaimed to be in hell for sure, not even Judas Iscariot the traitor.
I think perhaps you are mixing up the Catholic Church with some other group which does have doctrines about specific people being damned.
(That's not to say that we believe hell is empty. We just say that nobody could know that, only God: and both His justice and His mercy are perfect.)
Christ saves whom He saves.
It is not up to us to tell Him who or where or when or why.
Go and read The Last Battle. It's a good story as well as explaining the answer to your question. Emeth was an adherent of a sort of quasi-Muslim religion with a deity to whom they gave human sacrifice. He got saved. Aslan explains why.
Do you not believe this?
Rev. 21  But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
I never said it was. What does the NT say about the fate of nonbelievers?
Rather than that, give me the relevant NT passage[s] that make the case that those who die as Jews or Hindus can make it into heaven.
To second a previous post, God is our Judge and we are servants that have been commanded to spread the Gospel. It isn't up to me or you to decide who goes and who doesn't. It isn't a reflection on you are me if we spread the Gospel and no one responds. Our job is to follow God' commands. Noah preached for over 100 years and got no converts. Jesus was a Jew, the first disciples were Jewish, and Jews are "chosen" by God as "His people". I'm not going to second guess what God plans for His people. Who can tell the Potter what to do with the pots He made?
I'm sure there are Jews in Hell Just as we all know there are some Jews in Heaven. The Transfiguration proves that. If a person, Jew or Gentile, asks you about your faith, The Holy Spirit is calling and you should do your best to answer their concerns. If no one asks, you are casting pearls before swine. Nothing will happen except a bunch of hollering and hurt feelings, with you getting muddy. God is the Judge and I don't question His Will.
I think the hinge of the argument would be found in the question of what “unbeliever” means.
Nice link, thank you!
Both can't be right, can they? That means that one of the two has it drastically wrong.
The first church was made from Jews. Today we have Jews for Jesus.
But most Jews did not convert and join the first church. Didn't Jesus say that only those who chose to follow him escaped hell?
In Revelations, we learn Jews will repent and be saved.
What about the ones who have already died without being baptized, such as those at Auschwitz? Can you cite the NT passage[s] that give them an out?
Non-believers like the Good Samaritan? Or all those who say "Lord, lord.."?
We cannot judge another's salvation and we cannot say precisely whom among us Christ will or will not save.
You may get something different from the NT, but I believe it best not to go beyond this and to pray for His mercy for all men.
thanks for your reply.
“Good people” are good by grace. People “get into heaven” by grace.
Does the "understood in a different way" mean that they decided NOT to be Catholic...or is there something obscure you're trying not to say? You support what? How does one understand Christ in a "DIFFERENT" way? He preached, suffered, died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. How does that differ OUTSIDE the Church? Christianity is Christianity.
Also, how is leaving the Church to pursue Jesus in a "different way" NOT a sin when one believed for all of one's life, then suddenly DOESN'T BELIEVE? Sounds like the work of Satan to me.
I didn’t abandon the parish, the catholic church left me. Haven’t looked back and am satisfied with a new church. Deal with it.
“Does the “understood in a different way” mean that they decided NOT to be Catholic...or is there something obscure you’re trying not to say? You support what?”
If you reread my post, I point out two reasons people leave.
“How does one understand Christ in a “DIFFERENT” way?”
Different than by staying Catholic.
“Christianity is Christianity.”
On that we agree.
“Faith is what saves you.”
Grace is what saves you. Faith is the open hands that receive this gift.