10 Reasons Why It’s Hard to Become Catholic

Is it difficult to become Catholic?

I don’t often disclose personal thoughts on this blog, but I feel that this is something that might be helpful for folks on both sides of the Tiber: Ten Reasons why it’s hard to become Catholic.

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I have spoken to somewhere between 50-100 Protestant ministers who have become Catholic or are contemplating entry into full communion with the Catholic Church. Most of these are Anglican or Presbyterian. A few have been Lutheran.

Over the last several years, I’ve gathered up the “big ten” that either cause pain or lead to a man saying “No thanks,” to the Catholic Church.

#10 Theological Submission
It’s difficult to say serviam (“I will serve”). Theology is no longer “what I think”. It requires a submission of the mind. At the same time, this a liberation of the mind. Still, it is difficult to tell oneself: “I don’t fully understand the Treasury of Merit, but I will submit my reason to the reason of the Church.”

#9 Priests
Catholic priests are not like Protestant ministers. Relatively speaking, they are more distant than Protestant clergy, albeit for good reasons sometimes. A Protestant has the experience of a minister smiling whenever he sees you, memorizing your name, and generally going out of his way to make a personal connection. This rarely happens in Catholicism. I admit it – it wounds my pride a little. I wish that I were greeted and hailed by the pastor after Mass. It’s humbling to be part of the masses at Mass.

Protestant ministers usually have smaller congregations and more competition with one another. Hence, the minister is much more likely to say, “Hey, let’s go to Starbucks this week and talk about your faith.”

Of course, I know dozens of Catholic priests who do reach out on a personal level, but for the most part, Catholic priests are stretched out more thinly. Consequently, personal access is more rare. And to be honest, I’m glad to know that my priests are hearing confessions and going to the hospital all the time. That’s a much better use of their time than drinking expensive coffee with me.

#8 Liturgy
I am beginning to think that there is nothing as controversial in the Catholic Church as liturgy. It is at the center of everything.

I like clean, tight liturgies. Altar boys turning on a dime and making a 90 degree right angle around the altar. Latin. Gregorian chant. Synchronized genuflections. Defined signs of the crosses. Corporal folded the proper way (up not down!) You may have guessed it. I attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

However, it’s not like that everywhere. There are some wonderful liturgies and some not-so-wonderful liturgies. Sometimes, potential converts walk in to a not-so-wonderful liturgy with broken rubrics and oddities. It’s difficult for many – especially if they are coming from a more liturgical form of Protestantism. I don’t know the best answer to this problem. All I know that it is a problem.

My suggested solution is the “Great Catholic Migration of the 21th Century.” Click here to read more about “the great migration.”

#7 Dealing with marriage, divorce, homosexuality, contraception, abortion
Some people have irregular marriages, live homosexual lifestyles, or enjoy the comforts of contraception. It’s painful to allow your divorce and re-marriage to be examined by the bishop’s tribunal. It’s embarrassing to talk about a ‘lifestyle.’ It’s not easy to imagine having a minivan overflowing with car seats or to rethink the vasectomy.

For some, they have to revisit an abortion that occurred decades ago. These sort of things cut deep to the heart and make us squirm. All this is understandable and I think that these things should be addressed with caution and compassion. If you’re a potential convert, pray for and seek out a good priest with whom you can speak confidentially.

I’ll also add from personal experience, the healing a good confession is about 100 times more powerful than any of the shame or fear associated with past problems. I think others here would agree.

(Please leave a comment below to testify to this reality so others might be assured.)

#6 Financial discomforts
If you’re a clergyman you stand to lose your great pension, great health benefits, discretionary fund, and your salary. I’ve been there and it’s tough. It’s likely that you haven’t been trained to do anything else that is marketable. I doubt that anyone out there will pay you six figures to write sermons for them or lead a small-group Bible study. It goes without saying that most ministers take a major pay cut when they become Catholic. Their family income goes down. They usually start having more kids. Also, they usually start paying for parochial education – another hit to the pocketbook.

#5 Vocational confusion
It was difficult at first to admit that my Anglican priesthood was invalid. I wasn’t a priest long, but I heard confessions, anointed the dying, etc. What was I doing? What was God doing? Why did God let me function sacramentally with people who were deeply hurting. I still don’t know how to “classify” those ministerial acts.

I think other would-be converts struggle with the same ideas. Even if they were laymen, they wonder about their past roles as Sunday school teachers, mentors, Bible study leaders, counselors, etc.

#4 Non-Catholic ridicule and estrangement
Family and friends do not understand. Even when they try to understand, they will never appreciate the frustrations, study, and heart-searching that goes into becoming Catholic. Some Anglicans still call me “Father”, which makes me feel uncomfortable. Others have written terrible things about me. I’ve never been more greatly attacked for anything else in my life.

Tension often arises with parents and siblings. I’ve even heard of converts who were cut out of the inheritance because they became “Roman”.

#3 Catholic ridicule and estrangement
This may seem odd, but some Catholics are suspicious of converts to Catholicism. These come in two forms. Type A is the cradle-Catholic who has all their ducks in a row and suspects the convert of being a crypto-Protestant unschooled in the ways of being Catholic. If the new Catholic prays extemporaneously, then it’s “We don’t do that.” If the convert quotes Scripture about something, they frown upon this, too.

Some Catholics also seem to think that it is helpful to ridicule my past as a non-Catholic, as if that would somehow validate me as now “one of them.” Some Catholics just love to hear converts bash their former faith. This places converts in a strange position.

Type B is the cradle-Catholic who is less committed to the distinctives of the Catholic faith. They see zealous converts as a threat. These converts are overly-concerned with dogma and truth. And this leads us to obstruction number two…

#2 RCIA (Rite for Christian Initiation of Adults)
RCIA must have been invented so that every conversion to the Catholic Church might somehow be miraculous. It is becoming an element of Catholic lore that RCIA is commonly led or organized by someone who is a “type B” Catholic as described above. These people don’t seem to understand how zealous these converts can be. These leaders stress the “feelings” part of Catholicism and not the “orthodoxy” part of Catholicism much to the chagrin of the converts who have had it up to their ears in Protestant appeals to their feelings.

It’s amazing how many people “give up” in RCIA. It’s also amazing how many push on through. I know many who have had wonderful RCIA experiences, but I know many more who had to defend the Catholic faith while taking RCIA.

Just so I don’t step on any toes, I salute and applaud all the great RCIA teachers out there. I know that you’re out there and we are thankful for you! Keep up the great work.

#1 Pride
I don’t know how to say this in a witty way, but pride holds the number one slot. At one point in life I felt that I was too good for all those people who respected the Infant of Prague. I’m ashamed to admit, but there it is. Why join a religion where adherents air brush images of Our Lady of Guadalupe on the hoods of their lowriders? (I grew up in Texas…) One Protestant gentlemen even told me that he couldn’t be Catholic because it was “the religion of the masses.” I asked him what he meant, and the term “Mexicans” was employed in his reply.

It’s snobbery against the religion of the masses and immigrants.

It’s just cooler to go to an Evangelical mega-church that has a pool, basketball gym, powerpoint presentations, podcasts, and a rocking “praise team.” I sometimes wish that our homilies had really cool cultural references in them or solidly crafted “gotcha” endings. Alas, this is not typical of the parochial homily.

Question: So these are the top ten that I perceive. I’d love to hear what you think are the obstacles to Catholicism. Would you please share a comment?

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  • Scelata

    Dear Dr Marshall –
    If it’s any comfort, reading this way after you wrote it, I just wanted you to know that it could as well have been titlted, “Ten reasons Why It’s Hard To STAY Catholic,” and I say that as a “cradle Catholic.”
    I have felt all of them except #6. (Although as a parochial lay employee, I guess I’m not too far from experiencing that one, too… and the RICA problem I onlyexperienced as a spouse, not sure that counts.)

    God bless you and your family, I’ll be back to read more of your blog.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  • Seymourrocks

    I would add one more reason that Scelata mentioned about staying Catholic as a convert. I
    can’t tell you how many times I have been introduced as a convert as though I
    were some sort of trophy or something. Sometimes it felt as though I was seen
    as this major heretic that had seen the error of his ways and treated as though
    nothing in my prior life of Protestantism was valid what so ever. The fact that
    I had lived my life for Christ and loved Him didn’t seem to matter. In fact I
    had one Catholic that I worked with flat out tell me that I was just a want to
    be Catholic because I wasn’t raised Catholic.
    In so many words he told me that I was a fraud. What made me so angry
    with him was not his mistrust but his utter hypocrisy. I knew for a fact that
    he was living in more than one mortal sin and he regularly took the Lord’s name
    in vain at work. After about a year or two of my entering the faith of Our Lord
    and His Apostles I pretty much stopped sharing the fact of my conversion and
    what (or Who) lead me to the truth. Of course not all Catholics treated me like
    I have mentioned, but I have found it none the less difficult to find
    fellowship in the church. Being single and in my late 50’s some think they have
    to protect their wives or their friends wives from me when I am simply having a
    conversation with one of them after the holy mass. I have remained Catholic
    because of my commitment to Christ and my personal commitment to accept the
    truth no matter what the cost. Few will ever know the pain of wearing the
    collar for the last time and laying it down in obedience to the Blessed Trinity
    and in keeping with your personal commitment to follow. No one else will ever
    see the tears and aguish that you have gone thru trying to determine if God is
    really in this conversion experience or continued formation of your character
    and soul. And on top of all this you know that you are going to lose most of
    your Protestant friends that you love and cherish because they simply do not
    have the ability to understand. I lost one of over 40 years that I will
    probably never see again. I still weep. Those things be as they may whether in
    my life as a Catholic, or whether from times past. I had rather walk alone in
    the house of God as a layman than in schism as a bishop. My life is much richer and my faith much
    deeper as my journey enters the last quarter. I am a late convert but I would
    do it all again if I had to. There is nothing else on the face of the earth
    like the Catholic church, there is nothing so beautiful as she. There is
    nothing that has been so misunderstood, hated, despised, and ridiculed as she.
    On the other hand there is nothing so loved, nothing so cherished, nothing so
    followed, and nothing so awe inspiring as she. Why do I remain Catholic? I
    remain Catholic because I am not only in love with the Savior, I am in love
    with the church that He Himself founded. I could give you all the theological
    answers and even might demonstrate the truth of our religion but you would
    never remain in the faith or convert to it unless you are willing to love
    without measure.

    • Jeremiah12

      Wow. Beautiful. Very beautiful.

    • Karen Bell

      I think you are amazing. I am sorry that some Catholics are not more kind to you. I know I am late to the conversation, but welcome home! : ) God bless you.

    • Alonso Quijano

      I apologize for that craddle catholic that was bad to you, pray for him and for all those that do harm to you. God bless you!

    • Maddy Ritch

      I became Catholic for God, not for anyone else. You did the same. As long as my actions are pleasing to Him, then, with a sense of humor, I can bear the barbs of others. I love your reason “I remain Catholic because I am not only in love with the Savior, I am in love with the church that He Himself founded.” That is so true! Thank you for your reply.

      • Thanks for the encouragement, Thanks for stirring me up by way of reminder.

  • Maria

    Dear Dr. Marshall…..

    I came across your blog tonight as I was thinking about questions that Protestants ask Catholics about the beliefs of the Catholic Church, as I’m writing a draft on this subject for a Catholic prayer group I attend. Two months ago, I made the decision after deep consideration, to convert to Catholicism. Being raised Pentecostal/Charismatic in America, with some exposure in my life to liturgy in Catholic and Scottish Episcopalian Mass has its advantages. I am now in a RCIA class here in Scotland, in which I’m enjoying tremendously.

    Since starting my class a month ago, not only is it difficult to explain to family and friends the conversion, they immediately ask questions that I cannot answer at this time, as I’m trying to find my own feet, in my own faith. This is all so new…from the Blessed Virgin to the problems with Sola Scriptura, just to mention a few. We can’t hibernate from these people, I know, but sometimes this process can become overwhelming. Just last week, after Mass, a grandmother who is a Charismatic Catholic at my parish church said that she didn’t understand Transubstanciation even though she has been participating in the Eucharist since she was 18. The month before, I came to understand this beautiful process and explained it to her the best I knew how. I must have done well enough as she then tells me she now understands. What’s wild is that I’ve not completed my conversion yet…..

    My priest is great, although meeting with him for an hour every two weeks, sometimes it makes me think that I won’t complete my conversion in 18 years time at this rate. I study continuously, learning, comparing, discerning…loving it all. Thanks for letting me talk.

    Dr. Marshall, there are no regrets. What an adventure!

    • Marianne

      Thank you for taking the time to write your experiences about RCIA. I have not yet contacted a parish to even ask about beginning RCIA but I believe in my heart this is the journey I should begin – mine is too long a story and a bit complicated for me to say much more but I will say I related to a couple of Dr Marshall’s 10 reasons why it’s hard to become catholic – his words and your post reply have both encouraged me. Please pray for me.

    • bea.hunter

      I am considering converting and was raised Holiness…Like Pentacostal my entire life. I left the church last year at the age of 24. I would like to hear more about your journey and how you are now. My email is britt.hunter4890@gmail.com I’d love to hear from from you and think it would be very helpful.

    • Therese

      I am so, so glad I found your comment… I have a dear friend who is so aggressively Pentecostal Protestant that he avoids talking to Catholics about his faith like the plague. Do you have any suggestions for things that might be particularly helpful in opening him up to Catholicism? I know no one but God can do that, but are there any things in particular that you struggled with that I might be able to use to help him? God bless!

  • bex

    I can testify what a good confession can do for you. It is defineitley hard to go and admit to someone that you have done things wrong. I think more of it is admitting it to yourself. But afterwords theres the most amazing feeling of forgiveness and relief. Sometimes Protestants have asked me about confession and I try to tell them of the amazingness of it.

    • Barb

      Protestants probably don’t understand why you have to go to the priest to confess, when you do as the Bible says and confess them directly to God and get that same amazing feeling.

      • Precisely.

        Jesus is our High Priest, in the Order of Melchizedek.

        • Bershawn300

          Jesus is still our High Priest in Confession…you just get the added benefit of also hearing a person representing Jesus uttering the words Jesus would be uttering if He was still walking the earth.

      • Bershawn300

        You don’t get that same amazing feeling. In Catholic Confession I feel worlds closer to God than I felt confessing privately in my mind to Him as Protestant (and I felt pretty close to Him many a time as Protestant). There are no words to describe Confession and the nearness of God on earth through the Catholic sacraments. It is MUCH better, my friend, MUCH better, MUCH closer, and MUCH truer to the Bible.

      • Silverbirch

        I haven’t been to a confession yet (as an Anglican they’re an option for me but not a requirement,and few choose to request them), but my understanding is that the Priest is not the one who absolves you, but rather Jesus THROUGH the Priest…and really, as humans, isn’t it more powerful to have a human face on the blessing and absolution? To have somebody help you find a way to make restitution if need be and to tell you that it’s ok and help you re-start? Even just moving into the liturgical tradition of Anglicanism from presbyterianism I love the corporate confession…how much more powerful to have an individual confession…to truly have to tell somebody your wrongdoing. Telling it to God is good! But can still feel secretive.

  • lilly

    I did not continue in RCIA because I found that the Catholic faith believes as long as you do good works believe in a God whether your God is not a Triune God Musluem or Hindu,Budihist you go to heaven, I have a hard time with this teaching.
    Than why does Jesus say in scripture that No one comes to the Father only through Christ. Not by works but by Faith? Only way to be saved is through belief in Jesus? to eternal life?
    The Catholics before Vatican 2 believed you had to be catholic to be saved to have one faith in a triune God. So how did scripture change. In Revelations it states do not change anything in scripture.
    It seems the Catholic beliefs changed with popular ideas. God does not change his mind nor scriptures do not change.
    I love the Mass and the holyness,the communion and confessions. But this I could not take in.
    Still praying about it all..

    • I’m someone who’s been feeling drawn to the Catholic Church for sometime now and I still have many questions, many things I do not understand.
      +++
      But I do know this much for sure: What is lacking in Protestantism is Authority.
      +++
      I may not completely understand what the Catholic Church is trying to teach me in the catechism, part III THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC, What Does Catholic Mean, Sections: 830 – 848, but I am now at a place where I am accepting, trusting the Church to not lead me astray – teaching truth that is not changing and not at all in conflict with scripture. I just don’t understand it all – yet! 🙂
      +++
      My Protestant journey has blessed me in many ways and I am so grateful for the faith building experiences I’ve had with very good Pastors and non Catholic Christians who love the Lord, with whom I’ve studied scripture and learned quite a lot.
      +++
      I loved seeing how you ended your comment with “Still praying about it all” … That’s the most important thing we can do – May God continue to bless your journey! 🙂

      • The authority needed is reading the Bible and following it *literally.* As a former Southern Baptist, then Charismatic, then Eastern Orthodox, and having had many friends in other denominations, the common denominator is that *nobody* follows what Scripture actually says, only what their tradition says it says.

        • Jay Bienvenu (I)

          And who determined what was Scripture in the first place? Answer: the Catholic Church. HIstorical fact.

          • Your answer is a sideline to the truth I stated. But if you mean specifically Roman Catholicism, then you are quite wrong.

          • Silverbirch

            I’m sorry, I can’t resist…if you believe in following the Bible literally, have you checked your habit to make sure it’s not made of mixed fibers? have you ever eaten shellfish? I believe in the authority of scripture too…but Logos used human hands to write, and translation has distorted, and interpretation of the many metaphors and images is challenging.

          • I couldn’t agree more, and you proved what I was saying anyway. It’s the written version of the far holier truth found in Logos/Rhema.

          • John Byde

            So why didn’t they follow it? I don’t remember anything about the assumption or confession to priests in the books the catholics “determined”.

          • Keirys

            Read again then. Because it IS! John 20:23 for confession and Revelations has the assumption of Mary!

          • John Byde

            What bible do you have, Keirys?! John 20:23 says Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. It refers to any christian disciples and believers, not a priestly caste. There is no proof whatsoever that Revelations refers to the assumption of Mary. These are deliberate misrepresentations to justify RCC usurpation of the christianity.

          • Tweck

            “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”

            Jesus was speaking with his disciples, giving them the authority to remit or retain sins, not everyone on the planet. His disciples then went out and started the Church, appointed Bishops, etc., who retained that authority. Confession was practiced in the early church, and only those appointed by the apostles and their successors retained the authority to forgive sins.

    • Teenagekicks

      Nope, the catholic church believes that “having FAITH in God and doing good works” is essential for salvation , contrary to what protestants believe which is the Justification by faith

  • RP

    Thanks for this. I have been considering converting to Catholicism and even went to my first RCIA class back in the fall, only to be met with exactly what you mentioned in #2. Somewhat dissapointed, I never went back. 🙁 As you said, one of the main reasons I’m interested in Catholicism is the tradition/orthodoxy and less the “feelings”; I’ve gotten that my whole life in Protestant Christianity and am over it.

    Well, and I also grew up outside San Antonio, so I think there’s a little bit of fear of my family/friends only thinking of the kinds of Catholics you mentioned in #1 too; most of them don’t understand that there’s actually much deeper philosophy behind Catholicism than just the religious symbols.

    I still do think that at some point I will will convert though. It seems to be the direction I’m heading…

    (just fyi, I got here by googling “why become catholic?”)

    • J

      As a convert coming up on my first year, RP, I just want to encourage you to go back! Or find a different parish if you need to. There is a wide range of parishes within Catholicism, and if you are interested in the tradition of the faith you may need to ask around a bit before you find the parish that emphasizes that in your area. But while you’re searching, just remember: you can always pick up the Catholic Catechism and see what the Church has to say. Maybe take a look at the sacraments section and the life in Christ section (Sections III and IV).

      I will be praying for you as you explore these things! It’s exciting to learn more about the glorious faith in Christ Jesus. As you explore these things, please pray for me as well!

      ~J

      • John Byde

        Again, this is what I find so weird about catholicism. Why be interested in the “traditions of the faith” or refer to the catechism? These are just the traditions of men and many have no link to the bible. The only true source of knowledge of Jesus is the bible. Why accept second best?

        • Your accusations are false John. When we say tradition it means one of two things. Either Holy Tradition in which the Scripture falls, along with Apostolic preaching or Oral Tradition ( what the Apostles actually taught), Or the traditions of disciplines like eating fish on Friday or the call to make a holy hour by praying the rosary or the scriptures or some such sacramental that leads us to contemplation of a holy life. The fact is that the Johnny come lately bunch took our Bible and Traditions and corrupted them to their own liking so as to make their own easy religion to live by. Why do you feel it necessary to come onto a webpage that converts find strength and reassurance from and attack us after all that we have been thru in our personal walk and study. Do you not fear that you may be usurping the work of the Holy Spirit? The only reason that most of us are tolerant of you is that we once walked in the ignorance you find yourself in. Sir I am trying to be kind but you don’t have a clue. If by chance we are right, and we are, would you pay the price we have paid to become Catholic? Would you have the courage to stand up for the truth of History? I wonder since you already poo poo ed historical facts. I have seen men walk away from the truth not because they were intellectually dishonest but because the would not submit their will to Christ after knowing the truth. If you are not interested in becoming catholic then you are here for the wrong reasons. What ever they are. If you don’t believe the Word of God how will you ever believe us?

  • Cam

    #10 Theological Submission
    It’s difficult to say serviam (“I will serve”). Theology is no longer “what I think”. It requires a submission of the mind. At the same time, this a liberation of the mind. Still, it is difficult to tell oneself: “I don’t fully understand the Treasury of Merit, but I will submit my reason to the reason of the Church.”

    I understand serving and submitting my reason to the reason of the Church if it is just that I don’t understand doctrines like the Treasury of Merit. But not fully understanding, and not being able to make any sense of it, are two different things. I am trying to leave Protestantism for the same reason: because I can’t make any sense of some of it’s theological claims any longer. Why would I join a Catholic Church with the same problem? If both interpretations of Christianity require me to submit to leaps in logic, I might as well remain a Protestant where I see more faithfulness to the Gospel as it is laid down by the Apostles in Scripture.

  • rsf3612

    I was an Episcopal priest for 30 years, coming into the Church last year. The most difficult thing has been employment. Nobody wants a 59 year old ‘former’ Episcopal priest. And frankly, I don’t have skills that are marketable. I’ve discussed priesthood in the Church, but it seems most dioceses don’t want an ‘old’ man like me.

    • Luis

      I hope somebody in the Dioceses may be able to help you because we need more priests in many cities.

    • Chris Tallman Godfrey

      Please try more Dioceses. There is a major shortage in the priesthood.

    • Don’t give up your cause. Pope Benedict has opened the doors and made it much easier for men like yourself. You may have to do some searching but an opportunity is out there for you somewhere.

  • Anne

    I have met a lot of “Catholic B’s” in fact, I was taught by nuns to be one of those and a protestant convert “educated” me. And to this day I always say that sometimes it takes an immigrant to teach the natives. I heard that growing up, and when it comes to some converts, it’s true. We need more men and women who are mesmorized by liturgy and dogma, because they are wonderful tools to understanding God.

    • Silverbirch

      Thank you! If I ever convert, it won’t be a rejection of protestantism, it’ll simply be an affirmation of Catholicism (two very different things). I would be so hurt if somebody tried to get to me “bash” my and my family’s Protestant roots as they have nourished me greatly and will always, no matter what my denomination, colour my approach. People insulting my current denomination does NOT help me want to convert….good evangelism has got to be respectful to be effective!

  • JuanOskar JayMaynes

    I’m Catholic and I love the Liturgy more now than ever. I love my Rosary. This is the problem IMHO. When our bishops and priests give homilies in the Western World, there is no PASSION! Because they are FRIGHTENED! Frightened of complaints, of lawyers, of EVERYTHING! European and American bishops and priest don’t die anymore as martyrs, like the early Church, they die with a pension!!! My beloved Catholic Church functions with no urgency. I’m a dopey lounge musician but I could easily give you a comfortable answer to each of your ten points but I can’t do it here. But is there not JUST ONE ordained Catholic that can give you some comfort? Paz en cristo amigo…..JO

  • FormerProtMin

    I no longer believe that protestant ministers who are “feeling led” should convert to Catholicism. They should stay in their churches and make those denominations more Catholic. The Church doesn’t want them (us) and they (we) should have just stayed where we were fighting the fight to get where we were back in line with the Tradition.

    • Here, here! Well said.

  • Andy

    Good, honest post. But you forget one thing: You did not give up your literal priesthood.

    We’re a priesthood of believers, and Vatican II even affirms Scripture on this. The word “priest” in the ministerial sense comes from “presbyter,” which is a function or office of the church. The Greek “presbuteros” (literally, bearded one) was etymologically shortened to “priest” over the centuries — but this does not in any way mean that you, sir, are unable to function as a conduit of God’s grace today as a Roman Catholic.

    That you comforted the dying, prayed over the concerned, and offered the sacraments is consistent with the witness of the New Testament. Though your new denomination has rules concerning this, PLEASE don’t discount your former service as a priest in Christ Jesus — or your present and future role as such. “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”

  • It isn’t necessary to become anything from anything else if Jesus is speaking and drawing you closer to Him, and you know this through various revelations, from spiritual gifts to fruits of the spirit to knowing forgiveness for yourself and others to longing to pray for your enemies to deeply desiring study of the Word to, yes, saints who visit your home and you see them, usually anyway, through your tears of praise.

    Enough of all this Roman vs. Orthodox vs. Reformation. Let’s worship Jesus, love Jesus, become like Jesus. Peter holds the keys to the Kingdom, but the only gate to the Kingdom is not Rome.

    Let us all be characterized only by a love to live by the Word of God, and by a strict demand for holiness of life. All else is unnecessary fluff.

  • foxtrotsky

    I grew up Catholic. My mother was a convert, I went to Catholic schools for 12 years. And most of this piece is ridiculous. Like yes, if you act like a religious freak, people aren’t going to want anything to do with you. Catholicism isn’t like protestantism, no one cares how you *feel* about something. You don’t get cookies for being extra zealous. Your tone is really condescending and like most converts, you seem to think you’re better than cradle Catholics. (As a note, I no longer consider myself a Catholic, nor does the church consider me a a Catholic. Every Catholic convert I’ve met is a special kind of arrogant and crazy).

    • Fernando

      I am a cradle Catholic. I have studied the faith deeply starting in high school when I felt some hunger to know more about the Catholic faith. I was totally taken by the beauty, the truth, and the overpowering logic of Catholic teaching. Then I encountered blogs by Catholic converts such as this which speak of the beauty of the faith, expressing the same sentiments I felt when I came face to face with Catholic teaching. To know that you are in possession of the truth makes you want to proclaim it, to share this knowledge to others. I think this motivates many Catholic converts to speak about their new-found faith.There is simply no way to contain that joy and that abiding peace that comes with discovering the truth. I thank God for the work of Catholic converts who use their gifts to make Christ and his Church known.

      • David Matias

        I feel similarly. I was born and raised Catholic and after drifting away from the Church in my late teens I find myself at 35 rediscovering/deeply exploring my faith like never before. I think converts are awesome because of their fervor for the awesomeness of the fullness of truth in the one true faith. They definitely inspire me and I think they ought to inspire other Catholics as well.

      • Thanks Fernando. Actually I feel sad when cradle Catholics don’t know their faith or take it for granted. I am more of a traditional Catholic and was disappointed with the condition of the Church at large when I came in. I could have left but then where would I go? I am staying and fighting for the Church. It will one day be wind swept and pure again.
        CS

    • John Byde

      I just find that the RCC has nothing to do with the real faith of Christianity. When I hear a priest say, “May is the month of Mary” I think: where does this come from? Where in the bible does it say this? May is Jesus’s month – like any other month. I feel much closer to Jesus – although remaining a sinner – now that I stopped going there.

  • olhg1

    Hi, I am a cradle Catholic. I’ve read your personal experiences. You did not mention the Name or Person of Jesus, God Almighty. Why is that? IMO, the Roman Catholic Church has helped me to fall deeper in love with Jesus, the Founder of that little group of Apostles and disciples which has become the Church. All those other considerations you mention are meaningful, but peripheral when it comes to dedicating-and perhaps laying down-one’s life for something. For me, Jesus’ love (in the past and the present) and my love for Him, are the reasons I do things. I am not “Gung Ho,” but tolerant of a lot of the non essentials (cultural developments) of Roman Catholicism, e.g., liturgical ritual, statues, art, buildings, and expressive realms of piety. I’ve gone on too long already, but the bond between Jesus and a person, has to be the reason for continuing to live. Sound unrealistic?

  • jimmy

    Given the state of the Catholic church in America, I’m not sure why anyone would join at all. Mass has become a political statement where an equal number of females must be represented in the sanctuary, laity involvement takes priority and girl altar servers out number the boys. “Laity involvement” has turned mass in to a circus without the elephants. Homilies so ambiguous the meaning of the Gospel is lost. Clanking guitars complete laity involvement.

    On top of all that we have weak minded bishops who would rather stay clear of criticism from worldly people that protect and promote the Catholic church. Thankfully a resurgence of the EF Mass has taken place and is growing with homilies that reflect the true teaching of the Church.

    • Chris Tallman Godfrey

      None of this is true in my parish in the Irish Hills of Michigan. Our last priest was wonderful but he was called to Rome to study Canon Law. Our new priest came to us from another local parish and he is wonderful in his own way. Both had wonderful homilies. I pray before every Mass to hear God. And I do. Sometimes in the Homily, sometimes the hymns, sometimes the readings. I think you get out of Mass what you put in it.

  • Gresu

    But you are not Catholic, Dr. Marshall, but a conciliarist – a modern day claimant to be Catholic. I’m a ‘cradle Catholic’ who rediscovered the Catholic Church currently in the catacombs 6 years ago. Would you like me to list SOME of the false teachings now practiced in the once Catholic Churches that have not been sold or demolished that so many good Catholics financially supported and stolen from them?

  • John Byde

    REason 11: whole swathes of Catholic doctrine have nothing to do with the only source that counts – the new testament.

    • Paradox

      I thought that, too! But then I saw, while talking to Catholics, that they have very logical interpretations and arguments. The Church Fathers helped me out, too, because they showed me the historical understanding of the early Christians.

    • Nina Taylor Bryant

      I appreciate everything above. I was a convert to the Catholic Church at the age of 15. As a young adult I was very exited of course to be a member of the Catholic faith–and having grown up Presbyterian it was very different for me…and I am not going to go into the differences between the mainline liberal protestant church and the venerable Catholic church—but–ulitmately I chose to reconcile with my protestant background. For the decades I spent in the Roman church, I was bombarded constantly by my conscience. Why? For eating meat on Fridays in Lent? No. It was because, as I grew older, and learned more about real life, and real people and situations—and how much suffering people have, it made me indignant to realize that my church was adding to those burdens! Routinely telling guests at weddings “sorry, do not come to communion” and stories of insolent teenagers telling their mothers that their peers killed their own peers in abortion clinics, making homosexual people ashamed, making a mockery of families that already exist by a lengthy marriage tribunal! I could no longer sanction being part of an institution that inflicted such unholy burdens on people’s shoulders! I am a sinner in need of redemtion. I stand on the promises of Christ. All other ground is sinking sand.

  • StTeresaofAvila

    Dear Mr Marshall, Thank you for bringing this topic to discussion. I was born into Catholic faith
    at 9 yrs old was separated from church through divorce and went many many years stumbling through the wilderness. At older age I experienced a calling and returned to the church. This was two years ago. I think it is very difficult for cradle Catholics to understand conversion. I had many responses and some very hurtful. I have decided two things: 1) even if I don’t like how I am treated by some, I still go because it is meritorious for me to do so. 2) I think a great ministry would be helping those coming into the church, besides RCIA, something more supportive and focused on the specific issues of coming into the church. 3) It has crossed my mind that if God allows these difficulties it must be for a good reason such as the salvation of our soul. God Bless you and thanks for great blog! ps/ StTeresa is my patron Saint.

  • littleblackangel

    This is a great article, Dr Marshall! For me, a big obstruction of being a Catholic is the constant existence of self-guilt when I commit a “sin” or two — even non-serious everyone-knows-its-OK-to-commit sins. I have to go to confession before going to Mass and receive communion. Also, the constant guilt of having eaten meat on Fridays, even though everyone around me says it’s OK, I still feel guilty. I grew up in a very traditional Filipino Catholic family — even when I distanced myself away from the faith for about 10 years (!) and experimented on different religions/beliefs, I still carried this guilt — I guess it’s hard to get rid off traditions you are raised up with… I have just reunited myself with the Catholic Church recently and I am so happy I did. I have never experienced satisfaction and happiness until recently. Sure, it is hard to be a “real” Catholic… I just consider it “challenging”… with so many faiths/beliefs/religions out there, I came to realize that Roman Catholicism is the right one for me… but I still think it’s not the only true religion out there but it’s the religion that is right for me. There are so many things I still do not understand and still think hard to accept in the Catholic Catechism/dogma, but I told myself to simply obey what the Church teaches and trust Her.. because I believe that the Holy Spirit is the Church’s driving force. The Church is always right, and if there is something that is not right about her teachings, I am very sure the Holy Spirit will do something about it. 🙂 Thanks again for the article!

    • Chris Tallman Godfrey

      Trust, belief and submission are the truths that lead to peace. I am so comfortable having the Church tell me the truth rather than some other group believers. Apostolic says it all.

  • Michael O’Keefe

    It makes me so sad to hear that you were treated less than kindly at any point. IT makes me so grateful to my parish and to the grace of God that I have never said or done any of the horrid things you describe cradle Catholics doing. If you are ever in Columbus Ohio I hope you will visit us at St. Patrick. We use the 2010 missal, and all is orthodox to the max.

    • Chris Tallman Godfrey

      I attended Mass in your Church in October when my sisters and I visited Columbus. The Mass was spectacular.

      • Michael O’Keefe

        Thanks! 🙂 We are so very grateful for God’s grace. I hope you got to meet some of us, I think as a group we are kindly and represent what is best in the people of God

  • Chris Tallman Godfrey

    I would like to comment on confession. I was a fallen away cradle Catholic. When I came back I did a very thorough Examination of Conscience. It was grueling. I had a face to face confession with my parish priest that was an hour long sobbing true confession. When I was done and he absolved me of my many sins I was reborn. It was the best feeling I have ever had to be back in God’s arms. Mary Chris

  • Asian Protestant

    I am so with Lilly. I’ve been attending Mass for >20 yrs as I’m married to a Catholic and while I’ve managed to get less upset about the doctrinal differences e.g. rosary, Mary, purgatory, transubstantiation, there are some fundamental differences that I find almost anathema to the teachings of Jesus. And it became so clear to me again recently when members of both lay and clergy stated clearly that there’s no need to evangelise, just do good works, don’t judge, show a good life, hopefully the non-believers will catch on, everyone goes to heaven. This is including the Pope who said to back off on proselytising and just share and hope the Good News will be passed like some kind of good infectious disease. What happened to the martyrs and saints who crossed the oceans to spread the Good News??? What a mockery of their deaths and devotion!!! I am a Christian today because St Francis Xavier, despite severe sea sickness, answered Jesus’ call to make disciples of all nations, sailing for months to Asia to convert the heathen masses. Why has the Catholic church lost the plot???? Now, the same priests who tell me all will go to heaven, we can’t judge, will at the same time agonise over the congregation making mistakes like making the sign of the cross at inappropriate moments, desecrating the Body of Christ by sharing it with young children, or any number of other procedural issues and rites. Why bother to venerate the Body if all and sundry can just breeze into Heaven??? What difference does that make??? Meanwhile I’ve been attending Bible Study Fellowship for the past 6 yrs and have rediscovered my faith, what I’d been missing all these years, deepened my understanding about what Jesus really wanted us to do. And the number of Catholics who go there is wonderful — they find new life in the solid teachings. I have been reinvigorated to share the Good News, to feel urgency in my life, to care for all the lost, to not take my faith as a private benefit but one that must be shared, that God must be glorified and not be ashamed of His name.

  • changed

    As a protestant, I loved /hated the idea of Catholic confession. I loved the idea that someone could be completely honest and and tell someone all their sins, but I hated the thought of it too because when I thought of myself, I thought I couldn’t do it, I was too scared and distrustful, and looking back on it, I realize how I hated myself. I wish I could say my first thorough confession was when I converted in 2007, but an intense fear I had was like duct tape on my mouth. Finally, during lent, 2012, and during a time when I was about to partake in a Marion consecration, something happened, and I could feel my fears literally melt away. I had a 20 year old sin to confess, and I did it! No more duct tape. Thanks to that confession, and many others after that, the rosary, adoraration, and basically everything Catholic, I became a new person and stopped hating myself, and felt the love of Jesus for the first time in recent memory. The Catholic church gave me courage to face memories from when I was a toddler being abused. I had completely blocked these out. But I had also forgotten how much Jesus loved me as a child. God’s love was something my protestant church which taught double predestination didn’t focus on. I know if I was a still protestant, I would still be having nightmares I didn’t understand and pain in my dreams. If it wasn’t for the church, I would be on sleep meds, and probably antidepressants. That one confession, that started it all, has changed me so much. I’m a thirty year old wife and mother of soon to be five children… I’m a very happy Catholic, and I don’t hate myself anymore. 🙂

  • Keenan

    I completely agree with many of the points above. I converted four years ago at 21, and I still think my friends and family don’t understand. Also, the RCIA process was a mess. It was all worth it though.

  • Bonita

    Dear Dr Marshall,

    I am a “revert” to Catholicism after 20+ years away. I was not looking for anything else when I left, I just didn’t feel welcome anymore (just divorced) and I admittedly used contraception which made me feel hypocritical about taking the Eucharist. No one stopped me. No one said “hey, it’s ok, we’re all sinners.” I shunned myself and I felt shunned by others. I missed the Church the whole of my absence. The one thing that was constant even during my absence were my prayers to Mary. She and my new husband are why I’m returning. She has always been there for me and he is a zealous ex-Baptist convert. I struggle with your #5 and agree with you about RCIA as I attended with my husband. I crave the Eucharist and suffer the sin of envy of all those receiving Him. I often wonder why do they deserve the Eucharist but not me? My sin is public–I am remarried and my annulment is not yet granted. Their sin is not public. These are my struggles still.

    • Andrew Patton

      Your craving for the Eucharist is good, but the Eucharist is poison to those who are in a state of mortal sin. Now, you don’t have to wait for an annulment to return to the Sacraments. If you and your new husband agree to live as brother and sister until such time as you are free to marry (i.e. you receive your declare of nullity or your first husband dies), then you can go to Confession, receive absolution, and return to the Eucharist.

  • Bob

    Like you, Sir, I prefer “clean, tight liturgies. Altar boys turning on a dime and making a 90 degree right
    angle around the altar. Latin. Gregorian chant. Synchronized genuflections. Defined signs of the crosses. Corporal folded the proper way (up not down!).”
    I attend a “high church” Anglican church in a town of 30,000. The only Catholic church is so “low church” that it is more like a Presbyterian church. While I do understand that the bells and whistles are not the reason we worship, I also feel like different forms of worship enhance the experience for different people. I happen to be one who gets more out of the symbolism and tradition that come in the high church liturgy.
    So, while I feel very drawn to convert, your ten reasons combined with the one I just mentioned make the conversion not seem worthwhile, at least at this point in my journey.
    God bless you, and congrats on making a successful switch.

  • Vincent Swift

    No 1 obstacle has to be contraception and this due to a poor record by the church on the theology
    of the sacrament of matrimony which should have been a priority decades ago and is only now being addressed

  • Alec Marfenko

    As a convert to the Catholic Church, who just starts his way into the beauty of Christ`s Church, I am grateful to know that there are people like you, who understand our struggles and our zeal… loved that point! Because that`s exactly what leads me “home”! Search for truth and not feelings! I would add one more point to your list, right after “priests”, though.. and that is “absence of fellowship”.. For a lot of protestants coming into the Catholic Church means: a) loosing all the friendship connections (or most of them) within the protestant world and b) having a hard time to reconnect and to re-define oneself in a new “home”.. Catholic Church does not offer “small groups” or “Bible study evenings” and it seems, at least on the surface, that there is no personal connection between Christians there. That was and still is a great struggle for me.. I need people to talk about my faith issues, to share great moments with Lord in my life, have those on my side that will tell me “you know Alec, I am praying for you” And I am in the process of figuring the ways out, how I can have those needs of mine met. But I guess, that’s a great challenge there. Thanks again for the article!

  • Silverbirch

    I’d like to add to the list, as an Anglican dating a Catholic and considering whether I will eventually affirm membership also in the Catholic church…

    – language barriers: I grew up reformed/calvinist/protestant and we use different language to talk about relatively similar things. A great example is we talk about social and environmental justice; Catholics talk about sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person. This is suprisingly hard to identify/recognize as a problem, and to overcome and accept! Especially if you, like me, have grown up with lots of messages using the extremes of Catholic positions and explaining how they’re problematic (I still think the extremes are problematic; I’m just now learning that people use that language in MANY ways!)

    – arrogance or perceived arrogance, and liturgical confusion: Until a year ago, Catholics were “those weird christians who don’t call themselves Christian but Catholic and who don’t let me receive the eucharist when I attend”. You’d think Catholics didn’t WANT anybody to participate! Masses are full of quickly mumbled responses that aren’t written down anywhere (and I mean anywhere…unless you ARE a catholic and have the book it’s written in and know which page to turn to, in which case you don’t need it because you’ve memorized it) and can be very hard to follow for the first six months (even true for me as an Anglican!). You’re not allowed to participate in the whole service, which can be deeply hurtful. And the Catholic church often sounds like it is the One True Church, rather than having any humility that maybe, sometimes, they’re actually wrong. I don’t mean any of these things to be unkind, just an expression of the hardest parts of trying to come towards the church. There are lots of humble Catholics out there, and I understand the reasons for some of the doctrines. (but really, would it kill you to print bulletins for visitors so we know what to say??)

    – no women in leadership. As a woman, I’ve adored having female priests since I became an Anglican as an adult. I get to see strong graceful women in positions of leadership, power, and care. I’m sad that if my children were to be brought up Catholic, they would see only male priests and deacons. Many people disagree with me here, but most Protestants have seen or at least allow women to be church elders or leaders

    – no say in how the church is run: it’s hard to come from a tradition where you get to vote on decisions and influence the direction the church goes, into a tradition where no matter how much you disagree with something, you cannot help it to change.

    • Silverbirch

      Oh and also the fact that it feels a bit insulting that my confirmation into the CHRISTIAN church as an adult isn’t sufficient…that Catholics are somehow Catholic first and Christian second, and that my affirming the apostle’s creed and promising to be Christian for the rest of my life (making the -same- promises as confirmed catholics make, actually) at age 17 was insufficient and I’d have to do it again. And in so doing, seemingly reject my past affiliations…I wish there was a way to ADD Catholic rather than remove all the other denominations that are a part of me and replace them with Catholic.

  • I had the same “type B” RCIA experience. I prayed and researched for a decade before finally deciding to convert, so I was surprised when I ended up having to constantly correct the “cradle” instructor on Catholic doctrine. To make it worse, since my grandfather was Catholic, and I wanted the Church I remembered from visits to him, and the lack of Tradition in the post-conciliar church has been a big obstacle in the six years I’ve been Catholic.

  • Margaret

    Dear Dr. Marshall:

    Thank you for sharing your good thoughts. I converted 5 years ago and have never had a personal conversation with my Priest. I understand the Monsignor and his staff is overworked in a parish of over 1700 households. So, I infrequently take advantage of the few seconds after Mass to shake hands with the prest and say, “thank you”. This being Trinity Sunday, I took a few too many seconds to reference a scholar I had read on the Trinity. I was concise, direct, but humble, and just simply hungering for some connection. He ignored me and shouted over my head to his friends who he had been speaking with at length, to finalize their afternoon barbeque plans. I walked away questioning my choices. I believe Christ calls us to connect, to share, to fellowship, (after Mass), in an authentic way as we all move towards mature discipleship. This is difficult when you’re not really accepted into the local clique. Score one for the United Methodists who welcome all, as Jesus would. And there’s coffee after the service. Thanks again.

  • Adam1776

    Thank you very much for your compassionate humor and insight. Type B in #2 defines my RCIA experience. There is no hope or faith in the RCIA. RCIA’s a great argument for being anything but Catholic (maybe Luther and the writers of the Westminster Confession were forced to attend RCIA?). I do hope and pray that you, F. Mitch Pacwa and a few other writers are not alone as believers within the Church.

    But our Triune God is merciful! Despite RCIA, I can read and there is a written Catechism–well founded in the Bible and Tradition.

  • George Zwierzchowski

    Catholics who complain and wish we were more like he protestants have no idea how hungry the protestant is for what we take for granted…..THE EUCHARIST!
    who needs rock band praise groups and some guy telling us what he “just discovered” in his bible for an hour.
    We have Jesus himself on the altar.
    if your looking to be entertained, watch tv.

    I was 40 years among the confused church shoppers. I will never look back.

  • suse

    I started RCIA with my then-husband. At that time, I was teaching the First Communion classes (as nobody out of the 75-100 other cradle/convert parents volunteered). My children went to Catholic elementary school at the time. I never missed a Mass. Yet, after speaking to three different priests, I was blown off and told to hit RCIA. When I told the priests (they ALL seemingly went out of their way to make me feel beneath them) that I had studied, my children had studies, even my ex then-studied (the Mormons got him — good riddance), worked tirelessly for the church and school, rarely missed Mass, my children recognized themselves as Catholics, etc., I asked about them doing first communion. I was told absolutely not as they didn’t have a Catholic parent. Good Grief. I grew up in a denomination where conversion was the business. Now, they are all the rock churches in gyms spoken of and I cannot tolerate it.

    We ended up in the Episcopalian church where my then-spouse and daughters were baptized. We have a female priest (who wishes she could be Catholic and hold her job), and an openly gay bishop. This week, it has been announced that gay marriages will be performed in the church. I am not against the constitutional rights we all enjoy — it is their right. However, I do not condone it religiously and cannot abide it in what to me is sacred and, I feel,wrong in the church.

    I am back to searching for membership in the Catholic church. I am reading that they are making it easier for Anglicans to join, but it this is the RCIA fanfare, I find it almost as bad. Am I wanted or not? I feel the church I belong to doesn’t belong to me. I have given the church countless hours, my children, my money, taught their theology to the future. Yet, I am still not good enough.

    Any suggestion?

  • Mike Mitchell

    “A Protestant has the experience of a minister smiling whenever he sees you, memorizing your name, and generally going out of his way to make a personal connection.” Another way to say this is that Protestant ministers typically care about individual people in their congregations and value relationships with them.

    Also, do you think maybe some Protestant minsters might be motivated to meet a member of his church at Starbucks because he believes in the importance of the type of interpersonal relationships Jesus had with his disciples, not just be cause he’s “competing” with other ministers?

  • Brooke Blake

    It’s interesting to see this discussion alive and well after two years…speaks to the ongoing struggle of Catholic converts.
    People often turn to Catholicism because they feel secure within an authoritarian framework.
    Freedom is terrifying for a lot of people, and it is so much easier to be told what to think, and then be assured that if every rule is followed you will be assured of Heaven.That’s a bit manipulative, don’t you think? God is not “bought” by our little acts. He sacrificed His own Son for us, remember?
    Jesus is in every act of Eucharist, whether you call it transubstantiation, or communion. HE is there.
    And, on another note, I find it strangely disturbing to see the words” tight and clean” liturgy, and “altar boys making perfect 90 degree angles” in the same sentence.
    By the way, I was “Catholic”. For a few months.The ugliness I discovered was appalling. I left.

  • Steven Barrett

    I was particularly interested in #3. Will somebody kindly remind converts and especially those high n’ crazy Episcopalians that it’s not the Catholic “regulars” that need constant reminders of their laxness, etc. Converts: you’re home. Isn’t that enough?

  • Charlie

    Hardest thing for me was coming around to a sacramental (heaven not being an abstract thing, but right here in the sacraments where we can touch it) view if things. And since my conversion this seems to be one of the big obstacles when talking to my protestant friends.