The Misconceptions

I told a friend yesterday about what’s going on with me and JP and studying Catholicism with the possibility of conversion. This was a bit of an easier friend to start with because she is not connected with our current church.

I was all like “Can I test out a difficult conversation that I’m going to need to have with a lot of people on you?” And she was like “Sure.” And I was like, “JP and I are thinking about becoming Catholic.” And she said, “I’m probably not the best person to talk to about this.”

Great start! Ha.

But it ended up being ok.

Her first question to me was about needing to go to a priest vs. talking directly to God. That’s a very classic concern for Protestants. I’m working on writing about it now, but the necessity of Confession for Catholics was surprisingly difficult for me to understand, and I’m probably going to become Catholic, so her point was understood for sure.

I began by sharing with my friend that, of course, Catholic Christians can also pray directly to God, and should. And that one of the main premises of Catholicism is that since as humans,we are both physical bodies and spiritual beings, many of their practices give a tangible representation of what is going on spiritually, and that confession is one of those situations. I went into more detail than that, but that’s for another entry because how I actually went from being someone who would ask the same question my friend asked to someone who was arguing for the other side of the issue requires more explanation.

All said, though, once I finished explaining how I’ve come to understand the importance and role of Confession in the Catholic church, she replied: “It makes sense when you explain it like that.” Yes! It does make sense. But I also got the impression that confession was only one of many, many things that make her a bit squeemish when it comes to Catholicism. And, unfortunately, we had arrived at our destination and had to end it there for now.

When I talked to JP about my conversation later last night we both shook our heads at how many deep-seated misconceptions there are about what Catholicism is. Mostly it seems to be due to people who go through all the ritual but aren’t engaged in their hearts. And who, even beyond that, don’t live a Christian life outside of church. Protestants see a perception of meaninglessness to it all, and instead of attributing the meaninglessness to the disengaged people, they attribute it to the faith as a whole.

What is particularly interesting to me about this is Protestants have the same frustration when it comes to non-Christians having deep-seated misconceptions about Christianity. We are very quick to say the Christian Protestant church is full of sinful people, and that people are wrong to base their perception of God on what the people do instead of who God is. Many non-Christians who use that argument have also probably not looked deeply into the theology and rationality of Christianity.

hypocrites-in-church

But so many Protestants take that same prejudice and apply it to Catholicism.

How many Protestants have looked deeply into the theology and rationality of the Catholic faith? From what I’ve seen growing up, it’s not many. I sure didn’t. I just let people tell me untrue things about it, and believed them. And yet how many have a strong predisposition against Catholicism because of how Catholic’s they’ve known have behaved? Too many.

I think this point is fair enough, for sure, but at the same time I don’t think it entirely lets Catholics off the hook. Just like I don’t think the arguments about Christians being hypocritical and thus the faith being invalid lets any Christian off the hook.

The Catholic church focuses doctrinally more on living a holy life than any other denomination. And Christians in general have a well-defined moral code we are called to live by. We need to be better. Being lukewarm in our faith is worse to God than being cold. We need to live this Christian life so that people can’t use us as an excuse to not live in communion with God.

At the same time, though, I think it would be wise for Protestant Christians to not make the same error in logic we are so quick to point out that non-Christians make. How sinful people live out their faith isn’t reason enough to prove that the faith is wrong. Seeing some Catholics just go through the motions isn’t reason enough to prove that Catholicism is ritualistic and empty.

I sincerely hope to be able to have some great dialogue when I’m able to have time to share this journey with my other friends, and to continue it with my friend from last night. They may not be easy conversations, but I have found so much logical, down-to-the-core truth in my study of Catholicism so far, that I know I have a solid foundation to stand on.

 

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One thought on “The Misconceptions

  1. Thanks for sharing. I think those conversations will be more meaningful because you can empathize with your friends who are skeptical. Wherever they’re at in their own spiritual journey, hopefully you can share openly and each learn something about the other. Regarding confession, when I was a practicing Catholic, I always found it a deeply spiritual experience. One of the most significant spiritual moments of my youth happened during confession. As an adult who has chosen a different place of worship, and who is active in a 12-step recovery program, I still deeply value the importance of “cleaning house.” It’s a practice that rids us of our secrets. And secrets always, always keep us sick. It’s healthy to share our shortcomings, or sins, with another human being. Sharing them with someone whose life is devoted to their calling and who has significant training in spiritual direction makes sense to me. Without even understanding all of the “Why’s,” I have a lot of respect for the fact that this is a regular part of practicing the Catholic faith.

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