“Did you consider Roman Catholicism?”
February 17, 2010
A fellow convert recently asked us this question. It took me by surprise. No, we did not come anywhere near the consideration of Roman Catholicism. There’s a multitude of reasons why it was never even on our radar:
- Both of us have fathers who were raised RC and subsequently left the church to become Protestant
- My interactions with my staunchly RC grandparents were always less than stellar
- The Papacy always seemed like a fraud (though admittedly – I grew up in a biased environment)
- We both knew enough about the Protestant Reformation to know that there were many problems within the RC church – too many problems for us to take it too seriously
- Personally I have never known any serious Catholics other than my grandparents – and note comment above
- I was told that Catholics worship Mary and that always seemed strange
Looking back on what I thought about Catholicism even just six months ago, I see a major shift in my views. I can now share much more meaningful reasons for why I would not consider Roman Catholicism:
- Again, the Papacy – but I now know more about the history of this issue. I see a grossly misplaced concentration on the Bishop of Rome.
- The filioque.
- The doctrine of transubstantiation, and other similar rationalistic approaches to what is mystical.
- The doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary.
- Clergy who are not allowed to marry… and too many cases of abuse that seem somehow related to this rule.
- Much too much change within the church
- Too many varying interpretations within the church (on the last two points, my husband recently pointed out that you wouldn’t expect this given that the RC church is under centralized leadership. The Orthodox on the other hand have a leadership that is comparably more decentralized and do not experience this same problem within the church).
At the same time, there are some things that RC and Orthodox Christians have in common. Unfortunately this is very confusing to your average Protestant who doesn’t know much about Orthodoxy. Commonalities include:
- Belief in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist (though Orthodox Christians don’t try to explain how this happens – it is simply accept it as mystery)
- Crossing oneself (though in a slightly different way than RCs)
- Venerating Saints
- Praying to Saints (no different really than asking a fellow Christian to pray for you)
- Asceticism, incense, monasticism, observance of the liturgical calendar
Some of these things may be of great concern to my Protestant friends. Before investigating Orthodoxy I also thought that these things were “too Catholic” so I understand any concerns. Please stick around, I will explore these in greater depth at some point.