One thing many people can’t quite get their heads around is the Catholic Church’s claim that there is one Church founded by Jesus and that one this Church, according to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), “constituted and organized as a society in this present, world, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.” Or as Richard John Neuhaus liked to put it, “The Catholic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ most fully and rightly ordered through time.”
In the first installment of my advice as to how to avoid becoming a Catholic, I suggested two rules. First, assume that all Catholics are idiots. Second, get all your information about the Catholic Church second-hand. Steer clear of Catholic intellectuals, well-catechized laypeople, and young, zealous, orthodox priests and nuns. Look for leftover aging, hippy priests and nuns, poorly catechized Catholics, and ex-Catholics evangelicals who have it in for the Church. And above all, don’t read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
With those preliminaries out of the way, the next three rules have to do with history.
I grew up in a small town near Toronto, Canada, the son of a Presbyterian minister. My parents are wonderful people – and in my opinion, they’re living saints. While studying theology at a Baptist seminary in the 1960’s, my dad heard so much anti-Catholic rhetoric that he decided to take a Knights of Columbus correspondence course to hear the other side of the story. Partly as a result of that course, he ended up leaving the Baptists to enroll in a Presbyterian seminary. This was one of his first steps toward an appreciation of Catholicism.
A little over a year ago my status changed. Having been a Presbyterian minister for over twenty years, I became a Catholic layman. How that happened is a long story.
In a nutshell, though, reading a Catholic author here, meeting with a priest or two there, befriending groups of faithful Catholics, and attending lectures, meetings, and (occasionally) Mass all added up. At the same time, my questions about the viability of Protestantism in a post-modern environment became more pointed and my answers more frightening. The Protestant mainline, oldline, sideline is in theological, moral, and cultural freefall as it approaches becoming little more than a sideshow. And the evangelicals, I believe, are not all that far behind.
Tales of an Unlikely Convert By Mike Carlton It was 11:45 p.m. and I couldn’t sleep. I was anxious about a phone conversation I overheard my wife, Laurie, was having with her mother about Catholicism, and my patience for this divisive topic had run out. My mother-in-law was asking my wife how she […]
Shortly after I was received into the Catholic Church, a dear friend presented me with a copy of G.K. Chesterton’s The Catholic Church and Conversion. While reading this magnificent little book on a retreat a few months after my confirmation, I thanked God for His guidance to the Catholic Church from the earliest years of my childhood. I’ve often told my friends that although I lived for a long time on the outside of the sacramental life, my conversion to the Catholic Church began when I was about seven years old. I was raised in an old Presbyterian establishment.