In many of the Evangelical Protestant or fundamentalist churches of today, more than twenty percent of the members or regular worshipers can say, “I was raised Catholic.” At banquets or meetings, I recall many times sitting around a table, attempting to meet and learn about the other people sitting with me. Inevitably, someone would say those words. Heads would start nodding seemingly everywhere, and the smiles would begin. Additional words weren’t required, because each of us understood.
During our inquiry into the Catholic Church, we were looking for the whole truth and nothing but the truth. To our dismay, we discovered that Protestants have lost or purposely discarded several major benefits of the New Covenant. What the Catholic Church had recognized as truth was reevaluated by the protesters, who had to make things fit their new “each one is his own authority” belief system.
Who gave them the authority to overrule the Church Fathers? As I studied these, I could see no valid reasons for discarding these truths. Who should make decisions in the Church? Who can be trusted to do it right? Such questions had plagued me for a long time.
“I am a former Protestant minister.” The words sounded as if someone else had spoken them. I was in the office of the pastor of the local Catholic parish. At that moment, I realized that my whole life was defined in terms of what I used to be. A silent wave washed over me: I used to be employed; I used to be a homeowner; I used to be confident and focused.
It was difficult to watch Mary receive the Eucharist while I remained behind in the pew. I imagined how hard it would be to watch my family go up for Communion without me. The words spoken by the congregation in Mass — “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed” — both irritated me and gave me hope.
From my days at Princeton Theological Seminary, I believed in the authority of the early Church to speak definitively on the content of the Christian faith. I had no doubt that the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon spoke with the authority of the Holy Spirit. What I had not thought about much was what happened to that authority in the centuries since.
I was quite young the first time I saw him, so I don’t remember where it happened. But I do remember being terrified by the sight: that tortured man, thorn-crowned,