I’m not one of those cheerleading Catholic converts. On the contrary, I often feel like a man who has spent many years on a difficult quest to join the Arthurian round table only to find a bunch of sissies in velvet playing Chutes and Ladders. Comments like that encourage my Protestant friends to invite me back.
The appeal has its merits. I have a lot of respect for Protestantism. I miss the reverence and beauty of the Lutheran liturgy, the hymns, kneeling at the communion rail. I miss the sense of fellowship and community—even simple things like hanging up your coat as if you intend to stay a while. I miss Sunday school after worship and the biblical literacy of most Protestants. Moreover, I’m just not terribly pleased with Catholicism. The mediocrity of the bishops is almost proverbial. The Bible “translation” read at Mass is atrocious. Typical Catholic music sounds like something from Barney and Friends. The Eucharist can seem like a fast-food assembly line, and the traditional style of a Catholic homily doesn’t appeal to me, even when it’s done well.
But despite it all, I can’t see myself leaving the Catholic Church for a number of reasons. I present them here, in classic top-ten style.
10. My spiritual journey has had a certain logic to it. Going from atheist to Evangelical to Presbyterian to Lutheran to Catholic is like a climb up the church ladder. To go back wouldn’t make any sense.
9. Becoming a Protestant would throw me back into that self-selective church thing. Which communion would I choose? Why Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and not Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod? Or why Lutheran and not Presbyterian? Protestants have to make and reevaluate these choices all the time, and it’s a huge headache. When you’re Catholic you’re just Catholic. It’s peaceful.
8. As a Protestant I was always having to explain things to friends and acquaintances. Some lunatic Presbyterian denomination would ordain a gay sea lion and somebody at the office would ask, “You’re a Presbyterian, aren’t you?” Or when I became a Lutheran it was always, “So what’s the difference between the Missouri Synod and the regular Lutheran Church?” Not that Catholics don’t do and say weird things, but there’s an understanding that the Catholic Church is so big and so old and so full of both saints and sinners that individual Catholics aren’t held accountable.
7. When I first became Catholic, I had this extraordinary feeling of continuity with the Church through the ages. I realized that I was in the church of St. Patrick and St. Thomas. Protestant groups broke away, and the tie has been severed to some extent.
6. There’s an amazing amount of freedom in the Catholic Church. As a Protestant you self-identify with a narrow theological and cultural group. As a Catholic you might be an albino assassin or a “we are the church” fanatic, or just the guy who gets dragged to Mass by his mother-in-law. You don’t have to go to Bingo and you don’t have to be a Knight. You can have weekly Bible studies if you want, and sometimes a church committee meets at Red Hot & Blue.
5. Catholics have fewer bizarre hang ups—about Halloween or beer or evolution. Protestants talk about “Christian liberty,” but Catholics live it.
4. With the certainty of faith, I can say that we’ll never have priestesses in the Roman Catholic Church.
3. The sacrament of penance is a wonderful thing.
2. While God is free to extend His grace beyond His promises, when I receive the Catholic Eucharist I know it’s valid.
1. The Roman Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded. Period.