At least for now.
This is Part 1 which gives the underlying background.
I have endured a sort of struggle of faith over the last couple of years. Its roots go back further than that but over the last couple years that it has become pronounced. There are others going through a similar struggle, for most it has been caused by the current Pope. I want to first state that my struggle is not in reaction to the current Pope, although he has certainly accelerated it. I reached a point with this blog where I ceased writing, in part, because I couldn’t in good faith say, without hesitation, that those outside the Catholic Church should enter it.
I have not written much of my initial conversion to Catholicism but I must mention in (very) brief some necessary details. I was baptized a Catholic as an infant but my parents left the church a couple of years later. My childhood religion was American Evangelicalism. Mainly of the Pentecostal sort found in the “Assemblies of God”. It was an emotionally intense (too intense for my temperament) and somewhat anti-intellectual. In adolescence these qualities became increasingly problematic. At age 14 I found an old Latin/English Mass book in my grandmother’s attic and she encouraged me to take it. This was my initial exposure to Catholicism. I became a sort of crypto-Catholic. I remember sneaking into my mother’s jewelry box to quickly pray the rosary on her set beads which she had kept. I began living a hedonistic life a couple years later, my late teens were a very dark time. I have to pass over a lot of details for the sake of brevity, but eventually, I began to search for the truth. I studied everything I could get my hands of from, Atheism to Zoroastrianism, eventually coming to the conclusion that Christianity was true and Protestantism untenable. Eastern orthodoxy seemed to simply be some small residual nationalist churches who quarreled among themselves as much as anyone else, and I lacked much information on them, so I dismissed them as irrelevant. So, in the year 2000 I entered the Catholic Church.
Becoming a Catholic was incredibly difficult. The Rochester NY diocese and its bishop were one of the most “liberal” in the US at the time. (Note- “liberal” For lack of a better term, self-described ‘liberal Catholics’ typically reject a good many teachings which are not optional, and want to change things which are un-changeable). I enrolled in the RCIA program, which was horrible. For example, at my first RCIA meeting I was told that “we don’t baptize to remove original sin the church has done away with that horrible idea” I knew this wasn’t true. I was told that “Vatican II” got rid of this or that thing (quite often something I thought was beautiful). Eventually, thanks to intervention from my Catholic grandparents, the priest of the parish gave my private instruction and finding that I already knew the faith quite well privately received me into the Church.
At, this point I was 20 years old. I had broken off most of my friendships because those friendships revolved around immoral lifestyles. I knew no, there weren’t any, practicing Catholics my age. I was pretty much alone. The likelihood of attending a Mass where the homily would contain heresy or some really weird liturgical abuse wouldn’t happen was slim. (Dancing girls with flaming bowls of incense or hosts containing honey made by a parishioner and distributed from a Tupperware container were some of the more extreme I’ve witnessed.) Then the sexual abuse scandal broke. Through all of this I remained Catholic because and only because I believed it was true. Just because certain clergy reject and undermine the teaching they are supposed to accept and defend doesn’t mean that the Faith is untrue. Personal grave sin, while unfortunate, is to be expected of individuals, so again it doesn’t mean the Faith is untrue.
So, I suffered a lot. Over time the situation improved. I got involved in the movement to restore ‘tradition’, we received a new bishop and other things. There are now signs of light and spring at the local level, there is also a wearying struggle for the timeless Faith against the spirit of the age. That said the majority of Catholics are still so in name only. Most of the clergy are unfaithful, successors of Judas. The liturgies are nearly exclusively those which were composed by a committee with an agenda in the late 1960s. Also, I am now married with children, so there are other souls whose salvation I need to be concerned with.
I became increasingly aware of the Christian East, and of first millennium church history. Over time certain discrepancies began to bother me. Part 2 to follow.