Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On becoming a Roman Catholic

Before moving to New York City, I met very few Protestants who were interested in becoming Roman Catholic . But I've met quite a few here in NYC. It's got me thinking. Becoming a Catholic is a very serious business and ought not to be treated lightly. I think that the Catholics themselves would say that. And I would agree, but for entirely different reasons.

I can't imagine doing it, and I'm troubled by it. There is too much extra stuff there that I couldn't bring into my heart -- there is too much theological, soteriological, ecclesiological, pastoral, and political stuff. But I won't go into that now. Instead, I have been trying to work out what the appeal is.

What would make you do it?

Now this is all a bit of fun (so please don't take this too seriously), but I reckon that there are at least six kinds of Protestants interested in the Roman Church:

1. Rebellious Protestants – who kind of reject their Spartan evangelical upbringing and enjoy telling their parents during summer vacation that they are now going to mass!
2. Mystery Protestants – who kind of reject the hype and loudness and 'certainty' of their Protestant church, and seek to simply sit in quiet mystery for a moment.
3. Unity Protestants – who are confused about the 100,000 different options and splits that the Protestants are famous for! 'If you don't like it, then start another church' stuff! And these Protestants find some assurance in the fact that Rome at least has the appearance of unity – even if he has to live in Rome.
4. Historical Protestants – who simply admire that the denomination is older than their pastor! :)
5. Political Protestants – who find the stand of Rome against some things inspiring: like abortion and euthanasia and ordaining women as priests.
6. Admiring Protestants – who admire one or more particular Roman Catholics (Like Richard Neuhaus, or Henri Nouwen or some friends maybe) and seek to find out what 'they have that I don't have'.

Have I missed anyone in my list?


Michael Krahn said...

I was very close to converting as recently as about a year ago. You could count me as (in order) a 3, 6, 4, 2 aspiring convert which I chronicled extensively at:

And what is posted there is maybe 1/3 of the writing I did over a 3 year period. It was a time of pretty intense investigation to say the least.

Benjamin Ady said...

your categorization touches on various aspects of what I find compelling about the roman catholic church, but doesn't quite capture it.
I first started thinking about it when rumors began to abound that Rich Mullins was about to convert just before he died.
Part of it is the community of it--here's a huge worldwide community which has managed to somehow get along with each other and try to be in the way of Jesus without totally self destructing for such an enormously long time, relatively, that it is kinda mind boggling. I find that compelling. Catholics seem a lot more willing to sit with antinomy than Protestants (on average). I find that appealing.

Craig Tubman said...


What about 7. Protestant Mystics

That is, Protestants who want more 'experience'. Expereince that is not dictated by hands in the air and loud music (they see shallowness in that), but by a large cathedral, a feeling of peace from repeated rituals and the hope that their Priest can connect them with the divine.

And none of the above I say lightly (in a joking kind of way), I've known people who just feel more spiritual, more in the presence of God when surrounded by stained glass, bells and whisles.

Christopher said...

7. Protestants who want to be Nuns

8. Prostestants who want to be the Pope/have the associated power/authority of the Pope

9. Protestants who want a female figure

SUDS said...

- Protestants who like the idea of having a Grand Poobah :)

After spending some times as a Mormon, there was a kinda cosy feeling that you had a leader who was 'God's appointed' and could speak forth scripture as and when was needed!

Eric said...

There are some Protestants who become anti-rebellious, to the point that even Roman Catholicism seems like an unfortunate breakaway, though quite a few years ago. They become Eastern Orthodox...

Luke Collings said...

There are also those who come to believe that the interpretation of the scriptures by the Rule of Faith is irreversibly bound up in church tradition. Thereby, the church with the longest established tradition will by definition be closer to the truth when it comes to discerning the will of God. Church context will always help to direct the individual in their reading of scripture. Some people look for assurance that their mode of interpretation is the right one.

"Mind you, I will say one thing for Catholics: they have got natural rhythm." - Lord Percy (Blackadder the Second)

Anonymous said...

7. Where I live you may be knocked back for a job if you aren't roman catholic, so there's a reason for becoming one!

seapea said...

i'm never going to be a rc, or c, because i hate incense. is that a good reason not to be one?

Moffitt the Prophet said...

I remember Katay at uni saying something like R.C. is dangerously attractive to protestants because it offers protestants the authority they/we long for. Protestant authority comes down to me and my bible, but R.C. offers us an authority that we might feel safe in.

tdix said...

The two people I have laughed with most are both 'Irish' Catholics. Not enough to convert, but ...

Ryan Patch said...

one of my main reasons was my tiredness of church shopping. I admired how catholics just went to their local parish, despite weather the pastor was good or the worship was good or not. they just want because it's not about what they can get from the service,

Justin said...

Ryan -- Are you going to a Catholic Church now?