Many have heard my story, many have not. If you want to read my conversion story, it is published in Amazing Grace for Married Couples by Ascension Press. However, in this post, I wanted to concentrate on the real reason for why I am a Catholic.
How can any man made, man guided, man created entity last for 2000 years unchanged in it what it teaches? No religion, government, or other institution can or has done so. Yet, for 2000 years, the Catholic Church has. Even though many have tried to change it, some even from within, yet it still remains and will continue still. The Catholic Church will never ever change what it teaches, and that my brothers and sisters is exactly why I am Catholic.
My Changed Heart
Thirteen years ago, I had been a self-professed pagan, and God touched my heart in rather miraculous way (Read about that in the book). After He did I asked Him, what church should I take my family to? At the time, we were attending a Presbyterian church, because my beautiful wife Michelle wanted the kids to be raised in Christian church (she was a cradle Catholic who didn’t know her faith). I asked Him did it matter? Was one church just as good as any other? I told him, that I wanted to know where He wanted me to go. I wanted His complete Truth, not just some of it. I told him, that it didn’t matter where he wanted me to go, if it meant staying in the Presbyterian church, or some other denomination, or even becoming a buddhist, (anything but Catholic please) I wanted to be where I could experience His Complete Truth! I wanted ALL of Jesus, not just some of Him.
I began my search in the Bible, reading it really, for the first time. I also started researching. Reading and following the history and teachings of all of the different denominations. Starting with the Presbyterian church. Being of Scottish descent and having an ancestor who had helped start the Presbyterian church, it seemed like a good place to start. As I traced back the histories all the way back to the Reformation and discovered why different denominations began, it all became so confusing. Churches, for the most part, split because of disagreements in doctrine. Do we have Free Will, or does God Predestine our lives? Is baptism a symbol or does it commute Grace? Does man inherit Original Sin? Etc.
Amazing, it was all so very confusing. What was the TRUTH? Did it matter? Why was there so many different interpretations of scripture if every denomination claimed to have the Truth? Every Church claims to teach God’s truth, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing it. But somewhere there had to be The Truth! But where?
Lead me Lord, to YOUR Truth!
I prayed, “Lord what now? I’m confused? Which one?” I felt an intense urge to investigate what the first Christians outside of the Apostles were teaching, The Early Church Fathers. I didn’t settle on websites that had excerpts of what they taught, but as I had been a history major in college, I wanted to read the primary sources. What did they teach and say, in context. What did they really say about how we were to worship, what were the doctrines on the early Christians? I concentrated my study on the first 300-400 years of Christianity. I read the writings of the Apostolic Father, those who were taught by the apostles themselves. Ignatius of Antioch a student of John the Apostle, Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna also a student of John. I also read Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, all the way to Augustine, Ambrose of Milan and Pope Gregory the Great. I haven’t listed everyone, but you get the idea.
So what happened? I discovered something very amazing. They believed and taught everything that the Catholic Church teaches to this day. They believed in the Trinity and Unity of God, that God was the Creator, God was the Redeemer, and while that is pretty much what all Christian churches teach today, but that is where the similarities stop. They also taught that Mary was the Mother of God the Redeemer, that she remained a Virgin, that she was Full of Grace and remained sinless all her life. They taught on the communion of saints, asking for saints to pray for us, in purgatory, the seven sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Penance or Confession, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction or Anointing the Sick. They taught that the Church was to be ONE, HOLY, UNIVERSAL (catholic) and APOSTOLIC. They taught we were to follow the bishops and they had priests. They taught that Peter was the first pope. Everything that the Catholic Church still teaches to this day. Some, anti-Catholic writers will try to say they didn’t teach what the Catholic Church teaches, but often they are taking the teachings of the Early Church Father completely out of context to make them say something that they are not. No one can say that the Church of the earliest Christians look anything like their church, except for the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, which I strongly considered joining until I realized that even they did not believe what the Early Church taught concerning the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome. If you want to read the writings of the Early Church Fathers in their entirety, here’s a good place to start. And Here!
I was in awe. Even more so, I was amazed at how anything could last unchanged for 2000 years. Yes, externally, things have changed, but internally they have not. The Church is bigger, but that is even more telling of the fact that the Teachings have not changed. How could this be? Well, if you read scripture, you will find out why. Matthew 16:18 gives us the answer:
“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
If the Church had changed? If the Church had fallen into apostasy? If any of that was true and the Church was in error until the reformers, then Jesus Christ was a liar. Because, that would mean that the gates of hell had prevailed. He also promised in John 14:26 that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church in Truth. I had come to believe everything that Jesus said!
Come On, hasn’t the Church changed its doctrines?
Some will say that the Church has changed its doctrines, but this comes from a misunderstanding of what is a doctrine (a formalized teaching of the Church which cannot be changed), a dogma which is a doctrine that has been declared as an infallible teaching usually due to some disagreement of what the teaching truly is, and a discipline which is a practice within the Church that can change but is not an essential Truth of the faith like celibate priest. Also we have some traditions, for instance praying the Rosary is not essential for salvation. No one is required to pray the rosary, but it sure helps!
Some will point to the corruption in the Church as a reason to discredit it. But, that is all the more reason to see that it is true. If the Church, in spite of the fact that it’s members are sinners, corrupt, and can be downright evil, still retains ALL of the Teachings of the earliest Christians, that is an even more amazing thing. There have been popes who had mistresses, but yet they did not change the teachings.
The hypocrisy of Catholics is a very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church
I would like to relate to you a couple of stories to illustrate this point. One of my favorite Calvinist turned Catholic writers, Dr. Peter Kreeft, wrote “The hypocrisy of Catholics is a very strong argument for the infallibility of the Church”. What could he possibly mean by this? Well consider the following. Dr. Kreeft, before he became Catholic was looking for a good reason to refute the teaching of the Catholic Church. His Calvinist friends saw that he was starting to believe more and more in the Catholic Church and they wanted to persuade him not to. Here is Dr. Kreeft in his own words.
Some of my Calvinist friends tried to deter me from becoming a Catholic by giving me anti-Catholic literature, and some of it was simply silly, but some of it was kind of funny. I remember in particular that somebody gave me a copy of Boccaccio’s Decameron. Boccaccio was a Renaissance Italian anti-clerical comedian, who told a lot of funny stories about Catholic corruption. And one of them moved me in the opposite direction from the direction they wanted me move me in. If you go to Italy today, you’ll go in taxis and ask what’s the latest scandal at the Vatican and of course they’ll tell you; they love the scandals. And Boccaccio did too. And this was during the Borgia papacy. The Borgia family was basically the Mafia and they controlled the papacy. And the pope at the time was, I think, Alexander or John XXII. He had a common-law wife Lucrezia Borgia, who was one of history’s most famous poisoners, and the pope had a whole bunch of bastard children, and it was made public, and he was filthy rich, and it was horribly scandalous.
Well, the story takes place in Paris. There’s a pious Bishop of Paris who has a friend who’s a Jew. His name is Abraham; he’s a businessman. They’re good friends. They talk theology together, and the bishop discerns that Abraham is perhaps interested in becoming a Catholic — he may even ask for baptism someday. One day Abraham comes to the bishop and says, “Hey, Bishop, wish me good-speed; I’ve got to take a ship tomorrow. Won’t see you for three months; I’ve got to do some business in Rome.” “In Rome?” “Yeah, I’ve gotta live with the papal family and do business with the Vatican bank.” “Look, Abraham, I know that you’re on the verge of baptism. Why don’t you do that first?” “Why?” “Well, things are foggy down there — you don’t see clearly down there. You see much more clearly up here.” “No,” Abraham says, “one of my rules is, do business first, then pleasure. If I get baptized, that’ll be a pleasure, but I gotta do my business first. I’m off to Rome. See you in three months.”
So he takes the ship the next day, and the bishop says, I’ve lost him. He’ll see the corruption there and never become a Catholic. He comes back in the spring and he says, “Alright, I guess I’m ready for baptism now.” “Oh, you didn’t go to Rome?” “Yeah, I went there.” “You didn’t live with the papal family?” “Oh, yeah; I met them all.” “You didn’t do business with the Vatican bank?” “Oh, yeah; I did.” “And now you want to become a Catholic? I don’t get it.” Abraham said, “Look. I’m not a theologian. I don’t disdain your theology. But I’m a businessman, and I know one thing for sure: no earthly business that stupid or corrupt could possibly last fourteen weeks; yours has lasted fourteen centuries. It’s a miracle; I’m convinced!”
That’s not only funny; that’s a serious argument. How could any merely human institution, without supernatural help, manned by such idiots as us, possibly be the institution that has lasted for two thousand years and been faithful to its traditions without changing them? When Napoleon kidnapped the pope, he said, “We will destroy you.” The pope said, “Ha. We haven’t been able to destroy ourselves for two thousand years. You won’t be able to do it, either.”
You can read his conversion story here. Dr. Peter Kreeft’s Conversion to Catholicism
In the course of two thousand years of Christian history, the Church has divided time and again. In the meantime, there are around three hundred distinguishable Protestant, Orthodox, or other churches. There are way over a thousand Baptist groups in the United States. Over against these there is still the Roman Catholic Church with the pope at her head, which claims to be the only true Church. She remains at any rate, and despite every crisis, indeed the most universal, historically significant, and successful Church in the world, with more members today than at any time in her history.
Perhaps you know the mediaeval story of a Jew who traveled to the papal court and who became a Catholic. On his return, someone who knew the papal court well asked him: “Do you realize what sort of things are going on there?” “Yes,” he said, “of course, quite scandalous things, I saw it all.” “And you still became a Catholic,” remarked the other man. “That’s completely perverse!” Then the Jew said, “It is because of all that that I have become a Catholic. For if the Church continues to exist in spite of it all, then truly there must be someone upholding her.” And there is another story, to the effect that Napoleon once declared that he would destroy the Church. Whereupon one of the cardinals replied, “Not even we have managed that!”
I believe that we see something important in these paradoxical tales. There have in fact always been plenty of human monstrosities in the Catholic Church. That she still holds together, even if she groans and creaks, that she is still in existence, that she produces great martyrs and great believers, people who put their whole lives at her service, as missionaries, as nurses, as teachers, that really does show that there is someone there upholding her.
We cannot, then, reckon the Church’s success as our own reward, but we may still say, with Vatican II—even if the Lord has given a great deal of life to other churches and communities—that the Church herself, as an active agent, has survived and is present in this agent. And that can only be explained by the fact that He grants what men cannot achieve. (source)
He could have blasted the many protestant denominations and said how they were wrong and the Catholic Church was right, but instead, he pointed to the very failings of the humans within the Church and still the Church remains unchanged, will continue so until the second coming of Christ. Why? Because Jesus said so!