Here are some common reasons why people leave the Catholic Church and some reasons to stay, based on Christ’s teachings.
- “A Thing of the Past”
The idea that religion is the thing of the past is mostly popular in relatively wealthy countries. Why are poorer countries still entering the Church? The answer is not because they are too poor to know better. That is an arrogant view that belittles the wisdom of people who happen to be poor. The answer is because people who are poor tend to look to God for their help. They are truly poor in spirit; and such people are often blessed in ways that cannot be measured by material goods (Mt 5:3; Ps 34:6 ). It is not surprising that some materially poor countries tend to top the list of the happiest people in the world.
Wealth often takes away humble reliance on God. The question to ask ourselves: if we were not in a relatively wealthy country, or if we were homeless and poor, would we walk away from God?
2. “Not Inclusive”
If you are frustrated that the Church refuses to change her teachings in certain areas that have become controversial in recent years such as on marriage and sexuality and on sin in general, the problem with this argument is that the Church has no power to change moral principles that God himself has ordained. God gave the ten commandments, and re-affirmed the meaning of marriage (Mt. 19: 4-9). He has prophesied repeatedly through babies in the womb, affirming his creative power there (Ps 139: 13; Lk 1: 41-44).
It is important to note that the things the Church tends to change are often not of grave moral matters such as marriage. The Church changes or revises devotional practices or practices of discipline e.g., allowing the fast during lent to be less burdensome or ending the mandatory veiling of women during Mass. The Church has the power, given by Christ, to regulate serious matters such as forgiveness of sin, and by implication any less serious matters with bearing on our relationship to Christ (Jn 20: 19-23).
3. “It’s all a Myth”
Are God and the Bible a myth?
The idea that there is an intelligent designer (who we call God) behind creation is more likely than not. To believe that everything we see in nature happened by chance, on its own, is a near mathematical impossibility (See good summary here). Therefore, it is irrational and unscientific to believe that there is no intelligent designer.
The Bible or Biblio (in Greek) is a compilation of books and not one book. Within each book there are various literary tools that have been employed by sacred authors. Sometimes there is poetry, prose, history, allegory and so on. None of the books are scientific texts but all of them are indicative of God and how he works with human beings through thick and thin. The Old Testament reveals a God that patiently worked with people whose way of life was very much in the “state of nature” or wild. The New Testament shows how God came in to fulfil all the promises he made in the Old Testament including establishing a kingdom of Truth and love. In this Kingdom, love means an act of sacrifice (Jn 15: 13) and obedience to God’s will (Jn 14:15), and not merely an emotional state as we often see it.
4. “Sinners and Hypocrites”
Sinners in the Church are not equal to the teachings of the Church. You should judge the Church by its teachings not by those who fail to live up to it. Afterall, we never throw away our entire democratic system because we had a crazy president or prime minister. No. We keep the good system, and grow past those who interpreted the good system badly with their lives. Churchill once said: democracy is the worst system in the world except for the others that have been tried. The same can be said of the Catholic Church especially in context of our disappointment at certain human failures.
The Catholic Church is the only Church where a woman is the highest creature. Apart from God, no one is greater than Holy Mary, the mother of God. She is the new Eve and the New Ark of the Covenant (Rev 12: 1-6).
Moreover, all the roles in the Church including in senior administrative roles, such as Eucharistic ministers, Bible study leaders, we find women permeating every single branch of these pastoral ministries at proportions similar to fortune 500 companies (Ivereigh & Lopez, p.185).
The only area where women do not serve is the Priesthood. This is because the role of the Priest is to stand in the person of Christ in offering the sacrifice of the Mass. Christ revealed himself as masculine and male, and the Church has no right to misgender him beyond how he identified himself.
Moreover, there are deep theological significance behind the masculinity or maleness of Christ that we are unable to detail for lack of space here. For instance, he is the New Adam (Rm 5: 12-18) who is the complement to the new Eve. Biology also proves that masculine is also the one who plants a seed and the feminine receives (Mt 13: 24-27). This tells us a lot about God vis-a-vis his Church and the relationship between both entities in a total complementarity of supernatural mission that is beyond our politics of gender as a social construct.
In all, the service of the Priesthood is not political office, it is a holy order according to the work of Christ in his re-creation of the world with Mary.
REASONS TO STAY
- The Eucharist
Jesus comes to us, every day, in the form of bread. How amazing is that? Despite our sins, or the sin of the Priest. Christ keeps his word to be with us to the end of the age (Mt 28: 20).
Keep in mind that Jesus sees all our sins during every Mass. He can hear our thoughts and knows the intention of our heart. Yet, he still comes to us. This shows that Jesus is loyal. He is not a fair-weather friend who leaves when things are bad.
If Jesus can come to us, when there are billions of reasons not to, who are we to walk away from his Church because we saw the sins of a few people?
Essentially, the discouragement we feel upon seeing the sins of others, is a call to be humble as Christ is. To stay and fight evil. To stay and become the type of people that we would rather see in the Church.
2. Only One Church
The Church is like an ancient boat that has been battered by time and storm but remains sailing. In comparison, other entities that we wish to replace the Church with: such as social groups, general spirituality, are not comparable to the Church from any angle. For one, only the Church has the guarantee of Christ in the battle against evil (Mt 16: 18-20).
Even if you decide to leave the Church to worship in “nature” or to worship “science,” keep in mind that the good things in these entities were made by God in the first place. To use them without recognizing the source, God himself, is at the very least, a type of ingratitude.
There is only one Church because the Church is the body of Christ and there is only one Christ (Eph 4: 4-6). The Church is therefore totally unique and cannot be replaced. The fact that it has lasted over two thousand years is not a human endeavour, but God’s
3. Apostolic Succession
The Catholic Church can trace its origins all the way back to the 12 Disciples. In particular the Pope has a long line of succession all the way back to St. Peter. This is mind-blowing! It means that all the authority vested in Peter by Christ himself (Mt 16: 18-20) has been passed on in one unique line all the way down to Pope Francis.
Now, there were Popes, particularly during the Renaissance era who did very despicable things. To deal with this, first note that the Pope is a sinner and the doctrine of Papal infallibility does not apply to his personal actions.
Second, note that the Pope is to be loved and obeyed unless he declares dogma, not personal opinions, that are immoral. Thankfully, no Pope has done so to date, despite their own personal sin. This too is an indication of the protection of God.
Remember that Christ called many Pharisees and teachers of the law of his time, hypocrites. However, he also reminded everyone that these Pharisees have legitimate authority because they sit in “the chair of Moses.” Therefore, we are to “do as they say but not as they do.” (Mt.23: 1-4) If this was the case for them, then it is the same for our Popes who “sit in the Chair of St. Peter.
4. Universality and Total Integrity
The word Catholic means universal but it also means whole in the sense that everything taught by the Church is integrated in a coherent way. Unlike many secular theories that struggle with incoherence. For instance, advocating for abortion of babies on the basis of their diagnosed disability while proclaiming protection for people with disability.
The teachings of the Church are coherent because they consist of revelation from God alone. For instance, protecting life, no matter what, is consistent with the Church’s care for people who are disabled and the Church s advocacy for palliative care instead of medical assistance in dying.
There are few ethics or philosophies that are as large and yet as connected as the Truth elaborated by the Catholic Church (See the Catechism or official Teachings of the Church). This is because the Truth in the Church was guided by revelation from God through Christ (Catechism para 65)
5. Founded by Christ
The Catholic Church is the only one founded by Christ. All others were founded by people, not God. Most of these others rely on resources from the Catholic Church such as the New Testament which the Catholic Church put together by the light of the Holy Spirit.
The fact that the Church was founded by Christ himself is the reason why the Catholic Church appears to weather all sorts of historical storms. The Church may shrink or suffer but she will not disappear until the end of time. We have the promise of Christ that no gates of hell, both within and outside of the Church, will prevail against her (Mt 16: 18).
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (Jn 6: 68-69)
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