September 21, 2020

Five Questions For Roman Catholics

UPDATE: Well, I am going to suppose this post got linked somewhere. Amy? What have you done to me? 🙂 I really appreciate the kindness and all the time represented in the answers. I haven’t read the thread, but have read the MANY emails that I received. I’ll catch up on the thread later. (Internet has been down.) I especially thank those of you who know that I am not interested in converting to the Roman Catholic Church, but have friends I love who quite possible may some day, and I am asking in reference to my relationship to them.

Again, thanks for your gracious answers and the very helpful, positive tone of the discussion.

I have some questions for a knowledgeable Roman Catholic. Pretty important matters.

1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers? More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?

2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?” Catholics will tell me that I must accept the church’s teaching on subject X, but if I point out that they also must accept the church’s teaching on subject Y, I often hear, “Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I believe.” With all due respect, since when did the beliefs of an individual catholic matter? If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?

3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?

4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?

5) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage? Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?

Comments

  1. Well, I’m just a layperson, but my understanding is…
    1)Catholic priests and deacons are sacramentally ordained, so that is a distinction we would make. I think most Catholics would be comfortable with recognizing that Protestant ministers are responding to a call from God.
    2)You are correct, with the one caveat that although a Protestant believes he has demonstrated that the Catholic Church infallibly teaches Y (not knowing what specifically you are referring to) he may possibly be coming to an incorrect conclusion. If it is, in fact, something that the Church teaches infallibly, then a Catholic must assent to it.
    3)From what I understand, it is quite common for people to come close and then take a long time before taking the plunge. And some never do. Converts often encounter obstacles and one must address them with prayer. I don’t think it is sinful unless one willfully refuses to convert for selfish reasons.
    4)The priest imparts God’s blessing. To receive it does not assume that one is in communion with the Church, beyond, I suppose, belief in the Trinity.
    5) Well, it is different. Catholics believe in mutual submission and equality of the spouses. So, on the one hand, the wife should respect the wishes of her husband, and certainly should not jeopardize the marriage…. but, the husband should repect the need of his wife to grow in faith as she feels called.
    I would encourage you to contact the Coming Home Network http://www.chnetwork.org. Even if you or your spouse are just taking a peek at Catholicism, these folks are very good at addressing your concerns… particularly from Protestant clergy.
    May God bless you.

  2. #2
    This frustrates a lot of faithful Catholics also! As you point out, an individual’s view does not ever trump Church teachings. It is up to the individual to educate themselves as to why the Church teaches what she does and to thereby bring themselves into agreement with it through education. So we are on the same page there.

    #4
    What is meant when anyone goes forward at communion to be blessed is simply that. The priest blesses the person. It does not mean that you have to agree with the Church or that you are seeking reception into the Church. Simply that you are seeking a blessing and getting it.

  3. My poor attempt at answering your questions.

    “I have some questions for a knowledgeable Roman Catholic. Pretty important matters.”

    I’ll try to answer but I must state that I am only a layman, cradle Catholic with no formal education on the subject. I also am ignorant of your circumstances, having just stumbled across this post.

    “1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers?”

    It all depends on what you mean by “valid ministers.” If you mean equivalent to a priest, with the ability to consecrate the sacred body and blood; then no, because you do not have holy orders. If you mean ministry in a more limited sense as someone who is called to preach Christ as Lord and Savior, then there is some wiggle-room. As Christians we are all called to witness to our faith and to aid the church with whatever talents and gifts we possess. If your gift is to preach the gospel then I think it might be possible to affirm your ministry (limited sense) as valid under the circumstances.

    “More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?”

    Regarding your friend being required to believe that you were never called: I believe that the only requirement for your friend is to profess his belief in what the Catholic Church professes to be true. I don’t think there is any repudiation of errors.

    Since you bring up the subject; I would ask whether you have followed your call from God properly. Is it possible that God has called you to ministry but that your current position is not what He had in mind? Maybe God expects something different or more from you. I would recommend St. Francis de Sales’ Catholic Controversy (published by TAN). There is a good section where he deals with the validity of the ministry of Protestant ministers. St. Francis does not pull any punches and I would say that he denies the validity of Protestant ministers but he was also dealing with a different time and circumstances.

    “2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with ‘cafeteria Catholicism?’ Catholics will tell me that I must accept the church’s teaching on subject X, but if I point out that they also must accept the church’s teaching on subject Y, I often hear, ‘Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I believe.’ With all due respect, since when did the beliefs of an individual catholic matter? If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?”

    I completely agree with your frustration with “cafeteria Catholicism.” It does seem hypocritical for people to deny the Church’s teaching in one area (I assume you mean contraception) and say you must accept it in another area (like the pope). I would say the cause is our sinful natures; too many of us fall far short. Even some in the hierarchy have compromised. I too was once guilty of ignoring certain of the Church’s teaching. So yes, if you show that the Church has infallibly teaches Y then that should be the end of the discussion (with the obvious caveat that it must be agreed that you did in fact demonstrate that the Church teaches Y, such as reference to the Catechism, a decree from a Council, etc.). That some do not acquiesce only goes to show that we are all in need of better discipline in following Christ and His Church.

    “3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?”

    I would say that the person is in a very precarious position. My understanding is that this is exactly the situation that “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” applies to. That is, anyone who is convinced that the Catholic faith is true and does not enter the Church (or leaves it) is no longer “invincibly ignorant” and therefore endangers his soul by remaining outside of the Church. Therefore I would have to say that the person is thus committing a sin; but like all sins the severity can be mitigated by circumstances.

    “4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?”

    I must confess my complete ignorance on this matter. I would just say that receiving a blessing does not mean that you agree 100% but only that you acknowledge that one needs help in carrying out God’s will and that you are asking a fellow Christian to pray for you (because that is what the blessing is).

    “5) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage? Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse”

    While downplayed a bit now-a-days (especially here in the West) the Church still teaches that the proper head of the family is the husband, though both are of equal dignity by being created in the image of God. At the same time the relationship is nuanced in that the relationship is one of love that is supposed to mirror the relationship between Jesus and His Church. That is, the wife should submit to her husband as the Church submits to Christ and the husband should love his wife as Jesus loves the Church, even unto death for her sake. Therefore a husband should never dominate his wife but love and cherish her and never act in a manner that is harmful to her.

    For this reason (love) a husband, even a Protestant one, should not stand in the way of his wife entering into full communion with the Catholic Church. Because Christ trumps all else, the Church does teach that a wife should enter into full communion even if her husband objects. After all, we are called to renounce all (wealth, parents, spouses, etc.) in order to follow Jesus.

    I hope my meager efforts at a response have helped to answer your questions. If I am in error in anyway I am happy to be shown where I went wrong.

    Please pray for me and especially for my wayward wife.

    James G

  4. “1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers? More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?”

    Yes and No, a two part question and a two part answer.

    Yes, Apostolic Succession is required for valid orders (among other things-valid rites, intent etc). Protestant groups failed to preserve validly consecrated Bishops, and thus, do not have valid holy orders.

    No, you may genuinely be called by God to be a minister. How God will lead you to fulfill that call is a walk in faith. A healthy number of married former protestant ministers have been allowed to receive Catholic orders. If you are single, or after the death of your spouse you would be eligible for ordination in any case. You could be ordained as a permanent Deacon. You could minister in other capacities as a teacher, a counselor, etc.

    “”2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?” …. If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?””

    I share your frustration. I endured a protracted struggle with this issue as a doubting Catholic.

    First, it is very unfortunate that many Catholic simply don’t know their faith, and don’t make much effort to find out. So, if you are dialogging with a variety of average Catholics you might hear all kinds of things. Some may be ‘cafeteria’ Catholics, others may just be confused, others may be properly representing the faith. All along there may be problems of miscommunication and misconception.

    Second, a Catholic MUST accept everything the Church has infallibly taught. When faced with something difficult to understand and accept, a Catholic MUST ascent to the Authority of the Church and faithfully pray and study. However, the Church is MERCIFUL towards those who are hard of heart and head.

    Third, and here is the heart of it, we all need to be careful when we proclaim “the Church has infallibly taught X.” This is the mistake that leads to many a misconception. If you are investigating the Catholic Church, or studying as a Catholic the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the best, primary and most reliable resource to what the Church truly does teach. I was so grateful for the CCC that ended by 10 year struggle to cut through all the arguments and confusion I found in the Church. Although to be clear, the CCC is not itself and infallible document, nor is every jot within it infallible, it is a complete, authoritative concordance of what the Church teaches.

    Finally, I am getting beyond my level of competence here, but ‘infallible doctrines’ are not as simple to spot as we would like. Even the Catechism doesn’t give an exhaustive and concise list. Some things are easy – The creeds, the Ecumenical Councils, and the very few Papal ‘ex cathedra’ doctrines formally proclaimed (the assumption of Mary). Those are the absolute infallible doctrines – my term.

    Other doctrines may also be infallible, but have not been stated so formally. This is the area where a lot of argument comes out. Papal Bulls, and encyclicals are NOT infallible in general and in now way similar to the Councils and explicit ‘ex cathedra decrees. They may restate infallible teaching, clarify, apply to current events etc.. It is wisdom to be respected, some statements are probably infallible, but the documents as a whole are not infallible. Thus, much of the argument about ‘Humanae Vitae’.

    There are doctrines that are certainly infallible that have never been formally proclaimed. It is simply that there was never a need, because they were never in dispute. Much of what was taught in the Council of Trent was in response to the reformation – the doctrines where not new, it was just necessary to formally proclaim them. Similar for the Assumption of Mary. The same might be argued today for the male priesthood, heterosexual marriage, and the evil of contraception. These are all already doctrines that the Church has consistently taught for 2000 years, and they are certainly infallible, but it may become necessary to formally proclaim them by Council or Decree, not because they are new, but because for the first time in history they are being seriously questioned.

    There are many other beliefs that are piously held by the faithful and taught by Priests and theologians, and Catechists, that are not infallible. The doctrine of limbo is/was one. It was/is widely believed, it was widely taught, but it was an idea developed in relatively recent times. It was not part of the deposit of the faith. It was never infallibly declared. Pope Benedict recently approved a document concluding that Limbo is unnecessary. Catholics may still believe in limbo, or not, but it probably will fade from being taught.

    So the two sticky points here. First, among knowledgeable Catholics, there is ‘some’ – in my opinion, not a lot – room for heated discussion of is X infallible or not under some circumstances. And certainly, for average Catholics like me, we may think some things are infallible that aren’t or vis a vie. Second, for a serious protestant studying the Church, it can be very difficult to know what teachings are ‘infallible’ what are ‘disciplines’ and what are ‘exercises of the ordinary magisterium’ (everyday guidance, but not infallible).

    Finally, no matter how many, or how respected, theologians teach X, that does not make X true. Not even if they are a Saint, or a Doctor of the Church.

    So, it is necessary to be cautious when we toss around the infallible word, and expect others to bow to authority.

    “3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?”

    Is it a sin to refuse God’s grace? The Church claims to be the True Church, founded upon the rock of Peter, by Jesus Christ with Christ as its head, guided inerrently by the holy spirit, founded upon apostolic succession, endowed with the Authority to teach, and to bind and loose, with seven sacraments as the ordinary means of God’s divine grace. If one suspects these claims may be true – if God is opening ones heart to see the Truth, is it a sin to resist? The Church teaches that to believe in the Church and not be a member is to thwart God’s will and to commit mortal sin. Exactly at one point does one’s belief become too strong to safely deny – that’s an open question but I’d hate to be on the wrong side of the answer. Of course, circumstances which prevent you from following your conscience diminish your culpability. Please, Please go to the “coming home network” http://www.chnetwork.org

    “4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?”

    Undefined. Theologically, not much if anything it is intrinsically the same as having the Priest bless you any other time. Liturgically, not much, the whole blessing during communion is debatable as to its appropriateness. Practically, whatever it means to you. I sometimes have received a blessing when I was not properly disposed to receive. To me, its just a practical decision to not have to stay out of the way in my 150 year old churches narrow aisles and pews, and not have everyone wonder why I am not receiving. The practice has arisen, only because ‘everyone’ goes to communion these days. In times past people took proper preparation for communion far more seriously. So, anyone not going really sticks out these days.

    “5) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage? Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?”

    I don’t have a firm grip on what is ‘official’ but my sense, open to correction, is that the Church would never advocate forcing someone to accept the sacraments, or forcing ones spouse to attend mass against their desire (doesn’t mean that at various times and places in history people and even Priests and Bishops haven’t done that). It is OK for one spouse to join the Church. The story of Scott and Kimberly Hahn “Rome Sweet Home” details exactly this dilemma in a marriage (Evangelical anti-catholic Minister becomes Catholic, Bible believing submitting wife agonizes etc). I very highly recommend this book in particular, and anything by Scott or Kimberly Hahn.

    Please, Please go to the “coming home network” http://www.chnetwork.org

    God Bless, Your brother in Christ, Paul

  5. I’ll give these a shot.

    1) It depends on what you mean by “minister”. Catholic and (most) Protestant conceptions of the ordained minister differ rather drastically. Let me just say this: We Catholics believe that the Christian priesthood is first given in the sacrament of baptism, then to a greater degree in Confirmation, and to an even greater degree in the sacrament of Holy Orders.

    (Most) Protestants by their own admission do not have a Sacrament of Orders. And so to your question, i.e. are you a “valid minister”, we Catholics would reply that you are a royal priest by virtue of your baptism, and the exercise of your baptismal priesthood is valid insofar as it does not contradict with what we believe to be the faith of Christ.

    You are the *sacramental* equivalent of a layman; most Protestants would agree with this as well, I suspect.

    2) I’m not quite sure what you’re asking here. Suffice it to say that Catholics are bliged to believe everything definitively taught by the Church. Human nature being what it is, the faith of individual Catholics may more or less conform to the official teachings of the Church. Failure to do so could arise from anything between ignorance or outright heresy. By the way, the same exists in Protestantism. I’ve met very few professed Calvinists who believe in predestination . . .

    3) I’m not sure . . . What would be your view on someone who is convinced the Christian faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Christianity at this time? Is such a person committing a sin? Perhaps; God reads the heart. I can’t imagine a good reason for not converting, even if there MIGHT BE a reason to convert in secret, and keep it under wraps for a time being.

    4) Strictly speaking, Catholics are not supposed to “go up to be blessed” at Communion, but this has become a custom in some places in recent years. It means nothing more than a blessing would if received outside of Mass. (By the way, lay people can bless, too: by virtue of our reception of the common priesthood of all believers, laymen can invoke the Holy Spirit and/or rebuke the devil as much as the next person. Which is not to deny that there is something unique in the blessing of an ordained minister, who shares in Christ’s priesthood to a greater extent.)

    5) It fits quite easily. One can’t ever be obedient to one authority if such would mean being disobedient to a higher one. Which is why the state cannot compel a Christian to worship idols, why a parent cannot order his child to light a baby on fire, or a husband tell his wife to allow another man to rape her. Simply put: a husband has no authority, under God or nature, to forbid his wife from joining the true religion.

    I hope that helped. For some of your questions, save the last, there is no clear-cut answer, just general principles we can explore to approximate an answer.

    Great blog!

  6. Michael,

    I am neither canon lawyer nor theologian, but I will hazard some guesses.

    1) The word “valid” has precise meaning in canon law. Such a ministry would not be recognized as a valid ordination to the priesthood in the Catholic Church, if that is what is being claimed. On the other hand if “minister of the Gospel” is more broadly understood, I suppose the Church would be agnostic on whether one had a calling to it or not. God calls all kinds of people to do all kinds of things, without any of them being ordained. I have known Protestants that I am certain were called by God to lead others to Him, but that is not a statement about validity of orders.

    2) Easy: The answer here is that many Catholics are ignorant, their education in the faith ending with the (often very poor) catechesis of their childhoods. They are much more influenced by the surrounding culture, which gives them a bottomless sense of entitlement, and a belief in the validity of their opinions simply because they are theirs. I often find that converts are much more knowledgeable about the faith because they had to work for it.

    3) I rather think this would depend upon one’s motives. Perhaps the individual requires only time, and the matter approached pastorally rather than juridically. It doesn’t sound especially sinful; caution is not a sin, haste is not a virtue, and conversion isn’t easy.

    4) As to what is meant by a person doing this, once again, one must enquire into the person’s motives. People are welcome to a blessing. But I would wonder, if the individual is not seeking conversion, why would he be there at all?

    5) I am no expert on this, but I think –at least practically speaking– the Church views these issues less traditionally than some Protestants do: roles should be reciprocal, complementary and charitable above all. As to whether the wife should convert if she wants to, it may be considered a matter of conscience. On the other hand, it may be more prudent to wait, in the hope that the spouse can be won over and the marriage protected. Pastorally, I would think it best to take time with this: Church teaching on mixed marriages is always to keep in view the hope that the Catholic party may in time effect the conversion of the spouse.

    I hope this is helpful; I claim no great expertise, especially regarding the complexities of marriage, and do not have time for research.

  7. I am not yet a Catholic, but I think I can answer some of these. (Not that I necessarily shine in these areas.)

    1) Catholics do consider Protestant ministers to be carrying out a form of lay ministry (which ain’t chopped liver — Catholicism considers evangelism primarily the work of the laity); they just don’t consider them sacramental priests. In other words, the Protestant minister has not been sacramentally ordained by the Church to act in persona Christi to provide the sacraments to the people under the authority given by Christ to the apostles.

    I would not mix this with the question of whether or not you are “called” to anything; what you are called to and what you are at any given moment are two separate things. But a Catholic should believe that you are not now a priest but a layman; what Protestants mean by “priest” and what they intend when they ordain is not the same as the Catholic Church.

    2) If the Church has infallibly taught Y, then that should be the end of the discussion. Whether the Church has indeed done so may be a matter for discussion, one that must be carried out with and through the Church. One thing about having a living authority is that it can speak for itself and clarify its own statements. Putting words in the Church’s mouth is misdirection, and possibly slander.

    One thing about cafeteria Catholics is that the sheer metaphysical reality of the Church still exerts a pull on those who aren’t ready to get with the program (even those who never do). They don’t just leave as readily as do people who stop trusting a particular denomination; the belief that there really is one Church lingers.

    3) There’s an elastic legal phrase, “with all deliberate speed”, that expresses the principle. If one is generally moving toward reception into the Church, then one has not rejected her, even if the process takes a long time. Catechumens in the early church often took years. If someone is convinced the Catholic faith is true, then he should be mentally preparing the ground for conversion at least, adopting Catholic practices and habits of thought as he is able. Anyway, he should not be comfortable in his unconversion; a person sins when he refuses to convert knowing that he ought to. To say he must be registered in an RCIA program to beat the charge of sin is a different question (not to mention a legalistic way of looking at it), and the answer is beyond me. I’m not in yet, I am ashamed to note.

    4) Seeking a blessing is just seeking the prayers of the Church on one’s behalf. There’s no obligation to it, and there’s nothing wrong with remaining seated.

    5) This is related to my thoughts on #3 above. The bonds of marriage are going to be strained by this, and one should strive not to put more on one’s spouse than they can bear, but one should not simply capitulate either. “Go along to get along” is not the way of the cross. The important thing is to demonstrate by one’s life that the Church is not a devouring monster but that growing closer to her makes one a better spouse. So I think one should always go toward the Church, just go slowly and with an extra helping of love and compassion toward the one who doesn’t want to follow. Our loyalty has to be to God first, precisely so that we can be loyal to our families and our neighbors as God desires.

  8. Michael,

    Your questions are good ones, and I’m not really qualified to answer them. But I am Catholic, and comparatively well-versed in my faith, so in the humble hope that others will pick up where I leave off or correct anything that needs correcting:

    1. Your ministry is valid, and Catholicism would not question your call to that ministry. But by the same token, Catholicism makes a distinction between priesthood and other ministries. You could not validly preside at the liturgy of the eucharist (i.e., sacrificial) part of a Catholic Mass, where Catholic theology says a priest stands “in persona Christi,” because really there is only one high priest (Jesus) and other Christian priests simply share in His ministry. But you can certainly preach the Word of God, baptize, etc.

    2. Your take on “cafeteria Catholicism” seems accurate to me. The church teaches only a few things infallibly (infallibility is not the wide-ranging doctrine its detractors seem to think it is– more akin to guardrails on the highway of faith than anything else). That said, infallible teachings are binding on Catholics. End of discussion, just as you said. Cf Jesus giving Peter the keys to the kingdom, and saying “what you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven”

    3. No way to tell whether the person in your hypothetical example is committing a sin without knowing more about the circumstances involved. “Unable to openly convert” suggests outside pressure of some kind, and that would mitigate against “full consent of the will” necessary for sin.

    4. A blessing received at communion in lieu of the Body of Christ is just that, a blessing. It won’t do any harm, and it doesn’t signify agreement with church teaching. It should be received in an attitude of prayerful gratitude.

    5. The Church takes a traditional view of leadership and submission in marriage. You pose a hard case, but if I remember correctly, among famous recent converts, Scott Hahn became Catholic before his wife Kimerly did.

  9. Here’s Part II on the last three questions:

    3) I’d say there’s a big difference between “unable to” and “chooses not to”. I’ll suggest three scenarios:

    – A Baptist woman somehow gets interested in the Catholic Church and finds herself accepting its teaching. She would convert in a second if she could, but her staunch, faithful Baptist husband wouldn’t allow it in a million years. I’d say that God would honor her submission to her husband and not charge her with any sin, and would give her heart peace through the working of the Holy Spirit – and give her faith that an opportunity might present itself down the line.

    – It’s said that Gandhi believed a significant portion of the tenets of the Christian faith and once considered becoming a Christian, but couldn’t bring himself to do so because he was disgusted by the sins of Christians. My hope is that God sorted out Gandhi’s good motives from his bad ones and mercifully met him halfway.

    – I have a friend who is currently living a lifestyle of apostasy from the Catholic faith. He knows a lot; he knows where to find answers to his questions; he used to love to pray. Catholic blogger Mark Shea has a saying that describes where he’s at: “Some people ask questions in order to find out. And some people ask questions in order to keep from finding out.” As far as I can see, he’s in active rebellion and sin against God’s call, though there are a few mitigating issues. I can only pray that God has mercy on him and helps him repent before he completely wastes or destroys his life.

    So, it has to do with where your heart is. No one can force you against your conscience, but woe to those who actually hear the call in their heart and reject Him to go their own way.

    4) The blessing of those attending Mass who cannot receive Communion is an ancient practice; the Orthodox do a variation on it which involves giving folks a bit of bread that has been left unconsecrated – kinda like saying, “We’re happy to have you share our food, if that’s all you think it is – this is how we can do that and be true to our Lord as well.”

    Before I was confirmed, I did that thing of crossing my arms in front of me and going up in the communion line to receive a blessing instead of the Host. I experienced it as an affirmation of the place where I was, which was in imperfect communion with the Church. I was still working on accepting those ideas that are integral to the Eucharist, the things mentioned in the Eucharistic prayer like “Keep us in union of heart and mind together with … our Pope, … our Bishop…” and “Make us worthy to share eternal life with Mary, the virgin Mother of God…”, and by going up in the line but not taking Communion, I accepted my status as a person who wanted to be with the Church, but wasn’t ready to make a commitment. I accepted the pain of the broken relationships betweeen Christian churches, the brokenness of the Body of Christ that broken communion is, because that’s the reality we live in. I couldn’t have stayed there, though, since God had provided a pathway in for me.

    If you can stand it, I see no reason why you can’t continue to receive a blessing during Communion, even though you’re not actively seeking membership in the Catholic Church. In those moments, I believe that you’re receiving the blessing that flows out to all Christians and to all the world through Christ’s Sacrifice as presented in the Eucharist in a very direct and concrete way, and I trust that it’s making a difference in your life. God bless you, indeed.

    5) See my answer to question #3. I often see situations where one spouse converts with the permission of the other, and then the other follows five years, 10 years, or maybe 25 years later. I can’t imagine any scenario in which a priest or other Catholic official would insist on someone damaging their marriage in order to officially become a Catholic – especially if that person is already a baptized Christian.

    The reason for this is the significance of Christian baptism and the nature of sacraments. Catholicism teaches that any person baptized in water and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is validly baptized, i.e. “anyone baptized Christian is baptized Catholic” (Cardinal Francis George) and doesn’t ever need to be rebaptized, because they’ve been baptized into the One Body of Christ, which Catholics believe is actually the Catholic Church. Also, the Church teaches that the sacrament of marriage is not conferred upon the couple by the priest, but rather the nature of it is that they confer the sacrament on each other. Thus, when a couple comes into the Church, they don’t have to get married again, but they simply need to have the marriage convalidated or “blessed”, to make sure it consists of the elements that should be in a marriage and to affirm that it was sacramental from the beginning.

    If you want to know what the Church really teaches on sexuality and marriage, get a hold of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body or commentaries on it by Christopher West. Good stuff – straight up, no chaser.

    My friend Sherry Weddell, director of the Catherine of Siena Institute, says, “I converted [from evangelicalism] to the Catholic faith in order to follow Jesus.” My prayer is that no matter where the path leads, you will continue to follow Jesus.

    Christ’s peace to you, Kathleen

  10. Yeah, start us off with the easy questions, why don’t you? I’m afraid I’m going to go for the Jesuitical casuistry of “It depends” in answer to your questions.

    Purely off the top of my head, and as a plain lay Catholic with no special knowledge, the No. 5 question strikes me as a peculiarly Protestant emphasis. That is, I never encountered this notion of ‘headship within marriage’ so expressed and emphasised before. I leave it to experts on canon law to tease out the niceties here: broadly speaking (and I am open to correction here), a spouse who feels convinced that he or she should and must convert to Catholicism is strongly encouraged to do so. However, if this is going to cause really grave difficulties within the marriage, to the point of breaking it up, that’s a different matter.

    Regarding No. 3 – it depends. Sorry. If someone is becoming convinced of the truth, but for whatever reason cannot make that last step (something seems intellectually absurd, or it all seems no more than a lovely theory but not quite convincing), then there is no guilt. If, on the other hand, you are becoming alarmed at how close you are coming to going the whole hog and converting, and you deliberately hide your head in the sand (“But if I become a Papist, Great-Uncle Henry will cut me out of his will! No, I’d better not risk it”) so that you don’t have to take the leap, then you are guilty. “Consequent ignorance, on the other hand, is so called because it is the result of a perverse frame of mind choosing, either directly or indirectly, to be ignorant. …Vincible and consequent ignorance about the duties of our state of life or the truths of faith necessary for salvation is, of course, sinful.”

    No. 1 – if according to the rules of your denomination you were a valid minister, then nobody is required to believe you were not a minister or that God did not call you. If we’re talking about the sacramental priesthood, however, that’s a different kettle of fish. There’s a whole historical tizzy about the validity of Anglican orders which I am not going to get into here.

    No. 2 – again, that depends. If you are trying to get Catholic Friend X to accept that “According to the Council of Trent, you are supposed to burn me at the stake as a heretic!”, then sorry, no. If, on the other hand, Catholic Friend X is telling you that the Church has infallibly declared you have to separate out your recyclables from the rest of your rubbish, but that it’s a matter of conscience for him to decide if he gets married to Spouse No. 3, then he’s out of luck there.

    Okay, No. 4 – the biggie. Because the Blessed Sacrament is really, really, really, important. I’m not kidding here about this one, this is deadly serious. It doesn’t matter if you consider “But I really do believe in the Real Presence!”, if you’re not a Catholic (or Eastern Orthodox), you can’t receive. If you’re a Catholic and not in a state of grace, you shouldn’t receive either. If you cannot receive for good reasons, you can go up for a blessing – though there is nothing in the rubrics for this, and it is a matter for the local bishop to decide. Basically, if you go up to receive Communion, at the very least you are saying “I agree with and am faithful to the teachings of the Church”.

    “http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20070222_sacramentum-caritatis_en.html

    Clearly, full participation in the Eucharist takes place when the faithful approach the altar in person to receive communion (169). Yet true as this is, care must be taken lest they conclude that the mere fact of their being present in church during the liturgy gives them a right or even an obligation to approach the table of the Eucharist. Even in cases where it is not possible to receive sacramental communion, participation at Mass remains necessary, important, meaningful and fruitful. In such circumstances it is beneficial to cultivate a desire for full union with Christ through the practice of spiritual communion, praised by Pope John Paul II (170) and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life (171).

    Participation by Christians who are not Catholic

    56. The subject of participation in the Eucharist inevitably raises the question of Christians belonging to Churches or Ecclesial Communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. In this regard, it must be said that the intrinsic link between the Eucharist and the Church’s unity inspires us to long for the day when we will be able to celebrate the Holy Eucharist together with all believers in Christ, and in this way to express visibly the fullness of unity that Christ willed for his disciples (cf. Jn 17:21). On the other hand, the respect we owe to the sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood prevents us from making it a mere “means” to be used indiscriminately in order to attain that unity. (172) The Eucharist in fact not only manifests our personal communion with Jesus Christ, but also implies full communio with the Church. This is the reason why, sadly albeit not without hope, we ask Christians who are not Catholic to understand and respect our conviction, which is grounded in the Bible and Tradition. We hold that eucharistic communion and ecclesial communion are so linked as to make it generally impossible for non-Catholic Christians to receive the former without enjoying the latter. There would be even less sense in actually concelebrating with ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities not in full communion with the Catholic Church. Yet it remains true that, for the sake of their eternal salvation, individual non-Catholic Christians can be admitted to the Eucharist, the sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. But this is possible only in specific, exceptional situations and requires that certain precisely defined conditions be met (173). These are clearly indicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (174) and in its Compendium (175). Everyone is obliged to observe these norms faithfully.”

  11. I’d love to take a stab at your questions– but one caveat up front. I’m just a lay Catholic with a near insatiable appetite for theology; so I think I qualify as well-read, but hardly a Church authority. 🙂 That said–

    1. You’re confusing priesthood and ministry. The Catholic church holds that you are not a priest, ie. sacramentally ordained to consecrate the body and blood of Jesus during the Mass. I doubt you make such a claim about yourself! Ministry, however, is a much broader term– in its broadest sense, ALL Christians are called to minister, in some way. Your newly-Catholic friend would not at all be required to deny that God has called you to any particular mission or way of life, or that the Spirit was not working through you for the salvation of souls.

    2. I share your frustration with the cafeteria Catholics. You’re correct that the teachings are not up for individual referendum, as it were. One caution though: the concept “infallible” is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied concepts around. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been confronted with an aha-gotcha “infallible” teaching that was nothing of the sort, I could hire Bill Gates to be my housekeeper!

    3. If a person truly believes what the Catholic Church says, but does not join, he/she commits the grave sin of schism (Catechism, 2089) Since this is so sensitive, I’m going to quote Lumen Gentium (one of the texts of Vatican II) exactly here: “They could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it.” (See also the Catechism, 846-856.) That is, if you know this is how Christ is offering you salvation, and you turn away, you are refusing salvation. This does NOT apply to people who don’t know enough about the Catholic Church to decide to join– and that includes people who have been mis-informed, deliberately or not– and those who cannot in good conscience assent to the teaching of the Church. (You yourself probably fall into that category.) Likewise, external opposition can reduce the person’s culpability, possibly greatly; but ultimately, if you choose an earthly good over heaven… you’ll get, at best, exactly that.

    (Since you might as well ask… yes, the quote from Lumen Gentium DOES meet the Cathoic criteria for “infallible”, being a solemn pronouncement from an ecumenical council.)

    4. Receiving a blessing is just that– receiving a blessing. It doesn’t imply that you agree with all the teaching of the Church, at all. You don’t even need to be Christian! It is merely a sign of goodwill and respect. (There is also no objection to Catholics receiving blessings from Protestants in their ceremonies. I have, many times, and wouldn’t miss the chance to receive a blessing from you!)

    5. The Church does not propose a one-size-fits-all response to leadership and submission in marriage. It teaches that the husband is the head of the family, as Christ is the head of the Church, and that both spouses should submit to each other in love, as we read in Scripture. This is compatible with many possible domestic arrangements. Yet ultimately, each person’s first duty is to God, to seek His Face and to walk the path that He in His gratuitous mercy has ordained for the salvation of your soul. You don’t get to pick the path, and neither does your spouse!
    The pastoral approach to these situations is to offer factual information about the Church, in the (common) event that the Protestant spouse or family is mis-informed, and to give the non-converting spouse time to adjust. Again, many domestic arrangements are possible, and the non-converting spouse may have some legitimate concerns that can be addressed productively. The converting spouse is obliged to do all he/she can in good conscience do to avoid argument, not give scandal, stay humble, meet his/her obligations with loving attention– in short, to live out a Christian life as fully as possible. But his/her first duty is to God, and then afterward to human beings.

  12. Duane Currey says

    “1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers?”

    The average RC will consider the protestant valid. As for myself I can not judge you. But are you a valid minister in the RC church? The answer is clearly no. (by your own admission)

    “More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?”

    How can we know what is is your heart? Were you called to to do Gods work and just did not hear correctly? I ponder this myself all the time. Or is God leading you to be RC the only way that he knew that you would go?

    “2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?” Catholics will tell me that I must accept the church’s teaching on subject X, but if I point out that they also must accept the church’s teaching on subject Y, I often hear, “Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I believe.” ”

    I have found this with many people of all religions. Is this good….No! But it is common as people do not like to get into the mechanics of the faith.

    “With all due respect, since when did the beliefs of an individual catholic matter?”

    The Individual beliefs of all people matter, I would like to see all people get to know God and be saved.

    “If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?”

    The truth is the truth, so I would say yes to this.

    “3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?”

    I am not a priest but I would say that that person is not committing a sin, that person is just denying himself communion with Gods Church on earth at this time. Will that person be denied heaven, no, if the persons heart is pure and desires the truth, that person will find salvation..

    “4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?”

    To be blessed is a gift we all seek, also all that are in communion (in communion with the RC church) with Christ can bless others. So you can go up the the altar and be blessed but not partake in the communion of the church if you want. Through this blessing it is hoped that you will find that truth you seek and with that truth seek full communion with the body of Christ.

    There is a big difference is disagreeing with marriage for the clergy and denying the divinity of Christ.

  13. Wow, some difficult questions, and probably a lot of different answers to each of them. or example, what do you mean by a valid minister? As a Catholic I would not accept you as a priest, but that does not mean that I don’t think you have been called by God to “minister” to certain people. I think that this is a good case of having different definitions of words.

    #2 is a bit stickier. I suspect that you would look far and wide to find someone that believes in everything the Church teaches. In some cases because the teaching is so obscure, in others because there is wiggle room left. There are very diverse beliefs in weather the war with Iraq is a just war or not, and probably some don’t believe it matters. There are probably fewer beliefs defined by the Church than most of us think.

    #3 I think the answer is “it depends.” I have heard a lot of people argue that Tony Sands is a secret Catholic, and he has received Communion from JPII, and I have not heard much criticism for his not coming out in the open. I think that the question might be would it cause grave harm? And certainly in some countries Catholics live secret lives to protect them from persecution. On the other hand, if it just ment that you would no longer have the same social connections, I might think it a sin.

    #4, darned if I know! Out here it is a Hispanic tradition to bring children up with the adults for a blessing but our pastor, apparently against the bishops desires, refuses to allow that practice. I doubt that he would not look kindly on a non-Catholic doing so, but that is just a guess.

    I don’t think that I care to touch much on #5. I have known a few priests and Catholics that believe the husband is lord and master over the wife. One might also ask the question what if the husband decides to become Catholic and his wife refuses. I do know that the Church has allowed remarriages based on the fact that the pagan partner refused to convert. How that would be applied to baptized non Catholics has probably been decided in Church courts, but I am not sure of the decision.

    And with all questions like these, there is always the question of conscience. Ah, if only life was so simple as to have nice neat answers to nice neat questions :-).

    Mike L

  14. Fr Alvin Kimel says

    Great questions. I am not a knowledgeable source, so my opinions should not be understood as accurately representing the views of the Catholic Church.

    (1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers? More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?

    It all depends, I think, on how one defines “minister.” The Catholic Church believes (a) that the three-fold ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon is ordained by God and (b) that only a bishop in the apostolic succession may induct an individual into these three orders. Most Protestant Churches disagree with the Catholic Church on both points and therefore do not understand their ministers as being bishops, priests, or deacons in the sense intended by the Catholic Church.

    One exception is Anglicanism, which quite intentionally retained the three-fold ministry at the Reformation. In the judgment of the Catholic Church, Anglican ordinations are “invalid.” What exactly does this mean? It does not mean that the Catholic Church has decreed that the ministries of Anglican bishops, priests, and deacons are spiritually ineffective. It means, rather, that in the judgment of the Catholic Church, Anglican ordinations have not and do not fulfill the necessary conditions for the conferral of holy orders and therefore cannot be recognized by the Catholic Church. See this short article by John Coventry.

    Is a Catholic confessionally required to believe that you have not been called by God to be a “minister”? No. To believe such a thing, one would have to believe that the Protestant Churches have no role in the mystery of salvation; but Vatican II expressly rejected this position in in Unitatis Redintegratio.

    (2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?”

    Specifics are needed for a responsible response. Often Protestants do not understand what the Catholic Church in fact authoritatively teaches nor recognize the legitimate interpretive latitude that exists within the Catholic Church on many different issues. The Catholic Church may look like a monolithic giant from the outside, but it is in fact quite a diverse community.

    But Catholics are not immune from the spirit of private judgment that rules our culture.

    (3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?

    I think it is accurate to say that there are many Catholic answers to this question. Vatican II states the general rule:

    “Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, [this Sacred Council] teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.”

    But as with all general rules, qualifications and nuances abound.

    (4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person – like myself – openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?

    Most Catholic Churches do not confer blessings during the communion. This seems to be a fairly recent innovation. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, then by all means remain in the pew during communion. Do you object to the fact that Catholic priests dare to pronounce the blessing of God with authority, or are you afraid that you might be compromising your convictions by asking for a priestly blessing? Catholic priests are pretty promiscuous when it comes to blessings and are happy to bless anyone–including even Protestants!–who asks for a blessing. So relax and enjoy the blessing–but as I said above, feel free not to present yourself for a blessing if you feel in any way uncomfortable.

  15. Ferde Rombola says

    #1 is two questions. Protestant ministers are valid within the Protestant faith. “Called by God” presents a different question. No one can call himself or give himself a mandate to preach the Gospel. He must be called and ordained. There are three ordinations in the Catholic Church; deacon, priest and bishop. Only a bishop can ordain and only those ordinations which proceed from apostolic succession are valid ordinations, which signify a ‘calling.’ Since Martin Luther, and those after him, Calvin, Knox, Henry VIII and the others, called themselves to preach the Gospel and gave themseslves the mandate, there is no apostolic succession in the Protestant religions, therefore, no call by God.

    #2. Whether a Protestant demonstrates it or not, if the Church has taught a particular point of faith infallbly, all who profess to be Catholics are obligated to adhere to the teaching.

    #3. Put another way, the question answers itself. If one knows the truth, is he permitted to reject it? Such a person’s salvation is definitely in jeopardy and it need not be identified as sin.

    #4 is unclear. What is meant by “What is meant?” A non-Catholic is welcome to present himself at Communion for a blessing. He crosses his arms over his chest, which signifies to the priest he is there for a blessing and the priest will bless him. Disagreement with Church teaching doesn’t enter into it.

    #5. See #3. One is not permitted to reject the truth or to cause the rejection of truth by another, married or not. The Church’s teachings on marriage are beside the point.

  16. Okay, I can’t really claim to be that knowledgeable, but I’ll toss in my two kopecs…

    “1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers? More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?”

    That depends on what you mean by the words “valid” and “minister”. You may have been really called by God to do *something* – to minister in some sense, so valid in that way perhaps. Validly ordained? No. I was ordained an elder in the Presbyterian church before I became a Catholic, and some time during my conversion process I realized that ordination was not valid. Like the apostle Paul, I counted it as nothing compared to the riches I received.

    If by “minister” you mean simply someone who serves in a particular capacity, then we have a lot of ministers in the Catholic church, too. Youth ministers, music ministers (though I think the term is overused). They would probably say they were “called” by God to do these things. Again, if you think it means only “to lead a congregation as a pastor”, I would say that God might call people to do any number of things in leading them closer to the fullness of the Catholic faith, but all these things would be provisional. Once one enters full communion with the historic Church, all bets are off as far as your status in your former life. God may have called you in some sense, but the FULL sense in which He calls you will be found only in communion with the Church He established. He does not call anyone to remain outside the Catholic Church, no matter what they might have to leave behind.

    “2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?” Catholics will tell me that I must accept the church’s teaching on subject X, but if I point out that they also must accept the church’s teaching on subject Y, I often hear, “Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I believe.” With all due respect, since when did the beliefs of an individual catholic matter? If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?”

    Well, I don’t know who you have been talking to or what they might have said, so I can’t really muster an opinion on that. I will also point out that what one person *says* is proven (or “demonstrated”) Church teaching and what the Church actually teaches can be two very different things. It is possible that you have been mistaken on what is defined doctrine and what is not. It happens. In general, though – no – individual Catholics – at least faithfl Catholics – don’t get to pick and choose what doctrines they will accept and which they won’t. I will never knowingly do so.

    “3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?”

    Well, that would depend a lot on whether they are really “unable” or whether they “choose not to” openly convert, and why. Once one is convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, one is obliged to full communion with the Church in obedience to Christ. It is a question of “what possible reason could one have for putting off obedience to Christ’s command in the matter?”. Only for grave reasons could one do this and NOT sin.

    “4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?”

    Actually, this is frowned on… to my knowledge there is no room for this in the rubrics of the Mass. The entire congregation is blessed by the priest, so going forward for a blessing is redundant. It is also confusing. Well intentioned, maybe, but not helpful. It used to be, in my parish, that those who could not receive communion (Protestant OR Catholic) could go forward for a blessing, until the bishop communicated in a letter that this should not be done. I think it was just one of those free-range Catholic behaviors that has only recently been dealt with. If you can’t receive communion, just stay in your seat and pray. It’s what I do. Now, kids are a different matter… they often have to come up with Mom or Dad (for obvious reasons) and so they might get a little blessing, but it isn’t something that should be specially encouraged. As I said, they have already been blessed along with the whole congregation.

    “5) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage? Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?”

    The Church’s view – I think – would be that the wife ought to submit to the husband as he submits to Christ. She is not, then, obliged to follow her husband in error, because in this error he is NOT submitted to Christ. The husbands headship is provisional… he stands in the place of Christ in a figurative sense. In no way should the wife remain outside the Church – against the very command of Christ – because of her husband who only stands in the place of Christ. The husband’s headship is spiritual, not literal and absolute. As the scriptures say, the husband and wife should “submit to one another in love”.

    Hope this helps, at all. I’m no expert in anything. Some of this may touch on canon law, and in that I am profoundly ignorant. God bless you in your searching.

  17. Michael,

    I’m under the gun with deadlines, so can only makes a few short remarks, hopefully of some modest use.

    1. The Catholic Church does not consider the ordination of Protestants the same as the ordination of Catholic (and Orthodox) priests, because of the absence of apostolic succession.

    “More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?”

    An interesting question, and somewhat loaded (so I’ll be very cautious). What Catholics should be believe is that God “calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par 1). Whether or not you are called to the ordained ministry in the Catholic Church is a separate matter that depends on various issues. Using the word “ministry” in a broader sense (the complexities of which I discuss in this article), all Catholics are called to “ministry,” especially the proclamation of the Faith, in home, at work, and so forth. And, of course, within the Catholic Church there are many forms of lay ministry, to be distinguished from the unique ministry of the ordained priesthood.

    2. Because I think it is safe to say that the majority of Catholics in America are “cafeteria Catholics,” that is, they believe (or at least act as though) they can 100% Catholic without embracing and giving assent of faith to 100% of Church doctrine. (Further evidence that Chesterton was correct in saying that the greatest scandal of the Catholic Church are Catholics.) So, yes, one can rightly wonder at what the beliefs of individual Catholics matter. There are, of course, plenty of issues that Catholics can disagree about, including the proper application of Catholic moral teachings to controversial issues such as biotechnology, war, medical treatment, and so forth. But those moral teachings, I think, are rather clear. And you are correct to say that once you show, for example, that the Church dogmatically teaches the infallibility of the pope (properly understood, of course), then those Catholics who deny it are, well, out of field goal range, no matter how strong they think their leg is. (Sorry, I must have watched too much football this weekend.)

    3. The Catechism, quoting Lumen Gentium, the Vatican II document on the Church, is quite clear about the seriousness of this situation:

    “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (CCC, par 846; LG 14)

    The key question, I suppose, is what involves being “unable” to convert to Catholicism.

    4. Non-Catholics can be blessed (and often are) by Catholic priests. In that context, it is a prayer for and on behalf of the person that is meant to convey God’s favor and grace. It is often a way for a person (either Catholic or non-Catholic) to indicate their love for God and desire to do His will even though they are not able, for whatever reason, to receive Communion. So even a non-Catholic who disagrees with certain teachings of the Church can receive a blessing. Also, certain blessings can be given by the laity. The Catechism states:

    “Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a ‘blessing,’ and to bless. Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons).” (par 1669)

    5. Another excellent (and difficult!) question, and one that likely requires far more pastoral wisdom than I possess (since I possess none, as I readily admit.) Part of this question relates back to question #3. It comes down, I think, to this simple question: does anyone have greater say in our lives than Jesus Christ? Recall Jesus’ words, “If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” [Lk. 14:26] Jesus does not encourage hatred, but is emphasizing that one’s commitment to Him must come before all familial attachments and relationships. Yet we know that Christ does not desire the fracturing of a marriage; quite the opposite. This great difficulty is discussed in several paragraphs of the Catechism (pars. 1633-37), and there is much more on the subject, although I don’t have handy references at the moment. Here is part of what the CCC says:

    “Difference of confession between the spouses does not constitute an insurmountable obstacle for marriage, when they succeed in placing in common what they have received from their respective communities, and learn from each other the way in which each lives in fidelity to Christ. But the difficulties of mixed marriages must not be underestimated. They arise from the fact that the separation of Christians has not yet been overcome. The spouses risk experiencing the tragedy of Christian disunity even in the heart of their own home. Disparity of cult can further aggravate these difficulties. Differences about faith and the very notion of marriage, but also different religious mentalities, can become sources of tension in marriage, especially as regards the education of children. The temptation to religious indifference can then arise.” (par 1634)

    A quick personal note, if I may. I have never once regretted becoming Catholic (in 1997). However, the journey to the Catholic Church was often very hard. I was incredibly blessed in many ways, including the fact that I was not in ministry as a Protestant (although I attended Bible college), and that my wife and I were very much on the same page about becoming Catholic. We were also very fortunate to find a Catholic parish (right across the street from where we lived!) that was orthodox and staffed by a priest and RCIA folks who were Catholic and upheld everything taught by the Church. I can hardly fathom how hard it have been to become Catholic if I had been a Protestant minister, or if my wife had no interest in becoming Catholic, or if I couldn’t find a decent Catholic parish. The point being, in short, that although I don’t know much about your situation or where you’re at regarding the Catholic Church, I will be praying for you and asking that God grant you the peace, grace, and wisdom that only He can provide.

  18. some quick thoughts…

    1. What do you mean by valid minister? The Church does not see Protestant ministers as valid priests, if that’s what you mean. We affirm Orthodox priests because of apostolic succession and the maintenance of proper form in the sacraments. It was debatable until the mid-19th century whether there were valid Anglican orders due to apostolic succession. A change in their ordination rite sealed the deal against them, however.

    As to part b., there is nothing dogmatic/canonical that would cause someone to conclude you were not called by God to be a minister.

    2. Without examples, I don’t know why a certain form of “cafeterianism” would be present. How informed are these Catholics on Church teaching? There’s no excuse for waffling on “de fide” teachings of the Church or her moral demands (e.g. birth control, abortion, etc.)

    3. A moral theologian would need to comment. I know people in this position, and don’t consider it prudent – but that’s my personal view.

    4. Another issue I’m not totally up on. I’m not sure the “blessings” are really liturgically valid (they’re definitely not sacramental), just a small-t-tradition that’s popped up especially in the US.

    5. I don’t think the Church would give a black or white answer in this case (of a wife wishing to convert against her husband’s wishes). When it comes to morality and ethics, the Church recognizes the vital need for prudence, and would certainly encourage the wife to gain her husband’s support.

    As far as leadership goes, the Church certainly affirms Ephesians 5, but doesn’t proscribe how that relationship is to be worked out concretely (again, prudence!). If I had to boil down Catholic teaching on marriage to one sentence (which is practically impossible) it would be this: that husbands and wives are to live out their married life as an image of Christ and the Church (and all that entails!).

    Hope that helps.

  19. Internet Monk,

    I’m not an expert, so I apologize to anyone if my answers are incorrect.

    1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers? I would consider you a valid minister in your particular denomination according to your particular teachings, however, not validly ordained in the eyes of the Catholic Church. In other words, you may be able to minister to those in your church community, but you cannot confer any Sacraments besides baptism and matrimony. Your Christian ministry is deficient in the sense that all of Protestantism is separated from the Church because of the rebellion by the original Reformers. More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister? No, they are not required to believe that you were “never called of God to be a minister”. That’s ridiculous. They are required to believe that you aren’t validly ordained in the Church, that you cannot confer any sacraments other than baptism and matrimony (to non-Catholics), and that you are separated from the Church as a Protestant minister. But, who are we to determine who God is calling and who He isn’t?

    2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?” There are alot of confused Catholics that are either a product of bad catechesis, are jaded by bad Catholic teachers, or are simply rebellious and don’t want to submit to any authority. I’m sure there are other reasons, but I’m frustrated with cafeteria Catholics as well. Some have already personally severed their communion with the Church by harboring beliefs directly opposed to Catholic teaching. Catholics will tell me that I must accept the church’s teaching on subject X, but if I point out that they also must accept the church’s teaching on subject Y, I often hear, “Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I believe.” With all due respect, since when did the beliefs of an individual catholic matter? If a Catholic’s individual beliefs oppose core doctrine or dogma, then they only matter in the sense that they have separated themselves from communion with the Church and they need absolution and repentance. If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic? A Catholic should believe in infallible Church teaching, otherwise they separate themselves from communion with the Church.

    3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin? I suppose it would depend on the reasons why the non-Catholic is “unable” to or “chooses not to openly convert”. For an example, if one truly believes that Christ God is visibly present at location A, certainly he will not tarry long to run and be in His presence. Is there any good excuse to say “wait, I’ll be there in a minute” to God? Especially since we don’t know how many minutes we have. At what point does waiting become a sin? God is infinitely merciful and patient, but when he gives you the grace of faith and opens your eyes long enough to believe in the Truth by the power of His Holy Spirit, at what point does it appear as a rejection of that Truth? That’s one is a difficult question for a lay Catholic to answer. I suppose if you are making an effort to follow the Truth, then it would be looked at as pleasing to God.

    4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? You’d have to ask a priest this question. I think it is a visible sign that you realize you are not in full communion with the Church, though you’d like to be and you are seeking a blessing by the priest. At this point, belief in the Real Presence isn’t necessary, after all, the lack of that belief is one reason why you would not be receiving Holy Communion. What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church? Once again, you’d have to talk to a priest, but I don’t think that you would be doing anything wrong in this situation. Some Catholics who are out of communion based on a state of mortal or grave sin cannot receive Holy Communion but may attend Mass and receive a blessing from a priest as well. In fact, they are encouraged to (example: Rudy Guliani who is nominally a Catholic but is pro-abortion legislatively, pro-gay marriage, and has been divorced twice and re-married three times). Of course, this is in the hope that they will be led to conversion (of the Catholic kind, continual life-long conversion) and repentance.

    5) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage? Exactly how it is written in Scripture, though interpreted by the Church’s Magisterium through Tradition. This requires some reading on your part, sorry. Though you may be able to expedite the answer to your question by asking an orthodox Catholic priest. Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? The experience may be different according to the parish priest you speak with. I believe that the Church wishes that both spouses make the decision together, though, if it is not something that will cause strife in the marriage then one may seek communion with the Church without the other spouse. Generally, though, a good priest will probably suggest that one prayerfully waits until the spouse in opposition softens their stance before seeking full communion into the Church. The Church never wants a sacramental Christian marriage to be broken apart under any circumstance. The sacrifice of patience, prayer, and longing would be a valid reason to wait and pleasing to the Lord, I would imagine. But, don’t take my word for it, talk to an orthodox Catholic priest. If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage? A marriage between two baptized Christians that was consentual is sacramental. That is, the two, male and female, have literally become one flesh. No man may break this union apart unless obstinant and unrepentant adultery is committed by one of the spouses (as far as I know). There are several other factors that could destroy the sacramentality of the marriage (usually having to do with dishonesty before the marriage).

  20. 1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers? More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?

    For Catholics, the term ‘valid minister’ does not have a precise meaning. The Catholic Mass is served by a Priest – he is the chap outfront who consecrates the Host. A Protestant Communion service is served by a Minister, and he or she doesn’t consecrate the host, he presides over a memorial ceremony. Catholics believe that priesthood is passed on through Bishops, and runs back via one Bishop after another to the Apostles. Therefore, unless one has been consecrated as a priest by a validly ordained Bishop, one is not a priest – it works like Tag. He needs to be ordained as a priest in order to consecrate the Host, which is at the centre of his job.

    You can see that no Protestant Minister is a ‘valid priest’. For RCs, the term ‘valid’ has meaning with reference to a context of ordination by a Bishop. The term ‘minister’ has no technical meaning as a job vocation within RC doctrine.

    But that wasn’t your question. You asked whether RCs consider Protestants ‘valid Ministers’. Well, without being flippant (and I take this quite seriously but can’t help joking), why not? I would geuss that, for you, ‘valid’ might mean somehting like ‘worthy’ or ‘taken care of by God’. There may be (and in my observation are) many Protestant Ministers who are worthy
    ministers who are close to God. For an RC to regard a Protestant as a ‘valid minister’ in the Protestant sense would be a subjective judgement on their part. I personally regard many Protestant Ministers as ‘valid ministers’ in the Protestant sense. None of them are ‘valid priests’, as I said. They don’t want to be.

    2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?” Catholics will tell me that I must accept the church’s teaching on subject X, but if I point out that they also must accept the church’s teaching on subject Y, I often hear, “Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I believe.” With all due respect, since when did the beliefs of an individual catholic matter? If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?

    Yes, it’s the end of the matter. But many doctrines are not infallibly taught. It is quite debateable whether some doctrines are infallibly taught RC docs. You may be getting the impression that some RC friends are cafeteria RCs, simply because you think its are infallible dogma which are not. But it is true that we meet many cafeteria Catholics today, not through ill-will but through poor religious formation.

    3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?

    I don’t honestly know what the church’s view is. I would say it would depend on the reason for not choosing to convert. I know someone who says she thinks RC is true but cannot currently convert because of ‘cultural problems’. I think that if this is her real reason, it is sinful not to convert for such a trivial reason. On the other hand, very many people who say they think RC is true but can’t openly convert may actually still have some problems they are working through. They have not yet been given the gift of faith.

    4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?

    If you go forward, you get a blessing. That means the priest exercises his power to give you God’s blessing.
    If you go forward you will be given God’s blessing through the priest whether or not you believe all the teachings of the church and whether or not you currently plan to become RC. The blessing happens objectively, and is good for you, and may help you to come to faith, if God chooses to use it in that way.

    5) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage? Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?

    RCs don’t use language like ‘submission in marriage’. It’s Protestant language. RC priests will counsel that a wife should put truth (eg the truth of the RC faith) above the opinions of her husband. Many female RC saints have had bad Christian husbands or non-Christian husbands or even Protestant husbands.

  21. Not much time but hope this helps:
    1) No & No
    2) Because we are the Church Militant (sinners trying to be saints) and there’s always room for one more hypocrite…(meant sincerely) (-*
    3) Conscience trumps all, BUT we continue to seek informed conscience. “Ask and ye shall receive, seek and…”
    4) It should mean that you believe in the sacramental nature of the priesthood, of reconciliation, and penance; that you recognize you are not in union w/ Christ’s Church as taught by Scripture, sacred tradition and the Magisterium (sacred teaching) and that you desire a blessing. Otherwise, I can’t see the sense in “going forward” other than vain hope(?)
    5) http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c3a7.htm

  22. I’m going to try and answer the questions individually and if the question have multiple parts answer them. You will probably get better answers than from me from more knowledgeable people but here goes.

    1a) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers?

    One of the problems is that Catholics define ministers differently than Protestants do. The use of the term minister is an English use that started before the Reformation for clergy who actually take part in liturgical functions as distinguished by assistants. Calvin appropriated the term minister so he wouldn’t have to use the word “priest”. A good definition of the term “minister” could be found at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10326a.htm . Since our definition of what a minister is differs the simple answer is no we wouldn’t define you as a minister.

    That doesn’t mean that we don’t think what you are doing is valid or helpful for other Christians. Proably in some cases what you do is good and bad. What Catholics generally believe is that non-Catholic Christians by not enjoying the full sacraments of the faith deny to themselves the full power of the Holy Spirit to help them on their spiritual journey.

    1b) More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?

    Hmm, I guess a good answer would be under a classical definition of ministry the answer would be that person would be required to believe that you are not a valid minister since as part of the Nicene Creed, Catholics are required to believe in
    “And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” which in Catholic doctrine means that we submit to the teachings of the Church.

    However, we Catholics often use the term ministry, which as far as I know is almost exclusively a Protestant term, for almost everything that pious Christians do.

    Also any polite friend is not going to say “hey Michael, now I’m Catholic do you know I don’t think you are a valid minister.” No, he is going to encourage you on your path to being a good Christian and pray that you become Catholic.

    Personally, one of my best friends is a Protestant minister. Do I consider him a valid sacramental minister. No, but I honestly pray that he brings others to Christ and I hope that someday he will join the Catholic Church.

    2a) “Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?”

    From an early age, Catholics are required to go to Mass and are strongly encouraged to go to a Catholic school. Unfortunately the quality of cathecisis available from the pulpits and schools (and many RCIA programs) has declined so badly that a many a Catholic can say honestly, “as a kid I went to Mass every week, I was never taught X or Y”. Many people believe that at least a generation (or maybe even two) has been been lost due to this. What you see often in many Catholic churches are often many who think that taking artificial contraception is OK and so forth.

    Another problem is that assimilation of most Catholics into society. Instead of cathecizing society most Catholics have let society cathecize them. Part of the problem was the dropping for most of cathecisms after Vatican II and the reluctance of many (except for lip service) to accept the new Cathecism of Pope John Paul II.

    Another reason is that for many people they didn’t pay too much attention in their religion classes (usually because of bad materials and or teachers but that is not always the case). A good example is to ask yourself: what do you remember from your state history class. If it is anything beyond that the state flag, flower, bird, capital and the order in the Union congratulate yourself. We were probably much more interested in our doodles or dreaming about person A who was very attractive in in the front row.

    Another more complex issue is that not all pronouncements from the hierarchy of the Church are equal to other pronouncements. For instance a pronouncement from an individual bishop or the USCCB does not have the same weight (but does deserve the individual American Catholics respect) as a pronouncement of the Pope and or the College of Bishops. What that generally means is that I have to respect what my bishop (or the USCCB) says and if I have a difference from that I generally keep it private. When the Pope speaks ex-Cathedra (which rarely happens) I am required to intellectually agree and conform my mind to that truth. When the Pope and/or the college of Bishops with the Pope speaks on something I am supposed to honestly study and try to figure out how to get my mind to agree to what they are teaching.

    2b) With all due respect, since when did the beliefs of an individual catholic matter?

    Well, the beliefs an informed conscience do matter. But unfortunately most people’s consciences are ill-informed by either ignorance or from a conscious choice to sin and then rationalize it.

    A good analogy to the conscience is to our soul is that of the stomach to our body. Sensations from the stomach tell us often when to eat and when to stop. However, someone who constantly overeats, eats too quickly, eats the wrong foods or starves themselves on a regular basis can convince their stomach that their eating process is quite normally when in fact they are becoming overweight and or undernourished.

    The same thing can happen with a conscience. Ill-fed the conscience produces nonsense to us allowing us to simply pick and chose on the basis of what society or our community friends decide is convient.

    2c) If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?

    It should, if their conscience was formed correctly. Also you have to look at issues that also effect the conscience such as fear. For example,if you properly informed a friend who had become mobster who was Catholic by cooperating in a “hit” that he was committing murder and was a mortal sin, he might try to rationalize the decision by saying that the analogy would be that of two armies with soldiers, he was a soldier on side and the victim was a soldier on another side. This is an ill-informed view of what a soldier but keeping oneself in ignorance is also a good way of keeping oneself alive since that a mobster who had a properly informed conscience would have to cease becoming a mobster. That would likely result in separation from his family (both probably biological and emotional) and quite probably an early physical (and painful) death.

    C.S. Lewis said (and I know this is a bad paraphrase) in Mere Christianity that he thought once he convinced something was true that he would eventually be the end of the matter but he eventually realized that even after an initial acceptance that people would backslide into old truths.

    People often have a nice rationalistic view of what they believe the universe is like. They can resent greatly disrupting that picture.

    But also you must be sure as a Protestant what you are teaching as an infallible teaching of the Church is truly infallible. Sometimes many Protestants think that many teachings are infallible when they are not and many teachings that just customs are really required of the faith.

    3a) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time?

    I think the question comes to how “convinced” you are and also a mitigating factor might be the desire night to cause scandal in our previous religious community. If I were the editor or columnist in a Protestant journal I would have to ask my colleagues whether they would should have me continue because my religious sensibilities have changed. I wouldn’t drop the bombshell in my latest column, “I’ve been taking RCIA classes for the last six months and I just took Communion from the St. Paul’s Cathedral last Sunday so I’m Catholic and you’re not.”

    However, if you were convinced that the Holy Spirit was drawing you to the Church and you failed to follow that call, yes I would say that it is wrong not to follow the call.

    3b) Is such a person committing a sin?

    Yes, but like all sins the severity of is diminished by various factors. Desire not to create scandal, financial fear (just imagine if you were the head of a megachurch, married with a large family and mortgage and realized that the Catholic Church was correct) and (for those who are married)
    what will happen to my family (especially those who are married).

    4a) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake?

    It means that you are being blessed by a priest. A priest can give a blessing to people and things. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    “It (a blessing) is used to express a wish or desire that all good fortune, especially of a spiritual or supernatural kind, may go with the person or thing, as when David says: “Blessed art thou, and it shall be well with thee” (Ps. cxxvii, 2).” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02599b.htm )

    I certainly think it to be good. I don’t think much of Protestants who go up to communion when they have been told that they shouldn’t. I’ve seen that happen more than once and it makes me wince.

    4b) What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?

    That depends. If you don’t think the Catholic Church’s claim to be the true Church is correct. I think it shows the proper significance. You respect many of the Church’s teachings but feel that you don’t accept enough to join.

    However, if you do feel that the Catholic Church is the true Church but are not converting because you disagree with some positions of the Church the logical decision is to go to a well-informed priest and/or good RCIA program and learn for yourself. Generally I would try to find a priest who has a good respect for orthodoxy. If you can’t find that out informally, be blunt ask the awkward questions.

    Some good questions would be:

    i) If two people really love each other and are engaged is it to live with each other as long as they don’t have sex short of consummating the relationship.

    ii) If I am rich but not as rich as I think is usual for people in my line of business. Is it OK pray to God for more money to buy a bigger house.

    iii) Which is better prayer. To make up my own honest prayer, or the Rosary.

    iv) I (and my non-Catholic co-workers) don’t like Bishop B’s view on Y. Its OK if I think tell them I think Bishop B’s view is nuts, too.

    the correct answers are

    i – Having any sort of sexual intercourse is wrong. Living together is putting yourself in the moral jeapordy (tempation) and causes public scandal (everyone will assume you are having sex).

    ii – You might be allowed to pray for more money to pay off debts or to bigger house because it might be difficult with the number of children you have but to keep up with the Jones is showing an attachment to the material world rather than your salvation.

    iii- It’s a trick answer because the correct answer is both. You should honestly pray to God and you should use the Rosary since the Rosary contains the Lord’s Prayer, the Aposostle’s Creed and the Hail Mary (Angelic responses and the Church’s view of Mary). This question traps both:

    – those believes that only “heartfelt” prayer and not devotions is good
    – those who believe that only the Rosary can to lead to salvation

    If you need to learn what the Church believes try to learn it from someone who believes what the Church teaches.

    5a) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage?

    I think the correct answer is that while the man is the head of the house (because every house needs a head) the proper answer is that both spouses have to be submissive to each other. How can we be like Christ who was submissive to the will of the Father if we don’t submit to the will of our spouses. The correct answer is that our submission to creatures (even our spouse) only ends when it violates our faith or morals

    5b) Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse?

    Actually, yes. Despite the religious sensibilities of the spouse we must follow what the Church’s teachings. Otherwise, we would deny ourselves the Eucharist (unless you eat My Body and drink My Blood, you will not be saved).

    There have been many a spouse who was converted by the example of a Holy spouse.

    5c) If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?

    If we truly love our spouse, we must want eternal life for our spouse. Now if I believe that the Catholic church is the true Church to not join the Church would result in myself not being saved. In other words if my spouse was ignorant of the Church’s role in salvation but I was not, the unusual condition could occur where my spouse might go to heaven (because of his or her ignorance) but I would not.

    Plus even I might think that my spouse might be on the correct road to salvation he or she might not. The spouse might be hiding a secret sin or there might be coming up graces that only the sacraments might help out with. Many people find out that there are secret sins that they’ve never confessed until they go into their first confession with a priest.

    Moreover, as I said above the example of my conversion would hopefully give him or her the push to examine the Church’s teachings.

    Personally if I were in that situation I would give my spouse a good warning before I enrolled in RCIA classes. I would say something like “I’ve been reading a lot the teachings of the Catholic Church and some of them are not as goofy as I thought. I’m thinking of exploring them in more depth in the class called RCIA. Would you come so I make sure that I’ve not going off the deep end?”

    If the example is in reverse. My spouse is becoming or has become Catholic and I am not the following question might be asked: am I not joining the Catholic Church because of intellectual pride or fear. Do I think that I am so much smarter than all those other Catholics? Am I resisting becoming Catholic because my spouse made this decision without me and I feel bitter (if I have to ask for permission to buy a new amplifier for the stereo why shouldn’t he or she have to ask for permission from me to become Catholic)? Am I worried what other people will think of me (I’ve always derided Catholics amongst my intellectual peers)? Am I worried that business associates who thought I was a good Christian now will consider me a unsaved (and unreliable) if I become Catholic? Is it I accept all the Church’s teachings except for for these few (X, Y, Z) isn’t it much more likely that I am intellectually wrong rather than the Church?

  23. 1. Yes you are a valid minister, but, not to be confused with a priest. In the Church, anyone can be a “minister” in some form or fashion, depending on their calling. Lay Catholics normally cannot pastor a Church. But ministries inside the Church customarily have lay persons in those positions. For example, Minister of Holy Communion, Catechist, Music, etc…

    2. Catholics are required to believe all that Holy Mother Church proposes for their belief. Period. If they do not (by that I mean they are obstinately opposed to one or more teachings on faith and morals), they are defacto protestants. The name heretic is often used for such people as well. But, that doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with this or that teaching. We have and do. You just have faith in the teaching and give full assent in the Wisdom of God and His Church.

    3. Unable to convert is one thing. But, the desire to convert places one in a very good position. However, choosing not to convert can mean the loss of one’s salvation. It depends on if they are fully informed and they understand what they are doing.

    4. To receive the blessing at communion perhaps is a show of unity of heart with the Church, a family member, etc. But. There is a grace imparted at such blessing and it is a good thing and hopefully leads to their full conversion.

    5. One’s conversion to the Church is a gift of the Holy Spirit and shouldn’t be thwarted in any way. What problems or divisions that result are crosses to bear. But remember, Jesus said that He did not come to sow peace. He came to sow division, father against son, mother against daughter, etc… What initially divides will ultimately unite in the end. Be thankful that the grace is infused in this person. Her faith and sacrfice will have salvific ramifications for those around her. It will radiate to her family.

    God’s blessing to you, my friend.

    AMDG
    James Brady

  24. Brian Kennedy says

    1. I will leave this answer largely to others as I don’t know technically how the Church would regard your ministry. I cannot imagine that God would judge you harshly for following Him in the way that you know best. For my part I respect that most if not all Protestant pastors are humbly seeking God for their own lives as well as trying to bring the Gospel to others. This is good.

    2. Unfortunately all Catholics do not follow God’s teachings. Of course we are all sinners, Protestant and Catholic alike. And when we sin we often rationalize that sin. So, in a sense we are all “Cafeteria Ten Commandmenters.” In areas where Biblical/Catholic teaching is clear and known, it is dishonest for a Catholic to not follow that teaching or at least to acknowledge this as sin. You will not find less hypocrisy in the Catholic Church than elsewhere. Sometimes there is some (honest) debate about what the Church teaches, but this is not usually the problem. More commonly it is an individual not being willing or ready to follow that teaching.

    3. I don’t know the answer to this. Probably you should ask these technical questions of Catholic Answers or a knowledgeable and orthodox priest.

    4. Is it wrong to be blessed by a fellow Christian? For this is at least what the priest or Eucharistic minister is. We believe that in a special way you are being blessed by the actual presence of Jesus Christ in his eucharistic form.

    5. I do not know but doubt that our Church teaches that a woman should convert in obedience to her husband. I think that obviously she should deeply discern what God is calling her through her spouse’s spiritual journey. As for the submission dynamic, Pope John Paul II wrote on this extensively. Perhaps we place more emphasis on the sacrificial nature of the love that the husband is called to: (to paraphrase) you shall love her as Christ loves the Church. This does not negate the wife’s role, but shows a mutual relationship of sacrificial love.

    I don’t really know where you are in your Christian journey. All who walk with Christ are spiritual brothers and sisters. I will pray that God brings you closer to Him through this exercise and that we as Christians may be united in our desire to be with Him and bring as many to Him as we can. God bless and keep you.

  25. Giving it a quick shot…

    1.Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers?…
    Validity in such a case, to a Catholic, would be a reference to sacramental validity, which in this case does not apply. There is no such animal as “valid Protestant minister” to a Catholic – other than whether or not that minister’s denomination considers his ministry to be valid. But again, that’s an internal matter for the denomination in question with no bearing on the Catholic Church. If you and your denomination both agree that you are a validly ordained minister of the church, then you are and we would treat you as such. But that ministry has no relationship whatsoever to the Catholic orders of the episcopacy, presbyteriate or diaconate.

    2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?”…
    Presuming that what you are referencing in something that, in fact, must be held with divine and Catholic Faith, then the answer to your question is, “because there are a lot of bad Catholics who either don’t understand their faith, are too lazy to learn it, or too enamored with a particular sin (usually sexual in nature) to be honest with God and with themselves.

    3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time?…
    Paragraphs 846 and 847 of the Catechism deal tangentially with this. Knowing the Church is true and is what She says She is and refusing to be in Communion with it may very well be sinful, but guilt may, in fact, be mitigated by other factors (just one example, fear of physical harm for conversion). This is something that should probably be handled in private spiritual direction where specifics can be addressed with more discretion than an online forum.

    4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake?…
    Frankly, I don’t know what the point of such an act is, though I suspect it arises from a desire to “fit in” and get in line like (most) everyone else. I can understand the feeling of not wanting to “stand out by sitting down”, but you can make a perfectly good Spiritual Communion with the Lord from your pew. Besides, if you wait a few minutes, a final blessing is given to all in attendance.

    5) …Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?
    The Church’s teachings on marriage can be found in many places, but a nice (unofficial) summary has been written here – http://www.dads.org/article.asp?artId=185.
    An idea to keep in mind – a wife is subject to her husband, but this submission is not absolute. It would be limited if the husband requires her to violate the truth or commit an unjust act.

  26. My doctoral work was in the area of ecclesiology and ecumenism. I would say, quickly in response to your questions:

    1) In the eyes of the Church, you are a valid Protestant minister. That sounds tautological, but what is meant is that you are not a valid Catholic minister–which is fine. If you converted to Catholicism, and wanted to pursue ordained ministry in the Church, you would be not be “re-ordained” but ordained absolutely as a Catholic priest. In so doing, a statement is not made about your Protestant ordination except to say the obvious: your previous ordination was not as a Catholic priest, and so we are now ordaining you as one. What you did previously as a Protestant minister was valid in those terms.

    2) The only dialogue worth having (I say this after having spent a decade working in the World Council of Churches and elsewhere in ecumenism) is one in the truth; the only dialogists worth talking wtih are those who know the full truth of their own tradition and are prepared to describe it and take it seriously. The beliefs of an individual Catholic are really of, at most, secondary importance and interest: it is what the Church teaches that counts. Everything else is, at best, theologumena. Those who ignore parts of the Catholic faith while playing up other parts are putting themselves in danger and are clearly being dishonest and deceptive with themselves and perhaps with others.

    3) Hard to say in the abstract. In general, if one knows that Catholicism is true and refuses to convert, when one is freely able to do so, one is endangering one’s salvation by rejecting the truth. If, however, that person cannot convert because they are, say, in a gulag somewhere, or 10,000 miles from the nearest Church and priest, or converting would place them and others in mortal danger, then that’s a different matter and one most likely would not be judged for failing to do what the truth obliges him to do.

    4) It’s just that–a blessing, nothing more. It recognizes that one has an imperfect relationship to the Church and cannot therefore participate fully in the Eucharist. Going for a blessing while disagreeing does not imply or entail anything. It’s a very simple gesture.

    Your friend, and all Catholics, are not “required” to view you as not being called by God; indeed, doing so would be presumptious of God and a sin against charity, so I would say that no good Catholic should say such a thing or treat you in that regard.

    5) Men and women are equal by virtue of their creation in the image of God. The questions of submission and headship addressed in, eg., Ephesians, need above all to be interpreted ecclesially and ecclesiologically: that is to say, inter alia, that the man and woman submit, but the man loves the woman as Christ loves the Church–fully, totally, being ready to die for her, and in no way attempting to “lord it over her as the Gentiles to” (to paraphrase the gospels).

    As for mixed marriages, the Church wants everyone to join. She by no means encourages strife or division in marriages as a consequence, so each individual situation needs to be carefully considered, but she would still encourage one spouse to join even if the other did not or resisted the spouse’s conversion. The reason for this is simple: a marriage outside the Church or of non-Catholics is a valid natural marriage but not a valid sacramental marriage. A valid sacramental marriage gives grace in a way all other marriages do not. The Church wants marriages to receive all the grace they can, so she encourages people to convert.

  27. I am just a simple man of 68 years and not in any way could be called a theologian. I am a practicing Roman Catholic but leagues away from being perfect but I did find your questions interesting. I will endeavor to answer them (perhaps not all) as best I can. I am most assuredly not as knowledgeable as you may be desiring.

    1. I would answer that in the affirmative. I don’t actually know any personally but I have seen Billy Graham and I have found him to be a man of God. As for the second part I ask you how one would know if you were called by God to your profession? I cannot know your heart. I believe that some one who preaches the word of God is described as having a “calling.”

    2. I would never presume to tell anyone what they must or must not do. The Lord gave us all the right to choose right or wrong. If you are talking to true Catholics then you should not be hearing them say they do not believe a particular teaching of the Church. Whether they practice that teaching or not is another question. I do not believe that you can demonstrate undemonstratable.

    3. I can not speak for the Church. Personally I would doubt the sincerity of the conviction, for to truly follow Christ one must put Christ foremost. I would need to know what is in the person’s heart to know that but thankfully only God knows what is in our hearts.

    4. I do not know.

    5. First part: I don’t know. Second part: again I say, Jesus says that we must put all worldly things, all attachments aside, if we are to follow Him. Third part: I don’t know.

  28. I’ll try to answer these the best I can.

    1. It depends on the understanding of the word “ministry.” In the Roman Catholic understand, holy orders have to do with administering the sacraments. Thus the catechism says that “anyone who thinks he recognizes signs of God’s call to the ordained ministry must humbly submit his desire to the authority of the Church, who has the responisibility and right to call someone to receive orders” (CCC 1578). So you would not be considered a priest in that sense, of being a minister of the sacraments, for which you would need to be ordained by a validyly ordained bishop. However, the Church does recognize what it calls “the common priesthood of the faithful” who live out their baptism as laymen, but who are not able to be ministers of the sacraments. So you may have a call to be a minister, but you could not, according to the Church’s teaching, exercise it until you were properly ordained. Which as far as I can tell means your friend is not required to believe you have no call to be a minister.

    2. As far as the cafeteria Catholics go, there are simply a lot of them, and yes, they are wrong in thinking that their individual opinions can decide dogmas. Perhaps that’s why you run into them more often than those who accept the Church’s teaching tout court. Though of course it is a bit different when one is talking about doctrines that are not taught infallibly (such as the celibacy of the clergy, teachings on capital punishment, etc.) for on these issues there is room for legitimate disagreement.

    3. I’m not sure what you mean by “not openly convert,” but I assume you mean family, friends and coworkers would be opposed to it? I know the Church teaches that each person must be free to act according to one’s conscience in religious matters (CCC 2104-109), and this probably leaves some room for prudence in such a matter, though I am not sure. It may depend on why one does not want to choose to enter, though if one is still hesistant about it, it probably means the person is not ready ready to embrace the Church fully. But that’s merely my opinion.

    4. Again, this is my opinion, but the blessing for someone who is not Catholic and not seeking to enter into communion with it seems similar to the blessing given to Catholics when they come to mass but are not fit to receive because they have committed a mortal sin. They too, if they are faithful will cross their arms and receive the blessing of the priest, because they are coming to the altar for God’s grace, but recognizing that they are unfit to receive it (because of sin, in this case). Whereas you on the other hand, are separated because you have not accepted the Church’s teachings. But either way, a blessing can be given to all Christians alike, and I think the reason for it is to acknowledge you as someone who is a) a Christian, baptized already and b) seeking God’s grace in a Catholic church, at the altar of God, even though he does not believe.

    5. The Church does teach that the male is the head of the family, and that wives should submit to their husbands. Just to give one example: “The man is the ruler of the family, and the head of the woman; but because she is flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, let her be subject and obedient to the man, not as a servant but as a companion, so that nothing be lacking of honor or of dignity in the obedience which she pays” (Pope Leo XIII, his encyclical “Christian Marriage”). This has been reaffirmed by Popes all the way up to John Paul II (Familio Consortio). I’m not sure actually what the Church teaches about the particular situation you describe. I would think the wife’s desire to enter the Church and seek her salvation there would be set above her husband’s wishes, since the Church but I just don’t know for sure. The wife’s wishes in this case obviously have to be weighed against the harmony of the marriage and family, which might be disrupted by her becoming Catholic. I suppose this is why the Catechism advises weighing the potential difficulties of “mixed” marriages (i.e., with Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church, CCC 1634).

    These probably aren’t the fullest answers you can get, but I hope they help you somewhat.

  29. Questions about Catholicism by non-Catholics should always begin with an examination of context and presuppositions. If you’ve can at least temporarily suspend the Americanist (Calvinistic & Gnostic) conceptual framework, then the answers are simpler. But unwavering fidelity to the Americanist worldview makes it almost impossible for one to comprehend Catholic teachings. Roman Catholic teachings today are almost always aimed at clarifying confusion among Catholics first and foremost. You can read whatever agenda you want INTO the official statements, but then you’re just rereading your own agenda and not fairly reading the RCC. If you approach with the attitude of “What does the RCC have to say to ME as a non-Catholic?” then you’ll invariably distort the intent of the teaching.

    1) “Valid ministers” is not a cognizable canonical category for Catholics, unless you’re talking about “extraordinary ministers” of the Eucharist. It seems valid holy orders, on the other hand, is what you’re after. Valid holy orders determines the validity of the sacraments. So the RCC is not really concerned with anyone’s personal, privately-derived “calling” if it hasn’t been sacramentally recognized by the visible Church. It’s not that the RCC automatically denies one’s private experience of being called; it’s just that it’s 1) insufficient by itself (Catholic or not) and 2) immaterial if one is not Catholic. The clarifications that the RCC issues on holy orders are meant to avoid the confusion and error among Catholics of receiving just anyone’s “ordinations,” and thus sacraments, as if they were valid. Anglican orders are deemed invalid while Orthodox orders valid. The rest of Protestantism has so many discordant and changing views on sacraments it’s hard for the RCC to even keep track. So the bottom line is that the RCC can easily recognize the bare fact that your church has ordained you as a valid minister, but because it can’t separate your ordination from the entity that ordained you, it doesn’t recognize your office as valid for Catholics. It makes sense if you apply the same logic to your own denomination, which I’m sure doesn’t accept Branch Davidian “ordinations” as valid.

    2) Not sure what you’re really asking here. Is it “why are there cafeteria Catholics?” or “why do some Catholics emphasize some teachings and not others?” or “when do the beliefs of an individual Catholic matter?” or something else?

    3) Is it a sin to knowingly and willfully reject the Catholic Church and all that she professes as true? Sure. It’s telling the Church of Christ and the Apostles, “Yeah I ‘agree’ with you, but I don’t want to have anything tangibly to do with you.” “Agreement” for Catholics is not just a mental act and only Cartesian Gnostics would think cognitive assent sufficiently establishes anything with the Body of Christ. It would be worse if you were once Catholic and have explicitly gone apostate, ie. there’s less personal fault if you don’t know any better due to circumstances beyond your control. But I also wonder if we’re operating on differing definitions of “sin.”

    4) Receiving a blessing during Communion is canonically permissible. But whether it’s a wise or prudent thing is another question. What’s the point of receiving a blessing from a priest of a church you effectively reject? Even if I had a very, very close Protestant minister friend, I would at most ask for a personal blessing outside of the liturgy. The Mass is not a time for private expressions of interpersonal affection; it is the re-presentation in time of the timeless Paschal Mystery through the Eucharistic Body of Christ made present in the synaxis of liturgy. Ecumenism’s preoccupation with ritualizing individualistic sentimental acts seems bound up with the inflated egotism and self-consciousness of our Americanist age. The early church would not have permitted a non-member to even be present during the unveiling of the sacred mysteries, so the RCC is still relatively permissive in this matter. Blessings are also available to Catholics who refrain from partaking according to the Eucharistic discipline of 1Cor, but most stay on their kneelers since it’s a relatively modern idea of debatable merit.

    5) The RCC again has bigger fish to fry when addressing non-Catholic spouses than whether they’re submitting to each other. Of course, the RCC would only be happy if the world adopted more Catholic principles of marriage. But other than tautologically informing you that your marriage does not share in the sacramental life of Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, there’s little else the Church can say to non-Catholic couples. It makes public arguments about marriage via natural law, but that’s different from the Christ-governed oikonomia of Catholic marriages. As for the spouse who seeks the RCC against the wishes of the non-Catholic, clearly the salvation of one’s soul takes priority over marital unanimity. As a concrete pastoral matter, however, prudence may influence the timing and approach.

  30. Surprised no one has taken a run at these yet. All right, here are my shots:

    1. Yes, because “minister” is a term with different connotations than “priest.” I have no problem acknowledging a Protestant (please accept this term in its broadest shorthand sense) minister as “Reverend.” Far be it from me to dispute the ministerial calling of another Christian.

    Now, if we’re talking about claims to a priestly (read: claims to celebrating a Eucharist as Catholics understand it) role, then there’s a different story.

    2. “If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?”

    Yes. That is supposed to be the case. I may have doubts or concerns about it, but dogma is not up for debate.

    3. It depends, as we are now wading into the roiling waters of moral theology. “Unable” can cover a lot of grounds which would make non-entry into full communion non-sinful.

    4. One who goes up for a blessing is acknowledging a desire to receive, but is also stating that he/she is unable to do so for some good reason. I can’t think of any problem with what you are doing.

    5. The question of submission is one that’s a bit of a third rail, so permit me to deftly sidestep it. In short, there is an established teaching of submission that mirrors that of conservative classical Protestantism. However, Pope JPII made reference to mutual submission of the spouses in a way that did not clearly reference the older teaching. Hence, some fireworks. But I don’t think that’s determinative here. In the situation you posit, the Church would say that the wife has the right–perhaps even duty–to convert. Even under the older submission idea, the husband cannot override his wife’s conscience or the Church’s teaching.

  31. Ted Janiszewski says

    I’d like to take a hand at answering your first question, Michael. I’m a Catholic layman, recently received into the Church from Anglicanism.

    1) Yes, you are a minister. No, you are not a priest.

    Clearly you are a servant in God’s Kingdom. The Holy Spirit is working through you. You are actively engaged in ministry and are responsible for a community of God’s people. In fact, I would venture to say that you are a more sincere and effective minister than many of our priests are. But you do not have Holy Orders — you cannot confect the Eucharist.

    This is a baffling truth. I’d like to use three metaphors to illustrate Protestants’ position in the Body of Christ which I think will save volumes of explanation and should adequately address your question.

    a) Take a look at John 15. To quote Keith Green, “He is dee-vine and you are dee-branch.” There is no denying that Protestants are bearing fruit — we can see the evidence of it. That being said, it stands to reason that a Protestant draws sap from the living Vine. But a Protestant has cut off a number of key capillaries. There are channels of grace that you have left dry. I’m thinking namely of the Sacraments, the See of Peter, and the intercession of the Saints.

    Now I know that you’re saying, “What about these idiot Catholics? They’ve been barren for years, and _I’m_ the one separated from grace?” Michael, I’ve been saying that for years. These stinking Catholics have the full deposit of the faith and the accumulated wisdom of two thousand years of our forefathers. They have the Sacraments, the Papal See, the Blessed Virgin; they’re in the Ancient Church, up to their jowls in the Historic Mainstream, sitting on the Rich Root of Israel, and they’re twiddling their thumbs! They have every channel of grace and every one of them is dry!

    b) Lets take a page out of Paul and use military symbolism. You are a soldier in God’s army, no doubt about it. More specifically, you’re paramilitary. You don’t fit into the normal categories. You can’t confect the Sacrament because you’re not a regular. You’re separated from the approved hierarchy. We’re on the same side (when there’s no friendly fire), but there are undeniable differences.

    c) Consider Pentecostals. We both would say that doctrinally, they don’t have a full deck. There are things missing. And yet you can see that they’re about God’s business with all they’ve got. It’s like they’re driving a fleet of jalopies. The engine isn’t the greatest and the suspension sqeaks, but by God they’re out there on the highway every day with the pedal to the metal. They’re making full use of what they have.

    Now saunter down the block to Catholicism Blvd. Now despite the empty street, I guarantee you that every one of those garages contains a tricked out Lamborghini, straight out of Italy. It’s in there under a dusty tarp and it’s doubling for a work bench. To be fair to the Catholics, they do take the cover off every once in awhile. Some of them even drive it out to the end of their driveway and back.

    Would you be surprised if you heard that a lot of people with Catholic upbringing are joining Pentecostal churches? Heck, at least they’re moving. But Michael, if we could awaken the Church — we would fly.

  32. Wow, these are good, thoughtful questions.

    1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers? More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?

    This question can be answered in more than one way, depending on what you mean by minister. I would say most Catholics would view a Protestant minister’s leadership of his flock valid in a teaching sense; but ordination is a different matter. In the Catholic Church, ordination (at least, full ordination, but now we’re getting into a different matter, so I’ll skip that one for now)is an initiation into the priesthood, which enables one to perform sacraments that lay people cannot perform. Doctrinally, a priest is able to consecrate the Eucharist and hear confessions/give absolution. Further, he is able to give the sacrament of Confirmation, but is allowed to do so only with a dispensation from his bishop. (This dispensation is automatic under certain circumstances, like for confirmations done on Easter.)In this priestly sense, Catholic teaching would not accept the ordination of a non-Catholic as valid, because the ability to enact priestly sacraments must be passed through apostolic succession. However, this does not nullify the minister’s role as a leader in other ministry. Does that make any sense? (Sorry to be so long winded.)

    2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?” Catholics will tell me that I must accept the church’s teaching on subject X, but if I point out that they also must accept the church’s teaching on subject Y, I often hear, “Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I believe.” With all due respect, since when did the beliefs of an individual catholic matter? If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?

    That’s a tough one to answer, without knowing the specifics of the conversation. It could be that the person who accepted one thing and not another was simply in the wrong. Or it could be that X is a dogmatic issue, and Y is not. Unfortunately, many Catholics are not fully aware of what is dogmatic (required belief) and what is either untested doctrine or discipline (rule that can be changed). A discipline must be obeyed by Catholics, but they do not have to agree, whereas a dogma is a teaching considered infallible.

    I will say that for many Catholics, coming to that point of full assent and belief is a difficult struggle. That does not negate, though, the fact that the Church teaches dogmatic things as infallible. I know some people who do not fully agree with some teaching in their minds, but give their “assent” and obey the dogmas.

    3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?

    Is it a sinful act to reject what you know to be true? Yes. (And that, of course, applies to all people of faith.)On the other hand, God is aware of any mitigating facts that we may not be aware of. To be fully culpable of serious sin, the sinner must be choosing in complete free will to commit the sin. I would suspect that in many cases where a person chooses not to follow what they believe, there is some reason, either external or internal, that interferes with their fully free choice. This mitigates the person’s guilt.

    4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?

    Anyone can receive a blessing, whether they are Catholic or not, even whether or not they are Christian. A blessing is not a sacrament, and going up for one is fully optional.

    5) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage? Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?

    The Church teaches that submission should be offered, but never demanded; and that it must be reserved only for when it would not involve sin. If a wife feels bound by conscience to join the Church and her husband opposes it, she is not obliged to obey her husband in disobedience to her conscience. However, if she does go against her conscience because of submission to her husband, that would certainly be a mitigating factor in the level of her guilt.

    By the same token, if a woman felt led to anywhere, and was convinced it was where God wanted her, she should obey God above husband. However, whether it is the Catholic Church or any other expression of faith, she should pray long and hard to be sure that this is where God wants her before making light of her marital unity.

    I hope this helps.

  33. 1) I hate to answer a question with a question, but what is a valid minister? All Christians are called to minister to others. For example, I am a husband and father of two, and therefore it is my vocation to minister to them. So, the answer is no, they are not required to believe that you were never called to be a minister because we all are called to minister in some way, shape, or form.

    2) How can a protestant denomination demonstrate that any of their teachings are infallible if their “church” is fallible? I mean if the Methodists claimed that their teachings were infallible and the Catholics claimed that theirs infallible either one of them is wrong, or all of them are wrong. We know that all of them can’t be wrong because St. Paul even said that the Church was the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) So, to a Catholic, our infallible teaching beats your infallible teaching because you are not really infallible.

    3)You say “unable” – that can mean anything. If someone thought the Catholic Church was true and the moment after I believed that something happened that caused them to go into a coma or vegetative state, then there would be no sin involved. However, I can’t think of any good reason why someone should choose not to convert to Catholicism if they believed it to be the Church Christ founded.

    4)It is just an indication that you are not a full member of the Church yet.
    Here is a good resource on recieving communion:
    http://www.catholic.com/library/Who_Can_Receive_Communion.asp

    If you read the document there are some non-Catholics who can recieve communion and some Catholics who shouldn’t.

    5)The Church’s view is pretty much what St. Paul said. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. The wife is to obey the husband. The love of Christ for the Church was sacrificial unto death. If the husband fufilled his part, the wife would naturally fufill her part.

  34. I’ll give it a shot, but you’ll have to help clarify a few points.

    The questions in order:

    1. You’re actually asking two questions here, I think.
    1a – Am I validly ordained (from a Catholic point of view)?
    1b – Have I received a legitimate call from God to ministry (again, from a Catholic point of view)?

    1a – No. I’m pretty sure the Church would not recognize your ordination as valid for lack of apostolic succession. A priest, to be validly ordained, must be ordained by an equally valid bishop. For a lay minister within the Church – a deacon, for example – a bishop also confers valid ordination.
    1b – It’s entirely possible that you have received a valid call from God to minister in some capacity. You minister within your capacity. People need God. Though some refuse the Church, their need for God is not diminished. You may well be a tool of the Spirit to minister to these people in whatever capacity you’re able (by that I mean that you don’t have the fullness of the Catholic Church, so it’s impossible for you or your congregation to gain that fullness without a validly ordained priest).

    2. “If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?” The short answer is yes, but of course, the short answer won’t work here. First off, you have to be careful what you see as “infallibly taught”. I’ve had plenty of Protestants claim that the Church has taught Doctrine Y, but it really hasn’t. A classic example is the idea of limbo. It was never taught by the Church, but I’ve had several occasions when I was told that it was Church teaching. Another reason that this idea fails is the fact that, given Rome’s view of abortion and contraception, you still have John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Sean Hannity professing to know better AND be in full communion with the Church. Remember, the Catholic Church is one big family. We squabble just like one big family. Not every kid is going to agree with dad.

    3. This one isn’t answerable in its current form. You’d have to know a good bit more about the specific situation. A simpler way to look at it is this – there is a chance that the person would find themselves in a state of serious sin, and a very good chance at that – but the nature of that sin and the culpability thereof would be very dependant upon the situation.

    4. Again, a little clarification is needed. If someone goes forward to receive a blessing, it’s just that. They’re being blessed by the priest in the presence of Christ. Someone that openly disagrees with the Church’s teachings isn’t likely to go forward anyway, so maybe you could clarify a bit here? Are you talking about someone going forward to receive the Eucharist who isn’t Catholic, or is it someone going forward for a blessing?

    5. “Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse?” Matthew 10:32-40, assuming that the person was convinced that what the Church teaches is true. Again, as in #3 above, it would depend on circumstances. But familial objections wouldn’t really hold water. Imagine a slightly different scenario. Would a wife that is brought to believe in Christ be compelled to become Christian over the objections of her pagan husband?

    That’s all the time I have at the moment…and I’m short on time to proof this as well. Regardless, I hope it helps. Short answers are always bad because they never answer enough, but it’s a start.

    Oh, and one last note, if you think you’re frustrated in trying to deal with cafeteria Catholics, you should try doing it from the inside…

  35. And, I didn’t link to the ESV bible. I’m not sure how that happened. I prefer drbo.org for citations with notes.

  36. Regarding number 5 – the wife should join the Church despite her husband’s objections. The wife feels that God is calling her to join the Catholic Church. Should she value her husband’s objections over what God may be calling her to do?

  37. 1.yes&no..(i’ll be short) no, to the fact that there maybe no aposotlic procession(i dont know your denomination)and YES,because we are all called in some way(maybe you could be a good evangelist)…2. yes,they should follow the teachings of the church(lets give them time and see what God does)its like a parent teaching their child,they teach them right from wrong,but do they themselves do right,and if they dont,does that make what they taught wrong…..3. yes,for if you know,REALLY KNOW,it would be sin,it would be denial of Christ and what He left, a visible church,with a visible head(Peter,Pope)….4. I would think simply to be blessed,the reason for them not receiving Our Lord could be many reasons(ask them)…If a person openly disagrees with the church(protestant) they probably dont know,(really dont know) 5.wifes be submissive to your husbands,Husbands love your wifes!!If a spouse knows they should join,then they should join.the church would say follow your co nscience.not and overbearing spouse(thats me saying that)

  38. If you don’t mind, I’ll elaborate on #5 (I posted a link to the catechism on marriage above): The wife’s informed conscience should trump her husband’s desires as it sometimes does for each partner for other issues during a marriage. And it would “fit into the church’s teaching on marriage” – and marriage should also be considered in context as a part of the “whole” of Catholic doctrine & dogma.

  39. 1. There’s a certain validity to your ministry. You are not an ordained priest or deacon, but you do exercise leadership according to your baptism, charisms, and training for the benefit of the Christian people in your congregation. Technically, your status is roughly similar to lay ministers in the Catholic Church (officially, the Catholic Church reserves the term minister to the ordained, but there is a certain middle ground that lacks nomenclature). Now, lay people do receive charisms from the Holy Spirit and also have a calling to a particular mission in the Church. Would Scott Hahn say that his original call to the ministry was invalid? I don’t know, but I doubt it.

    2. You got me. The reception of the faith is more nuanced than many will admit. Pope John Paul II once said that the Church proposes but doesn’t impose. My experience is that the Church educates me over time. Over time, I am led to become more obedient to the ever greater call of Christ.

    3. This situation strikes me as one of primarily intellectual assent. Such a person would do well to persevere in prayer and increased familiarity with the Church until their heart and will are moved toward the Catholic Church.

    4. You might ask the priest ahead of time about this since the gesture is not universally recognized (indeed, in Eastern Catholic parishes, everybody crosses their arms to receive Communion). The main question a Protestant might ask would be: what authority does this man have to bless me? Typically, blessings are to consecrate persons or objects to God. I’m not sure that this gesture is clearer than sitting in one’s seat and praying for Christian unity…

    5. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage should be a union of love and respect, with the partners submitting to one another in love. The spouses should help one another draw closer to God and not impede each other. A husband can’t prevent a wife from coming into the Church, nor a wife her husband.

    Questions 3 and 5 remind me of Charles Peguy, the great French poet…

  40. Here are some attempted answers from a grad student in theology.

    1a. The term “valid” is only used in certain limited situations. “Valid” with respect to a sacrament means that the sacrament has actually taken place. (Thus, if my baptism was invalid, I should be baptized anew.) “Valid” with respect to a juridical act, juridical decision, or juridical procedure means that it has actually taken place. (This is how it is used in civil law, too: if a president appoints an attorney general without notifying the Senate, this appointment is invalid.)

    So if you have ever heard Catholics discuss whether Anglican priests are “valid”, they were using sloppy language. What they should have asked was whether these are “validly ordained priests”. In other words, the question of validity refers to the sacrament of Holy Orders that ordained the person, not to their ministry.

    Protestants and Catholics both agree that Protestant ministers are not ordained by the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Therefore, these clergy are not “validly ordained”. But they aren’t really “invalidly ordained” either, because they don’t even claim to be ordained in the Catholic sense.

    But the question as you posed it — are Protestant ministers “valid” — uses the word improperly, so it’s an unanswerable question.

    1b. Your second question in #1 was hether “if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?” The answer is no, the Catholic Church in no way denies that God can call people to be ministers in Protestant Churches. We are taught by Vatican II that the Holy Spirit works among all Christians. Whether the Spirit’s working might sometimes include calling specific people to ministry has never been discussed in any official Catholic teachings. Any Catholic is free to believe that this never indeed happens, and is free to believe that this does sometimes happen.

    2. If anyone (Protestant, Catholic, atheist, whatever) has shown that the Catholic Church has indeed infallibly taught ‘Y’, then someone who denies doctrine ‘Y’ is not representing Catholic teaching. So yes, if you wish to dialog with Catholicism, you will find yourself frustrated if your dialog is with someone who is Catholic but doesn’t hold such teachings.

    As a side point, a Catholic who denies doctrine ‘Y’ might still be a good Catholic, if their denial is based on real ignorance or on certain other factors.

    In other words, dialog with them might still be, in your phrase, “dialogue with Catholics”, even if it isn’t “dialogue with the teachings of the Catholic Church”.

    Finally, the number of doctrines that have been taught infallibly is much smaller than the number of doctrines that have been taught with a very high level of magisterial authority. If a Catholic accepts the former but denies many of the latter, is he or she still a “cafeteria Catholic”?

    3. Your question has two parts. If someone is actually unable to convert, no sin is committed, because no one is ever obligated to perform an act that they are unable to perform.

    If someone is unable to convert, and chooses not to, this is very possibly a sin, perhaps even a serious sin. To take an extreme case, if someone is truly convinced that the Catholic Church is what she claims to be, and that person refuses to join the Church, then (absent any odd mitigating factors) that would be a grave sin. Grave sins, when performed with full knowledge and consent, are mortal sins. So this is not something to lightly be toyed with.

    At the other extreme, if someone is convinced that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and goes to a Catholic pastor and says “I want to join your Church,” and the pastor says, “Okay, you should take our RCIA class, and you can join the church at the end of it”, then this person would certainly not be sinning, even though this class is causing a “delay” in their joining the church.

    Most cases are between these extremes, and depend on a lot of factors. Is this person avoiding converting because of embarrassment or selfish reasons? Or are they honestly only 99% convinced, and are spending a lot of time to investigate and consider converting?

    4. Most of the sacramental theologians I have talked to have no idea what this blessing-at-communion means. Traditionally the blessing at Mass is the one that happens at the end. Is the blessing at communion somehow a variation of this? I don’t know and I don’t think anyone knows. It’s a recent development and seems to have been the creation of local pastors.

    There are a few theologians who think that this blessing-at-communion should not be happening. But I don’t know if anyone thinks it’s a good idea but should only be given to certain people! In particular, if this blessing IS a good idea, it seems odd to restrict it to Catholics in good standing, when the entire pastoral reason for its creation was to allow non-Catholics and Catholics not in good standing to approach the communion table.

    5a and 5c. I can’t answer these!

    5b. Traditionally the Church has taught that no adult should ever be impeded from joining the Church because of a marriage bond. If the other spouse is unbaptized, then the Church can even dissolve the marriage, in the cases of the “Pauline privilege” (1 Cor 7:10-15; Code of Canon Law 1143) and the “Petrine privilege”. If both spouses are baptized Christians, then the marriage is (presumed to be) valid and sacramental, and so the man and wife are required, in certain ways, to submit to each other. But this submission cannot include things that are sinful or which jeopardize one’s soul, and thus religious conversion cannot ever be compelled or forbidden by a spouse.

  41. Hello!

    Just call me “Joe Catholic”… I’m ready to try to answer your questions:

    Q1. “Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers?”

    For a Catholic, the words “valid” and “invalid” are applicable to sacraments. E.g., A Catholic might ask, “Is the baptism performed by a Mormon valid?”

    So when a person combines “valid” and “minister” as you have in your question, that person seems to me to be asking if the minister has been validly ordained as a priest or deacon. The answer to that question would be “no.” I suppose that if “Protestant” includes “Anglican” and “Episcopalian,” then there’s some wiggle room for the case of Episcopalian priests who were ordained by bishops who were in turn ordained by Orthodox bishops (I understand that this has happened).

    Q2.: “More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?”

    My answer would be “no.” I think that I can believe that a particular Protestant preacher is neither priest nor bishop, yet he is responding to a real call from God to preach the gospel. This is like my responding to the call in my parish to teach catechism, be a lector, direct adult faith formation, etc.

    It seems to me that calls are movements of the heart caused by the Holy Spirit, and these movements are based upon what the person knows of God. So God can move the heart of a non-Catholic to preach the Word, etc.

    2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?” … etc.

    I share your frustration with Cafeteria Catholicism. For example, I believe that there is a “seamless garment” between the Church’s sexual ethics and its ethics of responsibility for helping the poor. I try not to be a Cafeteria Catholic. But maybe you have some other “difficult teaching” in mind.

    I may not embrace every single teaching with 100% enthusiasm–“ah this makes complete sense to me.” To some I say something like what Peter said to Jesus “…to whom shall we go…” But I accept.

    3. “What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time?”

    It seems to me that it would be a sin to decide NEVER to enter into full communion (as in the case of a Protestant)/or/convert (as in the case of a non-Christian). The question of whether to do so immediately versus delaying entry into the Church, on the other hand, may be a matter of prudence. And prudence doesn’t fall under general rules.

    In any case, it seems to me that one who “sees the light” (please excuse what must seem like chauvinism to you) must normally make a decision to take action at some time. But it may be impossible in principle to say how far that delay might reasonably stretch into the future.

    4. “Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake?”

    I don’t think it has any definite objective meaning beyond your request that another person bless you. I suppose such a request implies you think you would benefit from being blessed by a Catholic. But it does not imply that you think you will benefit from that blessing solely for the reason that the one giving it is a Catholic. In other words, it’s pretty open ended.

    I think Catholic theology would call the act of blessing a “sacramental.” It is not a sacrament instituted by Christ, but a pious action that may play a role in one’s growth in faith, hope and love.

    Q5. “What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage?”

    This question is outa my league.

    It seems to me that the prospective Catholic should make a firm committment to becoming Catholic, but may also decide to spend some time overcoming obstacles resulting from one’s spouses hostility to the faith.

    Certainly, Catholics understand non-Christians as having a right to leave their spouse in order to become a Christian (this is called the Pauline privilege). But I am pretty sure that no such privilege is given to non-Catholic Christians who are already sacramentally married. Such marriages are indissoluable. Period.

    I don’t know the solution to the problem you hint at (being indissoluably married but separated by a spouse who is hostile to Catholicism). But I DO believe that the mere fact that a spouse who wishes to join the Catholic faith might end up being dumped by their anti-Catholic spouse… this objection is not sufficient to justify the decision not to become a Catholic. That sort of practical reasoning seems to me to be consequentialism that is foreign to a Catholic understanding of morality.

    Sorry if this is muddle-headed: it’s the best I can do.

    Thanks for your blog: I do appreciate it very much!

    What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?

  42. No one in particular – just liked your questions. Hope I can give you a simple persons view. (visiting from Amy Welborn)

    1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers? More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?

    You would not be a validly ordained priest that could give me the sacraments.
    The friends who know you would know better this answer. I don’t know you at all and don’t know the authenticity of your journey. My sister is in what I believe to be a new age type following but I believe her heart to be true (yet at the same time I see her “reasonings” frustrated at times.) Very difficult without being a reader of souls to answer this without causing more division.
    2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?” Catholics will tell me that I must accept the church’s teaching on subject X, but if I point out that they also must accept the church’s teaching on subject Y, I often hear, “Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I believe.” With all due respect, since when did the beliefs of an individual catholic matter? If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?

    Original sin?? Seriously, there has to be a correct understanding of infallible teaching. A good place to start would be the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is the doctrine of the church. (Doctrine vs dogma – another matter, you must assent to the dogmas of the church if you are a Catholic in good standing, but you can still be in good faith yet have questions about the doctrines. This doesn’t make the doctrine subject to be changed, just gives you the awareness that we all have our struggles.) Other matters are free for discussion. For instance, married priests vs women believing they are called to be priests; one is discipline the other doctrine. As you are aware there are women so convinced of their calling (and I don’t doubt they have another conscious motive except to serve) yet the church teaches NO. We fall to all sorts of judgement on the matter and the Truth continues to elude us. Blind obedience is not what the church wants from you. One can only grow if we can ask why, how, like Mary at the Annunciation versus Sarah who ended up laughing. The concern is for the development of the human person.
    So, matters may be closed for discussion publicly, as in the church will change her ways, but not ever really closed for a truly religious person who cares what these teachings mean. So yeah, you can find many people confused but not necessarily schismatic (someone who should be kicked out o the church We are a church for sinners, perfect need not apply.

    3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?

    HMMMM, If I were in love and never told the person I would never know what I could have. This is an unreasonable position. Forget “sin.” I would say the person is already damned. There are risks that must be taken.
    4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?

    The Blessing is a gesture I don’t understand. It isn’t a necessary part of spiritual communion during mass. This can be done by desire in the pew. Any one can do this. But anyone can receive a blessing. My six year old gets a blessing. If you openly disagree with Church teaching, (and are not seeking reception) I don’t see why you would want a blessing from a Catholic priest. I don’t have my daughter receive a blessing from a lay Eucharistic minister. This is silly to me. I am her mother. I give her blessings. Her father and the priest are the others that I can reasonably desire blessing my daughter.

    5) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage? Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?

    I wish there would be a specific example. Would her spouse have her seek an abortion? This is scandalous! IF I knew her I would personally support her through this to help her keep her humanity intact and not be reduced to a damaged delusion of happiness. This can get really sticky. For this kind of scenario. I wonder what other scenarios are there??

    School; the children should be raised Catholic, but I can see how this can be a problem. Especially if the spouses are in conflict over the faith. I would hope both parties would be supported in their faith journey (we’re never done) and help the family maintain unity over as many matters as possible. The wife needs a priest that she can trust and she should not be afraid to seek one to help in these matters. One that is orthodox and full of faith (I think one can be verbally orthodox and have no idea what they actually follow) One that can be open to dialogue with the husband’s minister and help the wife. My first recommendation for the wife would be to foster a devotion to the mother of St Augustine. His dad was pagan (I am not calling my Christian brothers pagan!). The point being her incredible faith. Her faith was rewarded with the conversion of her son. Beautiful witness.

    We can agree – one should always preach the Gospel, using words only when necessary. (Live it in your very flesh)

    God bless you and may you find a friend in Christ

    A mom, not thoroughly “learned” – no degree in theology. Just on this journey to the Infinite!

  43. With regard to going for a blessing in the “communion line”, this is really an unauthorizied innovation that should not be taking place for anyone who will not be receiving communion, whether or not they are Catholic or not. This is something added to the liturgy, in some parishes, by some priests, I presume, none of whom have any authority to do so. After Communion, at every Mass, the priest blesses everyone in the church – no matter who they may be. The business of turning the Communion procession into a blessing line is part of the notion, common these days, that everybody must get something. Supposedly, bad manners and hurtful to ones “self-esteem” to make distinctions and legitimate exclusions.

  44. 1) The difficulty with asking whether Protestant ministers are valid ministers is that “ministers” is not really a category in Catholic theology. Certainly Protestant ministers are not considered to have validly received the sacrament of ordination (aside from some debate over Anglicans). Thus, they can’t do things reserved only for ordained priests, like administer the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.

    But they may have been *called* to do such things. The life of a Protestant minister may be the incomplete living out of a vocation to the ordained priesthood. (Incomplete in that it doesn’t include all the sacraments, and in that all Christians are called to full communion with the Church, not necessarily incomplete in holiness).

    I suppose that if the minister were a woman, a Catholic might be obliged to confess that they are not called to the ordained priesthood.

    2) Dissent within the Church is a difficult issue. Probably most Catholics in America disagree with at least one official doctrine: contraception, homosexuality, abortion, and women priests being the most common topics of dissent. More conservative Catholics tend to find themselves outnumbered and are somewhat more likely to turn to the Internet to find support for their ideas. So a lot of Catholic bloggers rail against dissent from Church teachings; and they almost always mean just those ones I listed. (Sometimes they throw in disagreements over liturgical issues, or dissent on Eucharistic and Marian teachings).

    As for demonstrating the infallibility of an issue, it may be that they are not convinced by your argument that it really is infallible. It should be the case that infallibility proved means accepting the doctrine, yes, but people are people, so it is never really that easy. (If it were, there wouldn’t have been any splits over doctrine in the first place). But infallibility has a lot of subtlety to it, so “proving” it can be difficult anyhow.

    3) Certainly someone who is convinced the Catholic Church is true has an obligation to join it if they can. Does this obligation trump all other obligations? I don’t know. I suppose they ought to try to talk to a Catholic priest about it and see what he says. It might be possible to convert in secret, for all I know. (Matthew 10:37-38 might be relevant, but that’s just my own opinion).

    4) What an interesting (and amusing) question. As far as I know, someone who goes up to be blessed instead of receiving communion is saying that they would rather be blessed than sit in a pew by themselves. I’ve never heard of receiving a blessing being taken to mean intent to join the Church or a positive view of the Church. (Although I suppose it would be odd for someone who hates the Church to want to receive a blessing from a Catholic).

    5) Submission in marriage is one of those topics that Catholics in America usually deal with by completely ignoring it. Most aren’t aware of Church history that relates to this topic, except for a vague idea that we don’t oppress women anymore by holding to that ancient nonsense about submission.

    As recently as 1930, a pope upheld the principle of wifely submission (Casti Connubii). In 1988, Pope John Paul II put out Mulieris Dignitatem, which basically said there should be “mutual submission” of both husband and wife to each other. I’ve run across any number of Catholic wives online who try for proper submission. But many Catholics look at JP II’s words and reject any outright authority of the husband over the wife. Online, this gets debated sometimes, generally without anyone convincing anyone to change their mind.

    As for whether a wife may join the Church against her husband’s wishes, her submission to God outranks her submission to her husband. If she believes in good conscience that God wants her to join the Church, she is obliged to submit to Him. If she is unsure whether she ought to believe that God’s will for her is to join the Church over her husband’s objections, I would recommend talking to a Catholic priest about it.

  45. I’m not going to swear that I’m a knowledgeable Catholic but I try not to be cafeteria.
    1) I’m not sure what minister means in this context. Are you asking if you were really called to be a priest if you were Catholic? Or are you asking if God has a mission for you to call others to a knowledge of him? I would guess no, and yes.
    2) It should be the end of the conversation, yes. Especially if you find it in the Catechism. (Unless you are talking about just war since people disagree passionately about what the Catechism means there. The precepts of the Church are another tricky Catechism point but I doubt if that’s your problem either.)
    3) I think the Church believes that you should always follow an informed conscience, meaning in this case that the hypothetical would certainly be sinning on some level if he/she chose not to openly convert, if able. What does unable mean? If we’re talking about physical abuse or possible divorce, prudence and a really good priest counselor would have to weigh in on what to do.
    4) As Father Fox has remarked on his blog, going forward at communion for a blessing, while common, is not a prescribed action. I think that would mean that doing it can really mean anything. I think the least assumption would be that the blessee had enough respect and reverence for the priest to think that his blessing meant something.
    5) Ultimately you need someone better than me for this but, I am fairly sure that the Church teaches the primacy of conscience. I do not think that is ever delegated to the husband in the Catholic Church. In the New Testament a wife who converted to Christianity was supposed to give her husband a choice as far as staying or going but if he wanted her she was supposed to stay. I’m not sure how relevant that is nowadays.

  46. Kathleen Miller says

    You have come up with some excellent questions. I’m Catholic, so here’s how I’d respond.

    1. Ministry is a call from God. Among the ministries, as Paul enumerates them, are teaching, exhortation, healing, etc. I think all Christians are called to ministry. So, obviously, I think Protestant ministers are called by God to ministry; and that many of them are highly gifted, as well.

    2. Probably one of the reasons a lot of your dialogue with Catholics gets around to the topic of “cafeteria Catholics” is that there are so many of them. Protestants by another name. Some Protestants I know are better Catholics than most Catholics, even without being able to enjoy the sacraments. Go figure.
    That said, assent to Church teachings is not meant to be blind and robotic. In my experience, it took me a while to appreciate the logic and wisdom of a few of them, and, in those cases the appropriate responses were to obey them while continuing to grapple with them intellectually, and to refrain from complaining publicly about them. As a practical matter, I should mention, I’ve had a lot more irritation with non-doctrinal, non-dogmatic aspects of Catholicism like sappy music and various bureaucratic personalities than with doctrine.

    3. You probably should have a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the documents of Vatican II, especially Lumen Gentium, for solid definitions of the church. THe following is “theology according to me.”
    The church has a doctrine of “baptism of desire”: A person counts as baptized if it is their desire to be baptized. I suspect that a person who truly desires to convert to Catholicism counts as Catholic in the eyes of God. Their experience is terribly sad, though: being on the outside looking in; hungering for Eucharist but not able to taste it; longing for the solace and grace of Confession, etc. etc.
    My mental picture of such a person is a child with his nose flattened on the outside of the bakery window while the baker is inviting him to come in and get a free eclair. The concept of “sin” does not come to my mind when I contemplate this situation, but why would anybody want to continue any degree of separation from God?
    That said, I feel terribly sad for one dear friend, the wife of a retired Protestant minister who still works as a weekend preacher. What would happen to their pension and income if they converted to Catholicism? Would they spend their “golden years” alienated from all their friends and colleagues? Heroism is the word that comes to mind. Jesus talks about it in the middle of Luke, and it’s not easy.
    One thing lots of Protestants don’t know is that they really are allowed to read Catholic books (e.g. Fulton Sheen, Chesterton), to pray “Catholic” prayers like the stations of the cross and the rosary, and to receive “radiation treatments” in front of the tabernacle in a Catholic church. A lot of the delight of Catholicism does not require swimming the whole Tiber right away.

    4. Asking for a blessing is asking for a blessing. I think that’s what it means. When I attend a Methodist communion service with my husband’s mother that’s what I do, and I feel blessed.

    5. As a very happily married Catholic woman, I think the biblical ideas of love and submission make perfect sense. Guys already learn submission on the football field and in the army, so Paul reminds them to love. Women find love quite natural, so Paul reminds them to submit. Actually both are supposed to be “submitting to one another.” If a husband truly loves his wife, and she is convinced that her spiritual life (as opposed to simply her feelings) would be enhanced by becoming Catholic, he owes her very very serious consideration and respect. If the husband is truly rooted in his Protestant congregation, it seems to me that it would be loving of her to continue to go to church with him and to attend Mass at a different time. Catholic Mass schedules are remarkably accommodating. Her genuine growth in holiness should eventually attract him to the fulness of the faith. But in the meantime, her access to Protestant music and other graces that are often abundant in Protestant congregations should help her be a good Catholic.
    Incidentally, my husband is a convert from Methodism. At first, he was merely attracted by the idea of us worshipping together. (We were dating at the time.) But then, when he, an intellectual, discovered how much fun there was to be had studying Catholic theology, he truly felt he had come home.

    Blessings and peace,
    Kathleen Miller

  47. I’m not a Church authority, and I don’t play one on TV. I’m a Catholic wife and home schooling Mom of 8 kids, who has been studying the Faith since Jesus and His incredible love became real to me at the age of 15. I’m now 43. If there are ANY errors in the following it is due to my own sinfulness and ignorance.

    1) The Church recognizes a difference between a minister of a denomination and valid ordination. You are a minister, not an ordained priest. The Church sees the difference in that you cannot, in persona Christi, consecrate bread and wine to become the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. You cannot, because you are not validly ordained, bind and loose sins confessed to you by a repentant sinner as was given the Apostles to do by Jesus. You can baptize, as any baptized Christian can do,(Catholics may only in an emergency).

    2) Many Catholics have been consumed by consumerism. They try to pick and choose between teachings. Our nature is fallen, and of its own volition, it can’t get up, so to speak, and like Jacob-Israel struggle with many teachings they don’t properly understand. Many Catholics were quite poorly catechised from the early 1960’s until the present day because many priests and bishops began substitution pop psychology for the Sacred Teachings and Traditions passed on to the Catholic Church by the Apostles. Here’s something for you — hold their feet to the fire, and don’t let go until they think through their inability to accpet Church teaching. Thousands of martyrs have died horrid deaths for those Teachings and Traditions!

    3) The Church recognizes that there are many reasons – some quite valid – that total conversion is not possible at the time. The decision to put it off for whatever reason is between them and God, but the reason must be very serious, because at the time of judgement, we will be accountable to God.

    4) If you are seriously struggling, like Jacob-Israel, over issues of the Catholic Faith, going up to a priest at the time of Communion for a blessing is asking the Lord to assist you in that struggle. The priest is a man of Christ, and is standing in the place of Christ on the altar. It is asking the blessing of Christ, through the priest, when you are not free for whatever reason to receive Holy Eucharist. Anyone may ask a priest for a blessing, whether seeking to join the Church or not.

    5) The Church has always taught that women had a particular dignity that must be cherished and respected, even when the culture did not agree (and often it did not). Husbands are to lead, but women are the family’s heart, and submission must be seen in light of Ephesians – “as Christ loves the Church”. You may want to read John Paul II’s letter to families “Familaris Consortium” to get a better understanding, or the catechism of the Catholic Church.

    About part two of 5) re conversion of a wife over the objection of a husband, this is something that an individual must work out with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. I have known women who have converted, and women who have patiently waited. If they know their marriage is in jeopardy – they usually wait. However, if a woman understands that the Catholic Church is the true Church founded by Jesus and passed on to the Apostles to ‘go into the world baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” and preaching the Good News – would a husband who claimed to truly loved her hold her back from “working out her salvation in fear and trembling” where she believed the Lord Himself called her to go?

  48. Marion (Mael Muire) says

    Hello, Mike,

    What thoughtful and interesting questions you have asked. I hope you will receive many answers from faithful Catholics who have been serious about their faith for quite some time, and that these will be helpful to you.

    1.Q. Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers?

    A. Of course, they are valid ministers, and are to be respected by all as men of the cloth. There can be no doubt in the mind of a Catholic that a sincere and faithful Protestant minister receives special gifts from God to do his job.

    That said, a validly ordained Catholic priest has the power to do things that no Protestant minister is able to do – particularly to confect the Eucharist. And a validly ordained Catholic bishop has the power to do things that neither a non-episcopally ordained Catholic priest nor a Protestant minister can do, which is to ordain priests who have the power to confect the Eucharist.

    More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?

    I don’t think that is the case, at all. The Protestant communions are here; they are with us, and through them Our Lord Jesus Christ ministers to millions of His followers. As a Catholic, my supposition would be that Jesus would very much prefer that all Christian believers – Protestant as well as Orthodox – would join the Catholic Church at once and without delay. But I also believe that He would also prefer lots of things that aren’t going to happen any time soon, and in His wonderful kindness, mercy, patience, and Providential love, the Lord leads each one of us on our journey to Him. “God works all things together for the good for those who love Him.” And so, the Protestant communions, through which the Lord ministers to His people, must have buildings and seminaries and ministers, and to that end, the Lord must certainly call ministers to serve these communities of Christians.

    This is not to say that having once been called, one day the Lord might not see fit to call such a Protestant minister out of his own congregation and into the Catholic Church. If such a call should come, he should follow. “As it seems good to the Lord, so let it be done.”

    2.Q If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?

    A. Thank you! I have a particularly unChristian urge to klunk together the heads of cafeteria Catholics when I hear them speak in their cafeteria-ish ways.

    I just pray for them, anymore.

    Such people are, unfortunately, dunderheads. Some day, some day, God willing, many of them may come around. I hope they do! Meanwhile, there are plenty, plenty of Catholics with their heads screwed on straight who are not like that. Those are the ones who are worth talking to.

    3. Q. What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?

    A. That’s a bit of a sticky wicket, Mike. In a hypothetical case, the man who is convinced that the Catholic faith is true, but steadfastly refuses to embrace that truth, will have to answer for it. In real life, I don’t believe it’s really proper for one Christian to inform another categorically, “that one is committing a sin!” Instead, I would say that such a one ought to beseech the Lord to enlighten him so that he might find the way to follow where the Lord wishes to lead him. Perhaps such a person would also benefit from a few conversations with a wise and holy Catholic priest.

    4) Q. Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?

    I think it means that the Church wishes to invite everyone in the congregation to join in the Communion procession, but that those who know they ought not to receive the Sacrament may discretly signal to the priest distributing Communion that they would like a blessing instead. Persons who disagree with the Church’s teaching are welcome to participate and receive the blessing.

    5) Q. What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage?

    A. The Church’s view is well summarized by Saint Paul’s dictum, “Wives be submissive to your husbands.”

    Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?

    The Church does enjoin upon wives a spirit of submissiveness to their husbands but even more so, submissiveness on the part of both, to the Lord. I don’t think the Church would ask a wife to be submissive if her husband asked her to do what was unlawful or objectively sinful. I think the Church would point out to such a husband and such a wife that there are transcendent truths that supercede all human considerations – “If any one comes to me without hating (i.e., preferring) his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple”. What Christian man in good conscience would dare to interpose himself between her and God, attempting to deprive his wife of her liberty of conscience? That seems a shocking usurpation of her human dignity and freedom, most disrespectful of that which God has bestowed on her and requires of her. How could such an attitude on the husband’s part not be viewed as disrespectful to the Lord Himself?

    Thank you, Mike, for the opportunity to correspond with you. May God bless you and your family.

  49. If we’re talking about ancient practice, anyone not the faithful was kicked out half way through the service so that the authorities would not know who the real Christians were. Thus no-one not of the faithful would get a blessing in the actual service, though presumably they would at other times if asked.

    Speaking as Orthodox, and presumably Eastern Catholic, the blessing comes at a different time in the service (later) and is traditionally for the faithful not taking communion, but later become for everyone.

  50. marymargaret says

    OK, Michael, I’m going to take a shot at answering these, even though I wouldn’t call myself the most knowledgeable Catholic. I hope I understand my faith well enough to answer.

    1) The Catholic church would not consider your ordination valid, because ordination (of a Deacon, Priest, or Bishop) must be administered by a validly ordained Bishop in direct succession of the Apostles. However, we would certainly consider you a valid minister, in the sense that people are called by God into different ministries, which do not necessarily involve ordination to the priesthood. We believe in the universal priesthood of believers who must minister in many ways: teaching, preaching (not during the homily at Mass, but certainly outside of that), comforting the dying, ministering to the sick, etc. God gives different gifts and calls different people to different ministries. It is not for us to say whom God calls, but the Church must determine if there is a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

    2) Absolutely correct here. If you can demonstrate that the Church teaches Y infallibly, then Catholics must accept the teachings of the Church. Period. We are allowed to struggle, even doubt, but not dissent from these teachings. (Yes, I know Catholics do dissent, but, you are correct, one’s personal opinions are not important. Obedience is a dirty word in today’s lexicon, but Catholics are called to obedience to the word of God, as given to us by the Magisterium –Sacred Tradition–the teachings of the Church.)

    3) This one is difficult. If you are convinced that the Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus Himself created, and the Holy Spirit protects, and you choose of your own free will not to convert, then yes, I would say this is a grave sin–in essence, rejecting God’s Will. If, however, there are reasons that you believe that you cannot convert at this time, that is really a matter between you and God Almighty. Basically, therefore, my final analysis is–we cannot judge your heart and soul (and should not pretend that we can)–that is for God alone.

    4) You may go forward and receive a blessing, if you believe that such a blessing is valid. Even if you do not believe all that the Church teaches, it does not follow that your fellow person (Priest or not) cannot ask God’s blessing upon you. For Catholics, a priest’s blessing is different, as he is acting in Persona Christus (apologies for lack of Latin). Catholics should also not receive Jesus’ Body and Blood if they are not properly disposed to do so. Going forward for a blessing, is not wrong, in my opinion, be you Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise.

    5) Most difficult question. Although I believe that the Catholic church teaches the husband’s headship of the family, a wife always retains free will as a personal creation of God. She would have to consider, prayerfully, if her formal, public conversion would injure the family. No one should deliberately injure others that good may come of it (my opinion). On the other hand, we must follow God before our husband and family. As you might guess, I am ambivalent here. I hope that you will get a better answer from a more knowledgeable Catholic than I can give.

    On a personal note, I know that you do not agree with all the Catholic Church teaches, but you can discuss your differences without becoming confrontational or insulting. I wish more of my Catholic brothers and sisters could discuss our differences as charitably as you do here. May God bless you, Michael, and your family with you. We are very lucky to have you and our other non-Catholic brothers and sisters to show us what true Christian charity is. We have much to learn from you. Thank you.