Why I Became a Catholic

I'm a Catholic: by choice. I was born into a nice, normal, mainstream Protestant church. I accepted what I was taught there — and still do, to a great extent. It's not so much that I rejected the faith I was brought up in, as learned that it's a small piece of a much larger reality.

Curiosity and This Catholic

The area I grew up in was virulently anti-Catholic. My parents weren't — but I couldn't help but pick up the local culture's message about the Whore of Babylon. It's "Queen of Whores" now: tomato, tomahto.

Lurid rants about the evils of the Catholic Church got me curious: how could an organization so corrupt, so wicked, be allowed to exist in a civilized society? More to the point, why couldn't I see any evidence of all those evil deeds?

My curiosity was aroused. Not much, but enough for me to have a sort of 'In Basket' in my mind for facts about the Catholic Church. Facts, not assertions: I knew the difference between the two before I left my teens.

Decades passed, and eventually I became a Catholic.

There was a woman involved: my wife. I didn't sign up with her church to be a nice guy, or to fit into her family. That's not the sort of thing I'd do. But she did help me learn about the Church.

Answers That Make Sense

One of the big reasons that I converted was a preference that things make sense. I'm a very emotional man, but I try to think with my central nervous system and feel with my endocrine system: not the other way around.

A system of belief that's mostly an emotional rush and slogans wouldn't appeal to me.

Something that I could still believe when I felt like all the color and beauty was drained from the world — that, I'd pay attention to.

A huge turning point came just before my wife and I got married. I knew that I'd have to agree that our children, if any, would be raised in the Catholic faith: which meant I had to start a sort of crash course of study, to learn just what I was agreeing to.

One of the items was the Church's stand on artificial contraceptives. I really, really, didn't want the Catholic Church to be right about that. Remember, I'd been raised as a nice, normal American.

The key document for that issue was Humanae Vitae. I got the official English translation and studied it. I'm fairly sharp, and my experience with other Christian denominations suggested that I'd find gaps in the Vatican's logic I could drive a truck through.

I failed. I didn't find a gap in the document's reasoning. So, I went through it again. I must have missed something, I figured. Second time, same result.

I could reject the conclusions of Humanae Vitae, but to do so I'd have to reject ideas like God being real and having created the world. I was not willing to do that: hormonally-addled or not.

So, grumbling all the way, I acquiesced to the Church's position on artificial contraceptives. Decades later, I'm glad I did — for aesthetic as well as 'spiritual' reasons. But that's another topic.

That experience taught me a respect for the Catholic Church that no other outfit had earned. Eventually, it was a case of 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.'


Besides, by then I'd found out who currently held the authority that my Lord gave Peter. (Matthew 16:13-19) As I've said before:
"That authority has been passed along to each of the Popes since Peter's day — and through the hierarchy to the parish priest, down the street from my house.1 Thanks to the successors of Peter, I have a direct connection to my Lord, and the Last Supper. And Golgotha. In a way. (Catechism, 1326, 1330, 1545)"
(June 15, 2011)
Some Popes, including two from the 20th century, are canonized Saints.

Others were anything but.

I'm impressed by the saintly Popes. But knowing about Popes who were — ethically challenged? — helped convince me that my Lord's authority had been passed from Peter to Linus, and so on to Benedict XVI and now Francis.

I knew that the Catholic Church had endured, with an unbroken transfer of authority, for nearly two thousand years: despite the fall of Rome, the occasional knave like Benedict IX, and the Black Death.

Human institutions don't last that long. Not with that sort of continuity.

It's a Big Church

Another appeal the Catholic Church had for me was that it really was "catholic:" universal.

Many denominations I'd run into over the years were, I think, heavily rooted in the members' culture. Some seemed to be a sort of social club where like-minded people could get together and congratulate each other on feeling that, for example, playing cards, Bingo, and certain kinds of music were bad.

The Catholic Church has rules, and there are a few things that we're simply not allowed to do. But that's just part of the picture. We're not tied to one country, or one culture, or one ethnic group. Catholics are certainly not people who get together because we all like the same things.

I shared one way I've explained Catholicism to my kids, in another post:
  • You want rousing music?
    • We got rousing music!
  • You want quiet meditation?
    • We got quiet meditation!
  • You want ancient rites?
    • We got ancient rites!
  • You want polka with your Mass?
    • We got polka with your Mass!
  • You name it?
    • We got it!
You won't find that list in the Catechism, but I think it's a fairly reasonable summary of what I've learned about Catholicism.
(April 19, 2010)

Brian Gill, September 22, 2014

More-or-less-related posts:
(List of posts revised Easter Sunday, March 8, 2012)

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.