QUAERITUR: How can I leave the Catholic Church?

From a reader:

I joined the Church through RCIA about five years ago. My experience as a Catholic has been pretty unsatisfactory and I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t made a mistake. If I do decide that I’m not a Catholic after all should I renounce my new faith? Is there a formal process to do so or should I just walk away? (It seems more honest and honorable if I were to formally pursue a separation).

I suppose you would have to make a formal act of apostacy.  You would probably need to present a letter to the pastor of your parish, or to the place where you were baptized/received, or your local bishop, stating your intention.

That said, if you believe that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ and is His true Church, and you leave it anyway, you cannot be saved.  (Lumen gentium 14)

Give this time. Just because Holy Church’s members have flaws, that doesn’t mean that the Catholic Church is not Christ’s Church. And there is a difference between questions and doubts.

As a matter of fact, Christ gave us the Catholic Church because we are flawed, not in spite of our flaws.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Nora says:

    I am probably opening a can of worms, but: Don’t go! We want you here. In what way are you finding the church different from what you understood it to be when you joined?

  2. br.david says:

    Well, with the new clarification of the CIC, one can NEVER “leave” the Church. By virtue of baptism, the indelible mark is forever upon the soul of the individual…. A nuance that I think is missed by many.

  3. ghlad says:

    Prayers for the person in question. We’ve all probably been close enough to the place where this person currently is to relate to this dark night of the soul. Patience and Trust, friend!

  4. glvg says:

    I would hope that your pastor would act, er, pastorally, and find out the difficulties you are having with the Church, and answer any questions you may be having. RCIA can be pretty hit-or-miss, and it’s really only the beginning of your education as a convert to the faith.

    My experience as a Catholic has been pretty unsatisfactory

    Yeah, join the club!

    I’m sure everyone here will be praying for this questioner.

  5. Philangelus says:

    To the reader: before leaving the Church, leave your parish. Find a new parish. You’d be stunned by how different some parishes are from one another, and you might find whatever it is you need in a different place. Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you to the best place to nurture your faith. I will pray for you too.

  6. traditionalorganist says:

    I don’t understand what an “unsatisfactory” experience could be. I for one, am always unsatisfied, because I am sinful. And the Church too is full of very sinful people; always has, always will. It is easy to feel that the Church doesn’t give us enough, but the usual answer to our problems is that we don’t give the Church enough. Obviously, I’m not talking about money, but about something deeper. I found myself constantly getting annoyed at little things throughout Mass, and in various problems with the Church, so I started a chant schola and volunteered as an organist. It helps alleviate my selfishness, which at times is extremely pervasive, and forces me to recognize that I am a servant, who must trust his Master completely.

  7. Gabriel Austin says:

    It seems to me that you have past the “honeymoon” stage and are bumping up against the harsh realities of sin. Every saint and every Catholic has been in your position. It is called the dark night of the soul. Did you really believe that Satan would give up so easily? Now you have to do the hard work. It is called hanging on.
    If ever you have started an exercise regime, you will quickly learn that there comes that period when the first fine rapture is exhausted. That’s when you have to hang on.

  8. Faustina says:

    Until recently my experience as a Catholic has been pretty unsatisfactory as well. However, I would never, ever leave.

  9. keithp says:

    I would echo the “Please don’t leave” sentiment. Please talk with your Pastor. I don’t know the issues encountered but your salvation is worth a frank discussion with your Pastor.

    I was away from the Church for a very long time. Primarly from laziness. Since I returned, the thought of NOT being Catholic, is unthinkable for me. I don’t mean to be flip, but this isn’t the Rotary Club, you don’t just quit. The consequences for your soul are horrific and tragic.

    Also, prayers for this person from me too. God is loving and forgiving. Talk to Him about the troubles….

  10. Fr Matthew says:

    I’ll keep this person in my prayers too, and echo the advice given above – hold on, maybe try a different parish, and remember that the sins of the members of the Church Militant do not impugn the Church as a whole. The reader didn’t specify the source of discontent, but it would be good to sit down and talk it over with a really informed and faith-filled Catholic.

  11. I’ve had many unsatisfactory experiences as a Catholic. But I will be the first person to admit that most of that is because I was equating the Church itself (the Faith and the Church founded by Jesus Christ) with its people – snobby parishioners, holier-than-thou parish council members, liberal religious sisters, etc. The Catholic Church is much more than its people. Please don’t go. You answered God’s call by becoming united with His Holy Church, He loves you and will never abandon you. I will definitely pray for you, that you find peace of heart and a good priest or religious with whom you can work out what’s caused the ‘bloom to come off the rose.’

  12. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I am a 4 year convert and have recently had the same feelings. I have decided to stick it out and talk to my pastor even if he doesn’t want to talk to me, I will insist.

    You can change parishes but sometimes there is a systemic problem that is the same in all parishes, especially large ones where people can get lost easily. In my particular case I have been abused by the in-crowd that is in favor that runs the gossip club. Unfortunately they are the same people who are lauded for their volunteering for everything. But somebody has to stay and stand up for what it right. The little people do count. I am too sick to volunteer but I can pray so that is what I do.

    Unfortunately, sometimes the problem is the pastor’s dysfunctional behavior too.

    Boy, I sure wish I could take you to lunch! But please don’t leave, we need you. Jesus needs you. Pray really hard for whatever your problem is and God will show you a way. In my case, I am still praying but I am trying to encourage myself here too.

    Boy, this one really struck a chord.

  13. therecusant says:

    This comment is for both the original reader and for the Banjo Pickin’ Girl.

    I’ve never been tempted to abandon the Catholic faith for one simple reason. I believe the Church is who and what She claims to be. I am willing, therefore, to endure anything – provided God gives me the grace of perseverance. To do otherwise would be gravely sinful and would put my soul at risk. While frustrations abound, it really is that simple: is the Church who and what She claims to be?

  14. DavidJ says:

    @Banjo pickin girl
    Sadly, wherever you find more than a couple people, chances are you’ll find some gossip. That’s not a problem with the Church, just a problem, with people.

  15. lucy says:

    Dear Soul,

    I feel your pain. I joined through RCIA back in 1993. It was a waste of time to go to RCIA, and my intended husband, at that time, had to undo what was done at the meetings. It then took me six years to read myself into a true conversion. Thankfully, I had a wonderful woman in my life who owned our local Catholic bookstore. She refused to stock anything against Church teaching and handed me book after book to read. This formed me very well. I’m now going in the right direction.

    I’m not perfect by any means and am a lowly sinner, however, I persevere. We all have to work hard to become holy. The Church does sometimes let us down, because she, too, is a house full of sinners. Sometimes our pastors let us down. We can’t go to church for the pastor or the people. Remember, we go to church for Jesus and you can only find Him in the Catholic Church in the Host. Yes, he lives in the other churches as well, but it’s not the full truth you will be receiving.

    I will pray for you as I pray for all those who are crying out for real Catholicism.

  16. Henry Edwards says:

    In my particular case I have been abused by the in-crowd that is in favor that runs the gossip club. Unfortunately they are the same people who are lauded for their volunteering for everything. But somebody has to stay and stand up for what it right.

    Wow, Banjo picking girl. Talk about a chord that will ring true with good and decent folks in many Catholic parishes! Thank you for this.

  17. disco says:

    Leaving the Church isn’t like leaving your wireless provider. You don’t just pack up and leave because you don’t like the service. However, you may defer payment on your early termination fee (ie- your immortal soul) till the Day of Judgement.

  18. priests wife says:

    Praying for you, questioning convert!
    Banjo girl- I’m glad you are trying to work through this- be positive at all times- teach those gossips a lesson- let them overhear you saying to a friendly person- WOW what a great homily, what beautiful flowers today- what great singing- did you see that cute baby, etc,etc- slay them with your positive nature. They’ll feel ashamed.

  19. PS says:

    Don’t leave. If you can’t change parishes, try a different devotion. Try a rosary every morning. Everyone goes through “dry” spells. Try reading St. John of the Cross or Cloud of Unknowing. There are riches on the other end of your dry spell that you will despair of ever having and that will fall into your lap.

  20. Paulo says:

    I suppose that it is important to qualify the idea of “unsatisfactory” experience… if the issue lies at the spiritual level, then, sure, pastoral care will make a world of a difference, and finding an appropriate spiritual director would be the primary task! On the other hand, if an “unsatisfactory” experience is caused mainly by being at odds with the moral (and social) teachings of the Church (I will call it the “Anne Rice Syndrome”; http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2011/02/anne-rice-catholic-church-is-dishonorabledishonestan-immoral-church.html), then, a quote found therein seems appropriate: “We do have the duty of humbling ourselves; we have never the right to humble the Church.” An interesting reading on “de-baptism” can be found at Msgr. Charles Pope blog: http://blog.adw.org/2011/01/sign-me-off-for-the-christian-jubilee-on-the-disturbing-trend-of-de-baptisms-in-europe/. I also second Lucy’s comment: read, read, read, specially the Church Fathers and Doctors, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  21. Andy F. says:

    For those that may not understand how someone could leave the Faith or have difficulties over such things, thank God daily for the fact that you haven’t experienced such problems. I am a convert with two semi-fundamentalist evangelical parents. I have been conditioned as their good son to please them in all I have ever done. Also, I believe in the commandment to honor our parents. These things kept in mind plus becoming Catholic is a balancing act on a real cross. It is not Satan who keeps me up at night so much as it is fellow Christians who hurl their rhetoric at me constantly.

    To the one contemplating leaving, I offer Scripture: John 6:67-69. There is no where else to turn.

  22. Banjo pickin girl says:

    It’s hardest when the priests are involved in the problem too and that is what causes the real doubts about indefectibility, the nature of ordination, etc.

    We have to not give up. A parish that is supposed to be one of the holiest in the diocese and run by an Order is also going to be the one targeted most readily by the Evil One. We have to pray and then pray harder. I have learned recently that crying a little is sometimes acceptable too. But then pray some more.

    Sometimes you can find somebody to help work things out. The really old people are usually best, they have seen it all and have perspective.

  23. RichR says:

    I, too, would be interested in knowing the particular reasons for those who are unsatisfied with their Catholic experiences. There are a number of problems in the Church right now that are, thankfully, being corrected by a new generation of faithful (clergy and lay) who don’t have the 60’s stuck on the brain. Whether it’s doctrine, liturgy, spirituality, morality, or simple Christian living, the faithful coming up through the ranks are very dedicated to their faith and their eternal salvation.

    I always remember what Dr. Scott Hahn said, “It’s never been easier to become a saint. All you have to do is hold fast to the Church’s teachings and you stick out like a sore thumb.”

  24. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Andy F., That is the scripture verse I use when tempted to leave. Our parish has been considered the parish of refuge from liturgical abuses, etc. But now it changes and we have to fight for it back. There really is no place else to go around here for an N.O. parish.

  25. PghCath says:

    Don’t go! Please know that many people are now praying for you. I echo the suggestion to change parishes – hopefully you live in an area where that is a realistic option. Perhaps you could re-explore whatever caused you to enter the Church in the first place. (If it was a particular saint, read more about him or her, or read about a new saint). Or try praying the Liturgy of the Hours. When I was in college and felt “bored” with the Church, the LOTH gave me a new and daily connection to it that reinvigorated my faith. If the homilies at your church are bland, watch Fr. Corapi on EWTN on Sunday nights.

    No matter what you do, please please PLEASE do not leave because you’ve had a bad experience with a certain priest or certain parishioners. Just like any organization, there are jerks in the Catholic Church. There are also a lot of excellent people; look hard enough and you’ll find them.

  26. paxetbonum says:

    Dear “reader”-

    Stay with us. We are all sinners, and we all have need of forgiveness and mercy, from God and from each other. The Apostles themselves confronted the very situation you find yourself in; please read, and then re-read, John 6:26-69. The most pertinent verses are-

    66-69: ” From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus to the Twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”

    “Lord, to whom shall we go?” In fact, there is no other Church to go to; Jesus only founded one Church, God drew you to it, you found it and have joined it; there is no other.

    Stay with us.

  27. Kevin B. says:

    This Easter will mark six years since, by the grace of God, I was baptized, confirmed, and received First Communion. Before that beautiful night, I had spent approximately four years in prayer and study agonizing over which church to formally join. As I’m sure any recent convert will attest, the Catholic Church one reads about and the Catholic Church one finds in many suburban parishes can seem like two completely different churches, if not two different universes. In my RCIA courses, I learned a lot more about everyone’s feelings than I did of Church doctrine. The liturgy was frozen in the 1970s with chewy croutons for Hosts, glass chalices for the Precious Blood, liturgical dancers on Good Friday, and homilies that explained away miracles (“Jesus didn’t multiply the loaves and fishes, he inspired everyone to share their lunches,”) and affirmed us in our okayness.

    Many times I’ve approached our Lord in the tabernacle wanting to scream, “My God, what has happened to your Church?! Why have you allowed all of this?!” And in my darkest moments I too have wondered if I made the right decision. Eventually I realized that it has ever been so. There have been bad priests ever since Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. There have been scandals at the highest level ever since the world awoke and “groaned to find itself Arian.” Good Catholics have seen their Church suffer immensely for forty years. And our Lord is suffering with us now just as He did back then. I’ve been called all kinds of unpleasant names such as “rigid,” “fundamentalist,” “mean-spirited,” “narrow,” and all of the rest, sometimes by Catholics I trusted. But did not Jesus suffer the same, and worse?

    I don’t know any of the specific details of this person’s difficulties, but as a general suggestion, they might consider finding a different parish. The silly season is coming to its final curtain soon, but I know all too well there are still many crazies out there still. Sometimes the prudent thing to do is leave and find a better environment to rebuild your faith.

  28. Charivari Rob says:

    I’m hoping you stay, convert.

    There can be times and places where what we experience of the Church (I’m speaking here of some of the worldly aspect – some of the people, institutions & events around us in the Church, not the Divine aspect) can be poisonous – threatening our faith and thereby menacing our souls – if we let it!

    I’ll echo the others. Do whatever it takes (within reason) to remove the problem or remove yourself from its shadow without removing yourself from the Church. Talk to whomever you need to – pastor, confessor, RCIA teacher, RCIA sponsor, spiritual director, fellow Catholic in the pews, somebody. Go where you must – another parish or chapel, if you can. Offer it up, when you can’t.

    It’s conceivable that there might be a circumstance where you truly have no other recourse, where leaving the worldly Church is necessary for the safety of your soul, but it would surely be a last resort.

    I’d also venture to say that you’ll need to contemplate these questions – What are your expectations of the Church that your experience has been so unsatisfactory? Are they reasonable? Are they realistic? Are they likely to be fulfilled anyplace else? What will the cost be?

  29. APX says:

    “My experience as a Catholic has been pretty unsatisfactory”

    glvg “Yeah, join the club!”

    I can also attest to this.

    Before doing anything drastic and formally renouncing Catholicism, I’m going to just make one tiny suggestion. Make a good attempt to work out and resolve whatever it is that’s causing you concern. Something brought you to and through the RCIA classes, so I wouldn’t give up yet.

    I’ve been so frustrated with Catholicism that I almost jumped ship to the LDS Church. One of my Mormon friends was even ready to baptize me, but some things just didn’t sit right with me (ie: their theology, passing around bread, and taking shots of water for Sacrament, or confessing sins to the untrained volunteer bishop, not being allowed to drink coffee, but energy drinks were fine, etc…). I just liked how everyone was so happy, nice, religiously devoted, actually practiced what they preached, etc.

    My point? It wasn’t Catholicism which frustrated me; I actually liked it. Instead it was the people doing me in. This seems like the issue for a lot of people, especially converts who come from more socializing denominations.

    Being a non-cafeteria Catholic probably rates up there with one of the most difficult and frustrating things I’ve ever tried to do, but it’s a short struggle when compared to eternity.

  30. Maria says:

    I too will pray for you to find Peace, a sense of purpose in the Church, and most of all, to feel The Presence of Christ so strongly there that you will find it impossible to leave the Catholic Church, – even if it means finding another parish.

    God Bless you whoever you are, whatever you do and however you feel.

    Be still and know that He is God.
    He will not abandon you.

  31. I recommend to the person concerned to stay in the Church. There are unpleasant people everywhere who betray Christ, including priests, and I know I’ve also done my fair share of backstabbing too when I sin. There is a good book I can recommend by Ralph Martin entitled ‘The Fulfilment of All Desire’.

  32. Supertradmum says:

    I am a cradle Catholic, who fell away in college, and by the grace of God, came back to the one, true, holy, and apostolic Church. When I came back, I heard loud and clear in my heart of hearts that the Church was made up of people like me–proud, imperfect people who need God first and foremost in their lives.

    If we are dissatisfied, ask yourself , “Why?”. Have you changed your mind about the Doctrine, Dogmas, and Liturgy? Have you pursued your prayer life? Did you expect a different sort of community life? We cannot rely on other people for our own Faith and holiness. The Church is not a place where we can rely on others to keep us faithful, but we need to make the commitment in our own mind and heart-in the will-to be faithful. Like in a good marriage, when the honeymoon is over and one begins to see the warts of one’s companion for life, one makes a deeper decision to be faithful, no matter what. That, to me, is loving the Church, the Bride of Christ, and one with the blemishes of its sons and daughters.

    Love is in the will. I would ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of love for His Church.

  33. Nora says:

    I would really love to know from the reader quoted what the problem is. All of our thoughts about escaping bad liturgy won’t help. if the problem is a dogma that is intellectually problematic. Our hopes for weathering a period of aridity aren’t useful if the problem is a priest who is making passes at her in the confessional. We run the risk of detracting from our own home parishes and from Holy Mother Church by airing all of the things we have experienced as unsatisfactory ourselves. Fr. Z, is there any chance you might be able to e-mail your quoted reader and ask him/her to pop in here?

  34. Mats says:

    “My experience as a Catholic has been pretty unsatisfactory and I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t made a mistake.”

    This sounds plausible. I thought that was the whole point of this blog, i.e., that the Roman Catholic liturgico-sacramental-homiletical-blogospheric experience leaves something to be desired.

    One more time, with feeling, Fr. Z.: “The reason for our hope is….”

    – Pictures of meals eaten.
    – Timely essays on birettiquette.
    – Protestant choir concerts.
    – Something else not recently mentioned.

  35. Jenny bag of donuts says:

    Mormons rock! Some of the nicest people you ever want to meet.

  36. Prof. Basto says:

    You should not “leave” the Church. The Church was founded by Christ the Lord as the universal sacrament of salvation; it is the vessel, the bark, that will lead God’s people unto life everlasting. If you have come to know that the Church was founded by Christ and you reject it, you reject Christ also, and then, outside the Church, you will find no salvation. Therefore, even if your experience as a member is not fantastic, still, you must endure it.

    The Church is formed of both human and divine components, and her human components can on occasion make your life miserable. There were saints that were persecuted, misunderstood, treated with jealousy, etc. by other human members of the Church, and her hierarchy is not able to remedy all injustices. Sometimes, someone in the hierarchy will act in a way that he shouldn’t. But all God’s children are called to be in the Church and to remain in her, even those who suffer the worst injustices.

    That said, even if you want to leave the Church, that decision of yours will mean that you are either in a state of schism (if you still accept her truths but not her lawful, God-estabished, hierarchy), heresy (if you still profess to be a Christian), or apostasy (if you abandon Faith in the triune God altogether), but it will nevertheless not sever your ties to the Church completely. Two bonds will remain linking you to the Church:

    – The Sacramental bond created by the valid reception of Baptism: all the Baptised have a sacramental bond of connection, of membership, in the Church, even if they do not know it, and, as one who has received this Sacrament, you will forever retain that mark of membership in the Church.

    – the juridical/canonical bond of membership, created when you were received into the Church by one of her representatives (who presided over your conversion or baptism). That bond makes you a subject of the Church and of her laws, and, even if from your perspective you can leave and then return or not to that society, from the Church’s perspective you can never leave (the centuries-old principle semel Catholicus, semper Catholicus, once a Catholic, always a Catholic). This principle means that once you join the Church you can never unjoin. Your submission to the Church’s laws cannot be undone. You will remain bound by her laws even if you fail to recognize and accept that. And, if one day you decide to return, you will be reconciled via the Sacrament of Penance and, if needed, via the legal remission of censures incurred (such as excommunication), but you will be treated as having been a member, bound by canon law, all along. Then, all the acts you did while away from the Church will have legal consequences according to the standpoint that you were a Catholic all along.

    An aberration in the history of the Church that had been introduced in her canonical discipline with the 1983 Code of Canon Law, called a “formal act of defection from the Catholic Church”, that mitigated the centuries old principle that not only Sacramental, but also Juridical, belonging to the Church is irreversible (Semel Catholicus, Semper Catholicus), was done away with in a recent Apostolic Letter by Pope Benedict XVI called “Omnium in mentem”.

    Between 1983 and the publication of Omnium in mentem, it was possible for someone to execute a “formal act of defection”, announcing that one was leaving the Church, and the effect of such act is that the person would then be treated as if he or she were no longer a Catholic, for the purposes of norms of Canon law binding Catholics only (i.e. the legal requirement of canonical form for marriage). But now that this “formal act of defection” no longer exists, the centuries old principle that you cannot leave the Church even from a merely juridical standpoint reacquired full strength.

    Do not become a schismatic, a heretic, or an apostate. Remain in fidelity to Christ and His Church. He wants you to be saved.

  37. Ef-lover says:

    Please talk to you pastor or parish priest, if you feel they my be part of the problem for you thinking becoming catholic was a mistake then seek out a good priest from another parish and talk things out, most priest will be most happy to help you overcome any diffuculties you may be encountering with the Catholic faith and pray, pray , pray to the Lord for guidence– it may not be easy but hang in there

  38. Ralph says:

    Dear Brother or Sister in Christ,

    I too am a convert. I entered the Church at the Easter Vigil of 2005.

    You are in a hard place. I understand. We in the West are taught that our experiences should be “satisfactory”. We should enjoy what we do, gain some value from it.
    But this is contrary to the teachings of Christ as I understand it. To lead is to serve. To be first is to be last. This is alian to our culture.

    If you came from an Evangelical background as I did, this may be even harder to take. As an Evangelical, the first and last word was individual. (Everyman and his Bible.) This, too, is contrary to the teachings of Christ. Christ calls us to obediance and humility. (Can you imagine telling slaves to return to their masters and serve them as to glorify God?)

    My friend, I fear from your letter that you may be bound up in pride, as I am. Let go of it. If the Church is “unsatisfactory” to you, what can you do to make Her better? What is it that makes it so? Is there a part of your life in conflict with the Faith that you can’t let go of? Are you attached to sin as I am?

    I urge you to look inward. Pray for humility. Pray for the ability to show obediance.

    Remember, we should conform ourselves to the Holy Mother Church. She should never conform to us.

    I will pray for you.

    St Augustine you know what it is to doubt. You know what it is to cling to the world. Pray for us here on Earth, still strugling with the same sins you wresteled with.

  39. Andrew says:

    This is really sad but in the absence of knowing any details I wouldn’t know what to say except perhaps … I wonder how many people find it hard to separate the human element in the Church from the supernatural.

  40. Catholictothecore says:

    We can all relate to what you are going through. Being a disciple of Christ means to carry our Cross for Him every day. Whether it is an external factor that’s causing you to leave (pastor, fellow parishioners, etc) or an internal one (you no longer feel God’s presence, He is far away), you have to ALL the more TALK to God. Find a quiet place. Open your heart to Him. Be still and you will hear Him. Open the Bible. There are passages in Scriptures that can help you. Try Psalm 91.

    Do not give up. God loves you. He never stops loving us, wretched sinners that we are to boot.
    Please do not leave the Catholic Church. You’ll be losing far more than you’ll be gaining.

  41. JKnott says:

    It is a good sign that God put into your heart in the first place the desire to be baptized into the Mystical Body of Christ. It is a loving sign that He has called you to Him forever. One of the greatest gifts, among many in belonging the the Catholic Church, is the grace of the Sacrament of Love, the Body Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ. It is one of the closest forms of real union with Christ. So I would suggest two courses of action before making any decision:
    First, pray very much, especially after you receive Holy Communion, and ask the Lord to let you feel His Presence and strengthen and guide you. It is pleasing to the Lord when we put our trust first of all in Him, rather than in people.
    Secondly, find a couple of saints and read their lives and struggles and ask them to pray to the Lord for you as well. We are one family helping one another. The ones already in heaven are much less irritating, although God uses our imperfect brothers and sisters to help make us saints in the practice of virtues, as hard as that is most times.
    St. Therese said she would spend her heaven doing good on earth. Ask her. She has helped so many souls that the number is endless. This may seem a bit new to you , but try it, IT WORKS!
    The Diary of St Faustina is excellent. She had many struggles in her spiritual life, and found a great deal that was unsatisfactory in her community. Nevertheless, God chose her as the apostle of His Divine Mercy.
    Another avenue would be to find an orthodox priest or retreat to take you through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. It is a beautiful series of meditations on Scripture that guides and helps discernment of God’s will for you.
    If you are more contemplative, St John of the Cross is a treasure.
    On the Feast of the Transfiguration we read that, at the end of the vision, Jesus touched the Apostles and, ” Looking up they saw ONLY JESUS and he said ‘do not fear.” He was preparing them for His suffering. To be a Catholic is to join all our many sufferings to the sufferings of Jesus We gain the strength and the joy to do that through our participation in the tremendous gifts of the holy sacraments.
    You are a loved memeber of our Catholic family as you can certainly see by the outpouring of prayers and supportive comments on this site alone. All of us, without a doubt are praying for you. Please let Father Z know how things are going. God bless you.

  42. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    For the original poster if they are reading this:

    What are you doing to help carry on your faith despite all the animosity you are experienceing? If you did go to mass this past weekend the Gospel reading was the next few lines after the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel in Ch. 5 verses 13-16. In it, Jesus uses the analogy of a light in a lamp hidden under a bushel, and a city on a hill that isn’t hidden.

    For the faith to “shine” one must actively attend to it and DO things. Try to give it an honest go before you leave. Do you enjoy the Mass and want a part in it (or need to be active to enjoy it)? How about lecterning if your voice is strong or becoming a eucharistic minister? Are you more a volunteer/charity type? Then perhaps an out of the cold program, foodbank program, Catholic Women’s League or the Knights of Columbus, and many other lay ministries would appeal to you. RCIA seems to be the problem here so perhaps you are questioning your development of your faith. Maybe you should seek out a well recommended catechism class, and read up on the True Faith via trusted internet sources like Fr. Z and www dot Catholic dot com.

    If you have done all these things and still aren’t satisfied, then, yes you will have to take a deep and conscious look at yourself and wonder, why you made the choice in the first place. Maybe someone did? Maybe another talk perhaps with them will help you? Finally, please pray to Christ. Ask for help. Or God if you really are getting hung up on Christianity.

    In a nutshell, exhaust all options and learn about the faith and make a well-educated decision before self-excommunicating.

  43. wmeyer says:

    I was raised with Catholic traditions, though never baptized. (Long story, not germane to this thread.) I have been pretty disappointed with my parish, and even my diocese. Actually, as I grew up with the TLM, I have been pretty disappointed for a long time. But as we all should know, the Church is filled with sinners, both laity and clergy, so perfection is not to be found in this life.
    I am extremely disappointed with the local RCIA teachings, which include such nuggets as “the Rosary is not for everyone”!! I do not leave because there is no other church. Becoming Protestant is clearly no answer. A better answer is to keep trying to make a difference in my own parish. Yes, it is an effort. Yes, it can be frustrating. But if we won’t try to overcome the bad effects of the Spirit-of-Vatican-II folks, we make ourselves part of the problem.

  44. Jbuntin says:

    Dear soul,
    Please don’t leave. I’m a convert just like you who doesn’t always have the faith I should, and I also struggle with the sins of the Church. What keeps me here, is knowing in my heart that this is the Church that Jesus started. I agree that you should talk to your priest. I’m sure he would be more interested in helping you than you think.
    Don’t give up, this will pass with prayer and study. Read some books on the early Chruch Fathers, and pray your Rosary with some good meditations. Our Mother will help you if you let her.
    You are certainly in my prayers, and please pray for me too.

  45. Mitchell NY says:

    I just said a quick prayer of strength for the writer. As a Catholic since birth, through the difficult trials of the last 40 years all I can say is do not give up your Faith, and it is yours now you have the fullness, so give it time. Being a Catholic is a lifetime journey, not something we “achieve” in a few years or initiation. You may find that a decade from now, your Catholic Faith the most precious thing you have. The truths you have learned will never change, take away the ugliness that has caused you to regret your decision, which is probably linked to fallible man, and you will have nothing but truths. Strip away all persons and all events and you have the knowledge. That doesn’t change. Even if you feel compelled to leave. Perhaps put all Faiths in the backround for a while if you must. Something distinctly Catholic will probably call out to you, sooner rather than later. Good Luck and God Bless.

  46. LorrieRob says:

    As a recent convert(though I feel as if I have joined the church I thought I joined when I joined the Episcopal Church 25 yrs ago), I echo all of the other prayers to stay the course as there truly is no other place to go. I am very fortunate in the parish I call home now but as I felt led into the Church this past summer I was very clear that the nature of the clergy and the people could be a plus but ultimately was not essential. This is not like choosing a denomination based upon style of service. The communion of saints has brought me the greatest comfort as I have been consumed in reading St. Ignatius, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Teresa of Avila and Cardinal John Henry Newman. I have felt as if St. Ignatius and Cardinal Newman came along side of me to provide the catechesis and understanding that has set my heart and intellect on fire. RCIA is very disappointing and would have scared me off if I hadn’t been doing my own reading. I hope to find friends at my new parish to talk deeply with and share my faith journey but even if I don’t, I am confident in the actual teaching of the Church. My faith has been so enriched by the daily morning Mass that I see clearly that the True Church will not fail me though the humans running things do occasionally provide some challenges!

  47. Stvsmith2009 says:

    I am sure I posted this once before, and at the risk of repeating myself, here goes again. I converted myself 6 years ago. When one is going through RCIA, the parish priest (at least mine and some others I am aware of) and many of the parishioners fall all over themselves to make the catechumens feel wanted and at home. Then after one enters the Church, the attention and the encouragment, and yes, the fellowship… disappears. The new convert then feels like just another face in the pew. Especially if one comes from a baptist background, and truly has no family or close friends in a parish to offer support and encouragement. One tries to join a committee, an organization or volunteer for an activity, and all of the places are “filled”. “You’ll just have to wait until next year or next time when there will be more openings”.

    I stopped going to Mass altogether for over a year. Especially after I had a heart attack, and not one person…not the priest… not the deacon… not even my RCIA sponsor… so much as called to see how I was doing. This bothered me as I had called the parish twice (even left the priest a message on his voice mail) to inform the parish of my heart attack, and as of this very moment I have yet to hear from anyone there.

    I have been “parish hopping” essentially since then, and have now narrowed my parish choice down to 2.

    My Australian friend, whom I have mentioned in a reply or two here before, noticed in her own parish that 2 in 5 converts never returned after one year. She asked her priest about forming a group of volunteers to go visit the “missing sheep” and was told that if she was so worried about it she should go visit them herself. She did, and most of the people she talked to said that after their entrance into the Church, they were essentially ignored. Many said they were put off by the “cliques” in the parish and felt like intrusive outsiders. They all spoke of no contact from the parish except when there was a need for money.

    This is one area where the Protestant churches have “one up” on the Catholic parishes. If one joins a Protestant Church and then stops attending, the people from that church and many times the minister himself will show up at the homes of the missing members to encourage their return. They try to give the impression that they care that you are not there. The Catholic parishes seem to have a “so what” attitude.

    Then the various parishes, dioceses and archdioceses spend a lot of time, effort and money with programs like “Catholics Come Home” when they could have easily and more cost effectively accomplished the same thing just by making a visit or a phone call. Even better, they might have even prevented someone from leaving just by merely acknowledging them after Mass. I am not saying you have to become someone’s “new best friend” but show them a little friendliness and a little Christian Charity. One gesture of kindness and friendliness, one act that says “we are glad you are here” could make all the difference.

    My apologies to Father Z for my rant.

  48. AnnAsher says:

    Dear brother convert – don’t despair! I too was brought in via RCIA and though there may be some good ones out there … Most are like mine. Too much time spent with candles and sharing personal feelings. It tends to lead a person to believe that in faith we will always *feel* it and if were not getting that * high* it seems empty. Before you go– dig into the faith for yourself some more. Find out answers to all the
    why’s? Of what we believe. An excellent place to start is The Mass Explained by Msgr George J Moorman. Too many of us grow disappointed when we aren’t “getting anything out of Mass” but if that’s true the problem lies with us not the Mass, not the Church.

  49. Margo says:

    Father Z, you said: “Just because Holy Church’s members have flaws, that doesn’t mean that the Catholic Church is not Christ’s Church.”

    Please, convert – listen to Father Z and the readers here and do not give up. Prayer is the answer. I just wrote a post on my blog a couple of days ago asking people to pray for priests, bishops and our Pope. As Father Z said, just because individuals within the Church are flawed, that doesn’t mean that the Catholic Church as a whole is flawed. Please ask the Holy Spirit to guide you, and place all of your trust in the Lord.

  50. jrpascucci says:

    I’d encourage you to read more about the Church by the Church – or, specifically, by the communion of Saints: the great Saints loved us enough to write for our benefit, and to leave without the opportunity to listen to them would be a bit of a sad thing. Amongst the Doctors, Augustine, Therese and Teresa, Anselm, John of the Cross, (Aquinas for more heady stuff) are all fodder for reading and thought, any of which should give you pause and let you know ‘hey…there’s something more here than I know about’.

    For more modern considerations, Blessed John Henry Newman, and (not canonized, but a Catholic literary giant) G.K. Chesterton have a lot to say. Another author, if you are a fan of fiction for a more visceral experience of Catholic writing that’s easy to read, modern, and timeless by being filled with that which is true is Flannery O’Connor. All of those people got “being Catholic” right in their respective ways, any of which might catch your attention.

    If you’re feeling like this, chances are you haven’t gotten great catechesis, especially about the ‘hard stuff’, the stuff that the worldly find difficulty to believe and consequently reject in ignorance. I’m thoroughly enjoying Mike Voris’ series on RealCatholicTV (with which I am not affiliated, other than being a subscriber for about a month now), especially his series on Church History. For $10 bucks and as much free-time laid-back internet viewing as you can allocate, you’ll get a shot to the mind to provide great a plump background to the faith in the midst of the anemia I wouldn’t be surprised you might find yourself mired in.

    Finally, being a Catholic lay person is hard, very hard. Temptation is relatively constant and falls of a greater or lesser extent happen too often for us to be happy with ourselves (and it’s worse if you aren’t going to confession regularly, I can assure you), but the grace we’re given permit us to rise again, return like a swallow to capistrano to the confessional, and try again, better this time. I’d go so far to say if you don’t struggle, a little bit at least, against “the world” and the opinions of the worldly to hold fast to the truth each day and every day, chances are that there’s something wrong in your understanding of what it is to be a member of God’s Church, His “chosen people”. But the rewards for running this race are pretty awesome – even in the midst of suffering we find joy unparalleled, which is only a taste of joy to come.

  51. ah if only this were written by Nancy Pelosi.

    I understand your frustration. How do you get out of a church that no longer recognizes excommunication? It calls to mind the Spanish film Bella Epoque. Sure the makers of the film were liberals and intended for it to have a liberal message but through everything they gave us one of the best examples of why the Church is right about everything.

    I understand why the others here would encourage you to stay but if you want out just go. There is no honorable way to tell Christ that you just don’t love him. I don’t know why you are unsatisfied but believe me you are no where near as unsatisfied as Judas is right now, or Luther for that matter. You want to go be with them, well … bye. I won’t be following you, and if you don’t mind try to stay at least 100 meters away from my home, it’s a no apostacy zone.

  52. JoAnna says:

    Don’t leave Peter because of Judas.

  53. RichardT says:

    I suppose if one really wanted to be cut of from the Church, one could commit an act punished by excommunication. I’m not sure what still qualifies, and I wouldn’t suggest duelling, or striking a Papal Nuncio, or violating the enclosure of a nunnery. But what about falsifying a Papal letter?

    Of course we all pray that the questioner decides not to take this step. But he did ask.

  54. webpoppy8 says:

    Join the Church for Jesus, not for the Church. I’d have left screaming years ago if the love of Jesus didn’t convince me to stay, and finally grow in love for His Body.

  55. Pete says:

    quomodocumque wrote: “I understand why the others here would encourage you to stay but if you want out just go. There is no honorable way to tell Christ that you just don’t love him. I don’t know why you are unsatisfied but believe me you are no where near as unsatisfied as Judas is right now, or Luther for that matter. You want to go be with them, well … bye. I won’t be following you, and if you don’t mind try to stay at least 100 meters away from my home, it’s a no apostacy zone.”

    What on earth was the point of of typing that? In the time it took you to think and type it you could have said 3 Hail Marys for the guy and kept quiet.

  56. PostCatholic says:

    My method of leaving was to go out the front door, to walk to the parking lot, and to drive away, never bothering to return. I really don’t see what point there is in presenting formal declarations of apostacy or what I think I remember being termed an “actus formalis defectionis”, other than to hand an insult to a church which in this case seems to have inflicted an injury. The question is something along the lines of “how do I lose weight?” at doughnut shop. For a start, don’t eat the doughnuts and leave.

  57. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    RichardT, The following qualify under Canon Law, these are the 9 latae sentitiae excommunications still in effect: 1) apostasy, 2) being a heretic, 3) being a schismatic or causing schism, 4) purposely throwing away the consecrated species or desecrating it after keeping it, 5) using physical force against the pope (if you are not truly mentally ill like some of the past assaulters of popes), 6) as a priest, being an accomplice to allowing a couple to commit adultery or sexual sin (that’s the 6th commandment in the Church, though many people think that it’s thou shall not kill), 7) as a priest, violating the Seal of the Confessional/not keeping reconciliation confidential, however this can also include interpreters, 8) consecrating a bishop without the permission of the Holy See (e.g. The SSPX bishops prior to B16’s lifting of the excom’s, Chinese government Catholic Church bishops) 9) a person who procures a completed abortion.

    As for the rest of those actions you mention, those are pretty severe, but they aren’t auto excommunications like the 9 I mentioned. Those 9 are also mentioned in the Catechism too.

  58. rfox2 says:

    Fr. Z: “That said, if you believe that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ and is His true Church, and you leave it anyway, you cannot be saved. ”

    Since we’re talking about someone probably (I didn’t say definitely) on the precipice of damnation, some stark things need to be said. It is extremely difficult, especially if we don’t avail ourselves of the abundant grace God offers us, to be a faithful Catholic today. We all, in some way, have to walk the way of suffering, if we walk with Christ. The Church is filled to the gills with sinners of all variety, and the only thing that stands between them and damnation is God’s grace given in Jesus Christ. The Church, filled with those same sinners, is the Body of Christ, and is holy not because of the sinful, or even the saints, but because of Jesus Christ.

    If you consciously leave the Church, and apostatize, you renounce Christ. If you reject the Church, you reject Christ Himself. He founded no other organization on earth that can lead you to salvation. As Peter said, “To whom else shall we turn, you have the words of everlasting life?” Christ has proved the veracity and validity of the Church over and over and over again, despite the sinfulness of her members. He gave us abundant proofs, but He never said it would be easy or enjoyable. He’ll give us joy, but he never promised pleasure.

    If you apostatize, you commit a mortal sin against God, because you sin against the Truth. The Truth can be known, and we have a responsibility to know it to the best of our ability. There are many people more than willing to help you know the truth, but you have to be willing. Perhaps God the Holy Spirit will give you a vision of the Church as she is meant to be, and you’ll be inspired by that. If you cling to the Church (Christ), God will give you great joy, which is different from pleasure. But, it’s tough. It’s hard. It won’t feel good, and don’t expect it to. All of the great saints had doubts, but they still clung to Christ even when blinded by pain, and that brought them to holiness. If you leave the Church, you abandon Christ, and even He cannot help you then.

  59. That RCIA! Wow! What a gift to the Church!

  60. JonM says:

    Nic Cage said it best in the film The Rock: Don’t go.

    Look, unsatisfactory does not do justice to the corruption, heresies, and head-pounding moments we experience.

    Keep in mind that we are in a fallen world that is especially hazardous and uninviting today for those who earnestly seek to live out the faith. Believe me, each day is a struggle and an exercise in pain, in part the struggle against my sinful self, and also dealing with a Church hierarchy where the only unforgivable sin seems to be admiration for structure and piety of the Middle Ages.

    And the fact is that we cannot leave the Church in the proper sense. One can become an apostate, but one, once Baptized in the Catholic Church, cannot ever undo this.

    I know this might not help much, but we are called to unite our suffering and the suffering of the Church Triumphant with our Lord. We have to remember when we feel like outcasts, God Himself was nailed to a cross and rejected by His own nation.

  61. Sliwka says:

    Parroting others, without other information about what about your experience has been “unsatisfactory” it is hard to give the soundest of advice.

    As a fellow mature convert (i.e., not as a child, Easter ’08) who attended two different RCIA groups (I jumped ship from the first because as others above noted it was all about feelings, not about God–not to say ther second was perfect) I can understand that some expectations may not have been realised. I for example was more used to TV/Movie Mass (Latin, or just a more traditional N.O.) or The Divine Liturgy when I becan to attend Mass. I also feel a strong call to be enrolled in canonically in a particular Eastern Church (which I was not before due to mis-information Re: marriage between Byz-Caths and Romans from someone I trusted. Perhaps this is why I read and study so much now). But I persist.

    Both paths lead to the same house, there are just different turns along the way. I pray you do not renounce your faith. Doubts can always creep up, but faith us the ultimate trump. If you do renounce your faith, I pray you will answer God’s call home before the end.

  62. APX says:

    I suppose if one really wanted to be cut of from the Church, one could commit an act punished by excommunication. I’m not sure what still qualifies, and I wouldn’t suggest duelling, or striking a Papal Nuncio, or violating the enclosure of a nunnery. But what about falsifying a Papal letter?

    Of course we all pray that the questioner decides not to take this step. But he did ask.

    I remember asking one of my high school Christian Ethics teacher about something similiar to this. If I remember correctly, excommunication will not get a person out of being Catholic. My understanding is all excommunication means is that one is no longer in communion with the Church, but is still expected to attend Mass. The person just cannot receive Holy Communion or actively participate in Mass. The idea behind it is that the individual will see the errors of his/her ways and repent. I might be a bit off, though. My understanding, however, has always been with regards to Baptism and the indellible mark, “once a Catholic, always a Catholic.”

    There is (was?? Wikipedia said it was abolished with motu proprio Omnium in mentem??) a formal process one goes through to formally renounce Catholicism, along with requirements, but unless one really needs to do it (for example, he/she wants to marry within the royal family, but the royal member doesn’t want to give up her/his succession to the throne, or he wants to be a priest in another denomination, etc.), I don’t see the point in putting your soul in anymore danger.

    Honestly, I’d just stay and stick it out the best you can and try to resolve what you’re unsatisfied with. Or you can be like me and accept what you’re experiencing now, but keep your eye on the bigger eternal picture and how happy you’ll be as you keep working towards that end goal.

  63. Tony Layne says:

    We Catholics never learned how to “love bomb” potential converts … we treat them just as crappily as we treat one another.

    That having been said, dear Unknown Reader, I join with others here in asking you to stay. The fact is, once you get beyond the “love bombing”, every other communion (including the LDS) has the same problems with cliques and politics as the Catholic Church does … simply because their members are just as human as we are. Don’t stay for the people—stay for the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Stay for the fullness of the Faith, which remains true whether we kiss you or kill you. There are plenty of good short-term suggestions here, so I can only add my hope that you pray for the strength and sight to see this dark period through.

  64. Dr. Sebastianna says:

    We don’t know why the reader wants to leave… But as a Catholic psychologist, I’d like to explore the issue of being emotionally hurt in Church. For the sake of argument, I’d like to state that when a person has been emotionally hurt in a Church because of any of a number of reasons, there is a sense of betrayal, and it can be very difficult to trust again. I would suggest that the reader finds a good Catholic friend or solid and emotionally available priest who will listen to the story of how he/she has been hurt … and then strive to actually forgive the person(s) who may have hurt him/her. Forgiving doesn’t mean that you say that the hurtful action(s) were OK… but that you forgive the person… Pray for the person(s) who hurt you… This is not easy, and it will take a great deal of prayer, but it will give peace. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Finally, pray for light and understanding… God forgives. God Sees us, and He knows how much pain can be caused by hurtful actions. God sees who has done what. He does not want anyone to be hurt, but due to our fallen human nature, it happens. The early church fathers in the East believed that the Church is a Spiritual Hospital for sick people… And there are all kinds of people in the church, including healthy ones, sick ones, and dead ones… But the primary role is a hospital. Hospitals have all kinds of patients. Jesus is the Physician. We are all patients. Patients hurt each other sometimes. Praying for you…

  65. marthawrites says:

    Dear Friend in Christ, May I suggest journaling? Write down the expectations you had when you entered the RCIA program and how or if they changed along the way. Express the joys you felt when you were received into the Catholic Church. Then note the disappointments you’ve experienced which have brought you to the point where you wish to leave. At the same time, keep pages open for expressing gratitude for all the good things which you are blessed with daily.
    In addition, get to know the Person of Christ better. If there is not a compatible Scripture study group in your parish, buy your own set of commentaries to the New Testament. Watch videos.

  66. marthawrites says:

    continuing ( I don’t know why I was cut off)…Read Jesus of Nazareth by our beloved pope. See yourself as Mother Mary’s child seeking her comfort and wisdom. Continue reading this blog which offers so much information and consolation: we are never alone. Recognize that even the disgruntled or the deeply hurt can remain faithful and nourished.
    Please don’t leave us.

  67. Gaz says:

    Thank you for the prompt. It’s time I made contact with the lovely woman upon whose shoulder I placed my hand a few years ago. She’s done it tough and probably needs the support now that my meager presence symbolized at that Easter Vigil.

    The call is always there, you hear it in tenebrae, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum”. A conversion, a turning towards the Lord, isn’t an instantaneous snapshot.

  68. Banjo pickin girl says:

    I neglected to mention a very important point, there are two books that are absolutely essential for the convert, besides the ones usually mentioned. They are the Imitation of Christ and Abandonment to Divine Providence. Christian Book Publishers has an edition of IOC which is easier to read than a direct literal translation and has those charming 1950’s style drawings. CBP books also usually have pink pages in the middle with the Stations of the Cross and blue pages with the Rosary. The Beevers translation of Abandonment is the one I use. Get them. You won’t be sorry. There is real meat in there, the most important thing being that we can NEVER get consolation from people but only from God. That helps a lot when “even” your pastor has turned against you and you have no where else to turn. Of course we have no where else to turn but to God, that is the whole point of our faith! One thing I love about the Church is that you can come and go and receive the Sacraments and not feel that you have to be involved in the busyness, you can be one of those who pray. I am disabled and can’t volunteer for anything so prayer is it for me and practice makes perfect, they claim.

    And when people don’t help you when you are in trouble, that is where the rubber meets the road and the problem is with them, not you.

  69. RichardT says:

    Young Canadian RC Male – thank you; I couldn’t find a modern list.

    The ones I mentioned were all latae sententiae excimmunications, with lifting reserved to the Pope, under Apostolicae Sedis (Pius IX, 1869), but I suppose that was overturned by the subsequent revisions of Canon Law.

  70. Bornacatholic says:

    If I do decide that I’m not a Catholic after all should I renounce my new faith?

    Dear troubled soul. You are not likely to take advice from a stranger but I really am not a stranger because me and thee are Catholics, ergo, we are members of the same family; besides, this isn’t really advice.

    Because I am likely older than you, maybe reading about what happened to your older brother might be helpful.

    By the Grace of God I was born into a large Catholic Family in Vermont. My Uncle was a LaSalette Priest and my Dad had also gone to that same Seminary. I received the Sacraments and wonderful catechesis and I lived as a typical normal faithful Catholic in Springfield, Vermont where there was tremendous solidarity and a public identity as Catholics. In fact, I well remember going to football games with all of my friends, Catholic and Protestant, and after the game we’d all make our way back to Main Street downtown where we’d separate with a long line of Catholic kids walking-up the hill to go to Confession at St. Mary’s.

    And without me making a public Confession, I will just write that I chose to leave the Catholic Church. For me, the plain and simple truth is that I chose to follow a few favorite sins over Jesus
    and His Commands.

    And I lived a really great life after I left the Catholic Church. I married my High School Sweetheart and I ended-up living in Cape Elizabeth, Maine (a wealthy town on the coast) and my life was governed by the secular calendar of sports, New Year’s Days, Final Fours, Super Bowls, my Son’s Soccer and Basketball games, my Daughter’s High School Band performances, etc etc.

    And then one day I decided to kill myself.

    It took me forever and a day to recover my health and sanity. And all of my family and friends were shocked when I went back to Christ and His Church. And that very long process began with a simple plea as I was driving my car down a country road in Cape Elizabeth.

    I suddenly, in a rush of painful emotion, began to fully experience what it meant to be abandoned by God and I wept so hard I had to pull my car over to the side of the road and I yelled, I mean REALLY screamed, for Jesus to come into my life and save me.

    He did; and he is saving me, and if I persevere, He will save me. And that is the task of life, to avoid Perdition and save one’s soul.

    Well, that is just the story of one of your elder brothers in the Catholic Church.

    I wish you well, Sister. And I pray that nothing even remotely similar happens to you.

  71. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Many good comments here on suspected reasons, personal experience, how to learn more, and methods of prayer.

    It is a Calvinist prerequisite to value ‘experience’ over logic and theology. The ‘experience’ has nothing to do with the realness of the Catholic Church. “Experience” was promoted during the Reformation when the protesters dropped the Sacraments, obedience to Apostolic Authority, biblical books that didn’t support their agenda. When the Protestants dropped these holy things, all was that was left was ‘feelings’, private interpretation, socializing, and prayer meetings. Those that are not Catholic risk making a god out of their own wishes and self-image. There is a tendency in us all to be lazy and seek self-indulgence, give in to indignation.

    This Calvinist approach affects everyone today. Most Catholics I know are Calvinists because of this ‘feelings’ approach to Mass, liturgical music, deciding what they are going to believe or who their friends are. The ability to really, logically think is in chaos today – students are no longer taught HOW to think.

    I wonder what it is about the Church that attracts any convert? If a convert is attracted to the Church by non-Catholic practices, then is that conversion really complete? We all, even the cradle Catholics, have to work at conversion EVERY day.

    I urge anyone who begins to lose their grip on the Faith from outside influences such as mean people, disinterested clergy, dislike of rules, or just our own pursuit of self-interest, to learn more about the Faith. The real stuff.

    The best way to really learn the Faith is to read the Fathers of the Church and learn to pray by reading St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila. Find books as close as possible to the originals, not somebody’s interpretation of what they said. The best converts I know are those that have done this.

    And pray with humility, asking the Holy Spirit for inspiration. I’ll pray for you.

  72. david andrew says:

    Permit me to make an observation.

    We do not know why this troubled soul joined the Church in the first place. He may have stated his reasons in his message to Fr. Z, and they weren’t disclosed in the excerpt provided.

    I mention this for two reasons. First of all, just yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with and teach our current class of RCIA students seeking full communion with the Church. One of them is an Episcopalian who told me that he was in the midst of divorce and his to-be-ex wife is Catholic. He told me that he declared before a judge that he would convert to Catholicism so as not to have any conflicts in raising their daughter in dual custody. He made the usual and typical comments to me about how there’s very little difference between the Episcopal Church and the Catholic Church (where to start with that!?!) and he’s fine with becoming Catholic. I wonder if he truly understands the seriousness of the commitment he will be making at the Easter Vigil. And that leads to my second point. Just as with other sacraments of the Church, most notably marriage and holy orders, one does not (or should not) enter into full communion with the Church unadvisedly or with any other purpose than to more fully submit one’s soul to the will of God, in a manner consistent with the Teachings of the Church.

    I have too often met people who have come from other denominations into the Catholic Church through the RCIA program who were not properly taught the tenets and disciplines of the Faith, and often were permitted to continue entertaining notions or publicly express ideologies that were contrary to Catholic Teaching or live a life inconsistent with those teachings while being “welcomed” into the Church and even being permitted to continue receiving the sacraments when not properly disposed to do so.

    One must also wonder what his dissatisfaction stems from. What were his expectations? If he is a regular reader of this blog, he’s well aware of the state of affairs in the Church. If he’s a serious-minded, orthodox Catholic and he’s in a liberal parish, he would likely know that he has the option to seek out a more traditional parish, rather than leave the Church, unless he just plain wishes to abandon the Faith and is looking for a convenient excuse to do so by blaming the Church rather than seeking counsel. On the other hand, I’m surely aware that there are plenty of Catholics out there in parishes that simply don’t know how to behave and probably shouldn’t be permitted to leave their homes without adult supervision. They don’t know the damage they do, the scandal they cause or how their actions can cripple their souls and other’s faith. Between that and duplicitous priests who play favorites either out of fear or out of a misplaced desire to be viewed as a “good priest” by being popular rather than faithful, preaching the evils of gossip and pride from the pulpit in a very direct manner, I myself have more than once wondered why I have remained a Catholic or why I serve the Church as a sacred musician.

    This troubled soul’s situation is a two-way street. Those who prepared him for full communion had an obligation and duty to both teach the Faith consistent with the Catechism of the Church and evaluate this person’s disposition and readiness to commit to the Faith. Since there are many post-VCII Catholics who praise the workings of the Ancient Church, let us not forget that the process of being admitted to full communion was a lengthy and arduous process, requiring a commitment to study, counsel from elder Catholics and most importantly, works of penance. It is a pity that this process has been reduced to several months of “classes” and “retreats”.

    The desire of this troubled soul to leave the Church must not be taken lightly. In this day and age, too many Catholics are happily “Protestantized” (thanks to liberal priests, nuns and lay people in charge of catechetical programs like RCIA) and are willing to treat the Church as a social club or a political front group all the while abusing the sacraments by receiving them unworthily (and encouraging others to do the same by word and deed). When the likes of Anne Rice announce that they’re leaving, we say, “here’s your hat . . . what’s your hurry?” When dissident Catholics like Sr. Keehan or Fr. O’Brien spout their heresies, we wish they would just leave, yet they stay on, wreaking havoc and sewing the seeds of scandal and confusion.

    In the meantime, of our charity we must pray for this troubled soul in the hopes that the graces begun at his baptism and continued when he was confirmed will continue to work in him.

  73. marthawrites says:

    Carry around with you a pocket-size edition of The Psalms. Pull it out whenever you feel frustrated or dejected. Ditto with the little books of sayings by St. Josemaria Escrivez.

  74. Giambattista says:

    I completely understand where the original poster is coming from. I’m a cradle Catholic and it has been the single biggest cross I’ve carried in my life as I’ve tried to remain Catholic. I’m 44 years old and “the mess” in the Church has bothered me since 1996 when I decided to leave the Novus Ordo when I was 29 years old because I couldn’t take it anymore (the last straw was when a local priest was blessing the congregation with Holy Water from a “Super Soaker” (i.e. a big squirt gun).

    I have posted before about how I and others have been treated by my diocese in regard to the implementation of SP. I almost didn’t attend Mass for a year (between summer 2009 and summer 2010) because I was seriously considering leaving as a result of my treatment by the diocese (what was going through my mind was “who is really ‘schismatic’ here, me or the diocese”?). In the end I had almost spiritually starved myself to death and had no choice but to return. I was spiritually bankrupt. The other problem was that I managed to convert my wife to wife from Lutheranism to the Catholic Church in 2002 and I was not providing a good example!

    While I’m sure my , and everybody else who has had it with the Church, situation is different, our common dilemma is what does one do when it is impossible to stay, but impossible to leave – at the same time?

    Here is how I/we handle it:
    We do not attend or receive Sacraments at any parish within the local Latin rite diocese, nor do they get one red cent of money from us. We joined a traditional parish in another diocese and make the drive when we can (142 mile round trip). When we don’t make the drive, we attend the Divine Liturgy at the local Byzantine Catholic Church, which interestingly has a congregation, half of which are “roman refugees”. The “roman element” is so significant, I bet this parish would be in serious trouble financially if they all left. My point is that there are A LOT of people doing this. For us, the Byzantine option is a Godsend, although a recent liturgical translation and less than traditional (to us) preaching make it less than ideal, although it is certainly tolerable – and meets the Sunday obligation.

    The last element to our “solution” involves Internet broadcasted TLM’s. On the days we stay local and go Byzantine, we use broadcasted TLM’s to get a solid traditional sermon. In effect we are separating the obligation from the spiritual nourishment (i.e. word, not Eucharist).
    FSSP (Daily)Masses can be found here: http://www.livemass.net

    SSPX (Sunday) Masses can be heard on WEDO (am radio broadcasted over the Internet) from 10:00 – 11:30 EST here: http://www.wedo810.com/

    -a trick I like to use with the SSPX Mass is to use the program Audacity 1.3 (a free download) to record the Mass (because I’m at the Byzantine parish at the time it is broadcasted). Audacity 1.3 has a timer feature which I can set to come on at 10:00 on Sunday’s and run for 1.5 hours.

    Sorry about the long post. The dilemma of the original poster also strikes a chord with me. God knows I’ve had these thoughts, too! My goal with this post is to explain how I changed my experience as a Catholic from intolerable to joyful. Others may not agree with this approach, but it works for us. I hope this “solution” will be interim in nature, but that is entirely up to Rome. Let’s pray for some good SP clarification!

    I pray that the original poster can find a resolution to this problem that does not involve leaving the Church.

  75. Centristian says:

    I’ve never heard of a formal process for leaving the Church of one’s own volition, and I can’t imagine there could be any such thing. By the time one has made the decision to bolt, one has concluded that the Church’s authorities have no authentic authority, therefore what would be the point of submitting to those Church authorities for the purposes of some sort of formal departure proceedings?

    The moment that you fully and finally conclude that an ecclesiastical authority is inauthentic and has no right to govern you is, essentially, the moment you’ve left that church, isn’t it? There’s no process beyond that. The church (Catholic or otherwise) that you don’t believe in any longer can’t very well compell you to do anything more, and what more would that church need from you, in any case?

    If one day you find yourself no longer going to Mass, for good, and find yourself, week after week, sitting in the pew of a Presbyterian church that you have registered with, I think it is safe to say that you have ceased to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

    All of that having been said, don’t leave until you can determine beyond the shadow of a doubt which other church out there is the authentic Church of the Apostles, founded by Christ, Himself. When you know for sure that you’ve found it, by all means, join it. Until then, sit tight.

  76. Just want to offer my prayers and encouragement as a revert of 5.5 years who has “been there and done that” more than once.

    You know, there are times in the life of a Catholic where all you can do is hold on to a thread, all you can do is dig in your heels and try to stand your ground. And that is all that God expects of you. You may be weak, and other people in the Church may be weak, but He is strong.

    Then sometimes, it is more a matter of self-mastery, of putting mind over matter, reason over emotions. Of remaining faithful out of sheer will power.

    In all cases, it helps me to recall Christ pretty much promised that his followers would suffer–the servant is not greater than the Master, after all. But He always bears the brunt, here and now as much as at Calvary.

    God bless you.

  77. Paulo says:

    I have been praying the Divine Office for a while, and it never fails to bring in some spiritual consolation, even in those days that the flame of faith is, well, more like a smoldering heap than a hot furnace! Today’s (Tuesday, Week 1) morning office concludes with a fitting prayer, which I share (and, yeah, it’s the ICEL translation…):

    “God our Father,
    hear our morning prayer
    and let the radiance of your love
    scatter the gloom of our hearts.
    the light of heaven’s love has restored us to life:
    free us from the desires that belong to darkness.
    Through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    And there it is, in my humble view, the essence of “Catholic Identity” (which is another essential side of the plight of our brother): the knowledge that, today, many, from east to west, recited this prayer at one point in time, and that countless more, through ages, have recited it in one form or another. We are a community, after all!

  78. Gail F says:

    There are a lot of great replies here and a lot of food for thought.

    But to answer the original question: You can’t leave. Once you’re baptized, you’re in. You can apostize (aposticize?) by formally joining another religion, but the Catholic Church will always take you back. If you do join another church or religion, you’re a “former Catholic.” There is no “de-baptism,” although a bunch of folks in England wanted that a year or so ago, and there is no formal quitting procedure. If you leave and don’t join another religion, then you’re a “lapsed Catholic.” And if you do something to excommunicate yourself, then you have cut yourself off from the church where you still ought to belong — so you’re more of a “really bad Catholic.” You’ll have separated yourself from God but you can always repent and unseparate yourself. “Catholic” will always be a part of the description of who you are. Face it: You’re going to be a Catholic forever, whether you ever darken another church door or say another prayer. That’s what you signed up for.

  79. APX says:

    Centristian says:

    I’ve never heard of a formal process for leaving the Church of one’s own volition, and I can’t imagine there could be any such thing.

    It’s called an Actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica. (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/intrptxt/documents/rc_pc_intrptxt_doc_20060313_actus-formalis_en.html).

    However, according to Wikipedia (which isn’t the most accurate resource):

    The motu proprio Omnium in mentem of 26 October 2009 removed from the canons in question all reference to an act of formal defection from the Catholic Church.[1][2][3]

    The formal act of defection from the Catholic Church as a process recognized in canon law as distinct from de facto defection whether by action or in writing, and the associated need to record the act in the baptismal register, were thereby abolished.[4]

    Even without performing a canonically recognized formal act, defection from the Catholic Church does of course occur and is subject to the spiritual penalty of excommunication laid down in canon 1364 of the Code of Canon Law

  80. Centristian says:

    “It’s called an Actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia catholica.”

    From the document referenced at Vatican. va:

    “1. For the abandonment of the Catholic Church to be validly configured as a true actus formalis defectionis ab Ecclesia so that the exceptions foreseen in the previously mentioned canons would apply, it is necessary that there concretely be:

    a) the internal decision to leave the Catholic Church;
    b) the realization and external manifestation of that decision; and
    c) the reception of that decision by the competent ecclesiastical authority.”

    It continues…

    “5. It is required, moreover, that the act be manifested by the interested party in written form, before the competent authority of the Catholic Church: the Ordinary or proper pastor, who is uniquely qualified to make the judgment concerning the existence or non-existence of the act of the will as described above in n. 2.”

    Interesting. But I wonder why, when one has fulfilled steps “a” and “b”, step “c” would ever be taken by anybody. At that point, hasn’t one really ceased to recognize any authority of the Roman Catholic Church as as a “competent ecclesiastical authority”? If you no longer believe in the Church, after all, you no longer recognize that her ministers speak with Christ’s authority. So who, fulfilling “a” and “b”, would ever imagine it necessary to fulfill “c”?

  81. Ame E. says:

    Talk to your pastor or find a confessor you can trust, and tell him your thoughts, why you want to leave etc. Go to confession…

    The whole thing (wanting to leave, find a place where you have a great EXPERIENCE could be a temptation from the devil. He gets us unhappy and dissatisfied and always promises greener pastures elsewhere… of course, he is the father of lies..

    Read some inspirational Catholic books… 2 come to mind: Mother Teresa’s Be My Light, which basically journals her sanctity in spite of her lack of consolations, and the biography of Mother Angelica by Raymond Arroyo. Neither of these ladies always had great experiences… yet both stayed the course. Pray for perseverance.

    Ditto what everyone else has said…

  82. Alice says:

    I can’t think of any reason why an American would feel the need to formally leave the Church for the reason you state; however, in some countries there could be reasons to do so. For example, the Newman Center chaplain at my Alma Mater once mentioned that he had had to make the necessary notes on a baptismal certificate. This person was born in the United States to German citizens attending the University and he had gone back to Germany with his parents. Apparently after he grew up, he had left the Church, and now he had to formally defect in order to avoid supporting the Church through his taxes.

  83. Prof. Basto says:


    The formal act of defection from the Catholic Church no longer exists. It had only existed since 1983 and was reppealed in 2009.

    The “formal act of defection” had the limited effect of unbinding the person defected from the norms of Canon Law binding Catholics only (this concerned mainly the canonical form of marriage). However, it was an unwelcome softening of the centuries old canonical principle “once a Catholic, always a Catholic”. The juridical situation must mirror the sacramental reality, and, sacramentally, your bond with the Church cannot be undone.

    So, in 2009, reppealing norms from the 1983 Code, the Church returned to her discipline that, juridically also, you cannot ever leave. You can incurr the censure of excommunication, but that does not amount to leaving. If you incurr the censure of excommunication, that’s because you are still bound by Canon Law and by the penalties prescribed in it for Catholics. And, after excommunication and during the state of excommunication, you continue so bound by Canon Law.

    In his 2009 Motu Proprio, Pope Benedict decreed:

    “The Code of Canon Law nonetheless prescribes that the faithful who have left the Church “by a formal act” are not bound by the ecclesiastical laws regarding the canonical form of marriage (cf. can. 1117), dispensation from the impediment of disparity of cult (cf. can. 1086) and the need for permission in the case of mixed marriages (cf. can. 1124). The underlying aim of this exception from the general norm of can. 11 was to ensure that marriages contracted by those members of the faithful would not be invalid due to defect of form or the impediment of disparity of cult.

    Experience, however, has shown that this new law gave rise to numerous pastoral problems. First, in individual cases the definition and practical configuration of such a formal act of separation from the Church has proved difficult to establish, from both a theological and a canonical standpoint. In addition, many difficulties have surfaced both in pastoral activity and the practice of tribunals. Indeed, the new law appeared, at least indirectly, to facilitate and even in some way to encourage apostasy in places where the Catholic faithful are not numerous or where unjust marriage laws discriminate between citizens on the basis of religion. The new law also made difficult the return of baptized persons who greatly desired to contract a new canonical marriage following the failure of a preceding marriage. Finally, among other things, many of these marriages in effect became, as far as the Church is concerned, “clandestine” marriages.

    In light of the above, and after carefully considering the views of the Fathers of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, as well as those of the Bishops’ Conferences consulted with regard to the pastoral advantage of retaining or abrogating this exception from the general norm of can. 11, it appeared necessary to eliminate this norm which had been introduced into the corpus of canon law now in force.

    Therefore I decree that in the same Code the following words are to be eliminated: “and has not left it by a formal act” (can. 1117); “and has not left it by means of a formal act” (can. 1086 § 1); “and has not left it by a formal act” (can. 1124).”

  84. Bornacatholic says:

    Dear Giambattista. Your link is to Christ the King Catholic Church in Sarasota. Thanks be to God I am there roughly every other week. You would love Fr Fryar in his splendid Vestments, the smell of Incense, the Chant and Sacred Polyphony of The Schola, and the reverent beautiful Mass, the accomplished Sanctuary symmetry of movement amongst the Altar Boys, and the inside of The Church with its handsome Altar, the splendidly painted Iconography, and the deportment of the Congregants.

  85. Precentrix says:

    Dear Beloved of Jesus Christ,

    You have my prayers. I am sorry that you have been so disappointed in your experience of the Church. However, please remember that the Church is much, much bigger than the number of people you have encountered so far.

    We don’t know why you came through RCIA in the first place, or even if you were already baptised and just received into our communion. However, when you were baptised, wherever it was, you were marked as a Christian (and, for that matter, a Catholic) for all eternity. You cannot change that, no matter what you do. You can, of course, cut yourself off from the communion of the Church, if you decide to. You can commit mortal sin and lose sanctifying grace. I don’t advise either.

    Please do something for me and review the reasons why you became a Catholic. Were they the right reasons? If they weren’t, perhaps now is the time to find the right reasons. If they were, it may help you to review them. Please, if you have the time, check out the Catechism of the Catholic Church – or the shorter form called the Compendium. If you do a web search you’ll find both online.

    If you decide to leave our company for a while, know that we are still praying for you. Know that we still consider you one of ours – that you will be missed, even if it doesn’t seem that way. At any time, you can ‘come home’ by making a good confession.

    But seriously, try another parish if you can.

  86. nanetteclaret says:

    Since converting 5 years ago, my experience has been mostly disappointing. Why? Because I know the Catholic Church is capable of being the place which is nearest to Heaven, and in most cases it isn’t. Is the music beautiful with a choir that sings like angels? No. The choir can’t keep a tune and the organ sounds like it came from the ballpark. Does beautiful colored light stream forth from gorgeous stained glass windows, reminding us of the heavenly Jerusalem? No. The windows are plain and the church is drab. Are there inspiring statues, soaring ceilings, and other evidences of being in a Catholic church? No. It’s just like all the other protestant churches within 200 miles. Does the pastor give a strong homily with clear Church teaching? Sometimes it’s clear, sometimes it isn’t. Are the people who attend striving for holiness? They can’t even quit talking in church before Mass. It’s one big disappointment. But I would never leave. It is the Church Jesus founded and all I can do when the choir sings off-key or some type of liturgical problem occurs is offer it up to Him and say, “Jesus, You really deserve better.” It is so difficult in this day and age to remain faithful. We want to escape the world and its culture of death and find within the Church its culture of life, truth, and beauty and when we don’t find the beauty, we get discouraged. However, the Church still possesses the Life and the Truth, because Jesus is the Way. All we can do is to be hard-headed about our disappointment and refuse to leave, then offer up any suffering we may have because of our longing for Heaven on earth.

  87. catholicmidwest says:

    Traditionalorganist, you said, “I don’t understand what an “unsatisfactory” experience could be.”

    You MUST be kidding. Well, or else you’re a cradle Catholic and don’t know any better. Listen, I’m a convert too, and I’m not going anywhere, but being Catholic isn’t what I expected either. The Church is a crazy mess, what there is left of it.

    And Gabriel, I’m past the “honeymoon stage” by about 20 years (been Catholic 26 years this spring). It’s still not what I expected, and it’s still a crazy disorganized mess.

  88. catholicmidwest says:

    stvsmith2009, your comments are 100% on target. Very well said.

    Tony, you said, “We Catholics never learned how to “love bomb” potential converts … we treat them just as crappily as we treat one another.”
    That’s not true exactly. RCIA candidates get thoroughly love-bombed until RCIA is over, and then they get dropped overnight like they have a fatal disease, only to find out what “Catholic community” really consists of…absolutely nothing. You are right about one thing though. Catholics generally treat each other like crap.

  89. catholicmidwest says:

    Prof Basto,

    All of the things you cite really matter to someone who cares, but is that what the person is really asking?

    The fact is that no, a person can’t undo their partaking of the sacraments of initiation. What’s done is done. But yes, a person can leave if they walk right out the door. Isn’t that quite obvious?

    The effect comes down, I suppose, to how you define the word “leaving.” I’m pretty sure people who are contemplating “leaving” might define it differently than you obviously do. They probably also assess the consequences of leaving differently than you do. They’d probably even say that the objective reality of it is what is, but then define that differently than you might.

    Regardless, they can make tracks…right out the door. Unless, of course, you tie them up and put them in the broom closet, which we don’t do.

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