ASK FATHER: Why should a Protestant convert and join the Catholic Church?

From a reader…


Why should a Protestant like me convert and join the Catholic church, given the current corruption that appears to reach all the way to the top?

(This is not an idle question. I was ready to call a priest and learn more, just before the recent scandal broke.)

I get it.  I really do.  I am a convert and those times when I came into the Church were also troubling.  They have been for a while.  As a matter of fact, there has been controversy swirling in and around the Church since the moment Our Lord’s feet disappeared into the heavens at his Ascension.

First, remember that the Church was founded for sinners.  Therefore, let’s not be surprised when we find that the Church is filled with sinners, at every level.

Second, remember that the Devil hates the Church.  The Enemy attacks relentlessly.  It is a good strategy to strike high, strike the shepherds so that the sheep will scatter.  It should shock us but not at all surprise us that there are corrupt clergy and lay people in the Church at every level.   The attacks on the Church are, themselves, proofs that she is who she says she is.

Third, the fact that there is corruption or incompetence in the Church, and that the Church  has always prevailed and moved forward in the Lord’s mission is a sign that this, the Catholic Church, truly is the Church that Christ founded.  Left to us, we would destroy it.  The continuance of the Church demonstrates God’s favor and grace and protection, even from us.

There is no better place to be than in the Church that Christ Himself founded.  The faults of individuals disgust and demoralize from time to time, but they  are not “the Church”.  The Church is, truly, the spotless bride of Christ.  God’s love for us is so great that He entrusts His Church to us little sinful mortals as we muddle along.

If you believe in Christ’s promises and in the Church true claims – as they really are, and not at the fools, libs, modernists, liars and confused distort them for their worldly objectives – then there is no where else that we can be.  We must be Catholics in the Catholic Church.  And if we, knowing the claims of the Church and Christ’s promises, knowing that this is Christ’s Church, fail to enter her embrace or determine to leave it, we put our salvation in peril, because, in rejecting the truth, we reject our Lord Himself.

Great spiritual gain (membership in the Church) comes at a cost.   There is always a cost.   For some it is giving up a known community.  For others it is giving up comfort.  For others it is giving up customs or other matters.   There is always a cost.

The benefits, however, are abundant, if not always immediately comfortable.

Crises come and go.  The Catholic Church was founded by Christ.  And, given that truth, there is no place else we can be.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. RKR says:

    I am also a convert (as of Easter this year) and although my acceptance into the Church took place before the latest round of scandals I have to say that what has been happening does not at all make me think I was mistaken.
    As Father Z says, Satan hates the Church and the turmoil we see I think proves more and more the truth of the Catholic faith … otherwise Satan would not be fighting so hard to destroy it. I believe that very strongly.
    I find myself thinking frequently, too, of Peter’s words, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ If you are willing to accept the truth that this is really THE Church, there’s simply no other option.
    Please don’t give up!

  2. LeeGilbert says:

    Fr. You write, “The faults of individuals disgust and demoralize from time to time, but they are not “the Church”. The Church is, truly, the spotless bride of Christ. God’s love for us is so great that He entrusts His Church to us little sinful mortals as we muddle along.”

    Similarly, Maritain, commenting on Journet, elaborates:

    “To the extent that a man acts in grace and charity, he lives by the life of the Church, his actions manifest in him the very life of the Whole of which he is a part. To the extent that a man is lacking in grace and charity, to the same extent, if he is a member of the Church, he withdraws from her life. And the evil actions that he commits are no stains on the Church, because the Church has no part in them; they do not soil the face of the Church, except as the spittles of the soldiers soiled the face of Jesus. The sins of Alexander VI related to his own person, from which they proceeded; they did not relate at all, except in order to offend her, to the person of the Church.”

    From Jacques Maritain, On the Church of Christ: The Person of the Church and Her by Joseph W. Evans. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1973) 14.

    This is only a paragraph from a much longer discussion, the entirety of which would be very helpful to this seeker . . .

  3. Joe in Canada says:

    “will you too leave me?” “to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”

  4. Unwilling says:

    I am often asked this question. I try to get immediately to the counter-question: What if God founded the Church and wants you to be in it?

    It is sometimes easy to find perspectives from which the Church is repulsive to you. But none of that matters for anything, if God calls you to be a Catholic.

    Get well soon, Fr Z.

  5. There is only one reason to convert to the Catholic Church: you have realized that it is the one true Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    If you believe that, and do not convert, using as an excuse some problem with sinful people or bad politics, you have violated your conscience. Those who go against their conscience on matters of this importance, go to hell, because they are doing is seriously wrong, becaues that is the definition of mortal sin.

    I suspect, however, that this fellow has not yet really decided that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ. So I impute to him no mortal sin! He needs to clarify what he believes as to what is the true Church. Then the rest will fall into place.

  6. Alaskamama says:

    Jesus founded the Catholic Church. Would you rather be a follower of Jesus in His Church or by following Wesley or Luther or Calvin or BillyBob at the strip mall church down the road? Sure, Catholics are horrible sinners, corrupt, and doing all they can to mess up Jesus’s Church, but still She (the Church) persists.
    Don’t be known for what you protest (as a Protest-ant), but embrace the Church in the full. I think you will find it a beautiful, grace-filled place, and all my convert friends don’t know how they survived before without Jesus in the Eucharist. C’mon, jump in! The (holy) water’s great!

  7. HvonBlumenthal says:

    I’m a convert too.

    Our Nigerian traditionalist priest recently sain in a sermon “The truth is the truth, even if your worst enemy says it.” This was always the point for me. Either Catholic doctrine is true, or it isn’t. Whether Catholics behave well is beside the point.

    When I converted, there was no major scandal to consider, but there was another issue for me: why should I leave the beautiful liturgy of Anglo-Catholicism for the banal and often irreverend new Mass? The answer was the same. If the Church possesses the truth, there is no option but to convert.

  8. Pius Admirabilis says:

    This is an important post! The current crisis is not the first and only crisis the Church has found Herself in: From the time of the Ascension, there have been greater and smaller crises, like the Arian heresy (where almost all bishops fell from the Faith), the East-West schism, the saeculum obscurum, the Investiture Controversy, the Reformation, the Neo-Gallican heresy, the Kulturkampf, the oppression of the Church in the Third Reich, the Modernist/Neo-Modernist heresy, and so on, and so forth. There was not a single point in time when the Church was all safe and sound. There has always been going on something, from the primitive Church and emerging heresies, to our present day with its heresies and abuses. Still, the Church of today is the same as the Church Christ founded. You can find Christ’s redeeming sacrifice only in Her, and She is the undivided Body of Christ – to be in Christ means to be in the Church. He who doesn’t call the Church his Mother, cannot call God his Father. Outside of the Church, there is neither salvation nor the forgiveness of sins, because the Church IS the forthliving Christ, and only Christ can grant salvation and forgiveness of sins.

    However, to follow Christ means to negate oneself, and to pick up one’s individual cross. To enter the Church for many meant and means a certain death sentence, public shame, and marginalization. From a worldly perspective, it’s the worst thing one could possibly do. From an eternal perspective, it’s the only viable option we have, even if that means leaving mother and father and everything behind.

  9. Bellarmino Vianney says:

    One should become Catholic because of The Most Holy Eucharist.

    There are many nice Protestant people out there. But, according to John chapter 6, none of them have life in them. Those are Jesus’ words. Don’t get mad at the messenger.

    It is doctrine based on Divine Revelation that if one rejects the Truth of the Most Holy Eucharist, one will not get to heaven. This is expressed very clearly by Jesus in John 6.

    While there are some bad Jesuits out there, this commentator recently came across a book by one Jesuit that clearly and forcibly expresses the aforementioned doctrine. The Jesuit is very well known, and, it is likely that he defends the Truth about the Eucharist so staunchly because he resides in the Southern U.S.

    Many Protestants are raised on “emotivist” pseudo-christianity, and thus, if the Catholic Church does not “feel” like it is God’s Church, then such people will be turned away from Her. The boat is currently in a hurricane. But Jesus is sleeping on that boat. Hopefully He wakes up soon; He promises that He will wake up, He must just be extra sleepy these days.

    In contrast, Jesus is not sleeping on the boats that are the protestant pseudo-religions. Parts of Jesus’ teachings are there in those pseudo-religions, but because Jesus cannot be separated, and because there are only parts of Jesus’ Truth in those pseudo-religions, it follows that Jesus is not present in Protestantism. One cannot divide Jesus, and one cannot divide the Truth.

    Not mocking Protestants here. It is simple fact. It should be mentioned that many “Catholics” also are emotivists and wrongly view the Church as a mere tool to be used as a convert venue.

  10. swvirginia says:

    One of things that had a tremendous influence on me was the book “Triumph,” which tells the history of the church through the reign of each and every Pope, starting with Peter. Unlike books like the Catechism which I had to read in very small doses, Triumph, for me, was a real page turner. You read about one Pope and all the stuff, often very bad, that happened during his reign, and you go, “I have to know what happened next…” and off you go into the next chapter, where even worse stuff happens. Yet by the time I finished, I was in awe, not of the Popes, but of “the Church” and the amazing story of how it has prevailed over every kind of avarice, vice, plague, political insurrection, and chaos. Nothing, for 2000 years, has caused mortal damage to the Church. This history is not taught in Catholic schools, and should be required reading for every Catholic.

  11. Dear questioner, I will pray for your discernment process; remember that Judas left many offspring, but Paul, Peter and on and on, left many too. God bless you on your journey and call that priest! I am sickened by all the corruption in the Church, but I would never leave Her; She belongs to Christ and not the evil doers. God never sleeps and He knows all hearts and minds and one day will put an end to all this evil that is in His Holy Church.
    God bless you!

  12. Katherine says:

    I believe Hilaire Belloc once remarked that the Catholic Church must have a divine origin, because “no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight”.

  13. This is a great time to be in the Church! The battle is getting going now. These times should appeal to those who like a challenge. Put on your armor [practice the presence of God, confess regularly], grab your weapon [the Rosary], steep yourself in the true teachings of the Church [the old stuff: great works of doctrine, discipline, spiritual guidance] and be prepared to speak the truth whether people want hear it or not, even if its in a small voice.
    Are you kidding me? The castle is on fire! The enemy is within! Our good generals are dying. The walls are being breached, they are trying to starve us and beat us – but we are all made for this moment [that is why we were born at this time – its the plan]. This is not the time to run off. Jump into the action and eagerly do battle. Help yourself as well as others nearing despair. These are hot times – there were saints who desired to live in these times — LOL — can you believe that?

  14. Simon_GNR says:

    Augustine Thompson O.P. has it right:
    “There is only one reason to convert to the Catholic Church: you have realized that it is the one true Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
    That was my experience on becoming a Catholic as a young adult having been brought up as an Anglican protestant.

    I can sum up why I became convinced of the truth of Father Thompson’s statement and so felt compelled to became a Catholic in four words: “Real Presence; Apostolic Succession.” The Church of England had neither of these.

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    Amen, Tina.

    “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of [the Church]; but he that stands by [her] now, deserves the love and thanks of [God and Man].”

  16. Ben Kenobi says:

    “Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for?”

    Suppose you are right. Suppose that the Church is wholly corrupt at the head. Suppose that the Church has fallen to the sinners within it. What then? You hear that a friend next door is beset by enemies from both within and without. What do you do? Do you close your door? Or do you come over to help your friend?

    I, too, am a convert. I, too, fought for years alongside my Catholic friends. I realized that our divisions had nothing to do with the battles of today and that rather than strengthening our common cause, our divisions weakened it.

    What will you choose?

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