I had followed Alice down the rabbit hole. I only wanted to understand, to know what this Catholicism was. It was if there was a force behind it, a nameless something I had to understand. Armed with the power of the internet, I jumped in with both feet.
My first question was, “Why are Catholics and Protestants different?” I knew my family was pretty anti-Catholic (Read: very ), so I decided to go straight to the source. Who better to teach me about Catholicism than Catholics? I wasn’t aware of the Catechism yet, so I searched “Why should I be Catholic?” on Google. In retrospect, it wasn’t the best idea, but I found what I was looking for all the same. The most interesting source was this article by Dave Armstrong. It has changed some—note hyperlinked Bible verses—but remains essentially the same. I read each point carefully until I hit 100:
One of Protestantism’s foundational principles is sola scriptura, which is neither a biblical…historical…nor logical…idea.
If I understood anything, it was sola scriptura. Growing up in a very traditional Southern Baptist church taught me that much. The Bible was the Word of God, it was inerrant, and it had all the answers. Now I’m being told that’s unbiblical? Okay, I’m listening. Then the bombshell dropped:
The Council of Carthage…included the so-called “apocryphal” books, which Protestants kicked out of the Bible… Prior to the 16th century, Christians considered these books Scripture…
What? Protestants and Catholics have different Bibles? I couldn’t believe what I was reading, but I picked my jaw up off the floor and headed back to Google for round two. Yes, it was true. Catholics had 7 more books—books that were even in the first printed Bibles! Luther had removed these books to an appendix, had called James an “epistle of straw,” and had even considered throwing out Revelation. I realized that Luther had taken these books out—as he nearly did James and Revelation—because they supported Catholic beliefs. Who gave Luther that authority? I can’t explain how absolutely livid I was. All my life I had been taught the Church kept the Bible from people, that Protestants had made the Bible accessible to everyone. But that wasn’t true—they hadn’t given anyone the Bible, just their own version of it. How could we claim sola scriptura when we didn’t even have all of Scripture in the first place?
I had always loved God, but my faith never felt whole, and I always had this niggling feeling that I wasn’t doing it “right.” I was constantly doubtful and fearful of going to Hell. I couldn’t understand why Christianity had so many different denominations. I couldn’t see how everyone could think differently and still be right, and worst of all, I was sure I was going to Hell for doubting the Bible and Jesus. I’d lived with that fear all my life, the fear that God would never forgive me for being “bad” and not believing him.
But then he came in as beautiful and kind as ever—my good Physician—and “delivered my soul from the depths” (Ps. 86:13) of anxiety and darkness. He healed my wounds of doubt and fear when he “set me secure” (18:33) in the arms of my Mother. I saw clearly in my confusion over “truth” the need for the Papacy and hierarchy, for one universal Catholic Church. As St. Paul says, “There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, [and] one baptism…” (Eph. 4:4-5) and “together [we] may with one voice” worship God (Rom. 15:6). I understood Jesus had made Peter the Rock of the Faith and through him promised we would have a sure way of hearing God’s voice among many. The Good Shepherd gave us shepherds, that we might hear his voice and believe.
I often hear said about Protestantism, “Everyone is their own theologian.” I found this, in my experience, to be very true. Even now, my well-meaning Protestant friends warn me against using commentaries or study helps, encouraging me to rely instead on “the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” Yet, why is it that Peter tells us “no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20), and warns us against such thoughts? Indeed, he goes on to warn against “false teachers among [us]” (2:1) and says,
There are some things in [Paul’s writings] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. (3:16)
Common sense and logic are enough to bunk sola scriptura; clearly not everyone is a theologian, and clearly the Spirit of Truth and Unity wouldn’t produce divisive, contradictory opinions. It was as if faith were a big test, and the Catholic Church had all the answers, while the Protestants cheated off the Church’s paper. They got some wrong, some right, but still didn’t have the fulness of Truth the Church did. I became convinced, the more I read about Scripture, history, and doctrine, that the Church was right. I knew I had to convert. I had to have the Eucharist. I couldn’t ignore the still, small voice in my head any longer. I sat at my desk, crying because I was so afraid of what might happen next. But I had to do it, so I prayed.
God, just make me a way and I’ll go. I promise I’ll do it. Only just make me a way. It would be almost three years before he answered me, so beautifully and so simply that I could hardly believe it. My Jesus had heard me, had already set me on the way home. I just didn’t know it yet.
Did you notice I’m using the NRSV? Be looking for my next Challenge post soon! Haven’t read Part One of my story? Thank you to all who read this blog; stay tuned for Part Three!
In His Sacred Heart,