Bringing you the "Good News" of Jesus Christ and His Church While PROMOTING CATHOLIC Apologetic Support groups loyal to the Holy Father and Church's magisterium
Home About
AskACatholic.com
What's New? Resources The Church Family Life Mass and
Adoration
Ask A Catholic
Knowledge base
AskACatholic Disclaimer
Search the
AskACatholic Database
Donate and
Support our work
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
New Questions
Cool Catholic Videos
About Saints
Disciplines & Practices for distinct Church seasons
Purgatory and Indulgences
About the Holy Mass
About Mary
Searching and Confused
Contemplating becoming a Catholic or Coming home
back
Homosexual and Gender Issues
Life and Family
No Salvation Outside the Church
Sacred Scripture
non-Catholic Cults
Justification and Salvation
The Pope and Papacy
The Sacraments
Relationships and Marriage situations
Specific people, organizations and events
Doctrine and Teachings
Specific Practices
Church Internals
Church History


Joanne wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • How do you take your concerns to a local priest when you do not trust them?

There have been so many changes in the Church lately, it is confusing to someone coming back in. I am 54 and was raised Catholic, but I had many years of emotional healing that came afterwards. My father was externally a "good" Catholic, but:

  • he had porn in the house
  • treated my mother poorly, and
  • had anger/verbal abuse issues.

I'm now reading solid things online and going to Mass again. I made some very poor choices in my life resulting from all this and while I thought I was healed, some issues are resurfacing again.
I have been part of many different churches over the years and have grown much in my faith but now feel drawn back to Catholicism. Here are my current issues:

I don't believe, in a heartfelt way, everything the Catholic church teaches. I do agree on all the basic truths of the faith. In reading various web pages, it seems there is a lot of emphasis in the Catholic Church on sin rather than on Christ and what he did for us. This is not helpful to me because of abuse in my background (it's a long story), as well as a sensitive conscience (not to the point of scruples). I can never be fully Catholic, as I married a divorced Catholic 25 years ago, not knowing it was adultery. Annulment is not an option. Some of the things I read online and what I've seen in the new, traditional Catholic church seems like a cult to me. By that I mean:

"it's do it our way, or you're wrong. Believe what we believe, or you're wrong
(not welcome)."

It is confusing for me to figure out.

  • How can it be wrong to read/question everything?
  • Won't God's truth come through in the end?

I love God and want to grow in my faith. I do believe the Catholic Church has a lot of richness.
I am more Catholic than Protestant.

  • Where can I go to get some help with these questions?

Joanne

  { From a confused Catholic trying to come back to the Church. }

John replied:

Joanne,

Thank you so much for your question.

I would encourage you to seek a good spiritual director.  Perhaps you may need to some professional counseling as well to deal with the family issues.

You said that it was difficult for you to believe, in a heartfelt way, all the teachings of the Church. The term heartfelt leads me to think that you are confusing "an emotional response" to
"a teaching within the faith".

Faith is not a feeling. Many doctrines, depending on how they are presented and depending on your perspective and circumstances can cause a favorable on unfavorable emotional response.

So it's important not to confuse how we "feel about things" or "whether or not we understand things", with "whether or not, as a Catholic, we can accept things".

Faith, like Love, involves an act of the will. The battle takes place in the mind so we begin by trying understand the authority of the Church and where it comes from. When push comes to shove, I don't trust my priest, my bishop, or the Pope. OK, now that I've shocked you, let me explain.

That which I believe about God effects my eternal destiny so, while on a human level:

  • I love and trust my pastor
  • I admire and respect my bishop and
  • I think the world of Benedict and John Paul before him

I can't rely on their human weakness to save me. Instead, I trust in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.
Now from there, I have to look at His Word and see what promises and guarantees He has made to ensure His Gospel would be protected from error in being transmitted to the world.

Scripture tells me Jesus Christ established a Church. He sent His Holy Spirit to lead and guide the Church. He gave the Church spiritual gifts in the form of "offices". He founded His Church on twelve Apostles; Peter chief among them. He promised Peter and the Apostles that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. In doing so, He guaranteed that the Church could not teach error when defining a matter of faith and morals. He gave Peter special authority as chief of the Apostles. He gave him the keys of the Kingdom. (Matthew 16:13-20)

So behind the teachings of the Church, stand the promise of our Lord to protect the Church from officially teaching an error in matters of faith and morals. That doesn't mean that Church leaders wouldn't fail to follow those teachings. Obviously, one just needs to look at the recent scandals. Better yet, just look at Judas— you can't fail to follow Christ's teaching, much more than Judas.

St. Paul wrote to Timothy that the "pillar and foundation of the truth is the Church" (1 Timothy 3:15), so when I accept a doctrine which emotionally is hard to swallow, I'm fundamentally relying on the promise of Christ. Without that meaning of Christ's Promise and the Holy Spirit, then the Church is simply an organization or a bunch guys wearing cool hats telling us what to do. If that's the case, we have no reliable proof that Jesus:

  • did anything
  • taught anything
  • rose from the dead, or
  • perhaps even existed.

So don't be discouraged about your emotional inability to accept certain teachings. Start by focusing on your relationship with Jesus. Try studying the Church and the authority given to it by Jesus. To that end, our knowledge base should be helpful. We have a lot of answers that deal with the Papacy, infallibility, Tradition and so forth. Work on those teachings you have trouble with.

But most importantly, you have some trust issues because of your father and his background.
You need allow Jesus to heal those wounds. It may take counseling. I think a good Spiritual director is the place to start.

God Bless,

John

Joanne replied:

John,

Thank you so much for answering my question and doing so promptly. You have given me some things to think about. You are right — I am not using my will to trust Church leaders — it seems just too big a jump and I would rather go to God who I do trust. I will keep reading as you suggest.

  • How do I go about finding a good spiritual director?

I am so afraid of finding someone who will steer me wrong or tell me to just get out because
I married a divorced person. I have had years of (secular) counseling but I will do so again, if that is what I need.

  • Where do you find a good Christian/Catholic counselor?

Joanne

John replied:

Hi, Joanne —

I'm not sure how they do it in your diocese, but you can start by talking to someone in the chancery and asking them who provides spiritual direction. Often times, you can find a good director in a religious order but make sure the person is faithful to the teachings of the Church as well as being pastoral.

You do have a real issue that needs to be resolved. You're not just married to a divorced man.
You are technically in adultery. I highly encourage you to talk to your spouse about trying to get an annulment. There is no guarantee that it will be granted, but they are fairly easy to obtain if there is any pre-existing reason that could invalidate the marriage. They give them for a variety of reasons — among them:

  • emotional immaturity
  • one of the parties who entered into the marriage believing divorce was an option if things didn't work out
  • a failure to understand the sacramental nature of Christian marriage.

It would be a good idea for you to get this straight. Jesus is very clear in the Gospel, if a man divorces his wife and marries another, when his first wife is still alive, then he commits adultery. This isn't something the Church made up; it's right in the Scriptures.

As far as finding a good Christian counselor, again, I would look in the directory or do a google search. Also, don't be afraid to go talk to your parish priest. He could help you with both a counselor and a spiritual director.  He can also explain the annulment process to you.

No one is going to tell you to leave or get out because of your irregular marriage. You are always welcome to attend Church and pray with the community but you should refrain from receiving the Eucharist until you can get your marriage situation straight.

God Bless,

John

Joanne replied:

Hi, John —

I am afraid to talk to a priest. I believe marrying him was adultery but I only realized this in the last few months; I honestly did not know. I have confessed this to God and believe he forgives me but the Catholic Church does not. I will talk to my husband but I don't know if he will agree to seeking an annulment. He started the papers 25 years ago, got completely disgusted with the whole process, and wouldn't finish it.

  • Is it right for me to ask him to go against his conscience?
  • Can I still go to Confession or not?

Joanne

John replied:

Joanne —

There is absolutely no reason to be afraid to talk with a priest. The fact that you are approaching him about finding a way to be reconciled with the Church will probably make his day, unless of course, he's an idiot that shouldn't be in the priesthood.

You've confessed to God but you are still living in the sin. Repentance means to change direction. It means to turn away from the sin and turn to God so you can go to Confession, but the priest can't absolve you of your sins (unless you were on your death bed; and that's not the case).

Your husband may have gotten disgusted with the process and perhaps it's because he was poorly catechized. You have every right to ask your husband to do this. It involves your status with the Church.

You may not have know what you were doing at the time, but now, you know.

You really have to start dealing with it and that's why you need to start by having a conversation with your priest and letting him advise you on how to proceed with your husband. If your husband really loves you, he wants the best for you, in this life and the next. You can't, in good conscience, continue to live in an adulterous marriage. God is always willing to forgive, but we can't make a mockery of His Mercy. This is difficult for you, I know, and we will try to encourage you along the way. Certainly we recommend that you find a priest who is faithful to Rome and the Holy Father, but it's up to you to decide if you want to continue to, knowingly, live in adultery.

God Bless

John

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
Suggestions for this web page and the web site can be sent to Mike Humphrey
© 2012 Panoramic Sites
The Early Church Fathers Church Fathers on the Primacy of Peter. The Early Church Fathers on the Catholic Church and the term Catholic. The Early Church Fathers on the importance of the Roman Catholic Church centered in Rome.