Three times I've been in this predicament. After being a member of a church community for a while I subsequently discovered their doctrines were suspect.
- As an enthusiast of Calvary Chapel and other fundamental evangelical teaching — I adopted dissenting views of Eschatology, Creationism, Charismatic, and whether we are judged for our works. I drifted for a long time before discovering Catholicism.
- As a Catholic — I learned of the Eastern Orthodox church after studying church history and discovered I had no reason to choose west over east.
- Returned to Catholicism — but my outrage at the lukewarm (or worse) bishops and priests finally took its toll. I went back to the apostolic and early church to discover "true Christianity".
In each of these episodes I was left orphaned without a Christian community to belong to. I was not able to fully participate in any church because I was an outsider. As a Catholic I was not be able to participate in any Protestant or Orthodox church; as a fallen-away Catholic (but I did not fall into sin) I could not go to confession or the Eucharist.
During each of these phases I wrote various articles describing my views. In round three (fallen-away Catholic) I developed two movements:
- One Apostolic Church — The church is merely the sum total of all born-again Christians who are members of the mystical body of Christ; there is no "catholic" institutional church organization.
- Apostolic Reformation of the Church— Back to the roots, to the form of Christianity practiced by the first couple of generations of Christians.
The problem with attempting to limit the church to the earliest generations is that the Catholic church (with apostolic succession of ordination, clergy vs. laity, and autocratic bishops) appeared on the scene long before the Nicene Creed and the Canon of Scripture. What justification did I have for rejecting these "Catholic" elements but accepting the rest? (Although many of the other teachings of the early church were also Catholic such as: (1) baptism remits original sin; (2) the Eucharist is not merely a symbol; and (3) the Church is the authority, not the Bible.)
Another unsettling experience that became all-to-familiar in my adopting these various alternative views of Christianity was: I was forced to acknowledge I was the only person on earth who had the correct views; that the Holy Spirit for some unknown reason singled me out and revealed this essential truth but didn't enliven me to evangelize the world with it. There were certainly no established churches at all sharing my views. At first I was very uncomfortable with this but after a while I accepted the weirdness of it all.
- The Catholic Church is not the church founded by Jesus and the apostles.
- Doctrinal developmentis part of the plan.
- Catholics should be outraged at the bad behavior of some of the popes, bishops, and priests throughout history and into the present.
The Catholic Church has changed its views:
- Protestants were once considered to be heretics who should be burned at the stake; now they are imperfectly joined to the Catholic Church as separated brethren.
- Galileo was harassed and imprisoned for believing the earth revolves around the sun.
- It used to be that Catholics thought only Catholics are redeemed; now they acknowledge the possibility of others.
- Read more here, here, and here.
- What other views will it change in the future?
How are good Catholics to know what teachings to believe and obey?
- In discussing the ingredients of unification of east and west Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote that it is only necessary that the Orthodox Churches accept the same concepts of the papacy as they accepted before the Great Schism (in 1054 A.D.) This implies that developments of the papacy since then (such as papal infallibility) are not absolutely true but are mere disciplinary issues.
- The Catholic Church allows married priests in certain cases.
- In 864 A.D. Pope John XII excommunicated all the bishops. When he died shortly thereafter, these bishops ignored their excommunication and proceeded to elect a new pope. If the bishops themselves can ignore papal decrees, certainly Catholics at large can too.
- Sadly, recently a protest movement by the laity was required to persuade their bishops to clean up serious abuses in the Church. It is outrageous that bishops require this before they will act. The laity must be prepared to oppose their bishops when needed.
- Throughout church history there are example of Saints opposing their bishops and popes.
- Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a book (The Spirit of the Liturgy) in which he claims that the pipe organ is the only instrument that should be allowed for mass. Yet he allows rock music during World Youth Day. Make up your mind. And some parishes (even cathedrals) regularly play hideously dissonant and jarring "monster" music on the pipe organ during mass. What is wrong with these people?
Here is a list of some controversial items and my views:
- Eucharistand transubstantiation: The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is expressed in terms of the philosophy of Aristotle— the Orthodox Churches reject this philosophical system and neither do I accept it. The Orthodox Churches teach, instead, that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of God (not merely a sign), that it is symbolical and mystical, that it is a mystery. I believe the consecrated bread and wine are literally the body and blood of Christ, and that consuming these is an act of worship which imparts a significant blessing.
- The laity must oppose their liberal bishops and priests; we have no obligation whatsoever to obey these.
- Unmarried priests: I think it is important for a certain percentage of people to refrain from having children or else the population will grow (has already grown) too large. But priests shouldn't have to remain unmarried.
- I believe abortionis murder because the fetus is genetically human (however, I don't believe abortionshould be illegal.)I believe a woman who is pregnant because of rape or other kinds of victiomization should be allowed an abortion. (Rape is a doubly heinous crime because after the rape, the woman is forced to do her best to carry the baby to term.)
- Regarding contraception:the Catholic Church teaches contraception is gravely immoral but there are contradictions with this view; I am always troubled by contradictions. For people who wish to use contraception, there is the practical problem of finding a good method.
- Divorce is usually wrong (except in cases of abuse or exploitation). The Catholic Church is correct about this but they allow annulments in certain cases (but these are not granted in a consistent manner). Divorced and remarried Catholics are not allowed to take communion; this is sad.
- Sexual relations should only occur in the context of a lifelong commitment, in marriage.
- Missing mass for Catholics is a mortal sin. I can't imagine why a devout Catholic would want to regularly miss mass. I also can't imagine why a Catholic would not wish to be devout.
- Christian baptism and the belief in the real presence of the Eucharist should be all that is required to partake of communion.
- RCIA is a joke. It is insensitive to subject Protestant converts to a year of crappy (or worse) teaching to become Catholic.
- I believe the Catholic Church's disregard for the problems of alcohol consumption is unconscionable. I've had priests tell me the church has no teaching against alcohol. The same comment applies to tobacco. What is wrong with these people?