Why I Became Catholic Pt. 2

Some time ago, I decided to tell you about the reasons why I joined the Catholic faith. In my last post, I mentioned the abundant value of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a guiding source for official Church teaching. In this post, I’d like to share with you the importance of history and how it supports modern-day claims about the Catholic Church.

As a Protestant, it seemed like church history started with the Protestant Reformation. It seemed like every major doctrine that encompassed the five Solas revolved around the Reformation. The people who I admired most in Protestant circles highlighted Martin Luther and John Calvin as if they were the apostles themselves that received direct revelation from Christ to start their revolution against the Church. It seemed like every major thing I knew about my faith as a Protestant originated from these figures.

All I heard and read from Protestant pastors and scholars was that Christianity was compromised early on. This is a popular theory sometimes called the Great Apostasy. This narrative has many popular renditions, but most goes like this: authentic Christianity was thriving for many centuries until Constantine came and made Christianity into a political and institutional organization. By doing so, he allowed Christianity to evolve into an idolatrous and power-hungry force which is now the “Roman Catholic Church.” Strong emphasis on “Roman” because anti-Catholic sentiments want to distance what the early church called the “Catholic church” from a corrupted counterfeit ripoff.

After much doubting my beliefs and going back and forth on the Great Apostasy, I started to have this thought, “If Jesus Christ promised his Church would never be compromised by evil than Christianity couldn’t have possibly been in error that many centuries.” I was always told the Reformers wanted to reclaim authentic Christianity that was lost. Christ died about 1500 years before the Reformation which means a false Christianity existed for far too long.

Catholicism praised itself on being the unbroken historical Church that can be traced back to Jesus, so after much thinking, I decided to be open-minded and investigate what the early church believed to see how Catholic it was. If what the Catholic Church said was true then I would be able to find great scholars or theologians that would’ve expanded on doctrines that Catholics believe today.

I went to find out exactly what the first six centuries of Christianity believed. Granted, I didn’t do an exhaustive trek of reading every homily, epistle, or text available by apostolic, ante/ post-Nicene fathers, but I read and heard enough legitimate sources to abandon my Protestant beliefs on Catholic claims on history.

One of those doctrines is the Primacy of Rome and the papacy which are probably one of the most dividing points between Catholics and Protestants. Catholics see the early church as having primacy in the Bishop of Rome, but Protestants see such a belief as either unsupported by Scripture or just a development of a later compromised “Roman Christianity.” Which one was true?

When I started digging deeper into the papacy/primacy of Rome, I found a quote that really warped my Protestant lenses. Although not before the Constantine era, it still managed to uproot deep anti-Catholic claims about the ancient church looking nothing like today’s Catholic Church.

In 451, the Council of Chalcedon was summoned to clarify the Christological nature of Christ against heresy advanced by Eutyches and his widespread belief of monophysitism. The council agreed on the orthodox belief that Christ is one in two natures. During the second session of the council, the bishops declared:

“This is the faith of the fathers, this is the faith of the Apostles. So we all believe, thus the orthodox believe. Anathema to him who does not thus believe. Peter has spoken thus through Leo. “

After reading this, I couldn’t believe I stumbled across a historical truth concerning the primacy of Peter and the Magisterium of the Church What I got from this excerpt was this: Peter is the apostle with the elevated position to lead and be the visible head of the flock, didn’t intend on allowing his role to die when he martyred. As a result, he allowed a successor to be the Bishop of Rome and eventually there was an identifiable unbroken link of successors to Peter’s seat. Since Peter is the rock on which the Church is built, his authoritative foundation was alive through Pope Leo I during Chalcedon.

And there it was. A clear link from the past to the present. As I crept into being satisfied with the prospect of being Catholic, I bought a book called Upon This Rock: St. Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church by Stephen Ray. This book provides a scriptural and historical case for the papacy. The chapter on the first five centuries cites several Church Fathers and proves how the earliest Christians were governed by the Bishop of Rome and recognized Peter as having a preeminent position among the twelve. This book totally debunked the myth of the Great Apostasy by demonstrating that before the Edict of Milan or Constantine, the Fathers were convinced about the importance of Rome as a governing authority for the Church.

For example, when Irenaeus wrote Against Heresies, he mentions Pope Victor’s dispute with Asia Minor churches on the correct Easter celebration date. In response to Pope Victor’s authoritative decision to excommunicate the churches because of their hesitancy to transfer to a unified liturgical calendar, the peaceful Saint states:

“It is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church [of Rome] on account of its preeminent authority.”

Irenaeus shows that the churches across the scattered world must agree with the Roman Church because of its reputation, founding and being organized by Sts. Peter and Paul. This further shows that Peter had a special honor as an apostle. Scholars estimate Irenaeus wrote his letter in about 180 or 190 AD, so this is clearly prior to Constantine. I walked away from this quote feeling even more affirmed that the ancient Church was indeed the Catholic Church.

One thing I’ve learned about looking at history is the Church today doesn’t resemble the primitive Church 100% and that’s a good thing. The Church encompasses more believers and has fewer theological terms to define. You definitely won’t find a Pope Mobile either! Thankfully, the Mystical Body of Christ gradually changed without transforming into an entirely new institution. As time went on in the earliest centuries, the Church became more clearly defined. We can see this in topics such as Christology. Today we have full-fledged teaching on this essential aspect of Christianity, but earlier on it took a few centuries against heresy to formulate the orthodox understanding of hypostatic union.

Friends, If you’re anything like me and asked the question “How did the earliest Christian’s worship?” then the Fathers will be of great aid. There’s a popular quote circulated by Catholics from John Henry Cardinal Newman, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant. ”

That pretty much sums up my experience in my conversion to the Catholic Church.

Follow me on Twitter @Menny_Thoughts

9 comments

  1. Authority, chain of command, continuity – – – that’s a major reason i finally had to become a Catholic. It was that or tell our Lord “thanks, but no thanks” and walk away. Which didn’t seem prudent in the long run.

    I see the Reformation and Counter-reformation as an overreaction to real issues – encouraged by northern princes – and one of the periodic ‘spring cleaning’ internal reviews we go through every few centuries. Vatican II was the most recent, and a tea party in comparison to some others. We hit a *really* bad patch about a thousand years back.

    You talked about something I think is important – and apparently lost in the shouting between traditional Catholics and those trying to live in the 20th century. Or 21st, which may seem even worse to traditionalists.

    Thanks to the Holy Spirit working though the Magisterium and Tradition (capital “T”) and the Bible, we’ve got a core than hasn’t changed in two millennia – and won’t for the duration. But around that core we’ve got an increasingly-rich assortment of customs and practices – and understandings – that keeps changing. And which *must* change. (Catechism, 854, 1200-1206, 1957)

    11th century Croatia wasn’t just like 1st century Palestine or 21st century Minnesota. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t live ‘just like the Apostles.’ Not here in central North America. I’d freeze to death before autumn ended. And that’s another topic.

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    • As you mentioned, when you follow “authority, chain of command, continuity ” you’re ultimately left with a question of accepting this extremely Catholic notion of a hierarchical visible Church. It would be really disingenuous to walk away from Christ after having full-knowledge of the truth. I was like that. I thought to myself ” (Insert Catholic doctrine) is obviously true but I don’t want to believe it ” which made me really consider just being double-minded Christian (playing Protestant and Catholic cards) or resort to lone-ranger Christianity (me and Jesus type situation).

      It’s good that the Church periodically has the “straightening things out” councils evey few centuries. Depending on the topic, some can be more serious than others. Glad Vatican II gave guidance on Eastern Churches that have there various rites (Byzantine, Chaldean, etc). I like to think Trent was an extremely important council that produced some important Post-reformation Saints, and got to witness Magisterial authority on salvation and Canon to name a few things.

      Gotta love the three legged stool image of authority. Definitely an immense necessity through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am also a convert. I didn’t dive deep into the church fathers, but did read John Henry Newman on Mary (Mary the Second Eve) which quotes many of the church fathers. One thing which really impressed me (after I became Catholic) was a visit to Rome where I saw the church of Santa Maria d’Antiqua at the Roman forum and all the things I associated with the Catholic church were there: altar, niche for relics, saints depicted on the walls, the Virgin Mary https://scotinprogress.com/2017/01/02/a-convert-visits-rome-part-2/

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    • Hello, thanks for the amazing comment and im so glad to hear you’re a convert as well! Also, im glad to hear we both found the ancient Church as a big help on converting to the Catholic Church. Historical continuity has to be an important reason to join the Church. Catholics make the claim about existing 2000 years and history shows it.

      Your article about visiting the ancient church Maria d’ Antiqua was really amazing. Im jealous of you for visiting such an amazing site! Your visit really touches on the point about historical continuity in the Church. Today, in both the West and East we can see images and icons as special reminders about Saints and how the Church practiced. Especially these things were important because illiteracy was widespread so having the faith in images helped communicate truths of the faith. Your trip, as I read it, seems like an amazing eye opener as it was for me!

      Thanks for the follow and I will definitely look more at your blogs

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  3. // Friends, If you’re anything like me and asked the question “How did the earliest Christian’s worship?” then the Fathers will be of great aid. There’s a popular quote circulated by Catholics from John Henry Cardinal Newman, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant. ” //
    ” they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath not to do any wicked deeds, never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of good food—but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.”
    “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.”
    “But if we do not admit this, we shall be liable to fall into foolish opinion, as if it were not the same God who existed in the times of Enoch and all the rest, who neither were circumcised after the flesh, nor observed Sabbaths, nor any other rites, seeing that Moses enjoined such observances… For if there was no need of circumcision before Abraham, or of the observance of Sabbaths, of feasts and sacrifices, before Moses; no more need is there of them now”
    ” when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying. If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret. But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God. Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge. If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. ”
    Hmmmm …. what do you think?

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