Why I Am Catholic
This short self-examination was originally written in February-March 1986, shortly before I formally entered the Roman Catholic Church at Easter. It was originally titled "A Journey of Faith." In September 1986, Sr. Geraldine Homer, OSB Oliv., asked me to tell my story to the newly begun class of candidates in the RCIA program at Holy Redeemer Church, El Dorado, Arkansas. I made some revisions at that time, including the title – “Apologia: Why I Became Catholic” is meant to evoke the title of John Henry Cardinal Newman's great account of his own conversion, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, and does not mean “apology” but rather “defense” or “justification” – and occasionally revisited it over the next few years. This current version was edited from a copy most recently revised in 1989. In January 1995, I compared it against the original version and annotated both substantive revisions and where, over the years, my attitudes toward some issues had changed. Most recently (April and the past couple of days), I have made some minor formatting and editorial changes, mainly correcting stylistic and typographical errors as well as preparing it for posting as a page to this blog, while choosing to preserve most of the topical context (e.g., the prominence given to Jimmy Swaggart). While this does make the whole seem somewhat "unstuck in time," correcting it would, in my opinion, lose more than would be gained. I have therefore left the text substantially as it appeared in 1995.
KGH, 2 June 2014
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I was baptized and raised in an evangelical Southern Baptist church in northern Louisiana, in a little community named Swartz, just north of Monroe. On Holy Saturday, 1986, I was accepted into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in Holy Redeemer Parish, El Dorado, Arkansas, by Father James R. Savary. My decision to enter the Catholic Church was not an easy one – although I knew inwardly for a long time that I would eventually enter the Church, I fought against formally doing so. I am sure that my parents and family consider mine to have been the wrong decision and perhaps a betrayal of my upbringing, and I know that my conversion undoubtedly caused them pain. Such was not my desire. I converted because I believe the Catholic Church to be the Church established by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ two thousand years ago which has faithfully held true to the fullness of His teachings.
I came to this belief on my own, the fact that my wife, Anne, was raised Catholic having less to do with my conversion than it may seem. Certainly she did not nefariously draw me away from the Baptist teachings of my youth into her Catholic Church. Indeed, perhaps my greatest apprehension in making the final decision to embrace Catholicism was the fear that people would think just this and that she consequently would be blamed unjustly for my conversion.
While Anne was obviously somewhat influential in this matter simply by virtue of the fact that she was indeed Catholic, her influence was primarily because of who she is, not anything she did. It was not conscious and was in any case minimal. The fact is that had I believed as firmly in the teachings of fundamentalist Baptists as I do now in those of the Catholic Faith I would never have considered conversion – I might even have insisted on her conversion from Catholicism. Moreover, the statement that Anne was "raised Catholic" is itself somewhat misleading; for various reasons neither she nor her twin brother, Thomas, were encouraged to make their Confirmations as scheduled. (NOTE 1) She consequently did not receive Confirmation until we were confirmed together. Also, she was not taught more than the rudiments of her faith as a child. Only shortly before we met did she again start attending Mass on a regular basis. She never expressed any particular desire that I become Catholic, although she conversely did not pretend that she could ever become Baptist. Indeed, she herself had some trepidation about my actually becoming Catholic because of the very reason I am now discussing – my family's inevitable suspicion that it was her doing. I can only say again that it was not. It was my decision, and mine alone – made because I feel it to be right.
The reasons for that decision are many and varied, and not easily explicable. I can only do my best to try to relate them as clearly as possible.
All things considered, it seems to me that the only honest and valid reason for adhering to any given faith must be the belief that it beyond any other proclaims Truth. I do believe that of the Catholic Church and will in my own words attempt the explain the reasons and how I came to this belief. In doing so, I will be as honest and candid as possible. Although I will seem critical of some fundamentalist Baptist teachings, it is not my intention to criticize the real and heartfelt faith of any individual. It is simply that I was raised Baptist but found that I could no longer accept some Baptist teachings. I have no doubt whatsoever that many Baptists are Christian, but I do not believe fundamentalism to be the best and most true form of Christianity.
I would like to make one thing clear. Whenever I speak of strong anti-Catholicism, I am not speaking of my own family so much as of other acquaintances of my youth. My family mainly believes that their Baptist faith is the true Christian Faith, a belief I no longer share.
A fact with which I am not particularly happy is that my actual journey to holy orthodoxy began with rejection. By the time I was in my late teens, several factors had combined to kindle in me a growing disenchantment with the philosophy and teachings of fundamentalists in general and of Baptists in particular. Main among those factors was the attitude of fundamentalists toward what I can only term reality. Any finding of secular knowledge, particularly science or history, which tends not to support their views is summarily disregarded or rejected. Only when such a finding seems to verify their views may it be given credence by fundamentalists. As a result of my coming increasingly to question those views and the propriety of a literalistic interpretation of the Bible, I became something of an outcast among my Baptist peers.
Anyone who enjoys the study of science and history and can see that their findings sometimes come into conflict with a narrow, literalistic reading of the Bible is looked on by fundamentalists as being a bit strange; actual public acceptance of some of the findings of science and history can result in overt shunning by them. Among the findings of science considered by them to be “of the devil” is the real “biggie,” evolution.
Admittedly, Darwin's theory about how evolution took place is most easily characterized as the product of an atheistic world-view, but fundamentalists of the last century have come to identify his theory (all but abandoned in its details by modern science) with the concept of evolution itself, which is actually a far older idea. For myself, I consider the geological and paleontological records of nature to contain clear and unambiguous indications that some progression or evolution of species happened. It is a fact that things change. Only by utterly rejecting the evidence of the world around us can evolution be entirely rejected. I do not consider this belief to be evil or ungodly – as a matter of fact, I believe that evolution would not have been possible without God. There are three points in history when I think He must have intervened:
1) The Origin of the Universe. Nothing comes from nothing. Without God there could have been no Big Bang. As a clock implies a clock-maker, so does Creation imply a Creator.
2) The Origin of Life. I do not think that life could have arisen from lifelessness without Him. Random chance would have resulted in ever-increasing chaos as predicted by the Laws of Thermodynamics (the concept of entropy) rather than increasing order, disregarding for the moment that there is an essential and fundamental difference between living and non-living matter. [NOTE 2]
3) The Emergence of Man. Until Homo Sapiens suddenly sprang forth fully developed perhaps 100,000 years ago (estimates vary widely), even the most advanced primates were still obviously only very intelligent animals. That sudden appearance of modern man is inexplicable without postulating some kind of outside intervention, which I believe to have been divine.
I do believe that God created the heavens and the earth, and I do believe that He created man in His Own Image – and yet I accept that evolution may very well have been His way of effecting that creation. But does this mean that I disbelieve any teaching of the Bible? I think not. It does mean that I reject a method of Biblical interpretation – literalism as practiced by fundamentalists.
It is my belief that the primeval history recounted in the first part of Genesis is inspired epic poetry revealing divine truth but not necessarily scientifically tenable explanations for such things as the creation of the world and the birth of man. The truth is that God created all things, but it is not literal fact that He did so in six “days” as we know them. The truth is that man is made of the dust of the earth – i.e., the same elemental substances as all matter – but it is not literal fact that dirt served as a raw material in his making. Read in such a manner, I consider Genesis to be a very beautiful and poetic allegory for the beginning. The Bible is truly the Word of God, but it is the Word of God in the words of men – men who lived in the Ancient Near East from two to four thousand years ago.
Disregard for science and history has led inevitably to those espousing fundamentalist teachings being essentially ignorant of both. Often while Baptist did I hear “facts” proclaimed from the pulpit which I knew to be absolutely untrue. The Earth is only six thousand years old. Man walked with dinosaurs until the latter were all killed in the Great Flood. I grew embarrassed to be associated with such ignorant points of view.
Ultimately, my distaste for the way Christianity was being presented served to drive me away from it entirely. Knowing no other way for it to be presented (having indeed been taught that there was no other “right” way), I ended up making what I now recognize as being a grave error. I rejected the teaching, Christianity, because of the teachers, fundamentalist Baptists – in effect, “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
This is another thing of which I am not proud, but it is true – by the time I entered college I had essentially become agnostic. I never rejected the existence of God (no matter how hard I argued with myself against His existence) – based on the reasoning given above, I could not shake the idea that a divine Being must have been responsible for all that is. But the other teachings of Christian fundamentalism I did basically reject, including any belief that Jesus of Nazareth might have been anything more than a good man. Of course, I never let my family know of this change in belief on my part. Their knowing would nave only upset them and caused trouble for me. I let them believe that I continued to accept the teachings of the Baptist faith and thereby kept the peace. I even continued to call myself “Christian,” but I inwardly gave the term a connotation very different from the accepted meaning, meaning by it that I accepted the moral and ethical teachings of the man Jesus without necessarily ascribing to him divinity. (In this essay, however, I mean the term “Christian” by and large to have its accepted, traditional meaning of one accepting the five basic tenets of the Faith that 1) There is One God, 2) in Three Persons, 3) Who Became Man, 4) Died for Our Sins, and 5) Rose Again from the Dead. [NOTE 3])
This basically was the state in which I found myself in December 1982, when I met Anne, my future wife. I had gone from full acceptance of Baptist Christianity as a child to disbelief as an adult. Anne did not draw me away from the Baptist faith – by that time I had already lost that faith.
This is not to imply that I decided to become Catholic immediately upon meeting Anne. The history of my attraction toward the Catholic Faith extends further back than most people know or might possibly believe.
I have always had a fascination with those glimpses of Catholicism seen mainly through movies, television, and books. While these media (especially movies and television) often give grossly inaccurate and misleading portrayals of the Church, they did serve to pique my interest in what was to me a great and mysterious institution. The rituals and adornments of Roman Catholicism held great attraction for me.
Among the literary influences on me in this regard were the writings of J. R. R. Tolkien. Having previously read The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, I chose as the topic for my college freshman English composition research paper, originally, “Mythology in Tolkien's Middle Earth.” Delving into the subject, I discovered Tolkien's devout Catholicism and its influence which permeates his writings, and I ultimately reoriented my topic to include religion – “Tolkien's Middle-Earth: Its Connections With Mythology and Religion.” While researching that paper, I necessarily learned some little about Catholicism. [NOTE 4]
Another such influence was the novels of The Deryni Cycle by Katherine Kurtz, which are set in a medieval world with a medieval church that is clearly Catholic. I cannot say that I learned much about Catholic theology through these stories, but in them Kurtz very beautifully conveys the splendor and ceremony of Catholicism. It seems to me to be indisputable that much of the great art and music of western civilization arises from the Catholic Faith. This fact was particularly brought home to me during a trip to France while I was a senior in high school. [LINK] I found the cathedrals and shrines of that one time bastion of Christendom truly awe-inspiring.
Even as a small child I was disturbed by what I saw as inconsistencies in fundamentalist literalism in interpreting the Bible. While I do not remember her answer, I distinctly remember asking my mother why, if St. Peter were “the Rock” on which was to be built the Church (as a literal reading of the Gospel indicates), Catholics are so ridiculed for following the Pope, his successor. Also in the Gospels, a literal reading supports the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation – the teaching that the bread and wine of communion (and it was wine) truly and substantially become the Body and Blood of Our Lord, and are not simply a memorial. Even then I could see something right about Catholicism.
On a personal level, those few Catholics with whom I came into contact did not seem so bad. The nuns at St. Francis Hospital and St. Joseph's Nursing Home in Monroe (where both of my grandfathers spent their last days [NOTE 5]) were always very nice and seemed to have the respect and affection of my family. (I distinctly remember my grandmother opining of one, “She’s a Catholic, but she’s a Christian too.”)
Not surprisingly, however, the constant teaching in Baptist Sunday School and church that Catholics are at best misguided and at worst actually anti-Christian tended to counter any real attraction held by Catholicism for me when I was young. How is a child who is taught that Catholics are idolatrous worshipers of Mary, saints, statues, beads, and the Pope supposed to know otherwise? While I never subscribed to the extreme view that Catholicism is evil (how could those nice old nuns be evil?), I definitely, as a young Baptist, considered it to be a perversion of true Christianity. But as I later lost my faith in the teachings of Baptist Christianity, I conversely mediated any critical opinion of Catholicism. I became convinced that Catholics were at least no more wrong than other Christians.
That Anne Granger was Catholic I did not discover until sometime after we met. Although she was of South Louisiana Cajun heritage, at first I scoffed at the very idea that a friend of some of my thoroughly Baptist friends (through whom I met her) would be anything but Baptist, let alone Catholic. That is not to say that it really mattered to me when I found out that she was indeed Catholic. I had started keeping a personal journal by this time, May 1983, and it confirms my memory that the subject really did not concern me at that time. Anne herself was anything but pushy about her Catholicism, as I discussed above, and it was necessary for me to ask her directly to find out that she was indeed Catholic.
I gave the matter little if any serious consideration through the summer of 1983. That being the quarter of my graduation as an engineer from Louisiana Tech University, I really had very little time for deep thought on anything but my studies. Basically, although I could not call myself a true believer in Christ, I did not mind if Anne were. Indeed I recognized that religious persons tend to be more moral and better people than the irreligious, and I did find myself quite attracted to her.
In the fall of that year, having found no employment in my field, I attended Tech again, working on post-baccalaureate courses in business which would be applicable toward an MBA. As an elective course I enrolled in “History of the Christian Church.” I took that course because it was a History taught at a convenient time and I needed the three credit hours to be considered a full-time student necessary so that I could continue to have access to the services of the Tech Placement Office. I never expected to end up convinced of the essential truth of the Catholic Faith through that course, especially considering that the instructor (though not anti-Catholic) was Presbyterian, and that I, although admittedly fascinated with the romance and splendor of Catholicism, held no great love for the Church, tending to lump it with the rest of Christianity as being ultimately hostile toward secular knowledge.
Although I have always liked the study of history and in fact at one time considered making that study my major before finally choosing the allegedly more lucrative field of engineering, [NOTE 6] I had never until then given the history of Christianity any in depth study. I had even tended to avoid the subject as I grew increasingly disillusioned with the religion, save for poring over secularist views of Biblical and Christian history such as Asimov’s Guide to the Bible.
Through the class I was now taking, I quickly learned one fact of paramount importance – any history of the Christian Church is, for the first thousand years at least, necessarily a history of the Catholic Church. Except for a few strange and esoteric sects (such as Gnosticism, which even most Protestants consider heretical, but which I think bore a lot of similarities to Protestant fundamentalism) there was for that first millennium after Christ essentially only one Christian Church. Only the Catholic Church can trace its history unfailingly and through no other church to the first century A.D. and the Apostles. Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant revolt, was a Catholic before he broke faith with the Church, as were his fellow first generation “reformers” of the sixteenth century. Protestantism is a late development in the history of Christianity, and modern fundamentalism is just that – modern – extending back no further than a few centuries at most.
Jimmy Swaggart, [NOTE 7] who makes a business of condemning Catholics, has stated that the “true Christians” of, say, the early church were “not Catholic,” but that is all he will say, not bothering (in fact unable) to substantiate that claim with any supporting facts. If what he says is true, though, who and where were those “true Christians?” Who were their leaders? Where is their literature? What historical evidence for their very existence? There is none – Swaggart (and I name him merely because he is the most well known of the vocal anti-Catholics) speaks from the preconceived notion that because Catholicism is anti-Christian, true Christians could not have been Catholic.
As for literature, the New Testament cannot be said to be a product of Swaggart's “true Christians.” In the centuries immediately after Christ many works appeared claiming to be sacred. It was none other than the Popes and bishops of the Catholic Church in the latter part of the fourth century who finally and authoritatively decided which of these were in fact to be considered sacred and inspired scripture. The fact is that all modern Christians accept what the Catholic Church finally defined to be the New Testament canon.
The more I learned about the origins of the modern Protestant denominations through that class, the less admirable those denominations seemed to me. It appeared that each was invariably born in the belief of an individual or group that God spoke directly to them, (usually) through the scriptures, and that the rest of Christianity, as a whole not sharing their interpretations, was wrong. Such arrogance has predictably led to the multiplicity of denominations we have today.
But the Church, the Body of Christ according to St. Paul, was not meant to be sundered into a multitude of small churches with many essentially at war among themselves. The Christian Church was meant to be one and whole.
It is the view of the Catholic Church that the ultimate cause of this scandalous lack of unity is the chimera of individual interpretation. The Church holds that individual doctrinal interpretations not in union with her historical and unchanging teaching as transmitted through both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition are in error and to be rejected as schismatic.
This rejection of individual doctrinal interpretation by the Catholic Church is the origin of the widely held (even by some Catholics) but utterly mistaken belief that Catholics are forbidden by their Church to read the Bible. They are in fact encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Word of God contained in it, although sometimes that encouragement might not have been forceful enough. Unlike most Protestants, however, who consider the Bible to be the only rule of faith, the only way to know the way to God, Catholics consider Sacred Scripture to be only one such avenue and consequently do not stress its importance to the exclusion of any other as do Protestants.
The revelations given me through that history course, plus the fact that I now was in love with Anne and intending that she become my wife, prompted me to investigate Catholicism in more depth. Several works on the Catholic Faith (both pre- and post-Vatican II) later and I was convinced not only that Catholicism is Christian but that it is the Christianity in which I can believe. I found myself accepting Christ again, this time I feel for good. And it was through study of the teachings of the Catholic Church that I did so.
True, in accepting the tenets of Christianity as taught by the Catholic Church, I have again accepted many of the same teachings I had earlier rejected, among them the concept of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World. But I came to realize that those teachings, which I now found worthy of belief, are expressed better and more fully by the Catholic Faith – and carried to their logical ends – than by fundamentalism or any other form of Christianity.
When I say that Catholicism "is the Christianity in which I can believe," I mean that the teachings of the Catholic Church are intellectually consistent as well as emotionally acceptable, not ignoring and belittling those findings of science and history which superficially seem to contradict the Scriptures. The Church considers all truth to be one, regardless of its source. It sees no contradiction between true “secular” knowledge and the Word of God, keeping in mind that the purpose of the Scriptures is salvation, not the recounting of historical or scientific fact.
A prime example is evolution. The fundamentalist position is that a true Christian cannot accept evolution as fact, as has been amply demonstrated in recent years by the ongoing “scientific creationism” debate. [NOTE 8] Such is not the position of the Catholic Church, which recognizes that certain literary forms in the Bible, such as the epic poetry of Genesis, should not be taken as scientific or historical fact. Remember my own argument above, where I distinguished between truth and fact. In short, a Catholic Christian can accept evolution as fact.
About this time I again started reading and studying the Bible, beginning with the New Testament. I found a new appreciation of it. Although I had always been taught that the Catholic Church is not “Bible-based,” I discovered that the teachings of that Church, with which I now had some small though authentic familiarity, are contained in the Bible, either explicitly or implicitly. None violate the Scriptures, although the beliefs of Catholicism are not limited to those conveyed in the Bible. Catholic Christianity is a living Faith, based ultimately not on any book but on the ever-present guidance of the Holy Spirit. My study of the Bible tended to confirm for me further the truth contained in Catholicism.
By the end of 1983, when Anne and I became engaged to be married, I had become a believing Christian again, this time through my study of Catholicism. Unfortunately, this left me in a dreadful state of turmoil. I knew that my family would not like the idea of my becoming Catholic; I myself questioned whether I actually believed the Catholic Church to be the one Church of Christ or if I were simply infatuated with it. This uncertainty lasted for a long time, until well after Anne and I were married in November 1984. Indeed, the uncertainty grew in the spring of that year when, for the first time in my life, I actually attended Mass with her. The actual experience of the Catholic religion took some getting used to for one who had hitherto only attended Southern Baptist worship services. Until this point, I had experience Catholicism only as theory in my study of Catholic theology; I now experienced it as reality. I must admit that there were times when my thoughts were, “This is really weird,” but as I came to understand the history of the Church and the reasons for and origins of the rituals I came to recognize them as being beautiful expressions of Christian worship and a heritage two thousand years old.
Although my fascinations with Catholicism never failed and I grew accustomed to the Mass, soon enjoying and anticipating it, my mind continued to rebel at the thought of my actually entering the Catholic Church, out of consideration for my family. For months I wrestled with the question – “Should I join the Catholic Church?” I kept searching for some compromise. I knew I could not remain Baptist; I hesitated to become Catholic; perhaps one of the other denominations would provide the answer for me.
Here I was again confronted with the history of those other denominations and the fact that their histories extend back at most a few hundred years. Investigation of their origins and practices did not prove encouraging.
Never considering the other fundamentalist denominations, I centered my attention for a long while on the Episcopal church, which shares many beliefs and practices with the Catholic Church. The Protestant Episcopal church is the American branch of the Anglican church, which proudly considers itself both Catholic (though not Roman) and Protestant. However, I soon realized that those aspects of Anglicanism which I found attractive were those very Catholic aspects. Added to what I knew about the origin of Anglicanism in King Henry VIII's arrogant and opportunistic rejection of Church authority and tradition for the purpose of justifying his divorce from Catherine of Aragon simply because she did not provide him with a son, and the fact that a modern day Anglican bishop in good standing with his Church publicly rejects such foundations of Christianity as the Virgin Birth of Our Lord and His Resurrection, I could only conclude that I could not be true to myself by choosing the Episcopal church over the Catholic Church. [NOTE 9]
The other mainline Protestant denominations held little to attract me, either. Methodism sprang from Anglicanism; Lutheranism I have discussed obliquely above with my reference to Martin Luther and the origins of Protestantism as a whole. None attracted me as did the Catholic Church.
Finally, by the middle of 1985, I admitted to myself what I guess I had known for quite some time. Although not formally a member of the Church, really I was already Catholic in my beliefs and at heart. When in the fall of that year Adult Instruction classes were announced at Holy Redeemer Catholic School here in El Dorado, Arkansas, Anne called and enrolled both of us. The classes were a very important learning experience for both of us; in my case it was an opportunity to discuss the things I had read and learned in my private studies. I truly enjoyed the classes.
For those intending to enter the Catholic Church, the Adult Instruction classes serve as preparation for reception of the Sacraments and formal acceptance into the Church on Holy Saturday, the evening before Easter Sunday. But as we entered 1986 and Easter grew near, I realized that I must tell my parents for sure that I was becoming Catholic. That would be a hard thing to do, particularly in the case of my father. I knew that he would not be pleased, and his medical condition as a heart patient made it no easier. Eventually it ended up that I myself did not actually tell him – when I brought the subject up I found that my mother had already done so. He seemed to take it as well as could be expected. Neither he nor my mother liked the fact that I was becoming Catholic, but they have accepted it.
The purpose of this essay has been to discuss and set into writing the reasons for my own conversion to the Catholic Faith. A detailed discussion and defense of those beliefs peculiar to Catholicism which are most frequently criticized by non Catholics is beyond the scope of this paper. For myself, I have given those beliefs much consideration, and I find them to follow logically from the beliefs of the earliest Christians as expressed in the New Testament Scriptures. A good example is the peculiarly Catholic appellation of Mary as “Mother of God.” If you believe in the Holy Trinity, which is to say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God, and that Jesus Christ is the Son Incarnate, and that Mary became the mother of Jesus, then you do believe that Mary became the Mother of God. It is simply a matter of following given and accepted beliefs to their logical conclusions. [NOTE 10] Similarly, if you accept that God is the God “of the living, not of the dead,” and that the “saved” who have died on earth are living with God in heaven, why not talk to them? – which is all that “Prayer to the Saints” really is.
Ultimately, the story of my journey from belief in the teachings of the Baptist faith to the fullness of the Catholic Faith might be summarized as follows: Having lost my faith in Christianity as presented by Baptist fundamentalism I could, given reason to do so, give the Catholic Faith a fair and unprejudiced scrutiny, with the result that I have found it to be the purest and most perfect form of Christianity, that established by Our Lord Himself and maintained by the Apostles and their heirs, the Popes and bishops of the Catholic Church.
I have never had the least cause to regret my decision to enter the Church; in fact, I am more sure now than ever that mine was the right decision. (NOTE 11] Looking back over my life, events seem to have led me inevitably toward the Catholic Church. It is truly my feeling that through all the Holy Spirit was guiding me, slowly and subtly along an intricate and winding path, toward His Catholic Church.
That is why I became Catholic.
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1. I originally wrote that Anne's family did not practice their faith when I first met them. Anne's mother took great exception to my allegation and I have thus changed this. That is how it appeared at the time to me, basing my judgment on the fact that whenever I visited, they did not attend Sunday Mass, which I consider to be the bare minimum of Catholic practice. Anne did not disagree with my initial assessment.
2. Scientists take exception to this interpretation, but I think it applies.
3. I added the details of the five fundamental tenets sometime after 1986.
4. I unfortunately lost any copy I kept of that paper. [2014: … And found it again going through my parents’ house in 2013 preparatory to selling it – unfortunately without its endnotes.]
5. And, sadly, where my paternal grandmother would spend the last years of her life, ca. 1990-2004.
6. Ironic, huh? This sentence, of course, stands unchanged from the original 1986 writing.
7. This was written before Jimmy’s spectacular fall from grace in the late 1980s.
8. More an issue of the early 1980s than the 1990s, I think, although it does surface again occasionally.
9. More recently (to 1995), Bishop Spong in New Jersey has written that St. Paul’s letters reveal him to have been a homosexual – again without any censure from the Episcopal church. The Catholic Church admittedly has its share of kooks, but at least there is an effective mechanism for dealing with them, which is invoked on occasion (all too rarely).
10. Which the Catholic Church is willing to do.
11. This statement remains as true in 2014 as it was in 1986.
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One of the books I read during Lent 2014 was Scott and Kimberly Hahn's account of their "coming home" from Protestantism to the Catholic Church. Besides learning that Scott and I entered the Church on the same day, Holy Saturday 1986, their book inspired me to pull out this old paper and ultimately to post it here. My thoughts on the book ultimately found expression in this blog post [LINK]:
Published in 1988, too late for it to influence my conversion, the following book nonetheless represents very well the state of affairs between Catholicism and Fundamentalism during the period when I was struggling with questions of faith. (Jimmy Swaggart is fairly prominent.)
Directly influential in my conversion (and I'm astonished, looking back, that it got only oblique mention when the foregoing account was written), was the following short book. I found it in the Louisiana Tech library on 24 October 1983 during that Fall Quarter when I was taking History of the Christian Church. It takes what was for me at the time a novel approach, not starting with the Bible but rather with logical proof regarding the existence of God, then reasonably developing from that the attributes of God and His revelation. Despite its odd absence from the above account, I have long considered this old book the most important I have ever read, in that it made me intellectually receptive to the spiritual message of the Bible, which I commenced reading through from the beginning within a very short time afterward. There is a very good short customer review at Amazon.com that describes the book very well, although I would have given it a higher "star" rating [LINK]:
And of course, the Holy Bible. Although I prefer the Revised Standard Version-Catholic Edition for study, for reading I've never found anything that beats the Jerusalem Bible (the original, not the "New Jerusalem Bible"). The notes in the full version are valuable, but for straight reading of the text I would recommend this "Reader's Edition." It isn't the same long-out-of-print paperback edition I purchased as my first Catholic Bible back in the early 1980s, but a nice hardcover reprint. It's the Bible I followed Martindale with, ultimately reading it straight through albeit not in the order that the books are printed. (Even then, before I formally became a historian, I thought "historically," and that dictated the order I attacked the books, with a bit of a thematic modification. I'm going to try to recall and reconstruct what reading "plan" I followed, but if I recall correctly, I began with the Pauline books of the New Testament: Luke, then Acts breaking away to read St. Paul's epistles in their most likely places in that narrative; and so forth.) The long and short -- by the time I finished, I was Catholic.