Why I’ve returned to the Catholic Church. Sort of.


I was brought up in a devout Catholic family. We went to church every Sunday. As a boy growing up, I enjoyed it. There may have been the odd time when I complained about going to church, but overall, I enjoyed the ritual and the homilies. Attending church while we lived at home was not optional. I was OK with that. When I married at twenty-two, I gladly continued going to church.

When I had my own children, we continued going every week. Similarly, to my upbringing, my three sons didn’t have an option. Sunday service was mandatory. I’m not so sure they enjoyed it as I always did. Who am I kidding. I know they didn’t. Neither of them attends today.

It’s not that I never had doubts about church or the whole God thing. I did, and I put in a lot of effort trying to reconcile those doubts, including whether or not God exists, or if Jesus is God, or part of God. You can learn more about my quest for truth in my blog series, One Skeptic’s Thoughts about God. For now, suffice it to say I felt satisfied there is secular historic research to confirm Jesus is a historic figure who lived in first century Palestine, and the New Testament is considered a sound historic document that records much from his time on earth.

Whether or not one chooses to believe Jesus is the son of God, is a different issue. Ultimately, there’s no definitive proof he is. One must make the choice to believe so. My choice was made based on the historic evidence and my interpretation of it. I made it regardless of doubts I may have had then, or may still have today.

Eventually, at 42, I left the Catholic Church because of theological differences, my sense that there was an overarching apathy within the Catholic Church to actually follow the teachings of Jesus, and because of various issues related to church polity, in particular their misogynistic view of women’s role in the Church. I’ve since become much more aware that these issues also exist in Christian churches outside Catholicism.

I didn’t leave Catholicism to become a pastor, but eventually, at 49, I become a pastor in an Anabaptist denomination. I was merely following the call I felt on my life from a young age.

My goal as a Christian is first and foremost to follow Jesus, not to adhere to one particular denomination. Eventually, after eight years as a pastor, I rescinded my credentialing because I wasn’t willing to sign off on a document agreeing that same sex marriage was against my core belief. I had long been praying and discerning to understand how God’s Spirit was moving across North America to get Christians to come to terms with gaining a better understanding of Scripture to see how same sex marriage was a doctrine that should be adopted by the Church.

In addition to the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and the role of women in the Church there were other factors that impacted me staying away from going to any church. Most of these have to do with a general distrust for Christianity and its lack of an authentic desire to follow the teachings for Jesus, above religion itself. Then COVID hit. Going to church wasn’t an option for a while.

In the meantime, while I was taking some time to consider where I might fit in the Church picture, I decided I would start attending the Catholic Church. Essentially, I’m a firm believer that as followers of Jesus we’re called to do this, in large part, in community; hence, the Church. The global Church, the living body of Christ. Sure, we can follow Jesus on our own, to a certain extent, but if we want to be true to what he calls us to we should be doing this in community. That’s what he showed us to do, and still calls us to do. The problem is I struggle with reconciling following Jesus and much of what I see today.

I want to be clear. I’m not for one moment saying I’m a good follower of Jesus, or better than most, and my way of doing it is the right or best way. I am definitely a flawed person. Just like each of us is. I happen to be struggling with finding a church community where I fit in.

I want to be with a community of Christ followers who see their primary objectives simply to love God and others, to oppose violence, including war, to fight for social justice, to respect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, to stand for gender equality, to be good stewards of the earth, and to be respectful of all faiths. It doesn’t have to be a perfect church, because it doesn’t exist. 

I’m not saying the church community I long for doesn’t exist. I’m simply tired of what I do see. In the meantime, it’s been too long since I’ve been connected with any church community. My belief in following Jesus in community is too strong to keep me away from Jesus’ call to community any longer.

So, I’ve decided to go home.

I returned to the Catholic Church on a regular Sunday basis this past summer. I enjoy the Catholic mass, its ritual, its Jesus centric liturgy. Sure, the dated, sometimes centuries old, music worship may not be my preference, but music in the church context has never been that important to me. I can roll with whatever music is being sung. When it comes to the Catholic mass it’s the liturgy with its beautiful and faithful focus on Jesus and the eucharist that makes me feel connected to Jesus.

Yes, most of the issues I had with the Catholic Church when I left some twenty-two years ago are still there. There’s been little if any change. However, my choice right now is to attend the Catholic Church for its Sunday mass, and be a small part of a church community, or don’t attend any church. For me, that’s no longer an option.

I don’t know where I’ll fit in to the Catholic Church, or if I will. Perhaps I’ll have to stop attending once my voice starts being heard, a voice that will likely call or support change from the status quo.

For now. I’m simply going to church on Sundays and enjoying worshiping Jesus in community.

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