Does God care if you leave His Church for a Protestant denomination? What will happen to those who abandon the Eucharist and follow a community instead of the truth? As long as one lives a Christian life, does God really care about the specifics?
Karen from Salem, Oregon called into Fr. Simon Says to ask Fr. Richard Simon what he thinks of her situation as someone who discovered the Catholic Church, struggled with certain teachings, and eventually left for a Protestant church.
“In 1965, I became involved with the Catholic Church, although I had come from a strictly Protestant background, and I was encouraged to become a Catholic,” said Karen. “I told the priest that there [were] quite a few things that I did not really believe that they believed, but he said those things didn’t matter and he encouraged me to go ahead, which I did, and become a Catholic.”
She continued, saying that she tried her best for years to follow the rules, but she toed the line between being in the state of grace and not. A few years ago, she became involved in a Protestant church through some friends and has been going to their church ever since. She said she feels at home, she fits in, and she agrees with their beliefs, unlike how she felt in the Catholic Church.
“But I’ve been scared,” she said. “My Catholic friends say, ‘There’s no salvation outside the Catholic Church. If you leave the Catholic Church, you’re going to Hell.’ I’d like to ask a priest what’s really going to happen to me?”
Fr. Simon lamented the mistake of that priest who encouraged Karen to get baptized without understanding the truths of the Catholic faith. Karen’s foundation in Catholicism was never solid enough to maintain a fruitful relationship with God because she didn’t believe what she was professing to believe.
Fr. Simon recalled a story of when he had a meeting with the leader of a religious institute in Chicago, and they were discussing “altar calls”. An altar call is stereotypically an evangelical term that refers to times when worshippers come to the front during a worship service to commit their lives to Christ. Fr. Simon said that every time a Catholic comes to the communion rail to receive the Body of Christ, they are essentially making an altar call, signifying their dedication to Christ.
The leader of the religious institute said that they don’t do altar calls “because you might have a false assurance of salvation.” Fr. Simon expressed his confusion at this, saying that if there can be a false assurance of salvation, then there can be no fully true assurance of salvation: There is always the chance that it’s false.
“And I thought, ‘Thank God I’m a Catholic. I can go into a confessional, do my best to make a good confession, and hear the words, [I absolve you].’ In other words, ‘I release you from your sins.’”
While there are many wonderful things in the various Protestant churches, they lack the key elements for a true assurance of salvation: the Sacraments. That’s why Karen and so many other Protestants are worried about their souls. It feels nice to have a solid community, to sing beautiful hymns, and to feel good after Sunday service, but it lacks substance.
Fr. Simon encouraged Karen to ask the Lord truly and sincerely what it is that He wants her to do. He told her to humbly ask for His guidance in leading her to a place not where she will feel good or feel His presence but where she will genuinely enter into His presence.
Nobody wants to get you to Heaven more than Our Lord, and He will read into the sincerity of our hearts when He guides us, but it requires our proactive cooperation to get there. The prayer of the pagan is, “Give me what I want,” while the prayer of the believer is, “Teach me your ways.”
What do you want, God? What are you asking of me today?
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