“Ask a Priest: What If I Still Disagree With the Church?”

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Q: I left the Catholic Church 50 years ago because I did not agree with many of its teachings. I still have the same misgivings but would like to return to the faith and have confession and the sacraments, because I am getting old and I have a terrible fear of dying and going to hell. Is it possible for me to do this, even if I cannot accept some of the Church’s actions? Thank you. -R.C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is good to hear that you want to return to the sacraments. You have a sense that when life draws to a close, and we focus on the more important questions, we are drawn to the Church. That is a sign the Holy Spirit is working in you and gently trying to bring you along.

Jesus wants you to spend eternity with him. That is why he gave us the Church, which is his mystical body. He gives us grace through the sacraments, and he gives us the magisterium to teach us. The Pope and bishops teach in the name of Jesus, so we can be sure that the essence of their message is solid and guided by the Holy Spirit.

Now, there might be different and better ways that certain things can be taught. That is to be expected.

I’m not sure what areas you have difficulties in. Nor do I know the depth of your difficulties. It is one thing to have difficulties with Church teachings. This is normal. All of us have had a difficulty at one time or another. It is another thing, however, to actively doubt an article of faith.

Here, I would say, if you have a difficulty or doubt about a particular issue, try praying about it. Try reading up on the issue, to understand what and why the Church teaches it. The Church doesn’t arbitrarily make up doctrine; rather, doctrine simply describes, unpacks, what God has revealed to us.

Since I’m not sure what areas you have difficulties with, I can only offer general advice. There is a hierarchy of truths in the Church, meaning that some things are more essential than others. If you believe in the basics — such as the efficacy of the sacraments — I would encourage you to go to confession, do your best, and explain to the priest any difficulties you have with the faith. There are confession guides online that could help.

Meanwhile, try spending time in front of a crucifix. Look at Jesus on the cross. See the suffering that he underwent for love of you. Is this a Jesus you can trust? And if you can trust him, can you trust the Church he gave us? Try praying for the grace of faith too. Faith is a gift, and it is something we want to guard and cherish.

Let me know if there any particular issues I can help you with. But by all means try to get to confession. Our Lord is waiting to help you. You will be included in my Mass intentions. God bless.

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