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“Ask a Priest: What If I Sincerely Disagree With Key Church Teachings?”
Q: I’ve been drawn to the Catholic faith for as long as I can remember, but have never taken any steps to convert because of some of the things I’d heard about the Church. Now, many of these things I’ve been able to address through research, such as some of the more untruthful things people tend to accuse the Catholic Church of (such as accusation of idolatry, “vain repetitions,” etc.). I’ve been able to confirm through this research and through personal reflection that the Catholic Church’s practices are not only acceptable, but truly in line with God’s word. That being said, I do have some issues with a few of the moral teachings of the Church regarding homosexuality, abortion and contraception. I will say, for the sake of being as clear as possible, that all my opinions on these matters come from years of studying the Bible and intense personal and spiritual reflection. I’ve prayed on these matters countless times. I’ve always been told that our conscience is one route through which God can speak to us, and through all this praying and contemplation, as well as pretty extensive research in the Bible, I have always ended up with views that don’t generally “jive” with what the Catholic Church teaches on these subjects. I want to make it clear that I’m not challenging the Church or saying that what they teach is necessarily “wrong.” My question is this: As long as my beliefs on these matters come from prayer and contemplation on the Bible and not from a place of vanity or immorality, would I still be welcomed into the Catholic Church? Thank you again for your time. – M.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is good to hear of your interest in the Catholic Church and your willingness to research some of the criticisms against it.
It is good, too, that you are honestly and sincerely recognizing that you have difficulties with some key points of Catholic teachings.
A biblical basis could be found for the three points you mention.
The ban on homosexual behavior is obvious in many places in the Old and New Testaments. There is Leviticus 20:13, for instance: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they have committed an abomination.” And Romans 1:27 — “Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.”
Abortion can easily be inferred by the commandment “Thou shall not kill” and by the scene, for instance, of the Visitation (Luke 1:39ff).
Luke notes that the “infant” leaped in the womb of Elizabeth — not that a “clump of cells” moved around. Also, Elizabeth greets Mary as “the mother of my Lord.” Note the present tense. She doesn’t say “the one who is going to be the mother of my Lord.” The implication is that Mary is already pregnant with Jesus and thus already his mother, which implies he is already her Son, already living in the human nature that he had taken on. That is, it is a Person in her womb, not a clump of cells.
Then there is the fate of Onan (Genesis 38:9-10), which can be seen as a sign of the evil of the act of contraception.
If we could step back from Scripture for a moment, it is worth raising a bigger question.
If the Church is wrong on abortion, homosexuality and contraception, then that means it has stumbled badly on three crucial issues. And if the Church is wrong on these three crucial issues, why could it be trusted to get anything right? I, for one, would have a very hard time accepting Church teaching if it were 0-3 on some of the biggest issues of the day.
And if the Church is wrong on such crucial issues, why would you want to join it? I don’t mean this question in a sarcastic way. In fact, I don’t know why anyone would join a Church or stay in a Church that teaches error on such important issues.
Perhaps the real problem is that you simply need to pray more about these issues and dig even deeper.
You are still on a journey, and I would encourage you to continue on that path. Intensify your prayer life, do some more research, and stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
If and when the day arrives when you want to join the Church, you will want to do it a gesture of confidence in its truthfulness and its role as an instrument of God’s sanctification in the world. My guess is that your own sense of integrity would prompt you to want to come to a basic acceptance of Church teaching before you decide to publicly enter its embrace.
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