Two Way Street: Catholics Become Protestants

Recently a study was done and discovered the reasons for why Catholics leave the Church (either for some form of Protestantism or something else like atheism). This stirred up a brouhaha in the blogosphere as Christians on both sides tried to interpret the numbers and come to conclusions.

Brain Drain

From the survey, it was apparent that most Catholics who leave the Church do so because they aren’t getting their needs met and found more appealing/welcoming/satisfying alternatives in Protestant churches. Doctrinal reasons for converting were noticeably less important.

Now contrast this with the many intelligent and faithful Protestants who are becoming Catholic, people like Francis Beckwith, Scott Hahn, and Abby Johnson. They converted because they became convinced that the Catholic Church was the true Church, and consequently that her doctrines were sound and supported by both reason and faith.

The fact is, Protestants are losing many of their “best and brightest” while most of the Catholics who leave were not well-formed in their faith.

These Catholics were drawn away by a combination of lackluster catechesis and celebration of the liturgy and by more exciting Protestant churches, whose ministries and services are both more entertaining and build community better.

Protestant apologists and pastors have noticed this trend. Recently I read an attempt by a faithful Protestant to mitigate this disparity between the two types of converts:

The philosophical sorts of arguments in favor of Catholicism that we hear about at CTC [] and elsewhere are lost on all but a small group of serious intellectually minded Catholics.

The claim is that Called to Communion’s theologically and philosophically deep arguments fall on deaf ears and make little effect because most Protestants and Catholics simply don’t have the education, desire, or attention span to understand them. Hence, “Catholics can have the small numbers of Protestant intelligentsia, but Joe and Jane Catholic in the pew will become Protestant in much greater numbers.”

But I would counter that the best and the brightest of Protestantism who are becoming Catholic will disproportionately influence other Protestants and strengthen the Catholic Church to a degree that will dwarf the flow of the river in the other direction.

When the Iron Curtain fell and the exodus from Communist countries of brilliant men and women began, the negative effect on those countries was tremendous, proportionate to the gain to countries in the West. Similarly, the “brain drain” over the past several decades caused by Chinese and Indian students coming to the U.S. for graduate school, and then staying for the good jobs, demonstrates the powerful effect that intelligent people have.

That is why I think the argument that Protestants will take greater numbers over greater “quality” of converts doesn’t work. The cultural and ecclesial leaders exert a disproportionately strong influence over society.

When someone who writes a book arguing against the Catholic Church becomes Catholic a few years later, people take notice.

When the President of the Evangelical Theological Society becomes Catholic, people wonder why.

These Protestants who become Catholic enrich the Church in countless ways, not the least of which is the contribution they make to increase and deepen the understanding of the Church’s teachings. Further, they make accessible to the common man the complex theological and philosophical arguments which led them to the Church.

In short, the U.S. is full of nominal and poorly-formed Catholics, and most of these will fall away in this generation or the next, either going to Protestantism or leaving Christianity altogether for atheism, agnosticism, or some kind of New Age spiritualism. Trends that show these Catholics leaving the pews for Protestant churches are not surprising. And the positive hope is that they will discover or rediscover their faith in those Protestant churches. Better to be a Protestant who fervently loves Jesus than a nominal Catholic who doesn’t even believe the Gospel.

Our job as Catholics is to wipe the dust off the beautiful stained glass windows, unveiling the beauty of the Church and the splendor of the fullness of the truth. Celebrate the liturgy reverently; study the Church’s teachings in a dynamic way; adopt and adapt Protestant practices that are legitimate to building strong fellowship and community.

We have a big task in front of us but what’s at stake is of the utmost importance. God bless you the rest of this Easter Octave!

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48 thoughts on “Two Way Street: Catholics Become Protestants”

  1. A beautiful thing that happens and is never counted is the number of fallen away Catholics who return to the Church at their deathbeds. Some stop practicing the faith, others join a Protestant church, but more often than not, in their last moments, they request a priest to make peace with God and the Church. I’ve seen this happen in my family and it gives me a great joy.

  2. These Catholics were drawn away by a combination of lackluster catechesis and celebration of the liturgy and by more exciting Protestant churches, whose ministries and services are both more entertaining and build community better.

    I don’t think Catholics leave because they get free Starbucks at the local non-denominational church. I would argue they want to be free of the yoke of the Catholic rules and other faiths seem to cater to the self-centered role of God in a person’s life. If someone was never comfortable with confession and are told they can have a direct line to God, that’s appealing. If contraception is not frowned upon at First Baptist, then the person feels less guilty (a Catholic stereotype). Also, I think the continuing desire to not be labeled and carry the baggage of a label is a reason why the choice to leave is made easier. Finally, I think the lack of perceived emphasis on the bible compared to that in Protestantism makes defending the faith for “Joe Catholic” harder.

    1. Key words are “rules” vs “self-centered.” I’ll take the rules (and Jesus in the Eucharist)! “My burden is easy, my yoke is light, come to me.”

      The examples you gave result from a Catholic’s poor understanding of their faith. Protestant ministers get it and that’s why they’re converting.

  3. Augustine, good point.

    Gmart, I think you offer a good additional reason: in Protestantism, most things are optional. You don’t have to go to church on Sundays, don’t have to go to Confession, don’t have to follow the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. If you are wavering or lukewarm or uncomfortable for whatever reason with Catholic doctrines and practices, Protestantism looks even more appealing.

  4. Catholics becoming protestant are often not lacking in intelligence. They are poorly catechized but often they could have become very good spiritual thinkers if we had not completely blown the mission of spiritual formation. Many do become strong leaders as protestants. Not just because protestant theology is simpler but because protestant actually try and teach their theology in their local church. So we can’t look down on those converts and say they are just not smart enough to remain Catholic. The truth is we didn’t teach them enough.

    I went to a Catholic parish every Sunday for 10 years and they simply never taught me anything about Catholicism. It was not until I bought books and visited websites on my own that I learned the beauty of the Catholic faith. I didn’t just go to mass. I was involved with RCIA. I prepared my kids for infant baptism, first communion, and confession. I helped with the youth program. The Catholic faith was simply never taught. The Eucharist, the papacy, Mary, and the saints. They were approached more as add-ons to what was basically a protestant spirituality.

    If Catholics try and become fake protestants people will choose the real protestants. We need to be Catholics. Yes some people will respond negatively to some doctrines but when you explain them well that is way less common. What really turns people off is when you fail to fully embrace what your creed says. Sadly that is too common in our parishes.

  5. I’ve made the same point to people…. That the quality of our converts is incredible! Meanwhile, the people who leave the Catholic Church for Protestantism often do so because of poor catechesis (as you said) and/or because they don’t like the Church’s hard teachings on sexual issues. Also, a priest may have offended them and they get indignant. They “emote” their way out of the Church, to the applause of the world, but the Protestants “cream” who come to the Church do so through study and prayer (and initial horror!). They do so at the risk of losing community, friends, jobs (in the case of pastors) and even family.

    I love our converts! They ignite the Church with the fire of Christ’s love!

  6. I think some fallen away Catholics don’t think it really matters which church they go to. So they do church shopping like protestants would. I know of a few fallen away catholics, all cradle cat’s and one of them was reminiscing on his family’s tradition of celebrating St. Joseph’s day and all the donations to the needy they received. I assumed he still was catholic and asked him which church he went to and found out it was a protestant church.

    1. My cousin, a Methodist minister, told me about a Catholic woman who recently joined his church. He said that since Methodists and Catholics use the same terminology (Eucharist, homily, bishops, etc.), the lady told him that she felt right at home as a Methodist.

      I doubt she has the foggiest notion what she is leaving behind.

  7. Devin,

    From the data, one thing we do know is that we are losing them between 14-24. Most ‘traditional’ churches are losing their congregants during that period. For that reason, I believe the cause is a combination of hyper ecclesial consumerism (of the cushy, starbucks version) and watered down formation. We ask a 17 year old to take an AP history class and then water down the faith into little sound bites or social justice retreats. We do young people an injustice by making the only dumbed down thing they learn the faith.

    Also, I think the conversion generalization is valid. I’m a former Bible teacher, preacher, licensed minister/evangelist who converted to Catholicism. I haven’t met many Catholic to Protestant who fall under a parallel Catholic category. However, the CC in the USA is still very susceptible to lousy converts. Recently someone who came through RCIA in a local parish just found out (a year after converting) that there was a thing called the CCC. When I tried to start RCIA with my wife, her journey nearly got derailed when the “catechist” told us “all roads lead to heaven” and “if you don’t find Jesus here, find him somewhere”; after which we were told RCIA was going to include discussions on the validity of just wars. You think some of those RCIA “converts” might be at the local “Willow Creek”?

    Blessed Pope JPII, pray for us!

  8. I’m not sure I agree. I have known a few Catholic educated college graduates who not only converted to Protestants but also joined their clergy. Their leaving the Catholic Church distressed me greatly, but I know them to be good people and realize that I have not power over their discision.

  9. Just wanted to share some of my thoughts, especially to \Devman\. Thank you for your sincerity, Gov111’s .

    If we are a Christian whether Catholic, Orthodox, Messianic or Protestant, should we not uphold the teachings of Christ? For this reason, the perspective that Protestantism is more alluring because you don’t have to follow the catechism practices or the moral teachings of the Catholic church is incomprehensible for me. There are those who went to Catholic school but were Non-Catholic who appreciated the Catholic traditions but did not practice them due to fundamental, doctrinal differences (i.e. How the Catholic church venerates the saints, who are the saints, Who is the head of the church; Ephesians 5:23).

    Is it not true that anyone who does not follow the commands of Jesus Christ does not love Him (John 14:15,23)? There is one faith in Christ Jesus Who will judge us all, both the living and the dead; once we lose sight of following Jesus we are at a lost no matter whether you are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or from one of the many Protestant denominations (all of which may or may not have differing opinions and/or approvals for various lifestyles or moral life applications).

    We will find cold, lukewarm and hot Christians who are Catholic or non-Catholic (preferably hot; Revelation 3:14-18). Should we not focus on knowing Jesus (Matthew 25:1-13 – Parable of the Ten Virgins), believing in Him and the bodily resurrection of Him (1 Corinthians 15:11-14)? Ought we not to pray like He prays (Matthew 6:1-15; the Lord’s Prayer), love as He loves, live as He lives? Reading His words, meditating on them (renewing our minds daily) and praying and worshipping Him in spirit and in truth will set the stage for having intimate fellowship with Jesus, the only way to the Father. Let us \draw near to God and He will draw near …\ (James 4:8a).

    May the third person of the trinity give you Godly wisdom (John 14:16,26; John 15:26; Ephesians 6:18).

    Many blessings to all in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

  10. Jes,

    I understand the sentiment of the ideas you bring up, but the question is, how do we know what Jesus commanded? Moral issues are important, and Jesus spent quite a bit of time on them.

    Do you believe that divorce and remarriage is permissible? (Lots of deep divisions over that question in Christianity.)

    Do you believe contraception and abortion are moral?

    Are Mormons Christians? (And why not–they claim to believe in Jesus too. How do you know their doctrines are wrong?)

    Finally, the Bible commands us to strive for unity, and Jesus prayed for us to be unified perfectly. But we are not. So we must do something about that.

  11. I am a Protestant. Always have been. I am so hungry (for lack of a better word) to see Ephesians 4:13 fulfilled. It’s going to be difficult and take a looooong time. I’ve asked Catholics and Protestants alike the question “do you think Christians will ever be brought together under one banner (in terms of denomination)?” The answer from both sides is always the same: “nope.” I suppose maybe not all (for there will always be renegades), but part of me would love to see denominations come to end. Sounds like a pipe dream. People are too opinionated and prejudiced.

    That brings me to Devin’s point in this article. I believe that the first step is coming to some common ground and also each side admitting that they have something to learn from the other side. I think Vatican II was a step in that direction for the Catholic Church; a huge step. The Protestants I know (and I know many from various backgrounds and traditions) who esteem Catholics as brothers and sisters in Christ, so Catholicphobia is coming to an end among Protestants.

    Perhaps Protestants can learn some reverence from the Catholic liturgy and the value of sacred tradition. And perhaps Catholics can learn from Protestants that cultivating community and reducing the perception of judgementalism are important….and that Starbucks on a Sunday morning can be quite refreshing. ;D

  12. About 55% of Catholic converts from Protestantism revert to Protestantism within two years of being baptized into the CC (often on Easter Sunday). This number rises to 60% over a longer period of time.

    That’s high. That’s a very large number. Tell you what, if you’re an American, you want to know how you can give yourself the very best odds of switching from Catholicism to Protestantism?

    This is how: Start as a Protestant and convert to the Catholic Church. You can’t give yourself better odds than that.

    When you begin with a situation where Catholic converts to Evangelicalism outnumber Tiber swimmers in America by a ratio of 3 to 1….then you factor in how the CC can’t seem to hang on to even half of those converts from Protestantism….

    Kind of makes you wonder how the CC even continues to exist in America, right? Well, I happen to have the answer to that as well: Immigrants, mostly from Mexico. In the past 15 years or so, the CC has seen 11 million people added to it, whether by being born and immediately baptized, by conversion, or by emigrating to America.

    Want to guess how many of those 11 million were immigrants? Go ahead, take a guess. Think of a number.

    The answer is 9. Nine million out of those 11. And you know what happens when those immigrants have kids?

    Let’s say a Mexican family of immigrants has 6 kids. (Well above average for ABC-using Catholics, but pretty average for Mexicans). 2 will probably stay Catholic, 2 will probably become Protestants, and 2 will drop out of organized religion entirely. Of the last two, there’s an ok chance that one will be atheistic or agnostic. Neither will make a habit of attending any sort of religious service.

    That’s how Catholicism continues to tread water in America (but you’re slowly sinking). Heaven help you if Mexico starts becoming Protestant/Evangelical.

    Oops, it’s already happening.

    1. Hi Mike, welcome to my blog.

      From what source is the statistic you cite that 55% of Protestant->Catholic converts return to Protestantism within two years? I’ve seen a lot of Protestant to Catholic converts and the percentage of them that returned to Protestantism is very small. So I’m interested in the integrity of that source.

      But let’s assume you’re right: so what? And what if Mexicans become Protestant–sure it’s happening as it is in much of Latin America, especially with the explosion of Pentecostalism. Let’s say that almost everyone leaves Catholicism and becomes an Evangelical Protestant. Would you be happy? Why?

      I want people to know Christ in the fullness of the truth. I believe that is found in the Catholic Church. Do you think it is found in Evangelicalism? Which flavor? What doctrines? I used to be an Evangelical–loved it!–but I became Catholic anyway because I came to believe that the Catholic Church’s claims were true.

      No doubt you don’t think the Catholic Church is true. Okay, I have a challenge for you: get my newly-published book (link on the right sidebar of this website), read it, pray, and see if you can rebut the arguments made. It’s only $2.99 on the Kindle, so don’t worry about lining Papist pockets–though I must tell you that 10% will go to the Church. 🙂 God bless.

      1. @Devin- the source is the Kenedy Directory. US bishops are responsible for these numbers. 50% of Tiber swimmers return to some form of Protestantism within the first year, and it slowly rises each year after that before it plateaus somewhere between two-thirds and 70%. Those who convert and then leave mainly give two reasons for why they leave- one, they have the goal of becoming better Christians and initially believed that the CC gave them the best chance but it didn’t actually work out that way, and two, they didn’t experience any meaningful connection or union with other Catholics. Again, they were expecting to experience a special, mystical union through the sacraments that is more meaningful than any unity they can have with Protestants. But it doesn’t work out that way. Instead, one of the top reasons why Tiber swimmers leave is that they experience no union whatsoever.

        So what? This is so what. Catholic sacraments come with promises attached, and the “so what” is that they don’t deliver. This is the sacramental promise in a nutshell- I, the Catholic Church, promise that my sacraments are instruments of grace which, when conferred by proper authority, are guaranteed to make you a Christian (by putting you in a state of grace), sustain you as a Christian (a simplistic way of describing reconciliation and the way you deal with mortal sin), make you a better Christian (by conferring a series of graces, including graces that help you grow in other graces), and establish a mystical union between you and other Catholics.

        Those promises are not delivered on. Half of all American Tiber swimmers leave in the first year, and two-thirds of them leave within five years. With almost no exceptions, these are Bible-reading folks who care very much about becoming better Christians for whom matters of faith and morals are of primary importance. Without any exceptions, they discover a lot of Christian history that is largely ignored in Protestant circles and must reconcile any doctrinal difficulties before being confirmed. And after all that happens, most of those people leave what they just joined (sacraments and all) because they aren’t becoming better Christians and there is no meaningful union whatsoever. When they bring these issues up in some way, they are told to pray about it and “participate” in the sacraments a bit more often. As they continue to do this, they begin to realize something: If the full extent of your participation in church life is showing up at Mass and taking your sacramental medicine, that really is as lame as it sounds and it does not serve to make you a better Christian. At all.

        That is so what. It is rather significant, don’t you think?

        This is the deal. There are basically four different types of Catholics. The smallest group is the one that cares about becoming a better Christian, and they are able to do so while continuing to practice Catholicism. The next two groups are about the same size, and equally split. One cares about becoming a better Christian, and they find that they’re better equipped to do so in some type of Protestant church. Maybe not any Protestant church, but you only need to find one. The third group is the Catholics who don’t care about becoming a better Christian, so they disaffiliate with Christianity entirely.

        And finally, the fourth group is the biggest one. These are the Catholics that don’t care about becoming a better Christian, but they hang around Catholic parishes every once in awhile for some other reason.

        To your question- what would it mean if Mexicans became Protestants in large numbers? What would be good about that? This is what would be good- for any Mexican that desires to become a better Christian, they will have a much better opportunity to do so. I would be happy about that, and so would they.

        You want people to know Christ in the fullness of truth, and you promise that for anyone else who cares about being a better Christian, the Catholic Church (with a delivery system called “the sacraments”) is best equipped to make that happen. This is your belief, but it’s time for you to look at where reality contradicts it and start replacing your belief with fact. The fact is, the vast majority of the time, Protestants who convert to Catholicism are frustrated in their attempts to become better Christians (and experience meaningful union with other Catholics) to the point where they are regularly attending at some Protestant church within five years. That is what’s happening.

        The fullness of truth. Is it found in Evangelicalism? This phrase is not used much by Evangelicals, so I’m not sure what you mean by it. I think of it as a phrase that was invented by Catholics as a unique way to express a triumphalist attitude toward other Christians. To the extent that you would use it in a purely positive way without any of the obvious negative connotations, I think that is found in Evangelicalism. Which denominations? Which doctrines? Most of them. There are some bad connotations that tend to speak ill of the person who uses this phrase, however, and Protestants/Evangelicals/Independents do successfully eliminate that for the most part.

        Thanks for your kind offer, but I don’t own a Kindle. I haven’t bought much of anything online in the past few years, mostly because I can get plenty of reading material for free. Thanks for the offer, though.

        1. Mike,

          Greetings in Christ.

          I don’t have the energy to argue with you right now, and your tone isn’t irenic. The numbers aren’t accurate–I recall looking into it sometime back but can’t remember where now, as this thread is quite old.

          You don’t think the sacraments do anything…that’s fine. I believe they do.

          God bless,

        2. “Catholic sacraments come with promises attached, and the “so what” is that they don’t deliver.”

          Mike, I don’t know if you’re still listening, since this post is so old. Still, for what it’s worth, here’s my take on this:

          Let’s say there’s a guy with really bad social anxiety disorder. He hears Protestants say that “Jesus heals,” and he becomes a Christian. He prays, but God does not heal him of his anxiety disorder. He comes to the logical conclusion that Christianity “doesn’t deliver,” and he lapses into agnosticism.

          Be careful, my friend. Many of the arguments Protestants use to “disprove” Catholic beliefs are two-edged swords which can eviscerate Protestant theology as well. God does pour out His grace through the sacraments; two thousand years’ worth of Catholic saints can attest to that.

          I thank God for your faith, Mike. I only wish you could believe MORE….

    2. Mike – I am a convert to the Roman Catholic Church from an evangelical background. I my journey I have come to know many converts to Catholicism and I do not know of any that have gone back. In my circle of fellowship there is about 30 converts and most have been there for more than 5 years and many for more than 15 years.
      I asked a good friend who converted several years before me if she know of any and she said she did not.
      I think that the statistics you are using are false or perhaps at best reflect only those who converted for marriage but did not have a heart felt conversion to the Church and likely did not have a heartfelt commitment to their former faith either.
      The Church has her problems no doubt but she is not going down quite yet!

  13. Mike: To quote Chesterton, “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

    You’re not proving that Catholicism is false–or that Protestantism is true–you’re just proving that the Catholic Church is poor at evangelization, at least relative to modern Protestant communities. But the sky is not green even if every professor, newscaster, Hollywood producer, or stage-preacher says otherwise. Likewise, the Catholic Church is still the true Church Christ established even if millions decide it’s not. Truth isn’t decided by majority. It’s decided by Christ.

    (However I will add, albeit anecdotally and not quantifiably, that in my experience the wisest, most serious-minded, most probing, most searching Christians end up converting from Protestantism to Catholicism, not the other way around. Also, converts from Protestantism to Catholicism typically loved their Protestant faith and knew it and understood it well. Converts from Catholicism to Protestantism, on the other hand, typically never loved the Catholic faith and were very poorly catechized. I think this dynamic is quite telling.)

    Also, in your comment, you reveal your hunger not for Truth, but for tribal triumph. You spent more time gloating over the shrinking of Catholicism than the error of her teachings. I do think you’re half right in doing this for I, like you, am thrilled when people discover the fullness of truth (which I, unlike you, think resides in the Catholic Church.) But nevertheless, I stand with Devin in probing the more important issue: in your own mind, why is it that the Catholic Church is the wrong place to be? Or, if you prefer, why is it that your particular Protestant community is the right place to be?

    Finally, I disagree with one more of your claims. I think the best way for a Catholic to become Protestant is not to begin as Protestant. Instead, here’s the ideal road-map: don’t read any spiritual literature, don’t go deep into history, stay away from the saints, the doctors of the Church, and the early Church fathers, don’t ever peruse the Catechism of the Catholic Church, attend Mass sporadically (or never) but never frequent any of the other sacraments, and, regardless of whatever else you do, *never* probe the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (or read John 6). If anyone does these things with any sort of intention, becoming a Protestant will be cake.

    1. Hi Brandon,

      I have to say I find some comments odd on Mike’s end and yours. But here is my understanding having gone to a Catholic school and been raise Protestant. Catholics are in error on issues like the “immaculate conception” as Mary did not pre-exist God. The only conception that is immaculate is the conception of Christ. The only one that is the head of the church is Jesus Christ (not the pope…he’s the head of the institution of the Roman Catholic Church not the catholic, also called universal, church).

      There are so many other issues within the doctrine and practices of the Roman Catholic church that would cause the studious of protestants to cringe, i.e. the veneration of the saints. The way it’s practiced and taught can easily lead someone astray into idolatrous activities. That is why the African slaves in the Carribean when pressured to convert to Catholicism were able to merge their Yoruba faith with the albeit Roman Catholic/Christian faith. There are also other issues like the Council of Elvira and the treatment and views of God’s chosen (Jews). Just wanted to share a few things that came to mind. Hope the survey and the website is enlightening.

      Many blessings, Jes.

      1. Jes,

        You just spilled a whole can of worms and if you want to talk about each of those issues one at a time, I (along with Devin and others) would love to.

        But as for the “immaculate conception”, I think you may be misunderstanding the Catholic doctrine. Can you explain your understanding of it? The Catholic doctrine doesn’t require Mary to pre-exist God. In fact, it requires just the opposite.

        And as for your description of the Pope, you are half-right. He *is* the head of the institutional Catholic Church, and Jesus Christ is the head of universal Catholic Church. But there’s more. The two “types” of church (institutional and universal, visible and invisible) aren’t two but one–they are

        It would be more correct to say that Jesus is the head of the Catholic Church but the Pope is the visible representation and authority of Christ here and now. Jesus passed the keys of his Church to Peter, and the Holy Spirit has carried those keys down through the centuries to Benedict XVI.

        If you want to talk more about this or other issues, let us know! And check out Devin’s book–it covers a lot of the items you mentioned in more depth.

        Your brother,

        1. Hi Brandon,
          I will do my best to respond as accurately as I can what I have learned and studied. Here are some notes/reflections on Matthew 16:

          In Matthew 16:18 the word for rock is a mass of rock that can have a literal or figurative meaning and is in the feminine gender, it is not the same as the name Cephas for Peter which means a (piece of) rock. If you read the whole text and reflect on Jesus parable on the Wise man who built his house upon the rock, the rock is referring to Him (the revelation of Who He is); Consider this in light of what words came out of Peter’s mouth soon after in Matthew 16:21-23. Jesus rebuked Satan who spoke through Peter. It’s imperative for us as believers to build our faith on the sure foundation of Christ and not a representative of Christ. We must scrutinize and know the scriptures so that we can be accountable to each other, including leaders (apostles, teachers, preachers, etc.) and build each other up, exhorting each other.

          As for the keys…yes, in order to receive the keys of the kingdom you will need to have the revelation of Who Jesus is. It has been debated that the keys were given to the church, especially in light of how Jesus warned the disciples not to reveal that He is the Christ as of yet. He said this to his disciples, those who received and accepted the revelation (not solely to Peter).

          1. Jes,

            As for your “rock”ponderings, read this article for the Catholic interpretation:


            Even if Jesus spoke with the intention you claim–which he didn’t–history proves your wrong anyways. Throughout the earliest days of the Church, Peter was the clear leader. And a number of early Church fathers testify to the primacy of Peter.

            And we don’t “build our faith” on a representative of Christ. That’s a poor, unfounded accusation. Catholics build our faith on Christ. Peter (and the Pope) would be nothing without Christ. Nor would the Church.

            As for you interpretation of the “keys”, there is no backing for that in an of the earliest Church writings. Simply put, the Again, for the Catholic position, check out this article:


            Grace and peace!

            Your brother,

    2. @Brandon- You are right in saying that truth is not decided by majority. And this is a good thing, because Catholicism still claims slightly more than 50% of all Christians. (50.4% for now, but this is dropping). It does have some effect on authority, however. You see, even if you believe your authority is universal simply because you say so, you are only able to exercise your authority as far as you are able to disfellowship someone. If you are not able to disfellowship someone, you have no authority over them. I have a tendency to reject any and all of the “because I said so” claims of the CC about itself, and this is no different on the topic of authority. Having rejected the CC’s claims about itself, I am left with what is factual- the Catholic Church does not have universal authority over Christianity, but barely half. As this figure decreases and become a plurality instead of a majority, you might begin to see my point.

      I understand and respect your experience, but it is not indicative of what the overarching trends actually are. You are missing a few things. You’re right in saying the converts from Protestantism to Catholicism tend to be serious, probing minds, but what you’re missing is the fact that most of them return to Protestantism because Catholicism doesn’t work out. And unfortunately, you’re wrong about the 3x number of people that convert from Catholicism to Protestantism. You don’t know why they convert. Very few of them cite doctrinal disagreement as the reason they left, and even fewer cite some type of church scandal, problems with leadership, or social issues. (See the Pew Forum Religious Landscape survey for exact numbers). You really don’t know why Catholics convert, do you? I will tell you why it happens. For the most part (although the disparity is more dramatic among Tiber swimmers who leave), they leave Catholicism for Protestantism because they believe they’ll have a better chance at becoming better Christians. Turns out, they’re right. That is how it works out. It’s true that there are plenty of lazy Catholics who may not be Christians at all (and if they are, certainly don’t care about being better Christians). Those people don’t convert. They either stay Catholic (where expectations are comparatively low) or they disaffiliate entirely. For some of the figures and the lessons you can learn from them, take a look at this page for which Jesuit Father Thomas J. Reese is responsible.

      I am not gloating over tribalism. I have no particular tribe, and I am critical of your tribalism. I am not focusing on doctrinal differences, but that is not because I think they are unimportant- rather, they have comparatively little relevance to the conversion trends that are happening in America. What matters is this- some people genuinely want to become better Christians, and their patterns of behavior tell us what kinds of churches that is happening in. It happens in some Protestant churches (although not as much in mainline churches), and it happens the least in Catholic parishes. This is very important.

      Why is the Catholic Church the wrong place to be? I disagree with quite a few of your dogmas and doctrines, but that is not important here. This is the reason: It is the worst place to be if you’re a Christian who wants to become a better Christian. It is possible, but it is unlikely. The Catholic Church is wrong, but that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that the Catholic Church sucks at what it’s supposed to do, primarily because you depend on the sacraments entirely too much and then they don’t deliver.

      Finally, about the best way to become Protestant: I didn’t mean “best” in a qualitative sense, but “best” as in “the greatest likelihood.” That is to say, “best” in that this is the one thing you can do that yields a given outcome the greatest percentage of the time. If you’re a cradle Catholic, you have something slightly greater than a 15% chance of becoming Protestant. If you’re a cradle Catholic of immigrant parents, you’re at something more like 33%, give or take. But if you were initially a Protestant and then you converted to Catholicism, you have a 50% chance of returning to Protestantism within one year, 55% within two years, and so on until you plateau at close to 70% on a longer timescale. So in that sense, if you want the “best” chance of traveling the road from a Catholic parish to a Protestant church, your “best” course of action is to start as a Protestant and then count yourself among the Tiber swimmers- probably for a relatively short period of time.

      From your last paragraph, it is evident that you believe lazy Catholics are the ones that have the best odds of becoming Protestants. You’re wrong. Let’s compare apples to apples. One apple is a cradle Catholic who stays Catholic. The other apple is a cradle Catholic who converts to Protestantism. The second apple is more involved in the life of the church and about twice as likely to attend church on a weekly basis both before and after conversion. It’s like the Jesuit guy says- doctrine is not that important for those who convert to Protestantism or to those who stay Catholic, but there is a dramatic difference between the two apples. One tends to not care about being a better Christian (those who stay Catholic) and the other cares about it and does something about it (by becoming Protestant). There are exceptions to the trends, of course, but these are the trends.

      1. @Mike:

        Thanks for the comment! I appreciate the thoughtful reply. I don’t have time right now to respond to everything, but I want to clear one thing up:

        “(The Catholic Church) is the worst place to be if you’re a Christian who wants to become a better Christian. It is possible, but it is unlikely. ”

        How then can you explain the thousands of saints up and down the centuries? How do you explain someone like Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, or Mother Teresa? Your claim is not just audacious but flies in the face of the evidence.

        “The important thing is that the Catholic Church sucks at what it’s supposed to do, primarily because you depend on the sacraments entirely too much and then they don’t deliver.”

        Like you, I really regret the lack of zeal and devotion among my fellow Catholics. It kills me that people enter the Church, participate in sacramental life, and leave (apparently) unchanged.

        But I think you’re misunderstanding the role and workings of the sacraments. They aren’t magic pills–“just take this and do this and tomorrow you’ll be magically holy.” They are only efficacious to the extent that the grace communicated through them is not stymied.

        In fact if you’re in mortal sin, which many Catholics are, and you receive the Eucharist, it not only won’t help you toward holiness: it will have a detrimental effect (St. Paul described this in 1 Corinthians 5).

        So therefore it’s wrong to say, “a lot of people are receiving the sacraments but they’re not holy, ergo the sacraments are ineffective.”

        As for the Catholic-convert defections, two things:

        1. I’m skeptical at those re-version statistics since they are compeltely at odds from my own anecdotal evidence. But I don’t have time to research them so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

        2. Even if those statistics were true, could it possibly be that those who became Catholic were never fully entrenched into the Church’s sacramental, intellectual, and spiritual depths? Could it be that they dipped their toe in the water, didn’t like the sting, and turned back?

        Finally, as a Protestant, all of this conversion evidence should be important to you, but your final opinion of the Church should rest on one question: is it true?

        If it’s true, it wouldn’t matter if 95% of converts left. It wouldn’t matter if 95% of baptized Catholics never chose to engage their faith in any real way.

        If the Church is true–if it was established on Christ and the authority he gave Peter–then it’s the right place to be.

        As St. Augustine said, “the Church may be a whore, but she’s my mother.” The Church may lose a high number of converts, but she’s still Home.

  14. Hello Devin, Mike and Brandon. Here’s one survey you may be interested in. Interested in any other stats you may find. From a mother of adult and young children, raised protestant by a former Catholic, and have been raising my children Protestant with no intentions converting.

      1. Thanks for your kind and encouraging invitiation.

        Many blessings to you and I’ll pray that His Truth will prevail in your heart always.

  15. How many converts to Protestantism from Catholicism stay in the original protestant sect they join? (Barna admits in the study that he doesn’t take this into account).

    It’s pretty easy to couch this particular situation as a two-way street, but it would seem that for those that go back to protestantism they never truly find home. This is problematic since it would seem to imply that those who join the Catholic Church and then leave, only repeat this behavior somewhere else. [analogy: if a guy beats all of his wives, was it the lady’s fault?] Isn’t this a problem amongst all protestant communities (not just converts from Catholicism)?

    However, Catholics who remain faithful Catholics do not leave the Church. Further, what underlies our inability to wade through the data in Barna’s study is a vastly different view of ecclesiology. For the Catholic Church, Christ who came in the flesh and not as an angel, left us with a visible, identifiable Church (the scripture calls the ground and pillar of Truth) whereas for the Protestant, the Church is only the invisible body of Christ (something the Catholic Church recognizes as true but incomplete). In turn, it’s hard to compare behavioral data on an invisible group vs. a visible one.

    Peace to you all on your journey,


    1. Hello Brent,
      I think the reason why many have left or changed from one sect/denomination in the Protestant movement to a nondenominational church has been due to the political stances of particular sects and how these stances may conflict with sound biblical doctrine (the reason why they left the Roman Catholic church). People just want the Truth. Also, if they move from city to city, state to state, this can also place a shift in which sect they go to based on the demographics or what churches are in their local. So it’s understandable how the stats can be so up and down and inconclusive. Maybe the survey needs to be revised and maybe the questions need to be more specific, considering these variables.

      Have a blessed day,

  16. Jes,

    When Jesus said he would build his Church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it, how would you qualify success of that Church? As a former protestant, the only plausible answer a protestant can give would affirm the part of my previous comment you didn’t respond to.

    Peace to you on your journey,


    1. Not certain which comment you are looking for me to respond to but one thing is definitely needed – perseverance to the very end. Some scripture you may read — 1 Timothy 4:16 – “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.”; James 1:12 reads “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

      It would also do us well, the body of Christ — his bride (church), to heed to the warnings to the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation. Loving Jesus and loving each other, including our enemies…that’s the sum of the law though it is not the law that saves us, we are saved by grace.

  17. Jes,

    Agreed. I would recommend Devin’s book as well.

    By the way, assuming I am a new believer, which church should I go to find the Church that will provide the teachings which will help me persevere to the end?

    Peace in Christ,


  18. I have always been surprised at the massive size of the Catholic Church. Of course, this is due to many historic reasons, but it can only be God’s providence that allowed this. Granted, many are cultural catholics, but still. It seems to me that the beauty and truth of the Catholic Church is not easily grasped, but requires serious intellectual study. All heresies are simplifications, and therefore easier to grasp. There are few people who are intellectuals, as in interested in understanding the world and gaining wisdom. There are many intelligent people, but intelligence is no guarantee of being an intellectual. I am a physician myself, and I can tell you 99% of them are ignorant of anything outside of medicine, pop culture, and trivial information. Most people are not interested in knowledge as a whole, studying what is important to know, what leads to wisdom and understanding. Other then their few interests and knowledge that leads to practical success, either socially or financially, they could care less about anything. How can you be an intellectual with no interest in the big questions. The Catholic Church in earlier times had the power of a catholic community and culture where the common man was immersed in it, and therefore over time was able to grasp its truth and beauty. In modern culture where you have all kinds of ideas and worldviews promoted, the common man does not know what to do. It is the rare intellectual who takes a serious study of religion that will be lead to truth. That is why I am afraid, the church will become very small, but those that are in it, love it with all its mind, body, and soul.

    Christianity is always one generation away from extinction.

    “In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.” -Dorothy Sayers

  19. It is true that in Protestantism that church attendance is not enforced and confession, though encouraged, is not enforced, but being lukewarm is not excusable and I believe such complacency or settling for a mediocre faith will be paid for with an eternity in hell (bluntly stated). Today I would say that much of the Protestant church are merely nominal believers, and it absolutely makes me sick, but basing accusations of Protestantism as a whole on a bunch of hipsters who sit around and talk about that sweet light show in todays church service is a bit unfair to the many in protestantism who have surrendered their lives to Christ and die to themselves daily.

    Protestantism is NOT a cool or hip alternative to an unsatisfying, faithless life in the catholic church. It IS a group of believers who have regained sight of what Christ says a relationship with Him looks like and we pursue that whole heartedly.

  20. I grew up Catholic, and my parents are very devoted to the church. I was even a Eucharistic minister. At age 41, I am now leaving the Catholic Church. It is not because I lack intelligence (such a typical Catholic guilt trip, trying to make you change your mind because you don’t want to be called stupid!). I am leaving for several reasons: 1) Being made to feel guilty if I don’t attend church on a rare occasion, 2) We are taught that God loves and forgives us, but there is a lack of gray area in most priests eyes. Here in the midwest, it is all fire and brimstone. A man remarried outside of the church and did not attend church during his last year of life because he was homebound with Emphysema. The priest, at his funeral, banished him to hell in front of 200 people to “teach them a lesson”, and said that even if the man had apologized on his death bed, God would puke him out. Isn’t that what last rights are for? Forgiveness? 3) The Catholic church has many rules set in place, but most of them are not in the bible, and the church won’t bend. 4) The fact that different areas of the US view the “rules” differently, 5) The Catholic Church has gotten too big for its britches and sweeps a lot under the rug, 6) If priests were allowed to be married, maybe they wouldn’t molest little boys. I am leaving the church because I don’t agree with these things, and want to focus on being a good person, loving God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and following the 10 commandments.

    1. Kim,

      Something doesn’t add up with what you are describing here. Firstly, very few priests are “fire and brimstone”–the exact opposite is true in the U.S. If you miss Mass without a good reason, you simply confess it to a priest at Reconciliation. Done deal. No guilt; forgiveness.

      My mother-in-law, God rest her soul, was homebound with a terminal illness and people brought her holy communion, the priest came multiple times and gave her anointing of the sick, etc. She had a Catholic funeral Mass and was held up as an exemplar of someone living their last days (in spite of not having gone to Mass, because she couldn’t, for a long time). So something was wrong either with what the priest understood about this homebound man or about what you understand the situation was.

      In any case, you gotta do what you gotta do. Married priests would not stop those few men who seek to abuse boys. Men who do that are deeply disordered and marriage does not solve those problems.

      So you have several misunderstandings, many of which may be the fault of others and their own misunderstandings. I am sorry for that.

      God bless you and guide you. Continue to seek Him in love and in truth and He will lead you there.

    2. Kim.

      I just wanted to be neutral reading comments in these blogs. But when I read you, I was concerned. I think you should not forsake your Catholic faith for some childish reasons. I’m concerned that the pronouncement of the Church in Lumen Gentium would apply to you which says that anyone who knows that the Church was instituted by Jesus Christ for salvation but refuse to enter it or leave it, shall not be saved. Considering that Jesus gave the Church the authority to bind and unbind, leaving it is like jumping straight to hell.

  21. As someone who is quite familiar with history and with doctrine of several denominations of Christian churches, including Catholic, as well as having friends of a variety of denominations including RC, Orthodox, Coptic, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran and Episcopal, I will add my two cents here for what it’s worth. I know of very few Protestants who converted to Catholicism. Most of the Catholics I know who converted to a Protestant denomination, did so because they view the Catholic church as corrupt and legalistic, as did Martin Luther hundreds of years ago. Jesus left for us an early church that was NOT what the Catholic church is today…a man-made heirarchy of a wealthy and corrupt priesthood who control congregations with man-made rules and laws, which if not followed, allow men to pass judgement and excommunicate one from the church. Only God can pass judgement. First century Christians did not sit in confessionals or pray the Rosary…they did not exist then. The Protestant faiths model themselves after the Earliest Christian congregations. As for me, I’m a Protestant born and raised.

  22. I would say the Catholic church became corrupt when it began to view the Pope as infallable and that men had any right to excommunicate…for starters.

    1. The doctrine of papal infallibility wasn’t formally defined until 1870. Does that mean, in your opinion, the Church’s teachings were OK up to that point? If not, when was the *real* break?

  23. Beth Behan, as an ageing loving cousin of yours I was led to say my two cents worth:
    We all need a properly formed conscience to have any chance of discovering Jesus’s true Church. Please read 1878’s ‘An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine’; 1977’s ‘The Incorruptibles’ by Cruz; 1988’s Catholicism and Fundamentalism’
    by Keating; ‘Rome Sweet Home’ by Hahn; 1994’s ‘Suprised By Truth’ ed by Madrid; 1996’s ‘Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic’; 2006’s ‘No Price too High’ Jones; 2009’s ‘The Rite’ by Baglio. All essential fodder for a healthy conscience cousin! -courtesy of mostly Protestant converts!!
    Tony Behan’ ;70 years young! Hope to meet you in heaven Beth! God Bless!

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