Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

"Catholic Guilt" From a Catholic Perspective

I have recently been interacting with Pastor Chris Castaldo on his blog site. He most recently commented to the effect that Catholic precepts can cause unhealthy guilt in those who most seriously apply them to their life.  This idea is based on his personal experience as a nominal/cultural Catholic and the opinions of a focus group he gathered together comprised of ex-Catholics.

Mr. Castaldo says:
 “My experience is that to the extent that one takes the precepts of the Catholic church seriously, he or she is unduly susceptible to experiencing unhealthy religious guilt.”  
This led me to disagree  from my own personal experience over my past 7 years in the Catholic Church taking it very seriously.  In order to make sure that my experience was not unique  I assembled my own focus group of respondents on the facebook group, Catholics Are Christians!  Admittedly this group is composed of over 2000  Catholics who take the precepts of the Catholic Church quite seriously, as I do. I shared with them Chris Castaldo's quote above and asked for them to comment if they had felt more guilt since becoming Catholic.
The following are  the responses so far:

  " I also have found that, since my conversion, I have been much more laid back about many things about which I used to be extremely uptight. Not because my morals have lapsed, or because I've given over to a "whatever floats your boat" kind of outlook on life, but I have become much more forgiving and MUCH less judgmental than I used to be; not at all what I expected. I believe these ideas/concepts are two sides of the same coin, just one more thing for which I am unbelievably thankful!" 

"Although able to tell a good joke here and there about Catholic guilt I have found that I really don't have all that much of it. I have found that the Sacrament of Reconciliation does heal all when I do mess up and (not saying it is a preemptive cure-all that Protestants sometimes make it out to be) if I do truly believe in this Sacrament it removes much of the lingering guilt."

"I grew up once-saved-always-saved, which said that I didn't need to worry about my sins because Jesus took them all away when I accepted Him as my Savior. Talk about guilt and not knowing what to do about your sins! Telling yourself that you shouldn't feel guilty because God doesn't see you that way. It's a vicious cycle. I made my first Reconciliation two years ago, and I can not even begin to describe the joy I felt in finally being able to confess my sins in a meaningful way and actually hearing the words of forgiveness. The guilt was gone."

" As a life long Catholic , Catholic guilt, always puzzled me. Shouldn't one feel guilty if a wrong has been committed? To me guilt is a gift from God letting me know I needed to rethink what I have done. It was a nudge to go down another path. Once I have taken advantage of the great gift of the Sacrament of reconciliation with true remorse and a conviction to do better I still know that I committed a wrong but that it was forgiven by God. If guilt is never felt then isn't it easier to keep on sinning because you never truly feel you can do wrong? I feel sorry for those who feel no guilt either they are lying to themselves or they are someone I don't really want to know for they will do what they want because they have no worries of having to stand before anyone and justify what they have done. No,  give me guilt any day so that I may know how to live the next day better than the one before."

"I no longer am plagued by my adolescent guilt of being a bad Catholic, as I have accepted the Magisterium's teachings fully & w/o question. I am no fool when it comes to my Faith. I have all the tools at my disposal, and of course fall often during the day, as I curse still when I think nobody is listening. It's getting better! That's the good hope! I am no fool when it comes to discerning spirits who creep & crawl around the proud. I fall into this category at times o simpleton that I am! God is so good, and with a good education in religion I can be saved in hope, faith & love. It's not a sure thing for anyone, but a sure hope. Peace be with you, gentle readers! "

"Why should I feel guilty for being a Catholic? Everyone has feelings of guilt at one time or another. I just don't understand. Is there a difference between Catholic guilt and protestant guilt? Besides I wouldn't feel guilty unless I did something wrong and didn't right that wrong.Guilt is guilt."

"I've been a Catholic since my birth. I have never felt this so called "Catholic guilt" I live my life as Jesus would want me to and if I should stumble I have the Sacrament of Reconciliation and I pay my penance. To know I am forgiven is so liberating. My son, unfortunately has rejected the Church and has on occasion brought up the guilt thing. Please pray for my son, that he comes Home to the Lord ~ Peace be with you "

 "Did he explain what sort of experience he was talking about because I have never experienced any sort of religious guilt whatsoever? I know I'm far from perfect but the Church had always taught that God is first and foremost a loving and forgiving God..."

After reading this responses, I will let you draw your own conclusion about Mr. Castaldo's comment that those who take the Catholic faith seriously are "unduly susceptible to experiencing unhealthy religious guilt."


Anonymous Aaron G. said...

As a Reformed Protestant currently discerning the claims of the Catholic Church for a possible conversion I have been thinking about this issue of "Catholic Guilt" lately. Ironically, just yesterday I was struck by something: John 16:8


Aaron G.

July 08, 2011 7:38 AM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

thanks for the comment Aaron. I will remember you in my prayers tonight.
Here's another post I did on he same subject.

July 08, 2011 6:18 PM  
Blogger Patricia Milot said...

Thanks for you interesting blogs etc, Russ. I love to read your stuff you post and in my opinion, you are right on target with what you write. Keep up the great work of your fine writing and getting Catholics to want to delve deeper into our Catholic faith by knowing the great Truth. God Bless you and yours.

July 08, 2011 10:17 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Patti; thanks so much for your kind and generous comment and for the gift of time you give in reading this stuff! When I reverted to the Catholic Church in 2004, i first had to confess 31 years of sins! But one of the biggest ones was leaving the Church and pulling people out of it and criticizing Catholicism for a long time. I thought my penance would be a million Our Fathers and Hail Marys. But this wise priest knew what the true meaning of penance is all about. So through the authority Christ gave to His Church my sins were forgiven and then my only penance was to tell others what Jesus had just done for me ! Wow, so its been 7 years and I still love talking about the faith and at the same time have been able to make amends in a truly practical manner that "fits my crime" so to speak. I am thankful to God that what he has done in deborah and my life by His grace that we can touch others. God bless thanks so much! Penance has been more fun than I would have imagined ;)

July 08, 2011 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Mrk said...

Great post, Russ. As a reformed protestant, I'm just as susceptible. I think there are two kinds, at least the good guilt--that drives me to confession and repentance, and the bad guilt--the kind that thinks I can "earn" God's love. BTW, you stated that Mr. Castaldo was a cultural/nominal Catholic. Was that based in his statement(which I couldn't find) or your observation?

July 12, 2011 3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know it says in James 5:16 that we are supposed to confess our sins to each other but before becoming Catholic I ignored that. I much prefer confessing them to a priest who has taken a vow of silence.

It's also wonderful knowing that because of the authority given by Christ to the Church, my sins are truly forgiven. I love being Catholic!

July 12, 2011 6:20 PM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

My comment regarding his nominal Catholic faith was based on his own statements from his book: Holy Ground.

"Even though I completed the sacrament of confirmation, our parish involvement was eventually reduced to holidays. As years passed, we unintentionally joined the ranks of those whose Catholicism consisted of attending Mass on Christmas and Easter-so called Chreasters."
(pg 35)

"It's probably true that when most of us think of a cultural Catholic we think of someone who is nominal(Catholic in name).This described me for several years.
When such people enter the hospital or complete a census, they register themselves as Roman Catholic, despite the fact that they've missed Mass for 9 straight years. Or maybe they attend Mass twice a year, on Christmas and Easter. They are the "cafeteria Catholics" who pick and choose elements of religion to suit their taste, like a vegetarian picking lettuce and onions from the buffet line at Bubba's Rib Fest. Perhaps they go to church when they need something from God. Just like the nominal Protestant, these Catholics use the religious label even though Christianity has little or no influence upon their lives."(pg 152)

July 12, 2011 6:23 PM  
Blogger Just another suburban mom. said...

Interesting, I went and read your comments back and forth with him. The Church has a name for the unhealthy guilt he speaks of and it's called "scrupulosity" and certainly the Church in her wisdom knows how to help those that suffer from this. I think those that leave the Church because of "Catholic guilt" sometimes do so because they can't or won't follow her teachings on perhaps birth control or something similar so they leave for a church that's affirms their view and makes them "feel" more comfortable. But obviously, we don't follow Jesus to be comfortable.

October 01, 2011 12:45 AM  
Blogger Russ Rentler, M.D. said...

Yes, he may have taken the small percentage of Catholics that suffer from scrupulosity and broad brushed us all with that conclusion. Or as u also point out they feel guilty because of moral issues in their life that they should feel guilty about. Either way Christ came to free us from the effects of sin and a good confessor can help even the most scrupulous or immoral Catholic.

October 01, 2011 1:00 AM  

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