The first reason is because I cannot understand the John 6 bread of life narrative any other way than the Catholic. The change of the verb for eating (from one that means eat, to one that means chew) in verse 53. The repeated, almost strange, unwillingness of Jesus to let go of this language, despite its offense to the people. His willingness to allow the narrative to drive away disciples – I cannot imagine that He would let them leave if His language was pure metaphor, so I conclude it is not metaphor. One of the earliest charges against Christians is cannibalism, so they must have used similar language; modern Protestants would never be accused of cannibalism.
Because it is the most scriptural understanding of the faith I can find. Before I converted, I studied the recent Catechism closely for a year and a half and find no mishandling of Scripture. Before I converted, I made a list of what I thought would be insurmountable objections, and as I studied, every one of them proved to be “square” with Scripture, given the possibility of development of Christian doctrine. If such development is a priori denied, then Catholicism fails.
Which brings up the issue of sola scriptura. I decided to drop my lifelong insistence on sola scriptura because I came to understand that the Bible itself did not require the approach, because the Church could not have survived the second century with such an approach (there was no agreed-upon body of scriptura to be sola with…), because the heritage of sola scriptura since the Protestant Reformation has been almost constant division, re-division and schism based on irreconcilable personal interpretations of Scripture. The fragmentation of Christianity (what I call the yellow pages) is a scandal and a serious impediment to evangelization. (These three reasons are in rank order for their persuasiveness to me.)
Because it is the only Christian group of whom it may be said without reserve that the gates of hell have not prevailed against it. This is made all the more compelling by the degree of corruption and downright evil which have at times characterized the hierarchy. How could the Catholic Church have survived the catastrophes it generated for itself if God had not preserved it?
Because the church history of the period between the 70’s and the late second century is quite fragmentary and even lost. Yet, the church that emerges from the mist is recognizably Catholic. There is a differentiation of roles between bishop, presbyter, and deacon that is not described in Scripture. These roles are hierarchical and invest great authority in the bishop. Certain congregations are recognized as apostolic and thus more able to guide the Christian community. Baptismal creeds are developed to distill the belief for adult converts who undergo extensive training prior to baptism. Pedobaptism is taken for granted by many, though not all. It appears the only opposition to pedobaptism (Tertullian is notable) is based on the error that serious sin committed after baptism may not be forgivable. The Eucharist is recognizably Catholic in Justin’s description and others. What am I to make of this and other developments? I could conclude that by the end of the second century, the Christian faith has largely apostasized and the Church God wanted does not exist. Or I could conclude that the New Testament does not give detailed directions for the constitution of the Church and does not in every case offer full-blown, easily understood doctrine to guide church leaders. Thus, many important matters were left to the judgment of Christian leaders because they are not covered in Scripture. And that’s what I do conclude. I guess as a practical matter, it means that I understand the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the Church did not end with the death of the apostles. The Church which defended the Christian faith so valiantly for the 300 years before the canon was finally agreed upon, this Church was allowed to constitute herself as best suited her challenges and was guided into the understandings that God desired.
Because the Second Vatican Council cured several serious issues in the Church’s understanding of herself and the world.
Because the sacramental approach is inclusive and fitting of reality. That the Church eventually settled on seven as “the” sacraments is not so much what persuades me, as the overall understanding that God touches us through His physical creation and always has done so.
As an adjunct to that last point, I am Catholic because the Eucharist almost literally left me no choice. I was drawn to Communion in a way I cannot explain. And because a half year of almost daily Eucharistic prayer before my conversion changed me in ways that were 100% beneficial and quite beyond any rational explanation I could find.
Because the Catholic tradition is rigorously intellectual, yet broad enough to include considerable diversity, yet it does not in any way approach latitudinarianism. And despite the intellect, there is full allowance made for the sacred and mysterious. In Church of Christ settings (my old fellowship), for 30 years of my life the approach to the faith and Scripture and to God Himself was almost 100% propositional – it only mattered what one believed and how that belief affected the living of daily life. Never was I urged to devotion any deeper than being a daily Bible reader or praying each day. The church building was proudly treated as nothing more than a way to keep the weather off. At the end of Sunday morning, someone would throw away what was left from communion (yet we would never treat a flag that way). Bibles would be left laying around the floor. In short, in Church of Christ nothing was taken to be sacred except intangibles like truth. As a Catholic, I understand that there are sacred things now even more surely than there were in the old temple worship.
Because the fruit borne by the Catholic Church is worthy of the Church. Unity. Works of mercy almost uninterrupted for 2,000 years and on a scale that matches major governments. Consistency of doctrine, combined with a willingness to continue to explore for fuller understanding. An unwillingness to compromise moral standards.
There are specific aspects of Catholicism that have confirmed my decision to convert. The power of confessing specific sin to another human in a formal setting. Since these sins I confessed have not been mortal, the power of reconciliation has come not from absolution, but instead from the process itself. My experience of the weekly liturgy has deepened for three years and I do not expect that to abate. Eucharistic prayer has changed me and my life – not in some Twilight Zone zombie way – instead it has grounded me in ways I haven’t known before, my anger is almost gone (that approaches a minor miracle), I think maybe I’m starting to figure out what it means to love and be loved and how those things are done.
The problems I left behind are eliminated in the Catholic Church. Legalism. An understanding of the Lord’s Supper unequal to the language of Scripture. An almost complete lack of appreciation for the gospel imperative of the second half of Matt. 25. What seemed in Church of Christ to be an over-eagerness to criticize other disciples, to judge their standing with God and to separate fellowship over almost any issue. The Restoration began with one of its slogans “we are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only”. I find that sentiment to be almost absent now in the Restoration, at least as I experienced it. The Church of Christ assumption that belief determines salvation as surely as behavior. The matter of sacredness I mentioned above. All of these are fully answered in the Catholic Church.
This next point is raised by the one above and comes late in the list in order to mimic the timeline of my conversion. There was a point in the 17 months it took to make my decision when I realized that my conscience would probably force me to convert. In other words, that core which Paul says in Rom 14 is sovereign became a part of the process after the preponderance of evidence began to favor conversion. I began with an intellectual examination of Catholic teaching – after a period of time, I began to understand the Catholic teaching to be reliable and almost irresistible – I started to glimpse what it might be to devote myself to God, to offer Him my entire self, and receive Him the same way, subject of course to my own weakness – and somewhere around that time, my conscience began to operate to convince me there was no way I could be true to what I knew and what I am without conversion. In a particular sense, at that very moment the danger of an intellectual error damning my soul ceased to exist. God cannot judge us solely on our intellectual acumen and our propositional understanding of the scripture. To believe that He does so flies in the face of Rom 2 and Rom 14 and Luke 12 and other passages. I am not saying that doctrine doesn’t matter, but I am saying that when a person does the best he can to understand the Scripture (and God knows if you have done your best), then conscience is operative, even sovereign.
Two Church of Christ hermeneutic principles are not specifically enumerated in Scripture – silence being binding and the example of the first century church being binding. To be sure, this is a possible approach to Scripture and it’s appealing in some ways. But it is not the only way. As an example, God gave some specific directions for the government of Israel and for its economy. But He also allowed much freedom to His people to organize themselves, even when it wasn’t His preferred way of doing things. The New Testament is considerably less detailed regarding the government of the Church. Is it so hard to conclude that God would allow his people again the freedom to constitute themselves according to the needs of the times? To conclude that the Catholic hierarchy offends God based on Scriptural silence assumes too much.