To Enter the Sanctuary by the Blood of Jesus: A Literal Account of Becoming Catholic

Aug 3rd, 2014 | By Andrew Preslar | Category: Featured Articles

What follows is the story of how I became a Catholic, as best as I can remember it. I have called this a “literal account” in order to distinguish it from a more ambiguous and allusive telling of the tale that was offered here several years ago as “The Last Road.” In neither version do I say anything about many of the specifically Catholic practices and doctrines that Protestants tend to find particularly objectionable. Instead, I have focused on describing landscape. This reflects the nature of the development of my own theological convictions, which was less a matter of piecemeal deduction than of an entire picture slowly coming into resolution, in which process the various objects became distinctly intelligible. Most of this narrative, therefore, is devoted to describing the contours of the biblical, theological, liturgical, ecclesiological, and soteriological considerations that would lead me to Catholicism. I will also briefly recount the final steps that I took towards and then into the Catholic Church, including the process of navigating through some of the confusing and troubling aspects of her recent history.

[The story that was posted here will soon be available in a slightly modified form as part of a collection of conversion stories published by Ignatius Press, entitled Evangelical Exodus. If you enjoyed the version previously available on this website, or if you have yet to read it, or if you are generally interested in the phenomenon of Protestants converting to Catholicism, please consider picking up a copy of the forthcoming book.]



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  1. Andrew,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for posting!


  2. Andrew,

    Your story, the way you tell it with your gift for the written word, is compelling and thought-provoking. Like any good story told well, yours is a source of re-awakening within me toward those truths most significant and substantial in life.

  3. Andy,

    What a blessing to finally have your journey to the Catholic Church written down for others to read. It was a joy to read.

    Your Friend,

  4. Thank you guys for the kind comments.

    Even though this story is really long for a blog post, it is of course a really short summary of the actual process, which, although I claimed that it was not like piecemeal deduction, did involve a lot of careful thinking on many things. I mentioned some of these things in the “Anglo-Catholic” section, which comes across (to me, looking at it now) as more critical of Anglicanism and Anglo-Catholicism than I had intended. I was trying to hone in on my thought process regarding the universal church and the promises of Christ, and did not take the time to properly express my thankfulness for and appreciation of the Catholic dimension of Anglicanism, as emphasized by Anglo-Catholics. It was there that my love for Christ grew such that the communion of saints, his Blessed Mother (from her Immaculate Conception to her Bodily Assumption), and the Eucharist were incorporated into that love.


    You’ve listened to more of my Catholic ramblings than almost anyone else, so it is especially good to hear that you enjoyed reading this story.

  5. Andrew (#4),

    I enjoyed reading about your journey in the faith. It is interesting to see the things God uses to bring people into the Catholic faith. The Anglican/Episcopal church helped my family on its way to Catholicism. It acted as a type of a bridge that led us closer to understanding some aspects of the Catholic faith. It enabled us to see the beauty of liturgical worship centered around the Eucharist, to develop a bit of an understanding of apostolic succession and tradition as taught by the Anglican faith. When it looked like our Episcopal diocese would be forced to remove itself from the Episcopal church USA , my family decided it was time to study the Catholic faith from Catholics themselves. Therefore part of our prompting was directly related to the circumstances we were facing in the Episcopal church. I am thankful that God often leads us on the journey of faith in steps (as opposed to gigantic leaps) as we accept more and more of the grace He offers. He is such a merciful and patient God and his glory is shown in the care He gives us as we continue on the journey . Thanks for sharing this, Kim.

  6. Andrew,
    Thank you for this beautiful witness!

  7. Thanks for this post. Context, for what it’s worth: I’m a regular reader and a Presbyterian poking around in Catholicism, classical Anglicanism, and Orthodoxy. Regarding your realization that a necessary connection must exist between apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist: why not also for a valid baptism? Just as many disperate and erroneous theologies of baptism abound in Protestantism, and the apostles were charged by Jesus to administer both sacraments. So why is the Eucharist only valid when an ordained priest or bishop administers it, yet any Protestant minister (or layman, as I understand it – one on the same, per Catholic teaching, I assume) may administer a valid trinitarian baptism?

  8. David,

    Thanks for reading. Regarding the administration of Baptism, the short answer is that the ordinary minister of this sacrament is the bishop or a presbyter ordained by the bishop. This is so for the reasons you have given, which, as you point out, are analogous to the reasons I cited for holding that only a bishop or presbyter in apostolic succession can validly celebrate the Eucharist.

    The reason that, in cases of necessity, anyone can administer baptism is basically that this sacrament is so necessary and fundamental to spiritual life, that God in his goodness has made it more widely available than the other sacraments, particularly as regards its matter (water) and minister (anyone, in cases of necessity).

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church (par. 1256) states:

    The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.

    And according to the Catechism of the Council of Trent (under the heading, “The Sacrament of Baptism”):

    Bishops And Priests The Ordinary Ministers

    The faithful, therefore, are to be informed that of those (who administer Baptism) there are three gradations. Bishops and priests hold the first place. To them belongs the administration of this Sacrament, not by any extraordinary concession of power, but by right of office; for to them, in the persons of the Apostles, was addressed the command of our Lord: Go, baptise. Bishops, it is true, in order not to neglect the more weighty charge of instructing the faithful, have generally left its administration to priests. But the authority of the Fathers and the usage of the Church prove that priests exercise this function by their own right, so much so that they may baptise even in the presence of the Bishop. Ordained to consecrate the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of peace and unity, it was fitting that they be invested with power to administer all those things which are required to enable others to participate in that peace and unity. If, therefore, the Fathers have at any time said that without the leave of the Bishop the priest has not the right to baptise, they are to be understood to speak of that Baptism only which was administered on certain days of the year with solemn ceremonies.

    Deacons Extraordinary Ministers Of Baptism

    Next among the ministers are deacons, for whom, as numerous decrees of the holy Fathers attest it is not lawful without the permission of the Bishop or priest to administer this Sacrament.

    Ministers In Case Of Necessity

    Those who may administer Baptism in case of necessity, but without its solemn ceremonies, hold the last place; and in this class are included all, even the laity, men and women, to whatever sect they may belong. This office extends in case of necessity, even to Jews, infidels and heretics, provided, however, they intend to do what the Catholic Church does in that act of her ministry. These things were established by many decrees of the ancient Fathers and Councils; and the holy Council of Trent denounces anathema against those who dare to say, that Baptism, even when administered by heretics, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true Baptism.

    And here indeed let us admire the supreme goodness and wisdom of our Lord. Seeing the necessity of this Sacrament for all, He not only instituted water, than which nothing can be more common, as its matter, but also placed its administration within the power of all. In its administration, however, as we have already observed, all are not allowed to use the solemn ceremonies; not that rites and ceremonies are of higher dignity, but because they are less necessary than the Sacrament.

    Let not the faithful, however, imagine that this office is given promiscuously to all, so as to do away with the propriety of observing a certain precedence among those who are its ministers. When a man is present a woman should not baptise; an ecclesiastic takes precedence over a layman, and a priest over a simple ecclesiastic. Midwives, however, when accustomed to its administration, are not to be found fault with if sometimes, when a man is present who is unacquainted with the manner of its administration, they perform what may otherwise appear to belong more properly to men.

    The Eucharist of course is from a Catholic point of view the “source and summit” of the Church’s life, the sacrament to which all the other sacraments are ordered, and it is unique among the sacraments in that the matter, bread and wine, is substantially changed into the Body and Blood of Christ, together with his Soul and Divinity. It would require a deep dive into sacramental theology (for me, too deep) to satisfactorily explain why a layperson cannot, in situations where no priest is available, celebrate a valid Eucharist, since this sacrament is normally necessary for salvation as uniting us to Christ in a unique manner, thus increasing our love for him and one another and strengthening us on our pilgrim way. It is enough for faith to know the mind of the Church on this matter.

    With regard to understanding, my own, in brief, is that the situation is something like this: Baptism opens the door to the kingdom, fits the baptized out with the ontological equipment (e.g., the baptismal character) necessary for participating in the spiritual life of the kingdom, the life of the Church. Typically, the head of the house (in the visible church, the bishop or priest) will be the one at the door to receive a new family member into the home. But it suffices for entrance for anyone to open the door; i.e., administer the sacrament of Baptism. (Note, however, that self-baptism is invalid; entrance to the kingdom is therefore irreducibly communal.)

    This new life, however, is intrinsically ordered to community, and a hierarchical community at that–a family and a kingdom. If it were the case that everyone in the family could perform all of the functions of anyone else in the family, the essential structure and therefore stability of the community would be compromised. The kingdom would become fundamentally, in fact grossly, disordered.

    If by ill chance some members of the community become estranged from its rightly ordered life, and if through no fault of their own they cannot return to that life in its fullness, then it would suffice for their survival as living members of the community that they continue, in whatever ways they are able given their place in the family, to live according to the life of the family and to desire a return to that life in its fullness. But it would of course be better if they were able to actually return to the normal life of the family / community / church / kingdom. Of course, for many persons in a “separated situation” such a return is a real possibility.

  9. Andrew,
    Sorry for the late response. Thank you for your thorough explanations. Some of this seems arbitrary, but I’m fairly satisfied with your answer. Thanks again.

  10. A great read! Glad you didn’t douse the flame of (intellectual as well as spiritual) curiosity that was ignited in you by the Holy Spirit. That is a gift that not everyone gets to be blessed with. I am a cradle Catholic who would jump at the first opportunity to attend a Mass at an Eastern Catholic parish if only to breathe the divine air from that other lung of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ himself. Blessings to you and your work.

  11. Andrew, can I offer you a different perspective after reading your lengthy tetimony which I commend you for sharing. I really hope the site will allow my comments and allow yout to respond. The writer of Hebrews calls the need for a physical altar, a physical sacrifice, and a physical Priesthood a lack of faith. In fact He warns the Jews that it was a shrinking back in one’s faith, and we know that without faith it is impossible to please Him. Blessed are those who dont see yet believe. Jesus came to incorporate us into His body thru the spirit, not the flesh. He said He was goingvaway and wouldnt eat with us again unt, il the kingdom. The scripture says we now see in a mirror and then we will see face to face. I believe your move was a lack of faith Andrew. In fact as I read your story in the evangelical church, I wonder if you ever had it? For the one who comes to Him must belive that He is and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him. The need for a physical altar, sacrifice, and Priesthood isnt faith. Christ’s altar, sac, priesthood are in heaven, and we worship Him in spirit by faith. Thx God Bless

  12. Andrew, this is a very personal account, a very Protestant account. What bishops in the church would follow your interpretation of the faith or church councils? And isn’t the more important question, which bishops do you follow in your understanding of Roman Catholicism? No fair fudging with subjective interpretations when the thing that supposedly separates Rome from Protestants is objective authority.

    And this question is all the more pertinent when your bishops have had trouble recognizing the truth about marriage and homosexuality, when Vatican 2’s engagement with the modern world is coming home. I can’t believe no one here at CTC is talking about the Synod. Keep moving. Nothing here to see.

    And as for the pedophile scandal, the thing that should give you pause is not the weakness of individual priests but the dishonesty of bishops who would cover up for those priests. If a bishop can cover up something like that, maybe they can cover up other truths as well. And there goes all of that objective truth taught and defended by an infallible magisterium.

    I get it. None of our “testimonies” is free from personal affections or preferences. But since CTC makes a big deal of logic and truth and hierarchy and papalism, maybe you guys should get on the same page.

  13. Darryl, (re: #12)

    Andrew can answer for himself, but I can say a few things regarding your comments.

    Andrew, this is a very personal account, a very Protestant account.

    Just for the sake of clarity, a personal account is not ipso facto a *Protestant* account, and can very well be a Catholic account. See, for example, St. Augustine’s confessions. Or watch Marcus Grodi’s The Journey Home.

    What bishops in the church would follow your interpretation of the faith or church councils? And isn’t the more important question, which bishops do you follow in your understanding of Roman Catholicism?

    Both of these questions presuppose mistakenly that there is no distinction between “disagreements of faith” and “disagreements not of faith,” (a distinction explained in “The “Catholics are Divided Too” Objection“), and thus that in matters of faith, Catholics are left to choosing between bishops.

    No fair fudging with subjective interpretations when the thing that supposedly separates Rome from Protestants is objective authority.

    Again, here you’re treating disagreements among bishops as if this entails that the teaching of the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops when they exercise their authentic Magisterium is itself divided. But that conclusion does not follow from that premise.

    And this question is all the more pertinent when your bishops have had trouble recognizing the truth about marriage and homosexuality, when Vatican 2’s engagement with the modern world is coming home.

    In every age of the Church, some bishops have had trouble recognizing some truths. That’s nothing new. Recall the fourth century, for example. In every such case, we are called to pray for our leaders.

    I can’t believe no one here at CTC is talking about the Synod. Keep moving. Nothing here to see.

    The Synod had no magisterial authority. The Synod’s purpose was only to put together a “Relatio Synodi” to be used in preparation for next year’s Synod. If you think the Synod or its results are incompatible with something we’ve said, you’ll need to lay out that argument.

    And as for the pedophile scandal, the thing that should give you pause is not the weakness of individual priests but the dishonesty of bishops who would cover up for those priests. If a bishop can cover up something like that, maybe they can cover up other truths as well. And there goes all of that objective truth taught and defended by an infallible magisterium.

    From the fact that some bishops are dishonest and sinfully cover up the sins of certain priests, it does not follow that the Magisterium of the Church cannot be infallible in the way the doctrine of infallibility teaches. St. Peter denied the Son of God three times, and yet you yourself believe that he was infallibly protected from error by the Holy Spirit when he authored 1 and 2 Peter.

    I get it. None of our “testimonies” is free from personal affections or preferences. But since CTC makes a big deal of logic and truth and hierarchy and papalism, maybe you guys should get on the same page.

    Your imperative presupposes that we’re not on the same page. But that’s a presupposition that would need some substantiation, rather than mere assertion. Nothing in Andrew’s account contradicts anything we’ve said. If you disagree, you’ll need to lay out an argument showing where what he said contradicts something we’ve said elsewhere.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  14. Bryan, the bishops are divided and it’s not just some obscure point of church dogma or practice.

    Divorce and Remarriage

    Paragraph 52: “Some fathers insisted in favor of the present discipline, on the basis of the constitutive relationship between participation in the Eucharist and communion with the church and its teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. Others expressed themselves [in favor] of a non-generalized welcome to the Eucharistic table, in some situations and under very precise conditions, above all when it’s a matter of irreversible cases bound by moral obligations towards children … An eventual access to the sacraments would have to be preceded by a penitential path under the responsibility of the diocesan bishop. The question still needs further study, taking account of the distinction between an objective situation of sin and attenuating circumstances …”

    Yes: 104
    No: 74



    More from Crux

    Pope beatifies Paul VI at synod’s end
    Pope Paul VI greets a child as he visits the parish of Jesus the Divine Master in Rome on April 2, 1972. (Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo/CNS)
    Paul VI was pope of firsts, a pope of dialogue, cardinal says
    Divided bishops water down welcome to gays and the divorced
    Paragraph 55: “Some families live the experience of having persons with a homosexual orientation. In that regard it was asked what pastoral attention is appropriate facing this situation, referring to what the church teaches: ‘There does not exist any basis for assimilating or making analogies, however remote, between homosexual unions and the design of God for marriage and the family.’ Nonetheless, men and women with homosexual tendencies must be welcomed with respect and delicacy. ‘In their regard, every trace of unjust discrimination is to be avoided.’ (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ‘Considerations regarding Projects of Legal Recognition of Unions among Homosexual Persons,’ 4).”

    Yes: 118
    No: 62


    Positive Values in ‘Irregular’ Unions

    Paragraph 41: “While it continues to announce and promote Christian matrimony, the synod also encourages pastoral discernment of the situations of many who do not live this reality. It is important to enter into pastoral dialogue with such persons in order to identify the elements of their life that can lead to a greater opening to the Gospel of marriage in its fullness. Pastors must identify elements that can favor evangelization and human and spiritual growth. A new sensibility of contemporary pastoral care consists in collecting the positive elements in civil marriage and, given the necessary distinctions, in living together.”

    Yes: 125
    No: 54

    Paragraph 25: “In order for a pastoral approach to persons who have contracted civil matrimony, who are divorced and remarried, or who simply live together, it’s up to the Church to reveal to them the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and to help them reach the fullness of God’s plan for them. Following the gaze of Christ, whose light illuminates every person … the church turns with love towards those who participate in its life in an incomplete way, recognizing that the grace of God also works in their lives giving them the courage to do good, to take loving care of one another and to be of service to the community in which they live and work.”

    Yes: 140
    No: 39

    You would not find that kind of ambivalence among the pastors of the SBC or the OPC.

    Not looking good for your choice of Rome. But once you go in on high papalism, you find out what’s wrong with monarchy — arbitrary rule. You might get Pius X, you might get Francis.

    Have a nice day.

  15. Darryl,

    Discussion of the recent synod on the family would be better suited to the comment threads following David Anders’ two posts on that topic.

    Regarding your earlier comment, there is a sense in which the above account is Protestant, since most of it describes the development of my theological views while I was a Protestant. I do not see a dichotomy between that and becoming Catholic. Rather, as with Louis Bouyer, I believe that the positive elements of Protestantism are ordered towards Catholicism as their source, fulfillment, and proper context.


  16. Andrew, would that be this Louis Bouyer?

    “Father Louis Bouyer is another French priest. Like Father Gelineau he was very prominent in the liturgical movement. He is certainly one of the greatest living authorities on the liturgy. Father Bouyer was very enthusiastic about the Liturgy Constitution of the Second Vatican Council—–so enthusiastic that he wrote a book about it, one of the many fine scholarly works which have come from his pen. He called it The Liturgy Revived. Its title makes the theme clear. There was to be a great revival in the liturgy, a great renewal, and this renewal would revitalize the life of the entire Church, at least where the Roman Rite was concerned. But like Father Gelineau, Father Bouyer is an honest man. Unlike Father Gelineau, he deplores what has been foisted upon us in the name of the Council. He has now written another book. It is entitled The Decomposition of Catholicism. Once again, the theme is made clear by the title. In this book, Father Bouyer admits that, far from the hoped-for renewal following the Council, what we are witnessing is the accelerated decomposition of Catholicism, that the liturgical changes are a betrayal of the Liturgy Constitution, the will of the Council Fathers and the entire papally-approved liturgical movement. He even claims that there is practically no liturgy worthy of the name in the Church today. Strong words, but if anyone knows what he is talking about, Father Bouyer does. ”

    So when do you become disillusioned? (When does CTC admit disillusion even exists?)

  17. Ave Maria!
    Being Catholic does not mean we don’t go through trials or face difficulties or pastors who may be weak in the face of the world, but that we realize the Church has and will survive this and whatever future trials are visited upon it from the outside and especially from the inside.

    Whereas, and I say this in all charity, if we admitted the Protestant Principle, those who stand up more vigorously against the accommodating forces could separate and form a more “pure” community. But we don’t admit that principle. There are groups which may be more “pure” but that is because they are self-selected.

    Having Jesus in your boat doesn’t mean that you won’t face storms, but that you’ll get through them. In contrast, how are the mainline Protestants doing in this regard?

    And in regards to Louis Bouyer, this is what Andrew was referring to:

  18. Darryl (re: #14)

    I’ve replied to your comment #14 above, in comment #2 of David Anders’ “Divorce and Remarriage Revisited.”

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  19. fra Charles,

    Yes it was along those lines that I was thinking of Fr. Bouyer. Specifically, I had in mind his books The Spirit and Forms and Protestantism and Word, Church, and Sacraments in Protestantism and Catholicism.


    I briefly addressed the new (“novus ordo”) Roman liturgy in the sixth section of my story, where you can see that I have felt something similar to what Fr. Bouyer expressed in the quote you shared.

    As a general rule, Catholics have always learned to make due with whatever liturgy the Church provides, and that is how many Roman Catholics have chosen to respond to their new liturgy. But as I mentioned in the above account, using myself as an example, there are other appropriate, even if extraordinary (or non-Roman), ways to participate in the liturgical life of the Church, and in present circumstances some of us have chosen one or another of those ways, for various reasons.


  20. Andrew, as a convert myself, the succinct recounting of your journey into the Catholic Church simply made my heart swell. I identify with much of your journey and will be ruminating on this for a while along with the ample Scripture references you provided.

    Blessings and peace!

  21. Beverly,

    Glory to Jesus Christ!

    Thanks for the note, and thanks especially for considering the Scripture references. Because of the nature of this account (primarily autobiographical) and due to its length I only provided chapter and verse references for the relevant parts of Scripture (except for the quotes at the very end), but each reference is essential.


  22. Hi Andrew,
    Another westerner joining a Uniate church! The Catholic Church has issued many encyclicals to prevent this. They only wanted conversions to go one way- from Uniate to Latin rite. Uniates still retain much of the Orthodox ethos despite the influence of the Latin Church.
    If you like what you see in a Uniate Church like the Ukrainian Catholic Church then join the Orthodox Church. We are everything that Uniates are and more because we haven’t succumbed to the modern ‘isms’ that have taken over the modern Roman Catholic Church.

  23. Stefano,

    The Orthodox Church has everything that any traditional, liturgical, orthodox Christian could ever want, except for being in full communion with the bishop of Rome. The Orthodox Church also has some things that no Christian would ever want, but that is true of all particular churches and ecclesial communities, including the Catholic ones.


  24. Stefano,

    After spending the better part of each week for the past several months studying the issue of Papal primacy in the early Church, I will recommend to you a small work that I think will demonstrate that the earliest and primitive Church recognized the Roman episcopate as part of the divine constitution of the Church. It is entitled “Communio: Church and Papacy in Early Christianity” by Ludwig Hertling SJ

  25. Hi Erick,
    I have also done extensive reading on the Papacy and all this has convinced me that the modern Papacy is very different from that in the Patristic Period. I recommend two books by Michael Whelton, a convert to Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism. ‘Popes and Patriarchs: an Orthodox Perspective on Roman Catholic Claims’ (2006) and ‘Two Paths: Papal Monarchy – Collegial Tradition’ (2007) are easy to read and not too technical. Also interesting is ‘The Papacy’ by Abbé Guette from 1866. Abbe Guette was a French priest who converted to Orthodoxy. His book is available to download from Internet archive. John Meyendorff also edited a good collection of essays called ‘The Primacy of Peter’ (1992). Remember that recognising the Roman episcopate, which Orthodoxy does not deny, or even Roman primacy, which Orthodox did recognise before the schism, does not equal the modern papacy.

  26. Andrew,
    There is an interesting book by the Dominican theologian Aidan Nichols called ‘Rome and the Eastern Churches’ (2010). He says things like ‘…the Orthodox regard heresy as far graver than schism, whereas Catholics reverse this order of priorities, tolerating heretical opinions (often) for the sake of unity’ page 145 and ‘Rome…not only desires but NEEDS reunion with the Orthodox East. In the face of her own numerous theological liberals and the innovationist tendencies of churchmen….the Catholic Church can only be strengthened’ page 381.
    Of course the trade off is that Orthodoxy will receive the highly centralised Papacy to fix its administrative problems. Great!
    Nichols seems to think there is a problem!

  27. Stefano,

    Thanks for your response.

    Yes, I am very familiar with Whelton, Guette. and Meyendorff. Besides going through a catalog of authors who support each side, I find it helpful when speaking with Eastern Orthodox brothers to ask a few questions.

    1) Around what point in time do you think that Papal claims, equivalent in essence to what we know today as defined by the Vatican Councils 1/2, began to be made by holy and orthodox Rome?

  28. Hi Erick,
    The Popes assuming secular control over the Papal States due to the Donation of Pepin in the 8th century was certainly a bad move but not heretical. I don’t see much precedent for this, that’s why the Donation of Constantine was forged. This secular power corrupted the Papal office. When you get to the 11th century with the Gregorian Reformed Papacy then the office was completely distorted from earlier centuries. All you have to do is read the Dictatus Papae to see this. How many of its statements can be found in the canons of the Ecumenical Councils?

  29. Stefano (re 26),

    I agree that resuming full communion with the Orthodox churches would greatly benefit the Catholic Church. I also think that the former would benefit from reunion as well, to the glory of God and the salvation of the world. As ever, a matter for hope and prayer.


  30. Stefano,

    I don’t believe that comprises an answer to the question. More precisely, how far back in history do we see claims being made, with a definitive character, that match the definitions inscribed into Council Vatican 1?

  31. Hi Andrew,
    Re 29, can you please elaborate what benefit the Uniates have received from being in communion with Rome?

  32. Hi Erick,
    I think I have answered the question. There can be no ‘definitive character’ before Vatican I because that is when the definition has defined. That is why Roman Catholics can’t make a list of infallible ex cathedra statements of the Popes through history. Before Vatican I there was lots ( of conflicting) claims and counter claims within Roman Catholicism on the powers and authority of the Popes.
    The earlier Popes weren’t aware that they were making infallible statements so they didn’t distinguish between their own private views and that of the teaching office of the Pope. If you look at the Byzantine polemics against the Papacy if is clear that the Byzantines had no awareness of any such thing as Papal infallibility. Their main concerns were the claims of the Popes to universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction and the secular pretentious of the Popes.

  33. Stefano (re 31),

    Eastern Catholic Churches enjoy that universal (Catholic) communion which their Orthodox counterparts enjoyed throughout most of the first millennium. As I mentioned in my article, the Western (Latin) Church has its own ancient, distinct, and organically developing traditions, and it is good to have access to her unique patrimony in a sacramental as well as an intellectual way, from the standpoint of full communion, while fully recognizing, embracing, and rejoicing in our own distinctive Eastern (e.g., >Byzantine>Slavic>Ukrainian) traditions. As Eastern Catholics, our relation to the Latin Church is complementary and fraternal, rather than contradictory and schismatic. As I noted in section six of my story (“The Catholic Church”), this relation is something of immense value, as cultivating catholicity of spirit and outlook as opposed to a narrow and myopic sectarianism.

    The nature of the Petrine ministry is of course decisive, and the benefits of being back in full communion with Rome are ultimately (though not exclusively) relative to that, which raises considerations that are at once institutional/organizational and spiritual. For one thing, even as it is good to have a visible head of the local church, it is good to have a visible head of the universal church, such that the latter is not reducible to a mere collection of local churches, a (visibly) headless body. I recommend CTC’s articles on the papacy for further discussion along such lines (cf. our main Index).


  34. Hi Stefano,

    I was extremely close to becoming Eastern Orthodox after nearly a decade of study but it was precisely the Papacy and the anachronistic claims of some Orthodox against papal authority that convinced me that the Catholic Church had the much better historical/theological/biblical claim on this particular issue.

    It was rather the pretention of bowing to secular, Byzantine, authority (not to mention cultural preference) that was the true catalyst for the rebellion of some against the legitimate authority of the See of Peter. An authority that was clearly believed in by the Patriarchs of the East until it was not convenient. This is exemplified in Photios and it was in studying the Photian Schism that the claims of some Orthodox seemed quite selective and weak – only compelling if one does not do their homework. Photios himself appealed to the Pope when Patriarch Ignatius of Constantinople was exiled by Byzantine Emperor Michael and he wanted to usurp his authority. Photios was selected and uncanonically appointed Patriarch by secular powers. Photios himself appealed to the Pope and rebelled when the Pope did not give him what he wanted. So he chose to bow to the secular ruler and rejected the Pope’s jurisdiction only when it was no longer convenient for him. It was not until much later that he came up with a quite sophisticated and convenient theological opposition the Catholic Church.

    If there was no recognized papal primacy then the claimant to the Patriarchate of Constantinople appealing to the Pope’s authority makes no sense. It was in preferring secular power to the hierarchy that Jesus himself established that led to the unfortunate circumstances we are still dealing with.

    Not to answer for Andrew, but the benefit to the so called Uniates (my wife among them) is full communion with Peter and all the benefits of the subsequent Councils, the moral clarity regarding the Church’s teaching on faith and, particularly, morals – such as a proper view of the indissolubility of marriage. Which is another issue the Eastern Orthodox churches have since they still practice a moral capitulation to the secular power on this issue – which serves as an example of the necessity of a Church with a unified, magisterial, apostolic teaching authority.

    I do pray for reunion soon because the world is poorer for the disunity.

  35. Stefano,

    So are you suggesting that Vatican 1 was where Papal infallibility was invented? After answering this question ,could you specify what other irreducible concepts or words could be utilized to convey the precise meaning of Papal infallibility? Like, when you read history, are you searching for the precise terminology of Papal in fallibility as defined @ Vatican 1, or do you think that other terminology can be used to convey the same meaning?

    I ask this because I find evidence for Petrine primacy, on by divine right, as early as the 2nd/3rd century. This is crucial.

  36. Hi Erick and Dave,
    I’d like to include some remarks from the Jesuit theologian and liturgist, Robert Taft. He is professor emeritus from the Pontifical Oriental Institute of Rome. Please don’t paint him as some liberal. There are few Catholics who know Orthodoxy as well as him.
    He has been outspoken on using ‘…objective scholarship instead of confessional propaganda masquerading as scholarship ‘ page 24. Now what are his conclusions
    ‘…Catholic theologians and church historians like Congar, Eno, Tillard, Dvornik and others have already begun to study the origins and development of papal primacy, showing thereby some problematic aspects of its evolution, especially in the ninety century under Pope Nicholas 1 (858-867). No longer do we speak of the ‘Eastern’ or ‘Byzantine schism….’ Page 30
    ‘For our apostolic sister churches correctly view many aspects of Catholic Church governance as foreign to their tradition.’ Page 31
    These remarks are from a article by Robert Taft called Orthodox-Catholic Relations Today from the book Orthodox Constructions of the West (2013) Demacopoulos and Papanikolaou (ed).

  37. Just in case you can’t access the article by Taft there is an interview at catholicworldreport discussing relations between Orthodox and Catholics. When asked about Union he said ‘What it would look like is not a “reunion” with them [the Orthodox] “returning to Rome”, to which they never belonged anyway….’

    About Photius. He was appointed by the emperor (the secular power) but so were most Patriarchs of Constantinople. Take for example St John Chrysostom. Was he uncanonically appointed?
    The 13th century pro-unionist Patriarch of Constantinople John Bekkos was appointed by emperor Michael Palaeologus after deposing the previous ( non-compliant) patriarch. How is it that I never about Bekkos as an anti-patriarch or a usurper or non-canonical? Could it be bias in catholic sources?
    Looking at Aidan Nichols extensive chapter on Photius (Rome and the Eastern Churches pages 227-270) I don’t find anything about Photius being ‘uncanonically appointed’ but I do find that he was vindicated by papal legates (twice pages 231 & 244) and that after he died falsehoods were created in the west about Photius being in a second schism and an enemy of the papacy. These lies were only shattered in the 20th century by the Roman Catholic historian Francis Dvornik in his book ‘The Photian Schism:history and legend’.

  38. Stefano,

    Fr Francis Dvornik was an intellectual Catholic, so I am not sure what you are proving by citing him. Eno, Dvornik, and many others have decided to be Roman Catholic, and not eastern Orthodox. Not even Dollinger or Hans Kung, who both fought against the Papacy, chose Eastern Orthodoxy. So, it might not be the most helpful to thing to point these scholars out, for in doing so, you might be allowing the same historical criticism that were inherent in these ideas of these men falsify orthodox claims as well. Dollinger remained in the “Old Catholic movement”.

    These scholars recognize that by a certain point in historical documentary evidence, it is unmistakable that the entire West came under Papal jurisdiction. That is just an observation from the documents, and not a truth claim.

    But again, when do you think Papal claims began to emerge? When did this heresy begin? and where?

  39. Hi Stefano,

    Thank you for reference to Taft and Orthodox Construction of the West (as an unrelated side note Aristotle Papanikolaou is a relative if mine through marriage – he is a great guy and a brilliant scholar, but I digress).

    As for Photios most of my context and reading about him were from an Orthodox perspective and it was reading these sources that I came to my conclusions. So I can hardly be accused of relying on propaganda. While he was approved – I do not think vindicated is the right word – by a later Pope, and I accept that judgment, it still does not undo anything regarding the unlawful removal of Ignatios and setting about Photios in his place. The later approval was not a vindication of that act at all. I do not question his later authority, I question his earlier behavior to highlight his own apparent view of Papal primacy.

    The fact that it was common for the Byzantine Emperors to appoint Patriarchs for a time does not validate as a wise practice it just validates that it happened. It is precisely this improper relationship between the secular power and the Church that was a primary cause of the great schism.

    I am honestly puzzled that justify the separation of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches because you questioning the legitimacy of the development of authority of the Bishop of Rome, an ecclesiastical authority that you at least acknowledge is a legitimate, original see of the pre-Schism church, yet you simply take for granted the Caesaropapism of the East simply because it is a fact of history. Such an arraignment clearly at odds with both Scripture and the earlier Tradition of the Church and it led to great historical tragedies. There is far less theological, biblical or historical/chronological support for Caeseropapism than Apostolic Papism.
    So how do you justify your critique and rejection of the Catholic Church when your ecclesial foundation, that you justified in the previous post, is objectively much harder to support?

  40. I’d like to return to an earlier point about the benefits of communion with Rome for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The main benefit was an exemption from persecution from the aggressive government of the Polish-Lithuanian Commenwealth. Orthodoxy was declared illegal for the 40 years following the Union of Brest. The UGCC also had the benefit of latinisation for the next 400 years. Interestingly, the UGCC is currently purging these latinisations from its liturgy and worship and is facing opposition from ‘tradionalists’ like the schismatic groups like the Society of St Josaphat and the UOGCC, who confuse the imposed Latin traditions with genuine ones. Now how does the modern Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church know what are genuine traditions? Easy, they take a look at what the Orthodox are doing.
    PS: divorce was allowed in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church until the start of the 20th century when the Vatican got embarrassed and make them change to the Latin practice.

  41. Folks, please take up further conversation on the papacy under the various posts on that topic. These can be located in the Index. Also, please try to interact with the material in the original posts, which will help focus the discussion.

    Stefano, your observations in comment 40 are perfectly compatible with what I said in my previous reply to your question. Also, it is too simplistic to equate what the contemporary Orthodox churches are doing with genuine [Eastern] traditions. We have the witness of the Eastern Fathers to go with the witness of modern Orthodoxy. They do not always coincide. Furthermore, as I pointed out, the Catholic tradition is broader than merely the Eastern traditions. Latinization has been an unfortunate (though understandable) part of Eastern Catholic experience, but this is correctable and does not cancel out the benefits of Catholic communion.


  42. Hi Andrew,
    The witness of the Eastern Fathers and modern Orthodoxy don’t always coincide? Tell me more.

    I’ll continue my discussion with Erick and Dave on another thread, if they’re interested?


  43. Stefano,

    Orthodox scholars have published various works on the internal problems of modern Orthodoxy relative to the patristic era, particularly regarding matters liturgical and canonical. It would be unseemly for me, a Catholic, to list these issues, which are well known and well documented. I don’t want to play the cheerleader/peanut gallery: “rah-rah Catholics, nah-nah Orthodox.” We all have our internal problems, as I noted earlier.

    More controversially, it has been argued (not so much by the Orthodox themselves) that modern Orthodoxy, in many quarters if not universally, has gone against the consensus of the Fathers in ethical and theological matters such as permission of divorce and remarriage and overreaction to the filioque. Again, the issues are well known. They are too many and often too complex to pursue fruitfully in a single comment box.

    Finally, I want to reemphasize the point that any further discussion of the papacy (or any other topic) under other posts and articles should interact directly with the material in the original post. Free-ranging or independent discussion between you and Dave or Eric or whomever can be carried on privately.


  44. Hi Andrew,
    You just made a string of assertions with not much substance. The Orthodox Church is undergoing a bit of a renaissance at the moment in liturgy and an emphasis on frequent communion. There is some squabbling over jurisdiction. I can’t really think about anything else so you’ll have to enlighten me.
    I can just note in where I live there are five Uniate hierarchies over lapping with the Latin one – we have Maronite, Melkite, Armenian, Chaldean and Ukrianian bishops plus the Latin one, all ruling over the same territory. Other places, like the west coast of the USA have a dozen.

    Just to be clear, how many Orthodox Churches have you visited? You said in your account that you didn’t go to any and I was wondering if that changed.

    Now, I stated that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is in the process of de-latinising its liturgy. If does strike me that this is a rejection of the Latin Rite. If it was good for the people the hierarchy of the UGCC would have kept it rather than reject it. For example, the UGCC was singing the corrupted creed and now it has returned the the original.

    I can’t agree with you about the Filioque at all. Orthodoxy is true to its Patristic inheritance on this point, notwithstanding Roman polemics. Divorce and remarriage is something that has come up lots of times at this blog as a way of showing that the Catholic Church is more converative than other churches (including the Orthodox Church) and a way of taking the moral high ground. Maybe you should actually find out what we believe before claiming annulments have any pedigree in the Patristic Period.
    Let me be a cheerleader for Orthodoxy for a second. Have you heard of the massive sex scandals plaguing the Orthodox Church at the moment? Me neither.

    Andrew, my concern is that I think you converted without really doing your homework. I congratulate you on joining the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. It is becoming more Orthodox every day. All you have to do is look into the source that makes the UGCC a great place to be in.

  45. Stefano, cheerleading for one side and casting stones at the other is not the sort of activity suited for this website, nor are the negative personal remarks evinced in your last comment. I think its time to bring the discussion to a close.

    (Also, the rejection of latinization should not be confused for rejection of the Roman Rite as such. The latter, in its organically developed form, is a beautiful rite with a long and rich history. Catholics who worship according to the Byzantine Rite are not forbidden from appreciating and participating in other ritual traditions of the Church, including the Roman.)


  46. Hello Andrew – I don’t know if you are still accepting emails at this site, but I wanted you to know that I found your very informative and descriptive account of your journey to the Catholic Church very inspiring! I must admit that some of my admiration is self, because your encounter with the church mirrors my own closely. And the really interesting part is that I, too, looked at the Byzantine Rite Catholic church with great admiration. However, I was under the impression that one must be from a family with the ethnic background of the particular rite one might want to join, so I didn’t pursue it. But your clear scholarly and spiritual narrative is overwhelming and beautiful, with your scriptural grounding making want to really understand how God has provided the Way to know Him in Truth. All praise to you for your witness!

  47. Hello Tom,

    Thanks for the kind words about this account of my entering the Catholic Church. So far as I know, there is no “ethnic background” requirement for joining any particular church of whatever rite, Eastern or Western.

    Best regards,


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