“If you were able to stir your heart a little more deeply to the practice of meekness and true humility, you would be courageous. But you must frequently think of it. Prepare yourself to do so first thing each morning, and God will send you a thousand consolations.”
–St. Francis de Sales, Roses Among Thorns
For some reason, as I was writing to someone the other day— an ex-Catholic who was looking for some information— the thought that came to me was “If Priests who leave the Church are still Priests forever, would it also mean that if Catholics leave the Church, are they Catholics forever?
This young man lives down the street and I hired him to do some work for me. He noticed my “Stations of the Cross” stations which I have outside among the Pine Trees and he commented how beautiful they were. I was taken aback. I never would have expected this from him.
He began to tell me his story. He is a fallen away Catholic but is now going to his Uncle’s church (Baptist). He was here on Good Friday and when he saw the stations he began to cry. The Lords Passion meant that much to him. He told me what a great sinner he was and how the Lord’s death never meant anything to him before, but now it moves him so much that he becomes very emotional just thinking about how Christ died for him. I was moved and was like “wow”, God certainly touched his heart.
He was moved to repentance and conversion when he had listened to a talk given by his Pastor Uncle and decided to stay in that Church because of that. But, he said something that really made me think. He said two things actually. First, that if I could prove that St. Paul was Catholic he would come back to the Church immediately (He loves the writings of St. Paul and believes they are contrary to what the Catholic Church Teaches); The second thing he said to me was that when he is at the Baptist Church he feels so light and he no longer has bad dreams. When he walks into the Catholic Church he feels this heaviness and darkness.
Soooooo, I began to wonder about this heaviness and darkness he was talking about in regard to the Catholic Church. The only thing I know for certain is that when we are in mortal sin we are in deep darkness and there is a real heaviness within us (without us even knowing it sometimes). I also know from experience that when I was away from the Church and in mortal sin, I could walk into a Catholic Church and it meant nothing to me – there was no light whatsoever. I also knew the feeling of being in darkness and feelings of complete emptiness. A huge void in my life.
I told him that even though he repented and confessed his sins to God while in the Baptist Church – perhaps what he really needs to do, as a Catholic, is confess his sins to a Priest and receive absolution in order for the darkness to be totally gone – for then and only then would the mortal sins be removed and he would be back in the graces of God. Darkness would have to leave and he would be inundated with the light of Christ.
Baptism in the Catholic Church, along with the other 6 Sacraments, are binding upon us just as a Priests vow is binding, unless they are officially “loosed”. Remember, Jesus gave the Apostles the power to bind and to loose:
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
So I began to do some research and this is what I found:
However, all that said, just because the Church recognizes people’s attempts to defect, it does not mean that the Church considers defectors to be non-Catholics. Perhaps they are not qualified to fill certain Church offices or join certain Catholic groups. Perhaps they are not required to get married in the Catholic Church for their marriage to be valid. But they are still considered Catholics and still bound by all of the laws of the Catholic Church, except the law that requires them to get married in the Catholic Church.
This is important for reconciliation. If a person has defect from the Catholic Church and goes over to the practice of another religion, then after a few years realizes that he or she has abandoned the truth faith and wants to return to the Catholic faith, that person does not need to go through the RCIA program to become Catholic again. That person is still Catholic and merely needs to go to confession.
If the person went into formal schism and met the requirements of an excommunication, then maybe he or she would also need to have the excommunication remitted. But if a person is excommunicated and is sorry, the excommunication must be remitted. But remember that even an excommunicated Catholic is still a Catholic, just one not permitted to receive the sacraments, fulfill offices in the Church, or derive other benefits from the Church. (EWTN Catholic Q&A)
So the bottom line: Once you are baptized into the Catholic Church or received into the full communion of the Catholic Church, then you are forever bound by canon law — with the only exception being the requirement of getting married in the Church if you leave by a formal act.
So there you have it. So if you know of any fallen away Catholics you can let them know that all they need to do is go to Confession. They are still Catholic unless they have formally defected from the Catholic Church.
As for St. Paul not being Catholic…..well I now realize that this is something that is floating around in the Protestant circle, but this can not be. Jesus is not confusion or chaos – that would come from satan himself. Also, as the Apostles were teaching they stated that if any one teaches anything contrary to what they are teaching, be it Anathema to them (cursed). They never would have allowed St. Paul to be among the twelve if he was teaching anything contrary to what Jesus gave them to teach. Besides which, how and why would Jesus select 11 to teach one thing and one other to teach something totally different. doesn’t make sense. but here is an article on that too.