The world has become a very sinful place. Grave sins have become accepted, as if they were good and normal acts. The daily lives of many persons contain multiple objective mortal sins. And, for some persons, many very grave sins are thoroughly ingrained into their lives. So what happens if one such person wishes to convert to Catholicism?
I’m not referring to myself. I’m a cradle Catholic. That means I was born into a Catholic family, baptized in a Catholic Church in infancy, and raised Catholic with Masses and CCD classes from an early age. I didn’t go to a Catholic school. But I attended a Catholic university and received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and theology. So, I’ve been Catholic all along.
Consider those persons who are not raised Catholic or Christian at all. What if they live a very sinful life, but mostly without realizing that their deeds are objectively immoral? If such a person decides to become Catholic, some years into their adult life, they face many obstacles.
One of the biggest issues is sexual ethics. Most non-Christians commit many acts which are gravely immoral under Catholic teaching. An unmarried person who converts must give up sexual acts of every kind. They must live a chaste life, and refrain from all sex, until and unless they marry.
A married person who converts may have a number of changes to make in the area of sexuality. First, they and their spouse must not continue using contraception. They can use NFP, if they wish. Also, married persons who convert must remove from their lives any sexual sins, including pornography, unnatural sexual acts, masturbation, sex toys, and any other immoral sexual acts. The only moral sexual act is natural marital relations open to life. And if they conceive a child, they cannot obtain an abortion.
From a devout Catholic point of view, these may not seem like big changes to make. After all, these are very grave sins. But many persons have lived their lives, year after year, perhaps decade after decade, believing that these grave sins are moral. It must be hard for them to change.
Another serious issue for married persons who convert is their relationship with their spouse. Suppose that their spouse lives a very secular and sinful life, and does not convert. The Catholic convert faces a very difficult decision: whether or not to remain with their spouse. It is not moral for a Catholic spouse to have marital relations when the other spouse is using contraception or abortifacient contraception or committing grave sexual sins during marital relations. If the wife uses abortifacient contraception, the Catholic husband cannot morally continue to have relations with her. For then he is committing formal cooperation with abortion and contraception. And the Catholic wife, if she is the convert, cannot morally continue to have relations with her husband, if he continues to use contraception (whether it is a condom or the withdrawal method). She would be committing formal cooperation with his grave sin. Similarly, a devout spouse cannot continue having marital relations, if the other spouse commits grave sexual sins in conjunction with natural marital relations.
So, in some cases, the devout Catholic must separate from their spouse, rather than continue to cooperate with grave sins.
If a person has a homosexual orientation, I suppose that it is even more difficult to convert to Catholicism. For the Church does not support same-sex marriage or gender ideology or homosexual acts. A Catholic with same-sex attraction must remain chaste, and also must believe what the Church teaches on sexual ethics, marriage, and gender. Such a person faces greater obstacles than a sinful heterosexual who converts. Fr. Z. has a recent post on this subject.
Aside from sexual sins, a convert to Catholicism might need to change the way they do their job. Many secular persons have incorporated sins into their profession. Maybe they cheat their customers. Maybe they overcharge their clients, whenever they can get away with it. Maybe they abuse their authority over their employees. And as a result of changing their behavior, they might lose their job. Their coworkers or boss might object to a new attitude of justice and love of neighbor.
A convert might lose some of their friends. If you hang out with people who commit the same sins as you do, and then you give up your sins, they might not be so willing to spend time with you anymore. Sometimes sinful secular “friends” encourage one another in their sins. If you start encouraging your friends to give up their sins, they might reject you as a friend.
If a person converts from a sinful life to a life as a devout believer, a lot of things can change: the things you think about, the way you spend your time, the people you associate with, and much more. And change can be painful.
As the years pass, society becomes ever more firmly rooted in grave sin. They seem to be able to invent new sins to commit. And so it becomes ever more difficult to win converts from sinful secular society. The changes required are staggering, for some persons. With the grace and providence of God, people can repent and convert.
But we Catholics are making it harder for them to convert, because we can’t seem to agree among ourselves on any issue in faith or morals. If we want to be more successful in fishing for souls, we must repair our nets. We need to have a clear understanding among ourselves on all the major questions of faith, morals, and salvation. But that day seems to be far away.
Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.