Can one be baptized and become a Catholic if they don't believe in every particular Catholic dogma?

I personally am interested in being a Catholic, i.e., being baptized by a Catholic priest, being confirmed, and so forth. However, there are some dogmas that, even after serious biblical study, I am hesitant to believe in.

After responses/ comments from a few members, I narrowed these dogmas to the following:

  1. Perpetual virginity
  2. Immaculate conception
  3. Assumption of Mary

(While I did not include #2-3 in the original post, I am including them in my revision so that further clarification can be accomplished on this matter. The original post was not intended to include each dogma I did not believe in, but rather, to give a few examples.)

Originally, I said that I did not believe that one was required to pray to Mary and the saints. As @AndrewLeach responded,

You present that praying to Mary and to the Saints are necessary. It's not necessary for salvation to pray to them, merely to accept that they are there if required... However, it is necessary to accept that the Saints are there if required, and that their prayers are effective.

I should clarify that I have no problem with people praying to the saints and/ or Mary, if they wish. I don't feel it is necessary, for anything, but as long as I myself am never compelled to do so, I have no problem if others do.

It seems that the liturgy of the Penitential Rite has the following statement:

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord, our God.

So, is one required to recite this prayer during Mass, where he/ she is basically beseeching or praying to Mary and the saints?

All that being said, and this is the primary question, can I still become a Catholic if I do not believe in (accept) those particular dogmas?


6 Answers 6


You asked about "every particular Catholic dogma." I think there are many good Catholics who, not being theologians, don't even know what all the particular dogmas of the Catholic Church are, and who therefore don't explicitly believe them. But they implicitly believe them, in the sense that (1) they believe that the Catholic Church has received from Christ the authority to declare certain doctrines as being revealed by God and (2) they would therefore believe any of these revealed doctrines if they were informed about them. What is incompatible with Catholicism is to deny a doctrine even though one knows that the Church has declared it to be divinely revealed. That's heresy and would put one outside the Church (even though one's baptism would remain valid).

  • 1
    The Church utilizes the RCIA program specifically to prevent adults being baptized ignorant of Catholic doctrine including the doctrines that you object to. Since you are asking this question you obviously are not ignorant. Dogmatic definitions are by definition about drawing lines of truth in the sand. The kingdom of God is open for all...but the Church claims with her dogma and doctrines that Truth is not relative.
    – user5286
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 12:02
  • 1
    Interestingly there is no infallible list of dogmas to refer to anywhere in the church. As such it is impossible to explicitly believe in all of them. The best we can do is avoid denying any of the ones that we do know about and give implicit assent to the ones that we don't know about Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 5:58
  • 2
    Also relevant might be Newman's distinction between a "doubt" and an "objection"...?
    – Michael
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 9:17

One really obvious reason why you can't be Catholic without accepting Marian Dogmas is that they're built into the Liturgical Year as the penultimate celebrations.

  • December 8th, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary
  • January 1st, Solemnity Mary, Mother of God (you could stand this one)
  • August 15th, Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven

These are all Holy Days of Obligation, which means, in order to be a Catholic in good standing, you need to attend Mass on each of these days (unless moved because of Sunday Mass [except for the December 8th, which is always celebrated]).

So, if you think of the Mass as one big prayer, the ones that are Marian focused require your devotion to her; which is to say, whatever you bring to the table in her honor will be multiplied by her Divine Son.

Dogmas are the way the Church makes sense of the supernatural realities found in the Bible and Tradition. If you can figure out a better way to reconcile Sacred Scripture with Sacred Tradition, that would make for an interesting book. But if you delve into it deeply, and continue the path you said you set up for yourself, I think you'll find out what G.K. Chesterton found out when he put the finishing touches on his new heresy.

I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.

Still, as I said in my deleted comments a few days ago, Chesterton didn't become Catholic until well after writing Orthodoxy where he asks, as you do (more or less, he's talking about original sin (which is connected to all Marian Dogmas))

why cannot you simply take what is good in Christianity, what you can define as valuable, what you can comprehend, and leave all the rest, all the absolute dogmas that are in their nature incomprehensible?

to which, he answers himself (this time concerning the Incarnation)

mean that having found the moral atmosphere of the Incarnation to be common sense, I then looked at the established intellectual arguments against the Incarnation and found them to be common nonsense.

And you could insert any of the Dogmas proclaimed by the Catholic Church in place of the Incarnation. What are the rational arguments against the Assumption of Mary anyway? And furthermore, what right have we to doubt the testimony of a Miracle, like the Assumption of Mary, just because it didn't happen in the books the Church recognized as canonical?

Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them. The open, obvious, democratic thing is to believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a miracle, just as you believe an old apple-woman when she bears testimony to a murder.

This is one reason that the Church has always kept Sacred Tradition in the same company as Sacred Scripture. Even the most Bible-thumpingist evangelical preacher believes this when he professes to cast demons out on live television. If a miracle occurs, which I believe happens to Protestants as well as Catholics, then another line is written in Salvation History.

We just baptized our fourth child this morning, and she did a great job of not voicing any dissent when we renewed our baptismal vows for her benefit. She just laid there and smelt good. I think if you can manage to lay down and smell good, you'll make a good Catholic eventually. If you were at Mass this morning, you'd also have read:

Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.


And that would give you pause to think. In any event, I think, from talking to converts in my Parish that Marian Devotion is so foreign to them that they haven't even analyzed it the way you did. So, the way one probably can approach the matter is to put yourself in their shoes again. If you want to enter the church, I think you have to enter it uncritical of the Marian Dogmas and let her teach you what's up with them. There's no point putting yourself at a disadvantage from the tens of thousands of converts who just did it to make their wives happy and entered the same way my daughter just did. Knowing little and accepting the truth as a child would.

  • +1 I was thinking the same thing yesterday morning about Tradition persevering to the end of time.;)
    – user5286
    Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 12:05
  • G.K. Chesterton is one of my heroes, and I am a Lutheran! IMO, every Christian should read, at minimum, G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis to supplement their biblical devotions. Those two authors answer many questions with which Christians struggle because both of these men struggled themselves. Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 2:10

Can I still become a Catholic if I do not believe in (accept) these particular dogmas?

  1. Perpetual virginity

  2. Immaculate conception

  3. Assumption of Mary

Short answer…no.

Historical Christianity (i.e. both the Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Catholic Church) have traditionally taught that the Blessed Theotokos remained perpetually a virgin and that she was assumed into Heaven.

See: Perpetual Virginity of Mary

The Roman Catholic Church declared the “Immaculate Conception” to be an infallibly defined dogma of the Church – meaning that this is definitely something Catholics must believe to be a Catholic.

The doctrines surrounding Mary and the communion of Saints are not distant orbiting doctrinal satellites circling the “back pews” of the Church to be simply ignored. The Catholic Church teaches that they are front and center – so intimately intertwined with the Sacred of Heart of Jesus in the Eucharist that they are virtually indistinguishable. To be a Catholic means to love Mary. To be a Catholic means to commune with Saints. It’s not a matter of requirement. It’s a matter of Love.

It should be kept in mind by you, or anyone else that may be gravitating toward the Catholic Church, that the Eucharist is the source and summit of Catholicism. The Eucharist should be the focal point for all Catholics. Holy Mother Church teaches that the Eucharist is Jesus! If the Eucharist doesn’t truly draw you into the Church, nothing will.

  • But doesn't your last statement conflict with your premise? Of course the Eucharist is the thing, but most Protestants believe that too. There have always been fads that try to distance Christianity from the supernatural or treat Communion as being only kind of important. But how does reverence for the Eucharist mean you must also believe that Christians should pray to any other being, no matter how revered, than the Trinity? There is a misconception among Catholics that Protestants do not honor and revere the Eucharist and nothing could be farther from the truth. Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 2:18

When you obstinately reject a Catholic dogma you become a heretic. There are many heretics that call themselves Catholic, but they will have no share in Eternal Life according to the infallible decree of Pope Eugene IV at the Council of Florence.

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Cantate Domino,” 1441, ex cathedra:” The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives; that the unity of this ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only those who abide in it do the Church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia productive of eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”

  • This is very interesting and has its correctness, but how is it relevant to the specific question and the context already provided by the OP?
    – Michael
    Commented May 10, 2017 at 9:16
  • "they will have no share in Eternal Life" I'm pretty sure that's not the official stance anymore, ever since the Catholic Church recognised Protestants as validly-saved Christians.
    – nick012000
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 5:02
  • @nick012000 Catholic Church doesn't even have the concept of "saved". One mortal sin destroys a person's justification/a person will be condemned to Hell if they die in that state, they can be restored via a perfect contrition or absolution by a priest. But no one is considered saved while they are alive without a special revelation from God like St Francis of Assisi got.
    – user
    Commented Mar 4, 2022 at 17:15

I personally am interested in being a Catholic

What exactly is it that makes you interested in being a Catholic? If it includes faith in its wisdom / revelation, maybe you want to more precisely assess your doubts. Depending on the outcome, this could lead to a "YES" you can be baptized.

Having troubles with some dogmas is completly normal. For ex. the major one "Holy Trinity" is notoriously hard for us lowly humans. Nobody pretends to fully grasp it and there are several historical examples of catholics/wannabe catholics having trouble to accept it.

Furthermore, we don't all have the same frame of references, and even the dogmas phrasings could be understood differently across different people.

Even more, our comprehension of the Gospel is being refined with time, and for ex. the behaviour of a dogma-compliant catholic from a few centuries would most likely not be well regarded now.

If you have trust in Jesus and in the Catholic Faith, you can accept those dogmas out of trust (like a student or a child would do when exposed to an explanation from a senior) but acknowledge you have difficulties with them.

It's then up to you to either look into them to better understand them, which is highly encouraged and may even lead to a better understanding of those dogmas: You could later share your findings / better explanations, which may help other christians thinking the same way as you.

Or you could acknowledge having more pressing issues and continue accepting them out of trust, while pursuing other subjects, ex. prayer, virtues, social actions... Not every one has the time to do some theological studies.

While the dogmas you outline have important significance (or else they wouldn't have been listed as dogmas), the truthes they contains has a lower importance than your personal relation with Jesus and your brother humans. He will surely send you lights should you have the need to better understand those dogmas.

If you have catholic faith in heavenly beings, you could ask for help from your guardian angel, the Holy Spirit and Mary herself to enlighten you on those subjects.

Have faith and welcome, brother!


If you are thinking of becoming a Catholic but do not want to become a Catholic with your entire mind and body (which means accepting the entirety of their doctrine, including the dogma), you should examine the reasons why you are considering becoming a Catholic. I support anyone who wants to become a Catholic, but not if they are just doing it so they don't go to Hell or because their friends are Catholic. Same goes for any other Christian denomination, or any other religion for that matter.

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