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Morning! I have a question about churches and baptisms.

My partner and I are marrying in a Catholic Church.

For background, I was raised by agnostic/ atheist parents, and my partner was raised non-religious. Despite this, I attended a Catholic school for 12 years and in my adolescence became Christian. I am practicing, truly believe, pray a lot throughout my day, and read the Bible daily, (not that this makes me any more Christian than people who practice differently) and try to live out my Christian values. I have wanted to be baptised for a few years now, but was unsure about the process. As my partner and I are both not yet baptised, we are going to be baptised together, and at least one of us needs to be baptised Catholic for the church to baptise us.

I consider myself a Catholic, though I do have some beliefs that aren’t mainstream in the church. I was trying to ask our priest about this but I didn’t really get a clear answer, I think just because of the language barrier and him not understanding my long questions with messy words.

In short, I believe that salvation is a gift and it is through faith alone, not works, that we are saved. I still try to live with Christian values, as I think Christian’s should - but believe that we can’t earn the gift, and that salvation was given by grace through Christ dying for our sins and rising from the dead. I am also quite Sola Scriptura, though I do place value in the word of Christians, especially those in positions of power who have studied a lot, but believe that they are human and open to correction, i.e. that humans are not infallible even if in relation to the church, as they are human, though guided by The Heavenly Father.

I know that these two views are not mainstream in Catholicism, but I don’t think I particularly align ALL values with any other church that I know of either, but know I need to be baptised into the Christian faith through a church, so I feel somewhat at peace doing it thorough Catholicism, as I know about the religion. As a side note I think a lot of people are possibly cross-denominational despite belonging to a church community as these different types of church didn’t exist back in the day.

For a while now I’ve been praying about what to do in this situation, to be baptised Catholic, despite some beliefs not aligning with all Catholics or not, especially as I know I am urged to raise my children in the faith if I’m baptised in it. Every day I seem to read a verse, even multiple, about the Holy Spirit that I didn’t open to read deliberately! But a lot of the verses have been talking about being at peace and the gifts that will come from the Holy Spirit, making me think that I’m being taught that it doesn’t matter through what church I’m baptised as long as I do become baptised a Christian.

Anyway, to the question, I’m very scared of making The Heavenly Father unhappy by being baptised through a church that doesn’t believe everything I believe and truly think is the truth. Can I still be a Catholic and have slightly differing views on those two subjects? Does it matter what type of Christian church I’m baptised through if at the end of the day what I’m being baptised is Christian?

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    Like any library, Christianity Stack Exchange offers great information, but does not offer personalized advice, and does not take the place of seeking such advice from your pastor, priest, or other trustworthy counselor.
    – Nigel J
    May 28 at 10:34
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    Martin Luther was one of the first Catholics to hold some of the views you expressed, such as righteousness by faith, not works. You might enjoy reading about him. He tried to reform the church, and never did leave it; but after his passing, some of his followers branched out and started their own church. This was the start of continued branching among Protestants, to the point we have many churches today. Before you choose a church, I recommend you study carefully to know what you believe, then look for a church that matches what you know. Always be open to learning more from the Bible!
    – Biblasia
    May 28 at 11:14
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    It might be helpful for yourself to try to articulate more clearly why you feel so drawn to Catholicism despite being firmly committed to those two Protestant principles. What is it in Catholicism that you want? Depending on your answer there might be parts of Protestantism that match closely or even exactly with what you feel drawn to.
    – curiousdannii
    May 28 at 21:46
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    According to the Catechism of the Council of Trent: We here speak of that faith, by virtue of which we yield our entire assent to whatever has been divinely delivered. And that this faith is necessary to salvation no man will reasonably doubt, especially as it is written, ``Without faith it is impossible to please God.'' (Heb. xi, 6).}
    – I. Chekhov
    May 28 at 22:44
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    Regarding your favor of Sola Scriptura, where do you stand on the 4 Marian Dogmas? You cannot be a Catholic in good standing if you do not give yourself over to these traditions. In fact, if you enter into Catholicism and stubbornly refuse to be "corrected" regarding teachings which are determined to be necessarily believed (not necessarily commended by Scripture) you stand in danger of condemnation as a heretic. May 31 at 12:45

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I think the extremely terse, unhelpful answer to "...can I still be Catholic" is "no". (See also eques' answer.) The slightly longer answer is "if you don't agree with their teachings, do you really want to be Catholic?".

However, while that's a technically correct answer, it isn't really helpful.

Biblasia noted in a comment:

Martin Luther was one of the first Catholics to hold some of the views you expressed, such as righteousness by faith, not works.

Luther and others eventually started what is now known as the Protestant Movement. Based on some of the comments in your question, I would encourage you to learn about Protestantism, the reformers and the reformation, and the beliefs of various Protestant groups. Note that some of these groups are quite divergent from Catholicism, perhaps even differing to a degree which you might find uncomfortable. Lutherans and Anglicans are going to be the most similar, as their beliefs and practices are less divergent.

As far as baptism... you may or may not be aware there are two separate rites; baptism and confirmation. Most Christians believe baptism is necessary or at least extremely important, while confirmation may be less emphasized or even (in more liberal sects) ignored entirely. The reason this matters is that Catholics (and most other Trinitarians, AFAIK) regard any Trinitarian baptism as valid, and also because baptisms (at least in my experience) typically only require you to confess either the Apostles' or Nicene Creed, which are similarly upheld by the majority of Trinitarians. By contrast, confirmation is a confessional acceptance of the teachings of a specific sect (e.g. Roman Catholic).

Now... you should absolutely talk to a priest/pastor. If you can, I would encourage you to share your concerns with both the priest at the Catholic church you're already associating with, as well as one or more Protestant pastors. You should ask them if it's okay to get baptized (not confirmed) if you have doubts about Catholicism. I would specifically ask the Catholic priest if it would be okay to deliberately go to a Protestant church to be baptized due to your doubts, and similarly I would ask the Protestant pastor(s) if it would be okay to be baptized Catholic.

The best thing, obviously, is going to be to find a church whose beliefs you feel are Scripturally sound and to be baptized (and married) there. However, I think it's more important to be baptized at all than to agree 100% with the church where you are baptized. Don't get too hung up on perfection; you aren't going to do everything right, which is why Christ died for you! What's important is that you are continually seeking God and that you accept His free gift of forgiveness. As long as you've been forthright about your concerns beforehand, if a) the person baptizing you isn't worried about your baptism, and b) you agree with whatever you confess upon being baptized (i.e. probably one or both of the main creeds and perhaps some other, relatively superficial stuff that nearly all Trinitarian Christians agree with), it's probably not beneficial to worry unduly.

When it comes to confirmation and communion (Eucharist), however, there you might want to hold off until you have a better understanding whether or not you agree with the church in which you'd be participating. Not all sects make a big deal out of such things, but others take confirmation and communion very seriously as declarations of a Christian's agreement with a specific theology.

So, to summarize and circle back to the question that really matters:

Does it matter what type of Christian church I'm baptized through if at the end of the day what I'm being baptized [into] is Christian?

I hesitate to say it doesn't matter at all... but I believe many Christians, and Catholics in particular, would agree it's far more important to be baptized than to be baptized in the 'right' church.


Okay, a disclaimer and a bit of an aside. I said "many Christians" above, because some sects (ahem: Baptists / Pentacostals are probably the best known in this respect) have somewhat divergent views on the significance of baptism and its correlation with "making a decision for Christ". These sects might not accept a Catholic baptism and might insist on someone 'transferring' into their church being re-baptized according to their particular formula.

The Roman Catholic church specifically considers any baptism valid so long as it uses water and the Trinitarian formula (details and a list of sects recognized by the RCC as performing licit baptisms). I would expect many (though likely not all) sects to use similar standards, i.e. a fair subset of Christian sects would mutually respect each others' baptisms.

Another point to keep in mind, although not relevant in your case, is that many Christians practice baptism of infants, while others consider this practice invalid.

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    You are wrong about confirmation, which you call "a confessional acceptance of the teachings of a specific sect". This is a common error based on the similarity to the English word "confirm". On the contrary, Confirmation is the sacrament of the giving of the Holy Spirit, as the original apostles received Him on Pentecost, and as they gave the Holy Spirit to new believers (Acts 8:14-17). The etymology has to do with "strengthening". It is not about "confirming your belief".
    – workerjoe
    May 29 at 1:29
  • Thank you Matthew this was a great read. May 29 at 14:30
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    @workerjoe, maybe that's true in your sect/church (RCC?), but my experience is that confirmation is exactly what I said. In any case, if there is any aspect of agreeing to Roman Catholic theology beyond "the basics", that's still cause for caution if someone isn't entirely comfortable with Roman Catholic theology.
    – Matthew
    May 29 at 16:11
  • If the question is can I remain Catholic while not accepting the teachings, you don't really answer that question. You basically make an argument for Protestantism at best.
    – eques
    May 30 at 22:07
  • @eques, true, because I felt your answer already addressed that satisfactorily, and I didn't want to just copy it. 🙂 I was also trying to focus on the question of baptism.
    – Matthew
    May 31 at 14:10
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I think the answers provided are valid, interesting, and helpful. So I will try not to double those, only add some details:

First, Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution on the Church, explains that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation (14). Then it goes into great detail on the matter of who exactly is, to what extent, a member of the Church. Those who are Christians but not in full communion with the Catholic Church, are seen with great respect. That doesn’t mean the Church any longer teaches that however close one is to being Catholic, one must, or maybe better should, join the Catholic Church.

However, Lumen Gentium is rather harsh about those who are Catholic, in the words of the council:

All the Church's children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged

So, one may come to the conclusion that on the one hand, the Church is rather open-minded about Her connection with and respect for all people of goodwill, especially those Christians who are not Catholics. On the other hand, She is not as open-minded to Catholics who do not truly “belong”.

Second, even though it has been said in other answers, I still would like to stress that you may need some study on the subjects you believe to be “not Catholic”.

Sola gratia may be less far off the Catholic teachings on grace, and the duty of the believer to respond to that grace.

Sola scriptura most definitely is not Catholic, but in your words, I read respect for scholars. That may be a good starting point to research your exact beliefs and the exact teachings of the Church. The Catholic faith is not what we call “cadaver discipline”, I don’t know the English wording for it, but it is something like believing without using your own brain.

All sources can be found on the website of the Vatican. Documents of the Second Vatican Council

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  • This was a very interesting read. I would like to hear your thoughts on the contrast between this and what John Paul the II wrote in Dominum lesus about the, the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ, and the encyclical, Redemptoris Missio, stating "The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church”, affirming the belief that not only Catholics can achieve salvation and sanctification. I know that this is controversial and I regard the Pope highly. I do not try to argue just understand. May 30 at 4:28
  • I think the pope was right (well, I should, shouldn’t I, as a RC deacon). As I understand Lumen Gentium, and the teachings of the Church, there is no reason to believe God is not able, or willing, to save anyone. The problem that may arise is when people do not want to be saved. Knowingly leaving His church, which I believe to be the RCC, is a strong signal in that direction.
    – ABM K
    May 30 at 8:34
  • "when people do not want to be saved. Knowingly leaving His church, which I believe to be the RCC, is a strong signal in that direction." Correct, God grants grace but we must accept it and we ordinarily move in the direction of conforming the external aspects of our life with his revealed truth.
    – eques
    May 30 at 22:09
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Whatever is held by the Catholic Church to be dogma, must be accepted to be a Catholic. This includes many aspects the nature of God, the Incarnation, the sacraments, and salvation.

Neither "sola scriptura" nor "sola fide" as understood by Protestants can be held by Catholics. However, in the case of "saved by faith not works" most do not understand really what the Catholic Church teaches on that point (i.e. the Catholic Church doesn't teach that we can merit salvation by our acts and does teach that Salvation is a gift through Grace).

Before you contemplate any serious changes, ensure you have a good grasp of what the Church teaches on the topics you appear to disagree with and furthermore why the Church teaches what she does. There are loads of books and podcasts that can explain these doctrines.

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  • Thank you for this information. May 28 at 11:46
  • @MicroservicesOnDDD I've clarified I meant the Catholic
    – eques
    May 30 at 21:59
  • Thank you. I have deleted my request, and will also delete this message May 31 at 17:08
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Ireland is a majority Catholic country at 78%. Ireland also has 70% of married women regularly using contraception, something which the Catholic church considers a sin.

This is a clear example of a significant number of Catholics disagreeing with the Catholic church's doctrine - in this case, a clear majority. It doesn't seem to stop them still considering themselves to be Catholics though.

The majority of these people were born into Catholic families though, of course. It is valid to question how many consciously choose to be Catholics based on how Catholic doctrine fits with their beliefs, and how many are simply going through the motions, but then that is true with every religion.

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    I'm not saying it's OK or not OK. Some may still do it and consider it a sin; but I'd assert that the overwhelming majority don't think it's a sin at all, so they disagree with their sect, but still consider themselves members of it. As for "tightening up", if that happens then the OP has a vast array of alternative sects within the same religion. I would hope they are intelligent enough to follow their own moral compass.
    – Graham
    May 29 at 1:06
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    Thank you very much for this Graham. This comment put things into perspective and after yesterday and a lot of thought, prayer and reading I will maintain that I am a Catholic. If I follow the Bible and Christ to the best of my abilities, I believe that’s what I’m required to do, under what name I call it. May 29 at 14:16
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    Doctrine is not decided by popularity nor does "disagreeing" mean you are a Catholic in good standing or that you are right to do so. All of which raises the question if you are so cavalier to disregard the teachings of your religion because you think you know better, then why are you even considering yourself a part of that religion?
    – eques
    May 30 at 22:02
  • @eques Because most adherents to most religions do use the "good bits", and pick and choose what constitutes the "good bits". The Old Testament is pretty clear about mixed-fibre clothes and pork, for example, but Catholicism itself quietly ignores those parts (which is why the Puritans called themselves "pure"). That's where secular morality does involve changing aspects of what a religion teaches and/or considers important. So it's your choice whether your differences with your religion are enough to go elsewhere or not.
    – Graham
    May 31 at 13:00
  • @Graham I'm sorry but that's completely fallacious. Catholicism doesn't "quietly" ignore the parts from the Old Testament about mixed fibers, etc. Only someone significantly unaware of the development of Catholic doctrine especially in the 1st few centuries after Christ would make such a claim. The entire question about whether Christians had to follow the Mosaic Law was an early contention. The Judaizers who insisted the Law must be followed (including precepts for situations like mixed-fibers) did not win out and were sharply rebuked even in the New Testament by Paul and others.
    – eques
    May 31 at 14:28
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I think it's like asking if you can still be a STAR WARS fan if you don't think Ewan MacGregor was the best choice to play Obi-Wan.

The Church is like a book-club (they were actually CALLED "people of The Book" when it started). Priests are 'experts' in the book, but they are not 'the authors.'

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  • One can assuredly be Christian if one does not agree with all Roman Catholic teachings. However, being a "fan" of Scripture is equivalent to being Christian. Being Roman Catholic is more akin to belonging to the 'Ewan MacGregor Is The GOAT club'.
    – Matthew
    Jun 19 at 19:37
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