Switching from Protestant to Catholic?

Did any of you grow up Protestant and became Catholic later in life? Or even joined a Protestant church as an adult, then switched to Catholic church - without having previously been Catholic?

The background to this question:

My mother grew up Catholic but when she had us kids she decided to raise us Lutheran. I think the decision was based on some issues she had with the Catholic church and her divorced mother, and/or her divorced best friend and the way they’d been treated by the Catholic church. Plus, her father had been Lutheran and there was a nice Lutheran church nearby so there we went.

I had a lovely time growing up Lutheran. Lovely Sunday school, lovely confirmation classes, lovely time as an alter girl. As soon as I got old and lazy enough I stopped going, mainly due to the hours. But it was like 18 years of solid loveliness from the Lutherans. I never lost my faith I just realized I didn’t get anything from the physical presence of the church. I also figured out I preferred the ELCA versus LCMS which is what my church was.

My mom was involved with our Lutheran church for a bit after I stopped going but she lost interest. The church was failing anyway. On its last legs. It officially closed in June of this year.

Since my nieces have been born and are being raised Catholic by their Catholic mom and other grandparents, my mom got new interest in Catholicism. I think she has a lot of lovely memories of her childhood in Catholic church, just like I have my lovely Lutheran memories. She likes the art and the prayers and the pomp and circumstance you just don’t see at the Lutheran church (not that there’s none…).

So now she’s all into being Catholic again, which is cool. I do Catholic stuff with her when she wants. I’ve taken her to Latin mass and helped her get her Easter meal blessed and stuff. I do it cuz I love her, and because it’s a part of my heritage in that it’s a part of her family’s heritage.

In an interesting twist, my brother - the one who has the Catholic wife and daughters - decided to convert to Catholicism. He wasn’t doing anything religion-wise for 20 years and found something in his wife’s church that worked for him, and he’s taken the classes and became a Catholic. Didn’t see that coming but I think it works well for him.

Anyway, my mom has been bugging me gently to Catholicism and I just don’t see the appeal, as a Lutheran. We learned about the Reformation in confirmation class, and since it was a Major Thing In History, I learned about it in public school too. In my opinion, the Reformation and the sects that grew from it - particularly Lutheranism - was an “upgrade” to Catholicism and the changes imposed suit me better as a Christian than what Catholicism represents.

Of course I’m no scholar in Catholicism or Protestantism so I can’t make a solid case for or against either. But as a private decision based on how I understand things, I can never see myself as a Catholic.

I told mom today I just don’t see myself switching, and she should be glad she chose a religion for me that I still want to stick with as an adult.

With regards to my brother switching from Lutheranism to Catholicism I think it was mostly a matter of marrying a Catholic girl and having two Catholic kids. He would have converted to whatever religion they were part of. And he found a Catholic congregation that he admired and did not find anything contrary to his beliefs when going through classes.

So I’m interested to know if there are any Dopers who were playing on team Protestant and felt a draw to become Catholic. Was it a matter of location and opportunity or was there some deeper study into the Catholic dogma that made you think “Yeah, this suits me better”?

I am definitely not trying to judge. For me religion is a totally personal experience. I am trying to understand something that I currently cannot see myself understanding. I’m looking for others’ thought processes on the subject.

And, please - let’s not try to bash religion, Christianity, Protestantism or Catholicism. Let’s all be cool!

I’m not much help, as I went the other way: raised Catholic, and became a Protestant as an adult (after a time as an agnostic).

There have been times when I’ve felt a certain draw back to Catholicism over the years, but I don’t think it’s been due to any particular appeal of the doctrine or dogma. TBH, the various Protestant churches I’ve been involved in as an adult have been chosen because of me enjoying the particular fellowship and feel of a parish / congregation, and the appeal of that parish’s work in the community, moreso than a preference for certain doctrines.

I was raised Lutheran (born in West Germany), consider myself a nominal Lutheran now. I believe in God and consider myself somewhat religious, but I rarely attend church (except for weddings, funerals, baptisms, and holidays like Christmas and Easter). I’ve been trying to get to church more these days, though.

I probably wouldn’t become Catholic because of disagreements with theology and social stances, but I love their churches. So beautiful and awe-inspiring. I once was at a mass at St. Peter’s. The music was so beautiful, I started crying. So amazing.

One of my friends did convert from Presbyterianism to Catholicism, though.

FWIW my wife also went the other way. She was raised Roman Catholic (very Roman Catholic - my brother-in-law is a bishop). Then she married me. We used to alternate between going to a Lutheran church and a Catholic one, but after a while, and some theological discussions (we are both “mere Christians” as C.S. Lewis described - agreed on the core doctrines and considering everything else as optional or nearly so) we started attending Lutheran churches exclusively. Now she is a Lutheran pastor. Mostly because she felt called to the ministry, and there ain’t no female priests. But mostly because of the Christ-centered focus of Lutherans - we don’t do saints or the Virgin Mary or anything like that.

I didn’t try to talk her into anything, at least not consciously. That’s how she was led.

I don’t think I could be a Roman Catholic, mostly for theological differences - the role of the Pope and Scripture, devotions to the saints and the BVM, etc. One major thing is referring to priests as “Father”, which AFAICT is expressly forbidden by Jesus. God forbid I deny that RCs are Christians - that’s another difference on which we can agree to disagree without condemnation on either side.


I was raised non-denominational. As a child/teen/young adult I attended various “Bible” churches with my family. My husband had been baptised Catholic and attended Catholic school, but came from a non-practicing family. After getting married, we stopped attending church. When our son was ready to go to school, we decided on Catholic school vs. the mediocre public school around the corner. At that time, we started attending Catholic church. Eventually, in the name of familial continuity, I joined the Catholic church. We did wait, however, to have the Kiddo baptised until he brought it up. We regularly attended church for several year and then stopped.

I did like the structure and brevity of Catholic Mass vs. the long rambling sermons and endless praise songs of the non-denom services. I appreciated that the homily portion of Mass tended to focus on love and community vs. sin and/or dissecting the Bible verse by verse. When I do consider attending church again, it is definitely a Catholic (or similarly structured) type of church.

Raised ELCA Lutheran, never tempted to switch teams. I prefer beer to wine.

(I’ve been going to Methodist churches since getting married, though).

So since getting married, you prefer neither to beer and wine? :wink:

Anyways, I’ve been tempted to swim the Tiber (from an ELCA Lutheran), though never have, and probably never will (especially not in the next few years - A Synod VP deciding to become Catholic would probably cause a minor scandal, and they likely wouldn’t let me serve in the role anymore :wink: ). Generally speaking there are some doctrinal issues that I wouldn’t be able to overcome, even if I find the history and tradition and churches to be beautiful.

Ha! :smiley:

Of course, a Methodist invented modern grape juice.

I joined a Methodist church a few years ago. Though we’re definitely in the church’s liberal wing, alcohol still isn’t permitted on church property. However, that doesn’t stop my Sunday school group from going to the Irish pub down the street for a pint with lunch after service.

That’s the best kind of ecumenism (as I imagine they are more of the Irish Catholics at that pub)!

It’s more that my preferences no longer matter. :o

We UMC have a love-hate relationship with alcohol. Current social teaching is that judicious alcohol use with intentional restraint is cool. John Wesley’s complaint wasn’t with alcohol per se, but the social problems it caused/causes. He figured not everyone was able to control themselves so Methodists should set a good example and shouldn’t support the alcohol industry and thus should abstain. Modern Methodists have basically conceded that preaching abstinence wasn’t helping, so switched to responsible consumption.

You can’t really pick a church based on what was going on back at the time of the Reformation. Speaking as a Catholic, yes, Luther was mostly right: There was a lot wrong in the Catholic Church at the time. Which the Church itself mostly recognized and fixed, fairly quickly (relative to the history of Christianity, at least) in the Counter-Reformation. And while modern Catholics and Lutherans might look different at the slogan level, when theologians from both sects get down into the fine details, their doctrines mostly agree. Now, there are certainly still some differences, and it’s perfectly valid to choose based on those differences, but they’re mostly not the same differences that existed at the time of the Reformation.

To the OP, one of the members of my parish was an Episcopalian before converting to Catholicism. It’s left her with some odd habits, but with the typical zeal of the convert, she’s one of the most theologically-active members of the congregation (teaching confirmation classes, leading retreats, that sort of thing).

Raised atheistic, became Buddhist as a young adult, converted to Catholicism 25 years ago, now pondering becoming an Episcopalian (most of the Catholicism with a lot fewer of the most repugnant parts to it like homophobia, misogyny, ancient corrupt bureaucracy etc).

I think if I was a liberal Lutheran I might have a hard time reconciling myself to Catholic conservatism, going the other way.

My brother married a Catholic, and they raised their daughters Catholic. When his daughters were in elementary school, they wanted him to join them in Communion. When they found out that he was a heathen, they INSISTED that he convert. He surrendered. :slight_smile:

I went the other way (Catholic to ELCA). The Lutherans are a nice bunch of folks, but one thing that strikes is that they tend to paper over differences with “Everyone has to interpret the Scriptures for themselves.” As a result, my particular congregation simply doesn’t talk about social issues. Is abortion right or wrong? How about gay marriage? Does Christ’s call to help the poor extend to universal health care? Don’t look to the pulpit for a deep discussion of those issues, we want our sermons to be “Bible-based,” not political.

One thing you have to say about the Roman Catholic Church - they’re usually pretty clear about where they stand, even if the laity ignores the official doctrine.

Grew up in the ELCA, married a great Catholic girl, and finally converted (RCIA) when our kids were in first grade, mainly so when their first communion happened, I could join them. My parents were cool with it, and came to the Easter Vigil service where I was confirmed. I should have warned them about the length of the service first!

When I return to a Lutheran church now, several decades later, it seems “nice” but I get a feeling that they’re going through the motions without a lot of care why they’re doing things. I know that it’s dogmatic, but one issue is that if you believe communion/eucharist is really Jesus’ body, Catholics are much more careful with how they treat “leftovers”. I thought it was strange Lutherans would simply set remaining wafers off to the side so they could finish the service, while Catholics would kneel (urgh) until the priest would clean the containers and put the remaining wafers into a locked container until they are used again. It helped when my BIL became a deacon and I could ask him specific questions about why things are done in the RC church.

I don’t accept all of the RC teachings, but I love that Francis is the head of my church. That there is a head of the church is both great (someone’s in charge) and troubling (there’s someone making decisions for me). I was glad to see Benedict leave to be replaced by Francis. I’d like to know if any Catholics dislike Francis.

My grandmother was a Protestant and switched to Catholicism. In 1929 or thereabouts, so it has happened. She pretty much remained a Protestant in all but name, however, conforming to Church teachings when it best suited her. As we all do. :slight_smile:

I grew up in an Irish family where it’s was impressed on us that ‘we’ had been Catholic for like 50 generations, so not personally no :slight_smile: . Every year though at our parish there’s a small crop of people completing Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and from what I gather or know mostly are Protestant by family background. The reason seems to often be a decision of people recently or about to start a family to raise kids in one religion and Catholicism won. Obviously the ones that go the other way I’m less likely to see.

And I know some people do it, one direction or the other, for deeply intellectual/theological reasons rather than for family harmony or to shop for church views more in line with their secular politico-social views.

One of my brothers in law was raised Protestant, his brother is a minister actually, but he became Catholic. My wife’s family, of a different nationality/ethnicity than mine, is very Catholic. The fact that I was already Catholic helped me clear some hurdles on the way in.

I’m with the idea of “the Reformation was a LONG time ago, water under the bridge for sure; decide based on what’s right for you today, not by history”.

My little musical adventures have dragged me into a lot of different churches. In my opinion, the particular people in each church in your local area ought to have a lot more influence in your decision than it sounds like they’re getting. I’ve been in bad examples and good examples of the ones I’m familiar with, and I’d take the good example of a church I disagree with over the bad example of one that theoretically matches my philosophy - if I even have a philosophy that anyone but me would recognize.

I mean, wording it in your context: choose a particular priest and congregation, not a Wikipedia description.

Heh, that is true. United Methodists run the gamut. My church is liberal both theologically and politically (although not completely, we do have MAGA-philes, but they are the minority) The congregation is probably 10% homosexual. We have religious leaders from other faiths that give messages. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re pluralists, but a good number of us probably lean universalist. It’s a university church, so probably half the congregation is a professor of some type, so we tend to talk academically and I seriously doubt that anyone is close to being a fundamentalist.

My mom’s church is 60 miles away and it’s an old country UMC church. They are significantly less liberal. They aren’t as conservative as Pentecostals or non-denominationals and they still have a fair number of Democrats, but they are much less gay-affirming. They are much more likely to be biblical literalists. They certainly wouldn’t let an Imam preach at their church and fire and brimstone messages still make their way into the repertoire. Very different experience despite us sharing the same over-arching theology.