I have already admitted that I am uncertain about papal infallibility; thus I also entertain doubts about the exact nature of the Magisterium. These are not hills I will die upon.
When I left the Roman Catholic Church, I did so because of a crisis of faith that seemed to me at the time similar to what Philip has been talking about: that he is not comfortable with some aspects of Roman Catholic teaching. It seemed to me at the time, and does so now, that it was not proper to continue to be Roman Catholic while doubting some of its core doctrines.
What follows is a selection from my “resignation letter” to the priest at our church at the time. At one point I cited a paragraph from Richard John Neuhaus, from his chapter in the book by the title “Evangelicals and Catholics Together”, and which shortly followed the release of that initial document. Neuhaus said:
The fathers of the council understood themselves to be saying what was said much earlier by James….They also thought that the sola fide formula promoted in the Reformation era was, among other things, a denial of human moral agency, a rejection of the role of the God-given capacities of reason and will in coming to faith, a repudiation of sanctifying grace, and an invitation to antinomianism.
Did the council fathers at Trent misunderstand what the Reformers meant by sola fide? Most scholars, whether Catholic or Protestant, agree that they did not understand the Reformers, especially Luther and Calvin, adequately. And there is slight disagreement, perhaps no disagreement that the Reformers, especially Luther, could have expressed themselves more clearly, carefully, and consistently.
Then I responded to Neuhaus’s quote with the following:
Keep in mind here what Luther and Calvin were doing: they were endeavoring to call the church to reform itself. It is unfortunate that these individuals could not articulate their views to the satisfaction of an “infallible” church. But it is inexcusable, I would think, to have an “infallible” Church pronouncing anathemas on something it doesn’t fully understand. Again, is it ignorance or arrogance?
Eventually, whether you believe the Catholics or the Protestants, the question comes down to a question of authority: Sola Scriptura, vs. the Church’s Teaching. [While the church would say that Scripture, Tradition and Magisterium form one “Deposit of Faith,” it could also be said that in practice, this is a misnomer, because ultimately, the Church’s teaching authority always takes precedent over the other two, and you end up having what he calls sola ecclesia.]
The bottom line is that I could not accept “the entire deposit of faith.” And rather than tell the kids, “you’ve just sort of wink and nod at some Church teachings—especially the Marian doctrines and the doctrines of infallibility—I decided it would be better to be honest about the whole thing and just leave.
If you’ve left the Roman church, I’d like to ask, why did you do it? We know that lots of people leave Rome for evangelical churches. What was it that prompted you to leave? Please use the comments in this thread to let us know. And if you have any questions of your own, I’ll be happy to answer them here.