Why Some Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic -- By: Ralph E. MacKenzie
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Why Some Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic
The last part of the twentieth century has seen thousands of Catholics convert to Protestant evangelicalism. Conversely, of late, a number of evangelical intellectuals have gone the other way, deciding that “Rome is home.” We will investigate this ecclesiastical relocation and suggest some reasons why.
Catholics Becoming Evangelicals
In assessing the numbers, Rome is losing in the trade-off with evangelicals. When calling for a show of hands as to how many of my students were converts from Catholicism, a number respond. My experience concerning this has been confirmed by other evangelical teachers. I have been told that at Saddleback Church, a mega-congregation near Los Angeles, the number of ex-Catholics exceeds fifty percent.
There are Roman Catholic leaders, both lay and clergy, who view
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this exodus as an indication of a lack of emphasis on evangelism in Catholic catechesis. A leading figure at Vatican II, and one of the four Moderators at the Council, Léon Joseph Cardinal Suenens addressed this issue in A New Pentecost?1 Suenens quotes French bishop G. Huyghe who comments that Vatican II was held to inspire Catholics to be evangelists. But this presupposed that they themselves were believers. “In fact, this was true only of a few.”2 For conversion, a personal encounter must occur: “A Christian is a changed person, a convert; he has turned away from himself, so as to adhere to Jesus of Nazareth.. .. He has found in Jesus the Savior and Lord of all mankind.”3
In his book, Hungry for God,4 charismatic Catholic lay leader Ralph Martin interviews Maria Von Trapp, of Sound of Music fame. He discusses with her the reasons why many Catholics lack a personal commitment to Christ in their livers. Van Trapp states that many in the Catholic Church are “over sacramentalized” and “under-evangelized.” Indeed, “we may even go to daily communion all our lives and yet never have confronted the great issue of whether [Jesus] is my Savior and Lord.”5
Father Avery Dulles, S.J., who is arguably the leading theologian in the American Catholic Church, addresses this issue in the volume, John Paul and the New Evangelization.6 Father Dulles states many Catholics, although baptized, “were never effectively evangelized....
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