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Andrew T. Le Peau


As Different as We Think

Catholics and Protestants

It was when Phyllis and I got engaged that I found out just how different Catholics and Protestants actually were.

I had been raised Catholic, served as an altar boy, ate fish on Friday, said the rosary, memorized the catechism, prayed the Stations of the Cross, sang Gregorian Chant in the choir, and had twelve years of Catholic education that straddled the pre- and post-Vatican II eras.

Phyllis was raised in a congregation that was part of the Independent Fundamental Churches of America. Even her fellow churchgoers joked about the separatistic tendencies of the ifca by saying it stood for "I Fight Christians Anywhere" or "I Fellowship Completely Alone." She grew up singing gospel songs, going to Bible camps, and quizzing (which is, near as I can tell, a national network of teams of high school students in a series of competitions who respond to questions requiring contestants to have massive amounts of Scripture memorized).

It could only have been someone with God's sense of humor who had brought us together. But we both loved Jesus and each other, and assumed that was enough.

I knew well, of course, that Catholics and Protestants disagreed on many issues—the authority of the pope, the nature of the church, the role of the sacraments, the place of tradition and Scripture. So we faced quite a question when it came to choosing a church. At first we thought we'd have plenty of time. We thought we would affirm both traditions in our wedding and sought to have a co-officiated service, led by a Catholic priest and a Presbyterian pastor we knew. Both were happy with the idea. Our friend, Father Pendergast, told us that maybe God was calling us to be "bridge people" between these two worlds. He thought that could be a wonderful role for us on our spiritual journey. All that was left before setting out on this pilgrimage was to sign this little document for the Church that said we would raise our kids Catholic. Then we could be on our way.

As well versed as I was in all things ...

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