Wandering Sheep

Q. I have some children that were raised Catholic, baptized and went to church with the family on Sundays. But they left the Church and belong to other Protestant churches, and two have formed their own church and talk about the Bible, etc. I have read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that it is wrong to leave the Church (if I am reading it right). Am I right that they should not have left the Church, and that it is a mortal sin? I am praying and have been praying for them to come back to the Church.

Jerry, via e-mail

A.Here is a reply from Father Francis Hoffman, J.C.D.:

You are correct. Your children should not have left the Catholic Church, because the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ and has the fullness of the truth and the fullness of the means of salvation. Those who wander away from the practice of the Catholic faith, especially the practice of the sacraments of confession and holy Communion, put themselves at a disadvantage for their eternal salvation.

Leaving the Catholic Church for another ecclesial group could be heresy, could be schism, or could be apostasy. Technically, all three are mortal sins under the usual conditions (full advertence, full consent, serious matter). Only God and your children would know if they made such a sad choice fully conscious of what they were doing. Odds are, they never really learned or practiced the faith growing up, and so we beg God’s mercy for them. 

To their credit, they are not atheists, and they seem to be actively involved in seeking God — all of that is a good thing.

You should continue to pray for them every day so that they return to the Catholic Church. 

And get others to pray too! Daily Mass, daily Rosary and other sacrifices offered for their conversion will win their souls. You may not see them return to the practice of the faith in your lifetime, but your prayers will not be wasted, and God will have mercy on them, for He is the Good Shepherd who never gives up on His sheep.