Once, in conversation with a new friend, I mentioned that I’d become a Catholic. (Frankly, those who convert to Catholicism are always trying to work some part of their conversion story into conversations.) He, a doctor in his sixties, was surprised. “I know a a few Catholic men who have converted to Protestant denominations, but no Protestants who have become Catholics.”

I was also familiar with a few Catholic men who’d become Protestants. Usually, it was because they’d gotten themselves into a second marriage, or a marriage-like relationship, usually with a younger woman. As a result, they could no longer receive the Sacraments in a Catholic Church. Rather than remove the impediment and sanitize their relationship or marriage, usually by seeking an annulment (often for both people) and re-marrying, they would take the easier path of joining a nearby Protestant denomination. This trip is always accompanied by many “deep conversations” about “finally, being free” accompanied by lots of soulful looks.

Participating in such a process is, of course, a First Commandment violation. It is so wrapped in self-righteousness that it’s not often immediately recognizable as such.

Thinking about it made me wonder if the various Protestant denominations were “safety nets”. I had to wonder if The Loving Programmer had allowed them to be brought into being so that souls who had fallen from the grace of Catholicism could still be caught and saved without sinking into total apostasy with no chance at all of salvation. The various denominations, though separated from Rome because of their founder’s, and later, their hierarchy’s, egotism, may be doing some good by keeping lapsed Catholics (Catholic Fundamentalists think of all Protestants as “lapsed Catholics) in some sort of relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

My own family history is typical of most Americans. Protestant political pressure forced my once-Catholic ancestors to become various types of Protestants. A dozen and a half generations later, I became a Catholic by leaping from a Protestant denomination (Presbyterian, in my case) into The Church. Had there been no Protestant denominations, a dozen or so generations of my ancestors may have strayed so far that I would not have been born, let alone able to find my way back to The Catholic Church.

Some may see Protestant denominations as spiritual versions of “temp agencies”, where people who find themselves to be unemployed can find temporary work to sustain themselves while they’re waiting to find “the perfect job”.