For some Evangelical Protestants, then, it came as a jolt when, on Easter Sunday 2004, Budziszewski was received into the Catholic Church. After maintaining a public silence about his conversion for several months, Budziszewski agreed to tell the story to CWR.....
I was a convinced Protestant. At the age of 10, I "walked the aisle," presented myself for Baptism, and vowed to follow Christ. Probably the best description of my spiritual condition during adolescence is "pious, but not holy."
Naturally I taught my students Thomas Aquinas, but I found it difficult to do so. The problem was that his arguments presented such a strong appearance of truth. For the very beauty of this appearance, I had to exercise strong discipline not to weep. One of my students in those days asked permission to put a personal question. "I’ve been listening carefully," he said, "and I figure that you’re either an atheist or a Roman Catholic. Which one is it?"
You can see why, when I finally returned to Christian faith, I wanted that one foot in Catholic tradition.
Yet return also meant recovery of lost elements of Protestant belief, and I couldn’t see my way to Catholicism proper.
I had the common Protestant idea that Catholicism teaches "works-righteousness"–that we earn our way into heaven, apart from the merits of Christ–that if we just earn enough "virtue points," we’re in. It took a long time to get over such misunderstandings.
Although we continued to disagree with a number of Catholic dogmas, we suffered a growing suspicion that where we disagreed, it was we who were wrong, not the Church.
Not all converts come into the fold in the same way. For some people on the way into the Catholic Church, the ecclesiastical objection is the last one to be overcome. First they become convinced about doctrine A, doctrine B, and doctrine C, and then at last they becoming convinced that the Church has authority to teach about these matters. For me it was the other way around. First I became convinced that the Church has authority to teach. That didn’t mean that my various difficulties about doctrine A, doctrine B, and doctrine C disappeared, but it converted my "objections" into "obstacles."
After several years of wrestling, becoming convinced on one point after another, I finally found myself able to say with respect to the remaining issues, "I am ready to obey." That turned out to be crucial. As Augustine said, we believe in order to know. There are some things you have to understand before you can accept them–but there are others you have to accept before you can understand them.