This from D. J. Stove, the son of atheist and neo-positivist David Stove:
When the possibility of converting to Catholicism became a real one, it was the immensity of the whole package that daunted me, rather than specific teachings. I therefore spent little time agonizing over the Assumption of Mary, justification by works as well as faith, the reverencing of statues, and other such concepts that traditionally irk the non-Catholic mind.
Rather, such anguish as I felt came from entirely the other direction. However dimly and inadequately, I had learnt enough Catholic history and Catholic dogma to know that either Catholicism was the greatest racket in human history, or it was what it said itself that it was. Such studying burned the phrase "By what authority?" into my mind like acid. If the papacy was just an imposture, or an exercise in power mania, then how was doctrine to be transmitted from generation to generation? If the whole Catholic enchilada was a swindle, then why should its enemies have bestirred themselves to hate it so much? Why do they do so still?
This reminds me of the famous 'trilemma' popularized by C. S. Lewis: Jesus is either the Son of God, or he is a lunatic, or he is the devil. This trilemma is also sometimes put as a three-way choice among lord, lunatic, or liar. I quote Lewis and offer my critical remarks here.
Just as I cannot accept the Lewis 'trilemma' -- which is not strictly a trilemma inasmuch as not all three prongs are unacceptable -- I cannot accept the Stovian 'dilemma' which strikes me as a text-book case of the informal fallacy of False Alternative. ". . . either Catholicism was the greatest racket in human history, or it was what it said itself that it was." Why are these the only two alternatives? The Roman Catholic church claims to be the one, true, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic church. One possibility is that the Roman church was all of these things before various linguistic, political, and theological tensions eventuated in the Great Schism of 1054 such that after that date the one, true, etc. church was the Orthodox church of the East. After all, both can and do trace their lineage back to Peter, the 'rock' upon whom Christ founded his church. That is at least a possibility. If it is actual, then the present Roman church would be neither a racket nor what it claims to be. It would be a church with many excellences that unfortunately diverged from the authentic Christian tradition.
Or it could be that that true church is not the Roman church but some Protestant denomination, or maybe no church is the true church: some are better than others, but none of the extant churches has 'cornered the market' on all religiously relevant truth.
I get the impression that Stove has a burning desire to belong to a community of Christian believers, is attracted to the Roman church for a variety of reasons, some of them good, and then concocts an obviously worthless argument to lend a veneer of rationality to his choice.
My point is a purely logical one. I am not taking sides in any theological controversy.