21 August 2017

The Convert Problem

Mr Austin Ivereigh thinks that we converts should be quietly humble. We should remember that we can never have the same pure, balanced and holistic understanding of the Faith that he and his fellow cradle Catholics have. Well, I'm not going to criticise him, because I find him rather scary. He got money from the Daily Mail some years ago because they, as the Jury in the Libel Court unanimously decided, grossly misrepresented some episodes in his earlier life.

I don't like the Mail ... it seems to me a nasty little paper ... so good luck to anyone who can do them for libel ... but I've no desire to have to fish my own cheque book out for anybody. So ... forelock duly tugged ... deference elaborately exhibited ... yes, Squire, no Squire ... whatever you say, Mr Ivereigh. And I expect you are even crosser with us converts, now that yet another of our number, the iniquitous Fr Aidan Nichols, has just had the temerity to suggest that there is a crisis in the Roman Magisterium and that there ought to be means of canonical redress for people who think an occupant of the Roman See should be held accountable for heterodoxy. That's just the sort of thing some convert, who wastes his time going around lecturing and writing a couple of books a year about Catholic doctrine and history, would say, isn't it ? I'm with you, Austin, all the way. Good On Yer Cobber, as they reportedly say in Oz.

So, instead, I'll turn my spotlight on an American who is a convert himself. David Mills humbly confesses that we converts will indeed always be creatures inferior to genuine, encradled, Catholics. And Mr Mills appears to demonstrate something even worse: that since he entered the Catholic Church, his understanding of Catholic doctrine has deteriorated. Two examples: (1) he appears to think of our blessed Lady as a sort of vessel which contained the Incarnate Word. Rather off-centre: the Lord took his human substance of the Virgin Mary His Mother (as the Christmas Preface in the Anglican Use makes clear); he did not merely pass through her as water does through a pipe, or as the Lord's Blood is contained in a chalice. And (2): he calls the Church "a living body moving through History" ... which is jejune. The Church is the Body and Bride of Christ. The Church Triumphant (our Lady and all the glorified Saints) and the Church Expectant (the souls whom we remember before the Father) are not within History in any natural sense of that phrase. Only the Church Militant could be described in the way David Mills does.

The habit of regarding "the Church" as synonymous with the Church Militant here in Earth is a common mistake among Roman Catholic theologians as well as 'ordinary' Catholics. Those of us from the Anglican Patrimony have had the opportunity of being taught (for example, by the great Eric Mascall) that the Church is something immeasurably greater than merely the Church Militant. In the words of another mighty Anglican writer, C S Lewis, she is "spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners".

I suspect that this much healthier and more balanced understanding of "Church" may owe something to the influence which some Orthodox writers had on Anglican Catholics such as Mascall in the twentieth century. However that may be, we see the wisdom of Pope Benedict XVI in calling us corporately into the Catholic Unity and urging us to hold fast to the riches which are legitimately ours.

I for one have no intention of asking Mr Mills to share his sackcloth with me or to spare me some of his ashes.

10 comments:

Edwin said...

Thanks yet again, dear Father; you tell it how it is for us poor benighted converts... Johnny-come-latelys into the Cathoic pantheon. But in it, for all that.

DrAndroSF said...

I was 14 years old, and embedded in NY Irish Catholicism as altar boy, etc. before the Vatican Council happened. I know in my bones what real Catholicism is. The NY Irish version was just one dialect of that mother tongue, but it was the genuine article. I was also very engaged and very active in the post VatII Catholic world for the next 25 years.

Let me say that, in my golden years, I do not believe that more than 5% of so-called Roman Catholics born since 1960 have the slightest idea of what actual Catholicism is. The renewal turned out to be a tragic rupture, part and parcel of the collapse of Western Civilization post WWII.

Converts are always a pain in the neck to the native born. It's in the rerum natura. But some of them actually come in search of what was once The One True Church and once the backbone of Western Civilization. Not the anodyne and moribund NGO which the Church of Rome has, along with the rest of Western Christendom, revealed itself to be.

Michael Leahy said...

That St. Paul fellow ought to have been a bit more humble and kept to himself. Come to think of it, all the Apostles were once Jews. So should they.

In more recent times, the same applies to uppity Cardinal Newman and G K Chesterton. Who did they think they were?

Instead, we should look up to cradle Catholics, such as Adolf Hitler.

Andreas Meszaros said...

Si quis habet nasum valde catholicum, meus est, sive neophytus nuper ad fidem veram conversus, sive ab ipsis incunabulis catholico sit lacte nutritus.

Don said...

Is not part of the problem that these people would really rather not have any converts? I mean, we've been told to quit seeking the conversion of Jews. Pope Francis apparently told Tony Palmer not to convert. He reportedly told Eugenio Scalfari not to convert. He reportedly said he prefers evangelicals to stay where they are and be the best evangelicals they can be. The "ecumenism of return" has been abolished. Don't you get it, this is a club whose membership is based on heredity. Anyone who has the temerity to actually convert to the Catholic faith is therefore some kind of interloper.

El Codo said...

I experienced total acceptance on conversion along with the crowds in the early 90's.The only odd individual who made a thing were sad souls who tried to put me down to make themselves feel bigger. I felt sorry for them and wondered about their inner conversion to Christ.The One True Church is a wonderful space even with all its trials. Just spend time listening to the General Synod!

Catharine said...

Father,
I am not a convert but I am a "revert"--I refused to set foot in a Catholic church for 22 years. But God in His mercy came to fish me out of the blind darkness and back into the Church, some 25 years ago.
The real problem, it seems to me, is that we converts/reverts insist on taking our Catholic faith so seriously. I for one am extremely aware, and grateful, that by walking me step-by-step through the conversion process, God has granted me some signal graces which not everyone receives. It seems to me, it is incumbent upon me to correspond to such magnificent generosity with all of the intensity of my entire being, for my entire life.
The cradle Catholics I know, almost to a man/woman, seems to have no concept of how fortunate they are to have been born into the Catholic church. And, unfortunately, they do not take their faith seriously at all.

Deimater said...

Mr Mills is a convert. Therefore, according to him, he can't know what real Catholicism is. Therefore, he can't know whether other converts know what real Catholicism is. His logic is irredeemably flawed.

Jim Brooks said...

Pretty sad really such a tone exists. When I grew up in the 70's I was taught the first group to respect in the Church was the Clergy and the second were the converts

William Weedon said...

Not a convert, though I have often appreciated David Mills’ writings, as also the good Father here. But the bigger vision of the Church, the fact that the Church in fact CANNOT be seen in its entirety by anyone from any vantage point save the end, where it for the first time becomes visible when we see Him as He is, when we’re in Revelation 7 (we already are by faith) and can SEE it...it brought to mind a hymn we separated brethren of the Augsburg Confession love to sing:

Jerusalem, O city fair and high,
Your tow’rs I yearn to see;
My longing heart to you would gladly fly,
It will not stay with me.
Elijah’s chariot take me
Above the lower skies,
To heaven’s bliss awake me,
Released from earthly ties.

O happy day, O yet far happier hour,
When will you come at last,
When by my gracious Father’s love and pow’r
I see that portal vast?
From heaven’s shining regions
To greet me gladly come
Your blessed angel legions
To bid me welcome home.

The patriarchs’ and prophets’ noble train,
With all Christ’s foll’wers true,
Who washed their robes and cleansed sin’s guilty stain,
Sing praises ever new!
I see them shine forever,
Resplendent as the sun,
In light diminished never,
Their glorious freedom won.

Unnumbered choirs before the shining throne
Their joyful anthems raise
Till heaven’s arches echo with the tone
Of that great hymn of praise.
And all its host rejoices,
And all its blessed throng
Unite their myriad voices
In one eternal song.