Blosser on Reverts

Dr. Blosser puzzles in sadness over converts to the Catholic faith who revert. He wonders if perhaps it might be due to Catholic dishonesty in advertising.

These are almost without exception individuals of impeccable character for whom questions of “faith and morals” are of basic importance. When they become Catholics, they do not do so without expending serious effort in endeavoring to understand Catholic teaching, particularly since there is typically a personal cost and social stigma associated with the move they are making, at least in their erstwhile communities of faith. …

So what is it that happens to Protestant reverts? While every individual’s story is unique, I think some generalizations are fairly safe. These are generally souls who come from backgrounds already well-rooted in evangelical Christianity, in a life of Bible reading, prayer, and personal relationship with God. When these souls discover the truth about the Catholic Church, they fall in love with her. They are thrilled when they finally come, at least on some level, to apprehend the Catholic vision of the Church and to see and and understand her glory — “ever ancient, ever new.” They love the Church that spans the ages, the Church of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Cardinal Newman, Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict XVI. They love the moral courage of the Church, which stands like an adamantine bulwark against the evils of abortion, pornography, and relativism. They love the magnificent beauty of her ancient European cathedrals, her basilicas, her paintings and sculptures, her Gregorian chant and polyphony (readily accessible in any music store). They love her theology, which they encounter in the writings of great doctors and theologians of the Church. They love her incarnational vision of life, which they encounter in the writings of numerous Catholic novelists.

But then they join a local Catholic parish …

The process usually begins with a desert experience called RCIA (Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults) — a series of meetings and classes in which they are treated more like preschoolers than intelligent adults, spoon fed pathological doses of hand-holding and introspection, and treated to ample quantities of shared feelings. If they survive that, they’re welcomed into an Amchurch parish, whose music is Haugan and Haas, whose homilies are psychology tips from Dr. Phil, whose art and architecture is a combination of bog Bauhaus and degenerate Art Deco, and whose members never read traditional Catholic authors but whose discussion groups can’t stop talking about Richard Rohr, Thomas Groome, Anthony Tambasco, Sr. Joan Chittister, Andrew Sullivan, and John Dominic Crossan.

3 thoughts on “Blosser on Reverts

  1. Maybe. But I think trust may be a large part of it. The Catholic Church says, “Trust me. Trust my teaching. Trust my guidance.” What happens when that trust is betrayed, in whatever way?

    The sex abuse scandals, for example, were not just about sexual sin, but about pride–hubris–on the part of church officials who moved abusers and covered up crimes and patronizingly told victims to trust them. Does this happen in other areas of the church’s life? When people complain about heterodoxy, for instance?

    The Church says truth is important, integrity is important, holiness is important. But what happens when people have experiences that contradict this? How does one then have the trust–the “docility,” as the Church puts it–that so much of Catholic life depends on? Blosser refers to RCIA candidates being “treated more like preschoolers than intelligent adults.” RCIA is just one example. Clericalism is another name for it, perhaps; it’s the attitude, “Trust us, obey us, but don’t question us. Don’t ask us to account for ourselves. Don’t ask us to defend our position. Don’t ask us to justify the changes in position.”

    In the early Church, pacificism was normative, in line with Jesus’ teaching. Following Constantinue, and the Christianization of the Empire, the just war teaching developed. This morphed into Crusade seven hundred years later. Once the Church justified violence to external enemies, it took another step of justifying violence to internal enemies: crusades, torture, execution. When people protested, they were silenced. When people appealed to conscience, the Church denied religious liberty. Then, at Vatican 2, the Church changed it’s mind. It said religious liberty is good. In succeeding years, the Church changed it’s mind about violence, and said the state should never execute people.

    At each step it expected the faithful to follow with docility.

    In the early Church, all received from the bread and the wine. After over a thousand years, the Church took the cup from the laity. When people protested the novelty, they were silenced. Hus was executed. After Vatican 2, the Church said the laity could receive from the cup. Sometimes. Today, some dioceses say both elements are to be the norm. How many other liturgical examples could be given? Mass in the vernacular, mass only in Latin, mass only in the vernacular. Nicea said you must stand, later it was said you must kneel, then it was stand (with some priests and prelates publicly berating individuals who knelt).

    At each step it expected the faithful to follow with docility.

    St. Paul commended the Bereans for “searching the Scriptures, to see if those things [the things he taught] were so.” He could oppose Peter “to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” Centuries later, if one demanded Scriptural proof, or suggested that anyone could judge the Successor of Peter, that was enough to show them to be a heretic. At one point in the Church’s history, the Church said ecumenical councils were above the pope, and could depose the pope. A century later, the Church said anyone who suggested such a thing was a heretic.

    At each step it expected the faithful to follow with docility.

    Maybe some reverts just reach the point where they realize that this hubris is not the way of Christ.

Comments are closed.