Sunday, August 31, 2008

So Brother Roger of Taize was a Catholic convert after all?

In a recent post, "Catholic and Calvinist?" (August 25, 2008), we discussed the ambiguities surrounding the statements of Cardinal Kasper concerning the ecclesial status of Brother Roger, as reported by Sandro Magister (www.chiesa) and Rorate Caeli.

A new post at Rorate Caeli, "The Conversion of Brother Roger of Taize?" (RC, August 29, 2008), now appears to confirm that Brother Roger, one of the founders of the Taize Community in Switzerland, was indeed received into the Catholic Church in 1972 (via a profession of the Catholic Faith), but that his alleged conversion remained wrapped in secrecy until his death.

Rorate Caeli's latest post is based on an article written by Yves Chiron, translated by Michael Matt, and carried in the Remnant in 2006. The matter is still complicated, though perhaps not as problematic as initially supposed by some. While Roger Schutz did claim that he never ruptured communion with anyone, he apparently stopped functioning as a Calvinist pastor and no longer presided over Protestant services. Among the weightier questions that remain, Rorate Caeli suggests the following: Why did Cardinal Kasper refuse to define Brother Roger's conversion as that: a conversion? And why was this conversion wrapped in secrecy? Surely a true convert to Catholicism should not be ashamed to confess his faith? One can only imagine the great numbers of converts who would have been led to the faith by Brother Roger's example, had it not been hidden.

As to the latter question, perhaps I may be able to shed some light. I know that the option of being received into the Church in secrecy is available, because it was offered to me, though I declined it. Apparently it is offered in circumstances where it is supposed that an open profession of Catholic Faith might significantly jeopardize or compromise the life, familial situation, or social or professional position of the convert. I decline to speculate on what Brother Roger's circumstances were. Whatever such considerations may be, they may seem shallow and self-serving to some, especially in the face of martyrs who have given their lives for professing the Catholic Faith. My hunch is, however, that the Church would ask us not to rush to judgment concerning the personal circumstances of individuals concerning which we are not privy. At the very least, perhaps this may help to reveal something about the sort of rationale at work behind such proceedings.

I conclude with one quote from the article by Yves Chiron:
It is true that this secrecy of his conversion has not the limpidity and the solemnity of an abjuration. But who dares to doubt his sincerity? Cardinal Ratzinger, in giving him Communion in April 2005, certainly acted with full knowledge of the facts. And it is bad form to accuse him still today of “having given communion to a Protestant.”

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