Friday, June 20, 2014

"Why Do People Become Catholic?"

R.R. Reno, "Why Do People Become Catholic? Eight Reasons" (First Things, June 11, 2014), recounts a recent talk by John Beaumont, author of The Mississippi Flows Into the Tiber: A Guide to Notable American Converts to the Catholic Church(Fidelity Press, 2014). The book, says Reno, is a wonderful compilation of convert stories that includes a few folks associated with this fine magazine. The author, in his talk, recounted a number of them. He ended with an arresting question: "Why do people convert to Catholicism?" (Should that be an "arresting question"?) While there are obviously many answers, the author summarized eight reasons, to which Reno here adds his own comments. The eight reasons are: (1) visibility, (2) universality, (3) endurance, (4) authority, (5) beauty, (6) hierarchy, (7) saints, and (8) moral witness.

Reno concludes by saying:
I see no reason why Protestants can’t find many of these qualities in their own churches. I don’t think its triumphalist of me—or at least not perniciously so—to say as a Catholic convert I’m thankful to have found them in mine.
A bit defensive? Why should a Catholic editor of a Catholic magazine have to justify (apologize for?) his review of reasons for embracing the Catholic Faith? Just a detail, perhaps; and maybe I'm missing something.

Guy Noir, our underground correspondent who sent me the link to this article, comments:
Jokingly I might answer, "Why do people become Catholic? I really couldn't say?!"

My actual posted comment, which I suspect you will only partially agree with, is below. Someone else mentioned Truth, which is a better retort. I'd agree with that myself.

I recall telling my Catholic-not-Christian friend I'd converted. Here retort, "What on earth? Why would ANYONE do that?!" Ha-ha.

I have to agree with James here. Beauty? Authority? Modern Catholics really simply can't with straight face claim much high ground, since from Vatican II forward the quarterbacks have led something of a debacle. But the bothersome, inescapable reality is also "What else is there?" Evangelicalism, Protestantism.... these also have integrity [and their members have been the equivalent of spiritual Navy Seals when it comes to rescuing Biblical scholarship and preaching], but if you trace lifelines back to the Fathers, you can't help but realize the Church remains like the rock in the road. For me, Wilfrid Ward summarizing Newman hit the nail home on the importance of the Catholic Church -- an uncomfortable importance that, like it or not, seems to remain amidst all the namby-pambying...

"It was[Newman's] judgment [that the] one great work of the Catholic Church [was] to supply an antidote to the impressionableness of human nature, to the changeableness of its moods, and to keep permanently alive that religious atmosphere which in practice was necessary to supplement the reason of man, which was in these matters so liable to be misled. The agnostic or naturalistic atmosphere of modern society, which so easily affects each man's view of life, includes the prevalence of maxims identical with those of the ancient Epicureans. But so far as it acts on the more intellectual in these latter days, Newman seems to trace it largely to the effect on their imagination of the fruitful results of the sciences – physical science first of all, but also, in their measure, historical and critical science. Here were tangible and certain results, extending our knowledge of this visible world, which is so unquestionably real; while theologizing was concerned with a cloudland, which only in certain moods seemed to have any real existence at all. The great antidote to this attitude of mind was the counter-effect of the [Catholic] Church as – to use his own forcible phrase – “the concrete representative of things invisible” – the visible assembly which has ever taken for granted and positively asserted the reality of the unseen world [and the testimony of the Bible], and has been the fruitful instrument of a moral civilization which has depended on this assumption." --Last Lectures 27.
[Hat tip to GN]

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