Are liberal Catholics seeking to silence converts?

Heterodox thinkers in the Church seem to be saying "those of us who are new to the faith should lower our voices so that old Catholics can speak"

Matthew Schmitz is literary editor of First Things and a convert to Catholicism. (image from First Things)

Writing in Commonweal, Massimo Faggioli complains that the Catholic Church in America is dominated by converts—including me. Faggioli is a liberal Catholic, and he appears to be distressed that, as a rule, vocal converts are not. We are loud, he complains, and we retain the gross manners of our previous communions.

He particularly regrets that some converts have expressed displeasure with actions of the Pope. He goes as far as to say that I am guilty of “accusing the current pope of not being Catholic.” Or rather, he once did so. This statement has since been corrected by the editors of Commonweal, who are not generally sympathetic to my work, but who are honest enough to acknowledge that I have not done this.

Faggioli speaks as though it were after-hours at the Catholic Church, and anyone trying to enter should be subjected to questioning. There is an ecclesial nativism in his rhetoric, as if we become one with Christ through birth and not baptism. Converts perhaps need to be checked for lice or put in quarantine. “They have not faced the same kind of scrutiny or lengthy test and evaluation” as, say, new religious orders do. They are “finding an easier welcome into a Church that they then go and criticize.”

Austen Ivereigh echoes Faggioli in Crux. He writes that “Schmitz never actually said the pope wasn’t Catholic, but his narrative … adds up to something rather like it.” To support this assertion, Ivereigh quotes Ross Douthat saying something pungent about Pope Francis—though not, strangely, claiming that the pope is not Catholic. Let me see if I have this right: I did not actually say that the pope is not Catholic, but I as good as did, because Ross Douthat (and here I admit I lose the thread) also did not say that the pope is not Catholic. It is a game of thimblerig.

Ivereigh has some kind words for converts. He says that the Church “exists to spread the Gospel, and some of those it touches will want to become Catholic, and that’s wonderful.” These people “are special, and bring great gifts.” In sum, “We love converts.” This love would seem to require a great act of charity, however. Ivereigh diagnoses these special people with “convert neurosis.” They exhibit a “pathological or extreme reaction to something that simply doesn’t correspond to reality.” They are fresh off the boat, and “their baggage has distorted their hermeneutic.”

Both Faggioli and Ivereigh are keen to downplay the doctrinal disagreements that currently split the Church. Faggioli applies a more sociological lens, Ivereigh a more psychological one, to explain away disagreement as stemming from something other than a difference in principle. These tactics are typical of the current pontificate, in which formal doctrinal condemnations and definitions have been set aside in favor of psychologizing the opposition. The cardinals who submitted the dubia have not been answered; they have been accused of some defect of mind or character. If the Church is a field hospital, it would seem to have a large and active psychiatric ward.

Full story by Matthew Schmitz at First Things.



To add a comment, click on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ icons OR go further down to the bottom of comments to the Post your comment box.


  1. Anonymous says:

    it doesn’t seem that the church in Italy is being flooded with converts, quite the opposite, so there might not be much of a comparison template for faggioli to work from. I would hazard a guess that I and F helped to ghost-write the civilta cattolica piece, with most of the work being done by faggioli. it was just reported that evangelicals have expressed ineterst in meeting with the pope to ask him to explain the negative slant cast on them in the civcatt piece, wondering if it really expresses his own thought. they once saw a cordial ally in pope francis and now are not so sure.

  2. Michael McDermott [ii] UK says:

    In the UK potential converts were turned away – “you are alright and well served where you are ” being the reason given.

  3. Anonymous says:

    All these fine Talking Heads, talking in circles to each other, rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “In the room,
    the Talking Heads come and go,
    speaking of Michelangelo.”

    [Apologies to TS Elliot, “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock”]

  5. Joel Fago says:

    Differences will separate us more and more unless all of us discuss them.

  6. The “Springtime of Vatican 2” what a joke

  7. Father PMJ says:

    Things are horrible under Pope Francis. A complete state of collapse.

  8. Catherine says:

    Cardinal Burke warns against ‘idolatry of the papacy’
    Pete Baklinski

    ‘Confusion and error’ from Catholic leaders may be sign of end times: Cardinal Burke
    Pete Baklinski

    • Catherine says:

      Enlist the help of the souls in Purgatory! Another very neglected aid. While we pray for them, they will assist us!

      “Eternal Father,
      I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus,
      in union with the Masses said throughout the world today,
      for all the holy souls in Purgatory,
      for sinners in the universal Church,
      those in my own home,
      and within my family.


  9. William Roberts says:

    Hardly likely. The liberals control very little of the Church and the Catholic press. Since the late 1970’s, the conservatives’ star has been ascendant and they now control most of the Church and the Catholic media. The liberals have long ago left the building and have given up on the Catholic Church.

  10. Michael McDermott says:

    There is nothing ‘liberal’ about the Leftist / Gender Feminist Gaystapo – although those who have abused the Church to Fund their politics want to make its Wise Moral Teachings go away – along with anyone who respects them:

    Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons

    an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the…

  11. Quite an appropriate last name for a liberal.

  12. Michael McDermott says:

    Want to hear denunciations of the Pope – just Praise Sant John Paul II or Benedict the Wise – and wait for the ‘old guard’ (who enabled the homosex Ephebophile Abuse Scandal) to dump on you from on high, or as high as they can get before falling on their faces

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.