Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Anti-Convert Mentality

Something that I've noticed since converting to the Catholic Church a little over a year ago, is that there is by some people a distrust of converts and even a kind of anti-convert mentality.

I've seen this quite a bit on the web and saw it again just recently. On a certain website there was a question about a certain Catholic theologian who is a convert and whether his books are "too Protestant."

Now this question would never have been thought of if the author had been a cradle Catholic. In fact, the book's of the author in question are more Catholic than some of the cradle Catholics I've seen. I'm not at all saying that converts are better than cradle Catholics or vice-versa. Instead I'm suggesting that people should not be biased just because an author is a convert.

Some of the greatest and most influential Catholic theologians have been converts. Such as St. Augustine, John Henry Newman, and others.

In fact, Cardinal Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), who is a cradle Catholic, in his book The Nature and Mission of Theology says that we all are called to be converts:

"...both faith and rational reflection are integral to theology. The absence of either principle would bring about theology's demise. This implies that theology is based upon a new beginning in thought which is not the product of our own reflection but has its origin in the encounter with a Word which always precedes us. We call the act of accepting this new beginning 'conversion'. Because there is no theology without faith, there can be no theology without conversion. Conversion takes many forms. It need not always be an instantaneous event, as it was in the case of Augustine or Pascal, Newman, or Guardini. In one form or another, however, the convert must consciously pronounce in his own name a Yes to this new beginning and really turn from the 'I' to the 'no-longer-I'. It is thus immediately obvious that the opportunity for creative theology increases the more that faith becomes real, personal experience; the more that conversion acquires interior certainty thanks to a painful process of transformation; the more that it is recognized as the indispensable means of penetrating into the truth of one's own being. This is why in every age the path to faith can take its bearings by converts; it explains why they in particular can help us to recognize the reason for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) and to bear witness to it."

The thing to realize is that if someone converts to the Catholic Church, they don't do it on a whim. It is no light matter for a Protestant to become Catholic, especially when they grew up being taught that the Catholic Church was evil. No, when a Protestant becomes Catholic, they know exactly why they are doing so. They know and understand what the Catholic Church teaches and they know these things to be Truth. They take great pains to find out why their former Protestant beliefs were the wrongs ones. They embrace the Truth that the Catholic Church has to offer, which is the fullness of the Truth. They make a vow to defend and safeguard this Truth. And they also want to spread that Truth to others. A convert to the Catholic Church wants nothing more than to bring non-Catholics to the fullness of the Truth, especially if that convert is a theologian. They do so precisely by articulating clearly what the Catholic Church teaches. Their theology is one hundred percent Catholic and not "too Protestant."

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