At CRUX, Ivereigh issued an apology… sort of. HERE
___ Originally Published on: Aug 10, 2017
A couple weeks ago (HERE) the Wile E. Coyote of the catholic Left, Michael Sean Winters of the Fishwrap sniggered with fellow lib Massimo “Beans” Faggioli about converts. To quote Winters:
I am so tired of converts telling us that the pope is not Catholic.
Typical. Converts don’t have the right to say anything because they’re converts.
Now Austen Ivereigh has a piece at CRUX (why the KCs pay for this rubbish is beyond me) against converts who disagree with him. He tries to be soooo nuanced, soooo sophisticated in his condescension.
My emphases and comments:
Pope Francis and the convert problem
The dog days of August are a time to smuggle in the kind of article you’ve been meaning to write but putting off because of all the trouble it’s going to bring you. But still, I hesitate even now to write about convert neurosis, and how it conditions critiques of Pope Francis. [He hesitates, but he’ll do it anyway, because people might not notice. It’s August, after all, and the internet is on vacation. Actually, he’s just being smarmy.]
For one, I don’t want to be seen to be sniffy and condescending towards people who become Catholic, which is how Dr. Stephen Bullivant, writing in First Things, said he felt about a comment in Michael Sean Winters’s blogpost. “I am so tired of converts telling us that the pope is not Catholic,” complained the sage of the National Catholic Reporter. [Oh no… he’s not going to be condescending. No, not at all.]
Winters was reacting to a debate on Al Jazeera between Matthew Schmitz, youthful literary editor of First Things, and me, on the perennial topic of the Francis pontificate.
Schmitz, a young convert, had undergone a second conversion since 2013. At first he welcomed Francis’s election. But then came a series of realizations.
He had now come to see that Francis was building his program of reform “at the expense of children orphaned by the culture of divorce left by the 1960s,” attempting to restore a “discredited version of Catholicism,” and who “builds his popularity by shucking off traditions and formulas of the office” of pope. Oh and introducing the antinomian, Protestant notion that truth and mercy are counter to the law.
(Incidentally, ‘antinomian’ is not a word to bandy about on Al-Jazeera, but then, I accused Schmitz of wanting to bring back the seda gestatoria, which must have furrowed brows in Qatar.) [Isn’t Austen just a hoot?]
Now, Schmitz never actually said the pope wasn’t Catholic, [do you hear the “but” coming?]but his narrative and that of many of Francis’s angry, vociferous critics adds up to something rather like it, namely, that he is, in Ross Douthat’s phrase, the “chief plotter” in a conspiracy to change the Catholic faith. [Ross is a “angry, vociferous critic”? Has he ever met Ross Douthat or heard him speak?]
For the record: The Church is missionary, and exists to spread the Gospel, and some of those it touches will want to become Catholic, and that’s wonderful. People who have thought and prayed their way to faith are special, and bring great gifts with which they have been showered. We love converts. [Sure you do, Austen. Perhaps when they bow to your wisdom as you impart your secret teachings about what the Holy Spirit does in the Church.]
Winters wasn’t being sniffy about converts either, but simply pointing out the – let’s just call it, for the time being, incongruity – of those who join the Catholic Church in a blaze of Damascene fervor later announcing noisily, after a new pope is elected, that the pope is not doing what they believe popes should do. [Never mind that one of the things that converts have to figure out when they enter the Church is precise “what Popes should do”.]
And if the many retweets of my retweet of Winters’s complaint is anything to go by, many share his view not just that this stance is not just incongruous, but annoying, because rather than consider the possibility that there may be something deficient in their own view of the Church and its tradition, they prefer to assume that it is the successor of St. Peter – chosen by the Holy Spirit in a conclave free from outside interference – who is lacking. [So, the Pope is “chosen by the Holy Spirit”. Non-convert Joseph Ratzinger has a healthier view. Ratzinger, who has more experience of conclaves than Ivereigh, was interviewed by a Bavarian TV network. He was asked:
INTERVIEWER: Your Eminence, you are very familiar with church history and know well what has happened in papal elections…. Do you really believe that the Holy Spirit plays a role in the election of the pope?
RATZINGER: I would not say so in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope, because there are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit would obviously not have picked. I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined.”]
Now it is quite possible that elegant commentators such as Ross Douthat and Matthew’s boss Rusty Reno (both former Episcopalians), or, at the rougher end, writers such as Carl Orlson (ex-Protestant fundamentalist) [OLSON – NB: Olson took Ivereigh apart in 2016 for the false claims he made. HERE Ivereigh said that: ‘Dissenters’ from Amoris laetitia are predominantly wealthy lay people fixated on ‘reason”. Now he is expanding his pool to “neurotic converts”. Read on.] and John Henry Westen (ex-atheist), or indeed ex-Anglicans in my own patch such as Daniel Hitchens of the Catholic Herald and Edward Pentin of the National Catholic Register in Rome, are all correct in their readings.
But it is a lot more likely that their baggage has distorted their hermeneutic, and they are suffering from convert neurosis. [His argument boils down to: If you disagree with what I hold, then you are a neurotic who doesn’t understand the Holy Spirit – like I do.]
A neurosis is a pathological or extreme reaction to something that simply doesn’t correspond to reality. A war-scarred victim, for example, might react to a friendly cop’s question by throwing herself on the ground and covering her ears. You understand why she does it, but it’s neurotic. [How unbelievably condescending and insensitive.]
I began to notice this reaction among former Anglicans during the synods of 2014-15. A friend, a Catholic priest, told me he had seen these kinds of arguments before in the Church of England, and they always ended badly; and that he hadn’t joined the Catholic Church to go through it all again. He was deeply disturbed by what he imagined was happening, fueled by Douthat’s predictions of a schism and his dark warning that the pope “may be preserved from error only if the Church itself resists him.” [Remember what happened during the Synods of 2014-15? The sorts of things that Ivereigh wants to happen, probably including “rigging” so that the process marginalizes those who hold fast and serves a predetermined outcome. And there has indeed been a time when the resisting Church helped a Pope to avoid heresy. The Avignon Pope John XXII (+1334) publicly taught in sermons that the souls of the just, even after Purgatory, would not enjoy the Beatific Vision until after the resurrection of the flesh following the General Judgment. Many (read: “the Church”) resisted this false teaching to the point that John XXII corrected himself. And it was a hard fought process, too, that did not involve papolatry or toadies. No less than the historian and late Archbp. of Milan, Bl. Idelfonso Schuster, wrote of the conflict between Pope and faithful that John XXII, “offered the entire Church, the humiliating spectacle of the princes, clergy and universities steering the Pontiff onto the right path of Catholic theological tradition, and placing him in the very difficult situation of having to contradict himself.” But – remember – according to Ivereigh, John XXII was directly chosen by the Holy Spirit. He would, no doubt, have both been entirely with John before he corrected himself, writing that John’s neurotic opponents didn’t understand the Holy Spirit, and also with John after he corrected himself, saying “See! I told you so!”]
Which was all, obviously, silly. What in fact happened, as was obvious it would to those free of neurosis, was a vigorous good-faith disagreement that resolved in a two-thirds majority vote that laid the basis for an apostolic exhortation. [WHOA! Hang on! Ivereigh has tried this caper before. In 2016 Fr. Murray called him on it HERE. Ivereigh had written: “…everything in Amoris Laetitia – including the controversial Chapter 8 – received a two-thirds majority in a synod that was notoriously frank, open, and drawn out.” Not so. First, exquisitely “notorious” was the theft of mail by the Synod’s organizers who illegally removed books delivered through the postal service to members of the Synod. Next, and more to the point, when the members of the Synod voted on what should go into the final report to the Holy Father, Paragraph 52 received 104 “yes” (“placet”) votes, and 74 “no” (“non placet) votes. Paragraph 53 received 112 “yes” and 64 “no” votes. They did not receive the required two-thirds approval and thus were excluded from the final report according to the rules of the synod. What Ivereigh said is not only inaccurate, it is a falsehood. After all, the truth has been pointed out to him, but he sticks to his story. Isn’t there a dictum about repeating falsehoods?] Amoris Laetitia did not settle forever those disagreements – when do they ever go away? – but provided a basis for the Church to move forward, still one body, while staying faithful to doctrine. [There are those who have asked whether or not Amoris is consistent with the Church’s doctrine.] That’s the difference between disagreeing under a papal magisterium, and disagreeing in the absence of one. [HUH? Does anyone understand that last bit?]
Then there is the neurosis of the convert escaping the shifting sands of relativism, who projects onto the Church the idea of something fixed and distant and unchangeable, frozen at some point prior to the Council. This makes them susceptible to the traditionalist Catholic horror not just of the Council’s reforms, but of the very idea of change, as if this could be avoided. [I know a lot of traditionalists. Only a few think that “nothing can change”, and they don’t write anything serious for public consumption. The trads I know do think that things can change. Doctrine, for example, changes in the sense that it deepens and evolves while remain consistent and true with it’s roots in the Deposit of Faith. However, I suspect that that is not the case for Ivereigh.]
Yet the Church’s tradition has always been made up of the new things brought by the Holy Spirit revealing “new aspects of Revelation,” as Evangelii Gaudium puts it. Francis approaches the past as all popes must do, with discernment, preserving what must be protected, and removing what has become an obstacle to evangelization. [Which rings the gong of obsequious flattery. Sorry.]
The Church has always required perpetual conversion in order to recover what has been lost – the centrality of Christ, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and closeness to the concrete lives of ordinary people. Catholics trust the pope to discern what needs to change.
Of course, you don’t need to be a convert to be critical of Francis, and plenty of converts are delighted with him (which is why Bullivant was wrong to think that Winters was getting at converts per se.) But this isn’t about liking or disliking Pope Francis. It’s about an attitude to the papacy on the part of some. [It is, isn’t it. And, frankly, what he is peddling smacks of unhealthy papolatry.]
A friend in Ireland writes: “I keep seeing people who seem to have converted mainly because the Church teaches things that match their ideological outlook, whereas when I came back it was a case of doing so because I thought the Church had historical authority to teach things even if they sounded mad or were inconvenient.”
Conversion is an act of humility. It involves a renunciation of sovereignty, the idea that I know best. [Listen to yourself!] It involves trust – in Jesus Christ, and in His Church, and in the successor of St. Peter – even when they challenge my preconceptions.
This doesn’t mean agreeing with everything a pope says or does: Complaining about popes is nothing new, and anyway, Francis welcomes it. [Does he?]
But it does mean respecting the office founded by Jesus Christ, and trusting that the Holy Spirit guides its current occupant. That, surely, is a big part of why people become Catholic in the first place.
Again and again, he plays the Holy Spirit card to the point that he comes off as a papalotrous gnostic.
My friend Fr. Finigan, His Hermeneuticalness, has his own response: HERE The title:
Cradle Catholic snobbery as ridiculous as any other kind