Ed Peters schools Austen Ivereigh about “converts”

The liberal attack on converts who are concerned about the Church continue.  Lately liberal paplatrous gnostic Austen Ivereigh, once editor of The Bitter Pill in the UK, jumped aboard the band-wagon launched by Michael Sean Winters of the Fishwrap.  (HERE) Liberal historian Massimo Faggioli is also full of beans regarding converts.  Their underlying notion is that converts don’t have the same right in the Church as “cradle Catholics” to voice their concerns.  These elitists see converts as second class.

Ivereigh, by the way, is billed as an “editor” at Crux, so his postings express something of the editorial stance of Crux.   Ivereigh attacked converts (who disagree with him, official interpreter of the Holy Spirit) as “neurotic”.

Canonist Ed Peters responded (HERE) to the dreadful essay posted by Ivereigh at Crux (to their shame -and to the shame of the KCs who pay for Crux).

Let’s see what the always level-headed Peters has to say.

Come over here and say that

Austen Ivereigh, in one of the most embarrassing essays Crux has ever run, recently smeared seven talented Catholic commentators as suffering from ‘convert neurosis’. Not once in passing, but repeatedly, Ivereigh uses ‘neurosis’ and ‘neurotic’ in regard to some seven writers, Ross Douthat, Daniel Hitchens, Carl Olson, Edward Pentin, Rusty Reno, Matthew Schmitz, and John-Henry Westen. Ivereigh even offers a primer on what “neurosis” means, suggesting a war-scarred woman’s throwing herself to the ground when later stopped by a policeman as, one supposes, an example of how ‘convert neurotics’, supposedly being persons given to extreme reactions to un-realities in the Church, might behave.

While an expert in psychology can tell us whether any of these men are, in fact, “neurotic”, and an expert in morals can tell us whether Ivereigh’s employing and Crux’s circulating of such labels against brothers in the Lord meets any standard of decency in Christian discourse, Ivereigh’s constant referral to these Catholics as “converts” draws my attention.

Ivereigh’s description of several figures (Douthat and Reno as former Episcopalians, Olson as a former Protestant fundamentalist, and Hitchens and Pentin as former Anglicans) plus what I gather about Westen (a once fallen-away Catholic who went through an atheistic period) and Schmitz (who talks respectfully about his days as a Protestant), suggests that not one of them, not one, would, under American catechetical criteria, qualify as “converts” at all—let alone as neurotic ones.

According to the (US) National Statutes for the Catechumenate (November, 1986) no. 2 (my emphasis), “the term ‘convert’ should be reserved strictly for those converted from unbelief to Christian belief and never used of those baptized Christians who are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church.” Number 3 reiterates that this “holds true even … [for] baptized Catholic Christians … whose Christian initiation has not been completed by confirmation and Eucharist” (Westen) and [for] “baptized Christians who have been members of another Church or ecclesial community and seek to be received into the full Communion of the Catholic Church” (the other six authors).  [So, when an unbaptized person enters the Church through baptism and the other sacraments, that person is a convert.  When someone baptized in the, say, Lutheran church enters, technically he is not a convert, because he is already validly baptized.]

Now perhaps the circles Ivereigh runs in ‘over there’ do not bother with this important distinction among persons entering into full communion, and I grant that some Catholics ‘over here’ might still show ecclesial insensitivity by referring to separated Christians coming into full communion as “converts”, i.e., as if they had not been baptized. But, as most of the men Ivereigh chastises are Americans, and as the American bishops are trying to get American Catholics to think more accurately about these things, I thought Ivereigh’s outdated and inaccurate use of the word “convert”—to say nothing of his abuse of the tragedy that is “neurosis”—worth noting.

Peters raises a good point.  That said, in common parlance we use the word “convert” for a larger range of people.


I see that Fr. Longenecker has weighed in.  HERE  “Stop bashing converts….”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. aquinasadmirer says:

    As a follow-up, is there a precise term to refer to a baptized person who is received into the church (i.e. Protestant, Orthodox…)? Since “convert” is–being precise–for an unbaptized person?

  2. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    “and as the American bishops are trying to get American Catholics to think more accurately about these things”

    This took my breath away.

  3. LCNana says:

    This is perhaps why Pope Francis does not approve of converts – they are too tough a crowd for his nonsense.

  4. LarryW2LJ says:

    I was never aware of the distinction, and am glad to know. Regarding the folks that Mr.s Ivereigh and Winters classify as “converts”, however – I hold them in the highest esteem. Often, these people have decided to abandon their denominations and join the Catholic Church after a period of prolonged soul searching. For many it was a gut wrenching struggle. But they came over willingly, and with full knowledge of what they were doing. It was a conscious decision.

    Just as I could never imagine in my wildest dreams being something other than Catholic – these people were! To abandon everything you were taught and believed in your entire life and then to leave it for something else – I can only imagine what a journey that must be! Their zeal for their new found home is quite remarkable and I admire them to the utmost for their strong faith. I wish that so many “cradle Catholics” would be as zealous and knowledgeable about their faith as many of these “converts” appear to be.

  5. jfk03 says:

    Saul of Tarsus was an (initially unwilling) convert. So there.


    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  6. Simon_GNR says:

    Ever since I was received into the Church as an adult 30 years ago I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable about being described as a “convert” – I was validly baptised in the Church of England as a baby. Reading the above extract from the National Statutes for the Catechumenate confirms that I was right all along to be uneasy with being labelled a “convert”, which I thought suggested I was a pagan or an atheist before I became a Catholic. It’s good to have 30 years of suspicion confirmed – I’m NOT a “convert”.

    In a similar vein, many years ago I had to put a parish priest right about incorrectly describing candidates for reception and confirmation as catechumens: catechumens are those preparing for baptism. Mind you, within living memory someone in my position would not have been accepted as validly baptised in another church and would have had to be conditionally baptised as part of the process of reception into the Catholic Church.

    LarryW2LJ writes above: “To abandon everything you were taught and believed in your entire life and then to leave it for something else – I can only imagine what a journey that must be!”

    When I became a Catholic I did not feel that I was abandoning everything I had been taught. Much of what I learned as an Anglican was exactly the same as I would have been taught had I been a cradle Catholic: the main doctrines such as the Holy Trinity, the Virgin Birth and the bodily Resurrection of Christ for example. Becoming a Catholic involved taking on new beliefs and rituals but did not entail abandoning much. The CofE is quite “doctrine light” anyway! That’s one of the secrets of its survival! The main thing I did have to abandon was the belief that the CofE is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

  7. Benedict Joseph says:

    Where is the outrage that the Knights of Columbus provided financial support to the fraudulence that is “Crux.” It is beyond intolerable that screed is given any credence, that John Allen continues to roam around with his “good conduct medal.”
    When is Carl Anderson going to be called to accountability?

  8. Oxonian95 says:

    I understand the point about use of the word “convert,” but as a Christian baptized outside the Catholic Church who later joined it, the word bothers me not at all. Becoming Catholic was a powerful event for me, deep and wide, and “conversion” is in no way too big a word for it.

    What amuses me more is the use of the term “conservative convert.” It seems redundant, no? At least, I’ve never met any other kind.

  9. PTK_70 says:

    Adding my voice to the notion that the word “convert” is inappropriate as a term applied to baptized Christians who entered, at a later date and by the grace of God, into full communion with the Catholic Church. Shucks, I’m not even sure it would be a good descriptor for those who once adhered to the Jewish religion but now make their stand on the Faith of Christ.

    Having briefly considered what term or label might be appropriate (accuracy being the prime criterion), I couldn’t come up with anything. And maybe that’s how it should be. They’re just…..Catholics. Unless this one is a religious sister or that one is a priest or religious brother. We all should know how to refer to such members of the “family”.

    A word on “family”…..if what St John XXIII addressed to Christians outside the Catholic fold (to wit, there is more that unites us than divides us) is true, how much more true it is for those of us within the Catholic fold.

  10. spock says:

    I’m sure I’m guilty here, even if only mentally, of thinking of a Christian who became a Catholic as a convert. I am curious about several things here.

    1). Evidence of what we were to call them prior to Vatican 2
    2). What the mainline Protestant denominations call it when a Catholic joins them
    3) What the Orthodox call it when a Catholic joins them

    There is beauty in symmetry you know….

  11. Rich says:

    For decades, “liturgists” attempted to make the Mass more Protestant in order to make our separated brethren feel more welcome.

    Be careful what you ask for!

  12. Windswept House says:

    Pope Francis said the other day, “And I think about so many Catholics who think they are perfect and scorn others. This is sad.” Austen. Are you listening?

  13. Mike says:

    I’m not going to link to it, but Ivereigh has published an apology at Crux re this whole mess.

  14. Nancy D. says:



    To condone same-sex sexual relations that are not called marriage and do not include children, is to condone same-sex sexual acts which deny the inherent Dignity of the human person as a beloved son or daughter. One cannot condone same-sex sexual relationships without denying the Sanctity of marriage and the marital act, and thus denying Catholic sexual morality.

  15. Ben Kenobi says:

    Perfectly fine with being called a convert. As Simon said, the Catholic church is the fulfillment of the Word and the doctrine to which we already knew. For us it is correcting the errors we had been taught earlier, more akin to burning off the dross accumulated by centuries of ‘interpretations’. The core remains the same. It is a hard thing at first but once you swim the Tiber it gets easier. Especially with folks like Fr. Z helping us along!

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