Thursday, July 12, 2018

Catholic converts

There's a pecking order among Catholic converts/reverts. In some cases, the person may occupy more than one rung on the ladder:

1. Historical pivots

One of the most historically influential figures was Henri de Navarre. Raised Protestant, after assuming the French throne he sided with the Catholics. That had enormous impact on the religious history of France. To his partial credit, his regime tolerated Protestants. 

2. Theological pivots

John Henry Newman is the most influential convert in modern times, maybe of all time. His theory of development was codified at Vatican II. He changed his adopted denomination. You might say he saved Catholicism by destroying traditional Catholicism. The theory of development gave Catholicism elbow room, but at the expense of an incurable identity crisis. 

3. Pointy-heads

Figures influential among the Catholic intelligentsia. Their impact is limited and indirect, viz. Elizabeth Anscombe, Frederick Copleston, Cardinal Dulles, Peter Geach, Alasdair MacIntyre, Thomas Merton, Thomas Joseph White. 

4. Popularizers

Retail salesmen rather than wholesale thinkers, viz. Francis Beckwith, Chesterton, Graham Greene, Scott Hahn, Thomas Merton, Malcolm Muggeridge, Richard John Neuhaus, Frank Sheed, Adrienne von Speyr, Evelyn Waugh, Thomas Joseph White.

5. Celebs

Public figures who convert to Catholicism, but don't have much religious influence, viz. Tony Blair, Robert Bork, Bobby Jindal, Robert Novak. They're Catholic trophies. 

6. Has-beens

One-time players whose influence has waned with the passage of time, viz. Clare Boothe Luce, Cardinal Manning, Jacques Maritain, Malcolm Muggeridge, Frank Sheed. 

7. Coincidental Catholics

Converts who don't spend much time plugging their newfound faith, viz. Michael Dummett, Bas van Fraassen, Nicholas Rescher. In this case, philosophers who happen to be Catholic rather than Catholic philosophers in the sense of philosophers whose Catholicism is central to their philosophical outlook or whose work significantly intersects with Catholicism from time to time. Their conversion is an intellectual accessory rather than an intellectual revolution. 

8. Extras

Dime-a-dozen hucksters with shoestring "apostolates" who compete with each other for attention and donors. 

3 comments:

  1. You forgot Oscar Wilde who made a death bed conversion.

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  2. Celebs: Newt Gingrich who's wife is the U.S Ambassador to The Vatican.

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  3. >>>You might say he saved Catholicism by destroying traditional Catholicism. The theory of development gave Catholicism elbow room, but at the expense of an incurable identity crisis.

    What do you mean by this? That he gave Catholicism license to come up with newer doctrines in the name of "development of doctrine"?

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