Friday, October 11, 2013

No Reason to Convert?

The Catholic blogosphere has been ablaze lately by an individual named Steve Skojec, who wrote a work expressing concern for a lot of what has been happening since the election of Pope Francis.  I like Mr. Skojec.  Long time readers of my work will know that back in the day, the two of us did work together.  We were part of the same group of traditionalists, and a lot of my writing in 2004-2005 was influenced through discussions of the group he helped organize.  (I recently touched base with Hilary White again who also was in that group, and who went on to become a lot more successful and brilliant than all of us combined.)  Though it has been some time since we spoke, back then we were on good terms.  (There was no nasty parting.  We went onto different things, my different things just involved not writing/blogging for almost 6 years.)

I'm not really going to comment on much of Mr. Skojec's work.  I think Simcha Fischer should be a lot more careful when writing on traditionalist issues.  (Reference her remark before that if you hang out among trads, you will eventually find an Anti-Semite, an idea no doubt curious to 99% of traditionalists and the non-trads who consort with them!)  This was another example.  Mr. Skojec's concerns are not that of a "rigorist."  They are that of a concerned Catholic, even if he is mistaken and probably spoke in the wrong venue.  If anyone wants to see what I think of the concerns he raises, one can see my thoughts on the other Francis interviews.  The only thing I will comment on is the following:

For the life of me, I can’t fathom why anyone faced with the Church of 2013 would choose to convert to Catholicism. For fellowship? I can get fellowship from the local MegaChurch, with far fewer impositions on my personal liberty. For the sacraments? But most Catholics don’t even believe in the Real Presence, most parishes have no adoration or Eucharistic devotions, most priests offer an hour or less per week of confession time on the parish schedule.
No reason to convert?  If there's no reason to convert today, then we might as well all hang it up and stop writing.  Here's the primary reason to convert:


That's right sports fans.  Out of everyone else, only Catholicism has the fullness of truth.   Whether or not anyone believes in those sacraments, those sacraments are still there.  We have the Eucharist.  Yes, most parishes aren't giving it the reverence we should be giving.  Yet weak reverence in Catholicism is better than no reverence out of it.  Our job as faithful Catholics is to do all we can so that this reverence is increased.  Our job is not to write in public telling Protestants they have no reason to convert today.  When did traditionalists throw Mortalium Animos out the window?

I fear that Mr. Skojec is advocating a "church of the pure" just as George Weigel does, but for different reasons.  If you remember, Mr. Weigel in Evangelical Catholicism places the benchmark of Catholicism at a personal friendship with Christ, and that this friendship exists in varying degrees outside the visible boundaries of the Church.  As a result, we have more in common with conservative Evangelicals than we do "liberal" Catholics.  It turns the Church into a Christian book of the month club.  Mr. Skojec is different.  For him, only the hardest of the hardcore Catholics matter, because they "go big or go home."  I'd like to think I fit into what he describes.  I'm a Latin Mass guy just like he is.  I edit a section of a popular Catholic website dedicated to the premise the Church alone has the fullness of truth, and everyone really should be proudly Catholic, because Catholicism is the only thing which can possibly liberate this world from the brutish state of nature it is descending into.

Yet that isn't all the Church is.  The scared 17 year old convert who was too busy sobbing through the creed to understand the beauty of how Christ is consubstantial to the Father and privately doubted the dogma of the Assumption of Mary is just as much a member of the Catholic Church as I am today, who writes defending that dogma as one of the most heartwarming truths of Catholicism, and a guarantee of our final destination if we follow Christ.  I still went to confession back then, even if I could only schedule it with a priest because that liberal wouldn't offer it outside of the one hour block Mr. Skojec rightly complains of.  Are you a baptized Catholic?  Then you are part of my Church.  Not doing what you should be doing?  None of us are.  Let's work on doing it right together then.  While we work together, let me tell you about the Latin Mass and why I think it will help you in your faith life.

I also think this kind of attitude is not something the Fathers of the Church would advocate.  Tertullian tells us that Christ had an "earthy" look to him when he walked this earth, and that in this "earthy" look, he was still heavenly.  Another way of saying "earthy" is, Christ wasn't that attractive.  Tertullian almost overstates his point acting as if Christ were physically ugly.  (On The Flesh of Christ, Ch. 8)  Blashpemous as that sounds, the prophet Isaiah foretells of a Messiah in which there is "no beauty in him nor comeliness.... that we should be desirous of him."  (Is 53:2.)

Today, our Church is "earthy", no doubt about that.  We are on this world, and we struggle with finding the right balance.  We are currently losing that fight.  Yet just as the faithful soul finds that balance and is capable of rising to great levels of holiness, so is the Church.  Why is this possible?  We have the true understanding of the Bible in our midst, with the protection of the Holy Spirit shielding our Church from formal error.  We have the grace of the Sacraments which can purify our souls.  We have most importantly the Holy Sacrifice, which brings God's mercy to millions of people everyday.  Even if many of our priests and faithful are "earthy" in their faith, the heavenly nature of the Church continues to shine forth, and that light can never be darkened.

If we can't say this with a rousing amen, then we should hang it up go and serve strange Gods.  (1 Sam 26:19)  Like Mr. Skojec, I love the grandeur of those old Churches and the splendor that is the Latin Mass.  The Latin Mass has, is, and will make me a better Catholic and God willing a saint.  I want those incredible converts, and I want the scared young and dumb converts who are ignorant of all of her dogmas, but can't deny that God is drawing them to something.  They can help us remind the world that even in our earthiness, we are still creatures with a heavenly destination.

Anyone care to join me?


  1. Congrats on being a "breath of fresh air."

    I won't tell anyone that you are simply a typical "traditionalist".

  2. "I think Simcha Fischer should be a lot more careful when writing on traditionalist issues. (Reference her remark before that if you hang out among trads, you will eventually find an Anti-Semite, an idea no doubt curious to 99% of traditionalists and the non-trads who consort with them!)"

    I agree that we should all be more careful about generalizations. But this topic brings up a very perplexing issue for me. I've heard very reasonable people who happen to be of a traditionalist bent that claims like this are shocking or surprising. Yet my own experience is that I have never entered into a group (and I've done it dozens of times, both online and in the real world) with a firm traditionalist bent without encountering antisemitism. From the ranter in a combox who is easy to dismiss, to the SSPX priest who was less easy to dismiss to my neighbor and his friends who are much harder to dismiss. It's not that "every traditionalist is an antisemitic," but that it at least *seems* to be present in every community.

    Is it that my years in liberal academia have made me over-sensitive? hearing it where it doesn't exist? Maybe not everyone means "Zionist" pejoratively? Is it that a constant drone of low-level antisemitism in traditionalist circles inoculates its members from seeing it? Like the neighbor whose wife doesn't even notice the sexist remarks her husband makes whenever he is around other men, and is astounded when we bring up that he makes them?

    I honestly don't know at this point, but I think one of the significant issues with traditionalism is a serious disconnect between self-perception and outside perception. Blame aside, it is an issue that I think needs to be addressed.

  3. I think we are well aware of the image problem. are we aware as we should be? Probably not. But most are aware that we aren't viewed that favorably by those who aren't traditionalists.

    I think it's more most of us realize that Anti-Semitism exists, but it's not something systemic to traditionalism. The two biggest Catholic Anti-Semites don't attend the Latin Mass. We don't claim the Ordinary Form is Anti-Semitic, even in countries were Anti-Semitism is pretty rampant in the West.

    Personal experience doesn't make one right or wrong, but it does make it an issue that needs to be addressed. There are quite franikly a lot of jerks. Yet the problem those jerks have is part of the same sins every other Catholic has, they just do their evil in different ways.

    All I can say is that based on my extensive experience over the last decade in various different trad communities (mainly in michigan, but also when I travel as well), trads have problems with a lot of thigns, anti-semitism normally ain't one of em. When it is, you do your best to nip it and rebuke it in charity.


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