Today’s news is that the former Anglican Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir Ali, has been received into full communion with the Catholic Church and the rumor is that he was discouraged from taking this step not so much by his Anglican colleagues, but by very high ranking Catholic prelates.
Converts to the faith and those who work with converts like Marcus Grodi at The Coming Home Network will testify to the many stories of potential converts–especially clergy–who knock on the door of their local Catholic rectory or bishop’s residence seeking admission to the Catholic Church only to be discouraged, dismissed or even mocked for their desire.
They may be told, “Stay where you are and work for the kingdom” or “We don’t do that anymore.” Clergymen who wish to be ordained are often given the “Roman delay” or simply turned down as if Catholic bishops don’t know what to do with them or can’t be bothered. Men who apply for a religious order or the diaconate are too often simply ignored or dismissed with an embarrassed wave.
Why is this?
There are several reasons, but as Belloc said, “Every argument is a theological argument.” The underlying reason converts are discouraged from taking the step is because liberal priests and bishops simply do not think it is necessary. Their attitude is conditioned by four heads of the hydra: indifferentism, universalism, false ecumenism and MTD.
Indifferentism in religion is the attitude that different denominations don’t really matter. All that matters is how much you love Jesus. Beneath indifferentism is the modern hatred of dogma. “Dogma divides don’t you know!” For a clergyman of the Protestant faith to be attracted to the Catholic faith for its dogma is an embarrassment to your typical Catholic bishop or liberal priest. It’s a form of ecclesiastical bad taste. The modern Christian (Catholics included) are supposed to be pastoral. The dogmas are never denied. They’re simply ignored.
Universalism is a head of Hydra connected to indifferentism. This is the view that everyone will be saved in the end. “No need to convert to the Catholic faith. You’re good where you are. You’ll make it. Don’t worry. Christ died for ALL. All are welcome!” says the liberal Catholic priest or prelate. If he doesn’t go quite that far he certainly believes that about the “separated brethren.” They’re baptized. They love Jesus. They’re on their way. Leave them alone.
False ecumenism is the sincere belief that any further ecumenical efforts are a waste of time. They are a waste of time because the work is already accomplished. It is finished. We are all one in our shared baptism. This is why Protestants are encouraged to receive communion at the Catholic Mass and why evangelization and conversion are downplayed and why Catholic leaders in Latin America (for instance) are unconcerned about the vast numbers of Catholics deserting the faith for the Evangelical sects. Linked with false ecumenism is inter faith “dialogue” which is indifferentism and universalism writ large. Thus we hear of the “missionary” Bishop in South America who brags that he hasn’t baptized anyone for decades. Why not? Because they’re okay as they are. The nature religion, the animism, polytheism–whatever–of the indigenous people is sufficient–or perhaps even superior to Catholicism.
Finally, conversions are discouraged because of the widespread poison of MTD – Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. This horrible parody of the Christian faith reduces the historic supernatural religion to Moralism, Therapy and Deism. In other words it makes Christianity no more than a system of good works–rules for respectability–combined with Therapy–“God will help you overcome your addictions, help mend your troubled marriage, rescue your terrible teens, etc. and Deism–“God exists, but he’s on the other side of the clouds having a nap.
All of these together create in the mind of the liberal Catholic cleric an attitude that discourages conversion because he really doesn’t believe it is either necessary or helpful.
This is one of the reasons for the disastrous decline of the church in the West. In terms of supply and demand the liberal churchman eliminates the demand which makes any need for the supply to be superfluous.
I doubt St. Catherine of Siena would have agreed with such liberal clergy, though she would have loved them ardently and respectfully urged them in another direction.