Converting to Catholicism?

Converting to Catholicism?
by Abu Daoud

Since I just posted a blurb about Tony Blair "converting" to Catholicism I thought I would share my thoughts on how to correctly use that word.

My sense is that one does not convert within a religion (Christianity), but from one religion to another, or no religion to a religion. Thus Tony Blair, who was Anglican and is now Roman Catholic, has not converted. Rather, he has "entered into full communion with Rome," or more simply, "has become Roman Catholic."

Usually there is some kind of official rite or ritual so that one can become this or that kind of Christian. I am Anglican, and even if I started going to a Methodist church and went there for years, I would remain Anglican. Unless I changed my membership and was received into the UMC.

Of course, neither the Methodist nor the Anglican churches make any claims to be the true church, but rather understand themselves as communities within the true church. On the other hand, both the Catholic Church (which is a whole family of churches, the largest of which is the Roman) and the Orthodox Churches (which is like a confederation of churches, the largest of which is the Russian Orthodox) understand themselves to be, in some way, the true church--the one that Jesus himself founded.

This does not mean that Catholics and Orthodox understand other Christians to be outside of the grace of God necessarily. What it does mean is that they are imperfectly connected to Christ's body, the Church. The Church for them (Catholics and Orthodox) is certainly connected to the visible hierarchy, to the visible congregation.

To further complicate matters Catholics acknowledge that Orthodox Christians have a valid priesthood and sacraments (unlike us Anglicans whose orders are void). But the Orthodox in general have been loathe to admit that Catholics have a valid priesthood and sacraments.

And I'm not even getting into the question of the Oriental Orthodox here, who, unlike the Orthodox and Catholics, did not accept the Definition of Chalcedon in 451.

All this to say, my preference is not to speak of one kind of Christian "converting" to another kind of Christians. Even if we accept that some churches have a more valid claim to apostolic origins--and I think that historically speaking we must accept some such claims--it is wrong to say that entering the communion of this or that fellowship or community or Church is in fact a conversion.

Comments

Rob said…
-To further complicate matters Catholics acknowledge that Orthodox Christians have a valid priesthood and sacraments (unlike us Anglicans whose orders are void). But the Orthodox in general have been loathe to admit that Catholics have a valid priesthood and sacraments.-

Stranger still, some Orthodox accept Anglican orders.

Imagine this: An Anglican priest converts to Orthodoxy and is received only through "vesting" and perhaps a renunciation of the Filioque or something. But he is NOT re-ordained. Then, this same priest converts to Catholicism and, because he is Orthodox, we accept his orders, which aren't really valid according to our own Magisterium!

So, you see, there is a way for an Anglican to get his orders accepted by the RCC! LOL!
Abu Daoud said…
Hi Rob, good point but I don't know that that has ever happened, has it?

Also, I think that once the Anglicans invented women's ordination that the Orthodox stopped regarding their orders as valid. If you have info to the contrary please share it with me as this is a topic of interest to me.
JohnG. said…
Perhaps there are many ways of speaking of "conversion". Basically, of course catholic tend to apply that word to those who turn themselves to Christ. However there are other uses of this word. My parish priest often speaks of our duty of a "perpetual conversion", meaning that configuring our own minds and acts to Christ's ones needs our perpetual fight against our egoistic ways of acting and doing. It's a use of the word "conversion" that illustrate Rom12/2: "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God"

So I think there is a use of "conversion" that can be suited to Tony Blair ... For a catholic point of view, catholic's faith is a little more deeper in the will of God ....

Popular posts from this blog

Pakistan population may touch 292m mark by 2050

Missionary Secrets 4: our churches don't know what to do with us...