October 16, 2006

Turning east

Journalist Rod Dreher details his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy here. I'm not going to dwell on this too much, but I want to make four points:

First, take it as a personal warning.

Rod candidly admits that his devotion to Christ was eclipsed by golden calves of his own making. These include:

  • All-consuming anger -- "I became so tormented over what had happened to those children at the hands of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy that I could see nothing else but pursuing justice. And my own pursuit of justice allowed me to turn wrath into an idol. I didn't know I was doing this at the time. . . . That is something that could happen to anybody, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or what have you. Be warned."
  • Politicized faith -- "I can look back also and see that my own intellectual pride helped me build a weak foundation for my faith. When I converted to Catholicism in 1992 . . . it was a sincere Christian conversion. But I also took on as my own all the cultural and intellectual trappings of the American Catholic right."
  • Churchcraft as a hobby -- "I had become the sort of Catholic who thought preoccupying himself with Church controversies and Church politics was the same thing as preoccupying himself with Christ. Me and my friends would go on for hours and hours about what was wrong with the Church, and everything we had to say was true. But if you keep on like that, it will have its effect."
  • Clericalism -- "Without quite realizing what was happening, I became a Professional Catholic, and got so caught up in identifying with the various controversies in the American church that I began to substitute that for an authentic spirituality. This is nobody's fault but my own. Part of that involved hero-worshipping Pope John Paul II, and despite having a healthy awareness of the sins and failings of various bishops, exaggerating the virtues of bishops my side deemed 'orthodox.'"

Don't think you're personally immune from errors like these.  You're not, and I'm not.  (Read Matthew 24:22.)

Second, skip the temptation to snipe, and pray for Rod.

It's the best thing we can do, and he himself asks for it:  "I can't keep any of you from saying whatever you will . . . still, those of you more charitably inclined, please just pray for me and my family, that we always live in truth, and do the right thing, and be found pleasing to God, the Father of us all."

(In this spirit, please refrain from harsh personal attacks over this in the comboxes.  They'll just be deleted.)

Third, he's right when he enumerates the problems in the Catholic Church.

But these are poor reasons to leave the Church.  On the contrary, they demand a hotter zeal and spirit of reform among all who have ever received the Sacrament of Confirmation.  (And yes, Christ will someday judge us on how well we respond to these graces.)

Fourth, never forget Frank Sheed's sound advice:

I'll repeat it until I turn blue:

"We are not baptized into the hierarchy; do not receive the Cardinals sacramentally; will not spend an eternity in the beatific vision of the pope. Christ is the point. I, myself, admire the present pope, but even if I criticised him as harshly as some do, even if his successor proved to be as bad as some of those who have gone before, even if I find the Church, as I have to live with it, a pain in the neck, I should still say that nothing that a pope (or a priest) could do or say would make me wish to leave the Church, although I might well wish that they would leave."