Saturday, October 6, 2007

An Interview with HokiePundit, Part III

Have you been surprised by the hostility of some of the reactions to your conversion?
I guess it depends on what you mean by "surprised." I've actually told very few people directly about my intentions. Generally, and with some outliers, the responses have ranged from baffled interest to concerned disdain. Back in 2003, in the wake of the disastrous Episcopalian General Convention, I mentioned to a friend that I might start looking at other denominations, such as Methodism, Lutheranism, and Roman Catholicism. At this last item, his response was "Oh Robbie, don't go over to Satan!" I haven't told him about my decision, as you might imagine. I think for people who know me, this news might be unexpected but certainly not surprising. In the Evangelical campus ministry in which I participated during college I was way, way out on what you might call the "Catholic wing," as opposed to those with more "Reformed," "Charismatic," or "Baptist" tendencies. Honestly, I fully expect that when I eventually update my Facebook profile to reflect this that I'll get a boatload of concerned emails, some of which will think I'm joking. Even some people who are close to me who don't go to church services or do much of anything else involving religion see Roman Catholicism as maybe two steps up on if I were to declare myself to have same-sex attraction or were joining Scientology.


Jack said...

Hoke, I've very much enjoyed reading this whole series.

I just finished a lecture series on the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Reformations myself (generally called the Counter-Reformation, but that's a sort of misleading term, if you ask me) and found your descriptions of your personal experience very interesting, as your personal experiences sort of correlated, in reverse, with the lecture series..

Keep up the good, and quite fascinating, writing.

And Godspeed with your conversion, if that's the proper term.

May I suggest the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius for some interesting reading.
I just recently refinished reading and practicing them.

By the way, what do you think of Opus Dei?

See ya later, and from an old Baptist who intends one day to be an Orthodox priest, go with Satan.

(I'm just kidding by the way. Everybody knows that Satan is a Jew, Catholics are more like sneaky hobgoblins.)

TS said...

Jack's Opus Dei suggestion is a good one; I've also heard very good things about C & L. Maybe one of these organizations could ease the culture-clash as well as challenge you.

Jack said...

Hoke, and TS, I am neither endorsing Opus Dei, nor seeking to discredit it.

I have heard both good, and bad things about it.

I mentioned it because I know it is active on college campuses and because I like the idea of a group like that, which seeks to meld the sacred with everyday life, so that secular and sacred mesh and merge. So that if Hoke is looking for further avenues of pursuit then he might think about something like Opus Dei, or what you mentioned, C&L.

But I am not endorsing Opus Dei, I am endorsing the idea of what Opus Dei represents, which is a different thing.

I am saying Hoke might find either support, encouragement, or just some interest in an organization like that which could address his possible current desire to pursue Catholicism more fully without seeking to take orders, or a direct vocation. Catholicism in everyday life and for the laity.

Things to give him something to think about.

That's why I mentioned the Spiritual Exercises. He could undertake those with the help of a priest and confessor, or he could do that alone. I mentioned Opus Dei because an organization like that might give him a lay group to pursue, without necessitating a direct vocation (though I have nothing against priestly vocations, I have previously studied for the priesthood and intend to be one after I retire - though personally I am not in favor of forced priestly celibacy, but of voluntary celibacy, but that's just me).

But I'm not endorsing anything in particular just saying Hoke might benefit from both individual, solitary and personal pursuit, and group pursuits. What he chooses to pursue is up to him, and where he feels God leads him.

So as I said, I've heard both good and bad things abut Opus Dei, good and bad things about the Catholic church, good and bad things about Protestant churches, and good and bad things about America for that matter.

I'm not trying to steer Hoke in any particular direction or endorse this or that, just give him some ideas and make some recommendations. Though maybe I should have made that clearer to begin with.

Maureen said...

Welcome home.

I thought it was interesting that you brought out the "ethnic" thing. I've always been kinda annoyed by how absolutely whitebread my parishes have always been. (To be fair, I've always lived in pretty whitebread suburban places.) So when I moved into a parish that actually did a few little Irish things on St. Patrick's Day, it was superniftycool.

So if you're looking for solid Anglo dignity, maybe you just need to move out to the suburbs.... :)

eulogos said...

The suburban Catholicism I am familiar with does not have "Anglo dignity," if by that you mean what Episcopalians used to have and in some places still do. Anglo dignity means the resounding phrases of the Book of Common Prayer, dignified hymns, chanted psalms, and a choir which sings classical religious music. All of this in a fairly gothic style church with a high altar, often a reredos with carved saints, but in dark wood, not pastel, sometimes a rood screen. Suburban Catholicsm has shed the old ethnic bad taste but it has substituted the blandness of a suburban living room; everything is beige, the altar and lectern (you can't really call it a pulpit) and even the candle sticks in Danish modern, the only other decorations some ugly banners and maybe some plants. The old pastel blue plaster statue of Mary will still be in a corner somewhere, making you suddenly wish for a return of ethnic bad taste, which was at least devotional even though not in my devotional taste. And the music, the music is the worst, ranging from bad to execrable, with lyrics ranging from vapid to inane, making one long even for Immaculate Mary sung at the pace of a dirge.

I was Episcopalian only for 9 months in 1971 and 2, then became Catholic and have been so ever since. But the few times I have been able to attend an Anglican use parish (in Scranton and Boston) have given me that at home and comfortable now this is the way church should be, feeling.

However, now I have a new love; I have started attending a Byzantine rite parish, for a year and a half now. Not familiar and culturally comfortable at all, but dignified and beautiful. If I didn't still believe that the Catholic Church...IS the Catholic Church...I would become Orthodox.

If you live near a Byzantine rite parish (there are several types of these...Ruthenian, Ukranian, Melkite....)give it a try.
You will find it very different, but I think you will find it beautiful and impressive.

Susan Peterson

HokiePundit said...

I've actually given thought to both Opus Dei and the local Byzantine Rite parish (I have no idea what kind it is). It's not so much that I don't like things being ethnic as I want them to be my ethnicity. Kind of like wanting services in the vernacular, I guess. I know that there's a group of Anglicans known as the Traditional Anglican Communion who are seeking (re?)unification with Rome. I think they'd like Uniate status (and Anglicanism actually has a decent argument for this), but something like a self-sustaining version of the Anglican Use, including freedom from needing permission from the local bishop, would probably suffice.

Peter said...

Have you looked into Western Rite Orthodoxy?

Jack said...

On High Holy Days I sometimes attend Mass at the local Coptic church.

It's quite an impressive rite as well. I like the service a great deal. I know enough Greek (koine) that I can often follow along or figure out the liturgy.

Anonymous said...


I have linked to these posts on my blog.

You are not alone, even if sometimes you might feel alone. A host of people are praying for you.

Take your time. Read. Think. Pray. The Church is 2,000 years old and will wait for you.

Best wishes in law school. TQ

Anonymous said...

It sounds as if you grew up with tasteful, reserved, rational Anglicans, and the mad passions of the many ethnic flavors of Catholics are troubling. They were for me too.

The price we pay for universality is the simultaneous embrace and abandonment of tribalism. We embrace our tribalism to the extent that it gives us expression of primal joys of redemption. We reject tribalism to the extent that it instructs us that we are more worthy than those smelly, ill-dressed people who come late to Mass from work and sit in the back.

Ideally for both my mother and me, we wanted to be Catholic but not have to share the communion cup, social hall, or musical selections with most other Catholics, who of course didn't share our tastes. Thus, our ecclesiology had more to do with aesthetics and manners than theology.

Watch EWTN sometime when they cover a papal Mass or papal visit, however, and you will see how the universal Church can be both inclusive and dignified in a way not found in any other Christian community.

Having grown up with the "beautiful people" in a fancy Episcopal parish, I understand your cultural reluctance to embrace Irish Catholics who say "Damn the bloody Queen," Filipino Catholics who hold an annual lottery to determine which young man actually has his hands nailed to a cross during Holy Week, Mexican Catholics parading a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe and singing dozens of songs, etc.

Worse yet, in many countries, there are practices which mix Catholic liturgy with ancient pagan holidays, rites, and festivals. You'd think that a few centuries of Christianity would result in better catechesis, until you find out how few priests have actually served the millions of people in Bolivia, Brazil, Haiti, and other countries where syncretism is widespread.

Arthur said...

Welcome home, Pundit.

I am a fellow Virginian (Oakton, near Fairfax) now at Notre Dame. I am also a revert after some wonderful years at Truro in Fairfax. Truro taught me tasteful liturgy, praise and worship, an affective knowledge of Christ and an evangelical spirit. But it also taught me how deluded whole congregations can be about their denomination. What has happened is tragic.

But, I made my return to Rome in the 90's when I took some courses at the GTU (Berkeley) and saw first hand where ECUSA was headed.

I wanted doctrinal stability, real spiritual and moral leadership in the face of the looming culture wars (even then visible). I came to Rome for the Church Universal, not any one parish. Yes, I wish my fellow Catholics had a richer sense of the evangelical. But, I have also seen and am continually seeing progress. The steady flow of evangelicals into the Church is bringing with it enormous changes. The apologetic movement, for one, a greater appreciation of scripture for another.

As the effects of the MP spread out and the new English translation of the ordinary form comes out this year and as more Anglicans like yourself come online, watch for signs of a building reform of the reform.

Except for Mexican culture, the old tacky Catholicism is long gone in the suburbs. Bland suburban Catholicism is going to get much better.

I can imagine a number of things bothersome about the RCIA question on annulments. Which ones in particular really bothered you?

HokiePundit said...


For me, it's about two things:
1. Anglicanism, unlike most (all?) other European Roman Catholic traditions, actually has a claim to special status. It was officially recognized as the oldest national church in the Gentile world, and the Archbishop of Canterbury was recognized by a Pope (prior to the English Reformation) as "pope of his own ecclesia."
2. If the Eastern churches can have their own special customs, why not the Anglicans? (For that matter, why not the Lutherans, etc.?)

It seemed like they were pretty much giving out annulments like candy. Honestly, it just felt as though they weren't taking the whole marriage thing seriously. So the Eucharist is so special that non-Catholics who believe in the Real Presence can't partake, but marriage is easily disposed of? If annulments are such a small matter, why would it have been so hard to give one to the person declared "Defender of the Faith?" Either take it seriously or be prepared for some hard questions from Anglo-Catholics whom you deny Communion.

Amy Welborn said...


I wasn't there, so I can only comment what I *think* was going on with the annullment question based on my experiences directing RCIA.

They weren't giving out annunllments - annullments take a lot of time, usually a year from the time the paperwork is submitted - at least. And despite all the chatter about it, not all annulments are granted. Further, what no one ever mentions is that the annullment process begins in the parish, and if a priest doesn't think the first marriage was sacramentally invalid, then he won't pass the case on the diocesan level.

But that's another matter. And argument, probably.

The reason they were asking that during this first session is that in order to come into full Communion, you have to be in a "regularized" marriage situation - that is, it has to be AOK - you have to be married in the Catholic Church. If you're married, that is.

So, if you are in a second marriage, you need to have that situation looked at. The reason that this is so sticky is because most of the time if someone isn't Catholic, had a first marriage that wasn't in the Catholic Church, divorced, then married again, *not* in the Catholic Church, it would never occur to them that in order to join the Catholic Church, they would probably have to seek an annullment of the first marriage and then get the first marriage convalidated in the Catholic Church.

But you do.

And if you are leading people through this process, you have to have all those issues laid out at the beginning, or else you are going to have some very disappointed, angry and confused people in a few months' time.

Now, I myself, wouldn't do it in that public way. I would do an individual intake with each person and ask them about the marriage situation privately. What you describe seems strange.

But bringing up the potential problems at the beginning is the only pastoral thing to do, because if the situation can't be cleared up by Easter, then one can't be received into full communion or baptized or whatever it is you are seeking.

(There are less complicated situations - involving civil marriages. That's simple. The complications arise when professed Christians have a first marriage in the Christian church, divorced, and then remarried. I"m not a canon lawyer, thank goodness, so I can't explain much more than that.)

HokiePundit said...


Thanks for the comments. As you implied, it wasn't the annulment thing which got to me, but rather the cavalier attitude of the RCIA directors. It was essentially "Oh, you were married before? We'll fix that." To my mind, something like "If you were previously married then we really need for you to talk to us after the session or during this coming week."

I guess you could say the Evangelical part of me was outraged and the Anglican part of me was insulted.

The idea of getting the stickiest issues out of the way early on makes complete sense, but when it's done in a way that seems to treat a sacrament like a mere formality (especially when I'm denied Communion solely based on my Episcopalian baptism), you can see how it might be taken the wrong way.

In any case, I'm really, really hoping to find a way not to have to do RCIA; I'm already a practicing, pro-/con-fessing, church-attending Christian. Is it only an American thing, with priests in other countries allowed to simply check to make sure you have a basic idea of what's going on?

RC said...

Welcome aboard, sir! Here's a bucket in case you want to help bail!


The RCIA is a standard set of liturgical rites, not just an American practice. It's intended for unbaptized adults, so only some parts of it are suitable for baptized Christians coming into full communion with the Catholic Church.

At St. Bede's in Williamsburg (they run the campus ministry, too), they have a distinct program for adult Confirmation candidates, with a seven-week catechetical program, and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil. That's probably how the pastor will want you to prepare for Confirmation.

The pastor can receive you into full communion whenever he determines that you are prepared, so if he agrees, you would not necessarily have to wait until Easter to make your first Confession and first Holy Communion. But it's his call.

It may all end up being a bit more preparation and waiting than you really do need - only God knows that - but at least you'll be giving witness to the Faith before others in the program and in the congregation, and God can do some good with that.

Best wishes from a 1980 RCIA alumnus--